A crash course in the cerebrum

15th January 2010 at 00:00
When you're placed in front of a class it's easy to forget the theory behind your teaching practice. Allow us to guide you through the many schools of thought

Ever wondered if you could improve the types of questions you ask your students? Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy of learning helps teachers develop more sophisticated questions and answers, moving from pub quiz factual recall questions to University Challenge synthesise and evaluation.

Students need to master each level before progressing to a higher level. Each new level subsumes the previous level or levels below it. Bloom's taxonomy is in three overlapping domains:

- Cognitive domain (intellectual capacity, for example, knowledge or the ability to think).

- Affective domain (feelings, emotions and behaviour, for example, attitude and motivation).

- Psychomotor domain (manual and physical skills).

You can use the checklist below to ensure your planned teaching delivers the necessary development for students.

If all your questions are in the knowledge and comprehension levels you may not be stretching pupils enough.

Behaviourist approaches

Burrhus Skinner's education theory is based upon the idea that learning happens when there's a change in a pupil's behaviour. The changes result from responses to events (stimuli). Each response produces a consequence, and when a stimulus response pattern is reinforced (rewarded) the pupil is conditioned to respond positively. Reinforcement is a key part to Skinner's theory and adverse stimuli or punishment can result in reduced responses.

When pupils display behaviours we want, it should be followed by something pleasurable (a reward).

Humanist approaches

The humanist approach to teaching and learning is based on the idea we are all eager to learn and what prevents us is a negative classroom atmosphere.

He believed that facilitation of learning was the main aim of education and teachers should create supportive learning environments where they could work with pupils to achieve mutually agreed goals.

Incorporating this approach starts with your classroom and creating a sense of ownership for the room, in turn creating a physically safe environment. Try to work with pupils to select learning objectives related to their experiences. They should have access to a wide range of information sources. The goal is for pupils to take responsibility for their learning.

Teachers who show enthusiasm for pupils' ideas and don't dismiss them out of hand create trust and reduce the fear of ridicule.

Cognitive theories

Sometimes common sense is just plain wrong. Constructivist teaching doesn't start by saying that the original intuitive idea is wrong, it constructs a path for the learner from the incorrect idea to the correct answer. "Start from where the person is at."

Constructivism says children learned best when they construct a personal understanding of a concept based on experience and learning from that experience. Learning should build on the knowledge pupils already have, sometimes called a schema.

One of the goals of using constructivist teaching is that pupils learn how to learn, so teachers train pupils how to do basic tasks such as taking notes or analysing a passage of text, for example.

Constructivist teaching has a number of characteristics:

- Activities are interactive and pupil-centred.

- Learners are actively involved in lessons.

- There is a democratic environment in the classroom.

- Teachers act as learning facilitators.

- Pupils are encouraged to be responsible and autonomous learners.

But you'll need checks in place to ensure their understanding is correct.

Learning styles

Howard Gardner wrote that people are not smart or dull, they just have different intelligences:

- Verballinguistic intelligence.

- Visualspatial intelligence.

- Musical intelligence.

- Logicalmathematical intelligence.

- Bodilykinaesthetic intelligence.

- Interpersonal intelligence.

- Intrapersonal intelligence.

Gardner says the most effective teaching incorporates all intelligences. Simple learning styles theory often focuses on visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

Motivational approaches

Back in the money-crazed 1980s John Keller developed the ARCS model for the motivational design of learning:

- Attention - can be gained by a stimulating question, thought-provoking reading or a video clip.

- Relevance - establishing relevance increases pupil motivation, for example using language and examples with which the learners are familiar.

- Confidence - ensure the content isn't too challenging. Pupils need to feel confident they can achieve some degree of success in activities.

- Satisfaction - at the end of the learning experience, pupils need to be rewarded with a sense of achievement or the recognition that a skill is beneficial.

Keller's work is based on Abraham Maslow's earlier work. Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs has been revised to seven levels:

1 Physiological.

2 Safety.

3 Belonging.

4 Esteem.

5 Cognitive.

6 Aesthetic.

7 Self-actualisation.

This approach believes that what motivates children is a sense of achievement, recognition of the things they do, interest in the task set, being given responsibility and moving up to more demanding tasks.

You can stimulate interest in a routine task by taking children to a new location to do it. Use artefacts and props when teaching history or go to a relevant local historical venue. Outside speakers with first-hand experiences of the topic can help to motivate pupils.



- List

- Name

- Identify

- Show

- Define

- Recognise

- Recall

- State


- Summarise

- Explain

- Put into your own words

- Interpret

- Describe

- Compare

- Paraphrase

- Differentiate

- Demonstrate

- Visualise

- Find more information about

- Restate


- Solve

- Illustrate

- Calculate

- Use

- Interpret

- Relate

- Manipulate

- Apply

- Classify

- Modify

- Put into practice


- Analyse

- Organise

- Deduce

- Choose

- Contrast

- Compare

- Distinguish


- Design

- Hypothesise

- Support

- Write

- Report

- Discuss

- Plan

- Devise

- Compare

- Create

- Construct


- Evaluate

- Choose

- Estimate

- Judge

- Defend

- Criticise

- Justify


This feature is made up of extracts from the TES Great Minds booklet originally published by The TES. You can obtain your own copy through our subscription offer, see page 40 for details.

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