The Influence of New and Emerging Theories on Teaching Practices

Don Prickel, Ph.D.

Coordinator, Workforce Education Specialist Master Degree Program,

School of Education
Oregon State University


     An examination of new and emerging theoretical frameworks serves to reorganize and reexamine our prior experiences and thinking about teaching and learning.  The emphasis from teacher-directed activities to a focus on learner-centered behaviors is creating a major transformation in the evolutionary cycle of new and emerging trends in teaching theories and practices.  A synthesis of theories and approaches adapted from cognitive, social, and humanistic learning theories have resulted into a recently identified category referred to in this article as "cognitive humanism."  Cognitive-humanistic theory consists of an integration of the core components of cognitive learning, social learning and learner-centered humanistic principles. The emerging theories of constructivism, social learning, cooperative learning approaches, and transformational processes are creating dynamic, stimulating, and effective communities of learners.  Through a matrix analysis of the roles of teacher and student, the conceptual frameworks for learning, the processes and products of learner outcomes, explanation of these theories and their respective application strategies are presented.

A Science of Teaching and Learning:

    Whether we are conscious of it or not, we educators are continually contributing new knowledge and insights into the science of teaching and learning. Each of us possesses an individual philosophy of teaching and learning that guides our behaviors and becomes the basis upon which we defend and practice what we do (Draper, 1994). Our own unique philosophical orientations become translated into daily teaching practices and strategies of our profession. Many of these teaching strategies are adopted and applied from tested learning theories while other "tools" of the classroom are developed from non-scientific approaches, personal beliefs, past and present experiences, and those intuitive responses that may occur in certain unexpected events of the day with learners. Just as today's technicians are constantly being trained and retrained in the use of sophisticated tools and technology of computers and equipment, so also are today's educators needing continued professional retraining in order to meet the challenges of staying current with new and emerging approaches and theoretical frameworks for improved teaching and learning of their students.
    But why the need to learn another new approach or theory? Are not the past theories of learning sufficient in guiding our professional practices of today? Do not teachers feel overwhelmed by the daily pressures of the classroom, parent and staff meetings and the record keeping of students? Does not keeping abreast of new and emerging theories and approaches create an added burden to teachers? The unanimous response to such questions should be an emphatic "No." The need for continued exploration and examination of new and emerging theoretical frameworks is vital to maintaining quality education programs, schools with the highest of standards, and teaching practices that are effective and efficient. While frequent discussions in school staff lounges focus on the unworkable relationship between theory and practical teaching strategies, much of this debate is unfounded. As Brookfield points out, "I believe that this theory-practice dichotomy is nonsense... Like it or not, we are all theorists and all practitioners. Our practice is informed by our implicit and informal theories about the processes and relationships of teaching" (1995, p.185).
    One function of new and emerging theories serves to reorganize and reexamine our prior experience about teaching and learning (Gredler, 1997). Past learning theories, such as the theory of behaviorism and Skinner's operant conditioning principles, dominant in the first half of the 20th century, have served as important working explanations of certain forms of learning behavior. During the late 1960's and early 1970's, though, newer insights and knowledge have been gained through further experimentation, such as Piaget's (1963, 1967) stages of cognitive development in the early 1960's, and the developments of Bruner's theory of cognitive growth and systematic instruction (1960, 1961, 1985), Gagne's conditions of learning (1984, 1985, 1989), and Weiner's attribution theory (1985). These combined efforts have provided an adequate explanation of learning and teaching. While the cognitive revolution arrived in schools and was understood in theory, unfortunately application of such theory to teaching practices continued to lag behind. Even today, we continue to see practices which are often limited to behaviorist theories of the past (Brown, 1994; Resnick and Resnick, 1991).

Shifts in Theoretical Frameworks:

    Fortunately, though, a dramatic change is occurring in the teaching and learning settings of our schools. Focus on the characteristics of the learner, both children and adults, is creating a major transformation in the evolutionary cycle of new and emerging trends in teaching practices and theories (Brown, 1994; Bredo, 1994; Brookfield, 1995). The emphasis has shifted from teacher-directed activities to a focus on learner-centered behaviors. Learners are viewed as active constructors, rather than passive recipients of knowledge (Phillips, 1995; Prawatt & Floden, 1994; Cobb, 1995). In addition, there are other important forces that are driving these new trends in teaching and learning within today's educational profession.
    Changes in societal structures, advances in technology, and the knowledge explosion continue to demand a more literate and critical thinking population at all age groups (Beder, 1991; Adams & Hamm, 1994). Upgrading of basic skill competencies and the knowledge levels of children have become closely linked to their economic and job prospects later on as adults (Rose, 1995). The continued influx of adults entering and returning to school, never before experienced in the history of education, is also influencing how we view teaching and learning.
    While the present focus is to urge students to stay in school and continue with college, adults are voluntarily seeking to return to school as well. Many adults are returning to schools for career changes, other for enrichment, social, and skill development purposes (Beder, 1991; Houle, 1961; Johnstone & Rivera, 1965). This new influx of adults into the educational system is having a significant influence on new and emerging trends and theories of teaching practices across all levels of instruction. While earlier and more traditional theories focused attention on kindergarten through high school-aged students, many of the more contemporary practices in teaching have resulted in methods, approaches and practices found effective with both children and adults (Adams & Hamm, 1994; Beder, 1991; Merriam, 1993). Likewise, the increase of participation rates in adult education circles, both in the form of credit and non-credit courses, such as in language learning, basic skills development, parent effectiveness training, computer training, to cite some examples, have had a profound impact on new and emerging contemporary teaching practices.  With improved health care, people are living longer, and staying more active in all aspects of their lives, including participation in various forms of continuing education.

New and Emerging Teaching Theories

    The educational improvement of children and adults in this global world of ours may very well be the one mission that every nation on this planet has in common. It is with dignity and pride that every educator recognizes the incredible contribution they can make in the educational improvement of its people. In educational circles, reform movements are attempting to bring about instructional models and practices, with curricula that helps students collaboratively perceive, analyze, interpret and discover a whole new world of meanings (Adams & Hamm, 1994). This will require educators to strive to be current with insights gleaned from current literature and educational research, with new and emerging trends in teaching approaches and practices, with the capacity for self-renewal, and with continuous change.
    Some of the new and emerging educational theories and practices have their roots in research, conducted from the mid-1980's, primarily in cognitive psychology, which have resulted in increased attention to the social, cultural, and personal factors of learning. These more recent theories can not be categorized into the more traditional approaches of behaviorism, cognitivism, and humanism. Rather, these new and emerging theories and approaches, often adapted from cognitive, social, and humanistic learning processes, have evolved into a new category of learning theory referred to as "cognitive humanism."  These cognitive-humanistic theories consist of an integration of the core components of cognitive learning with social learning and learner-centered humanistic principles.
    The emerging theories of cognitive humanism include constructivism, social learning theories, cooperative learning approaches (not truly a theory), and transformational learning theory. These new and emerging theories are explained below. Figure 1 (attachedto your "pre-class" instructions) shows a matrix of contemporary cognitive-humanistic theories that are setting the scene for the current shifts in thinking about teaching and learning. Such shifts in thinking can be categorized across the domains of the role of the teacher and the student, the conceptual frameworks for learning, and the processes and products of learner outcomes that result from the application of more contemporary teaching strategies and approaches. Detailed explanations of each theory and some application strategies of each theory follow.


    One of the new and emerging theories that the 1990's has witnessed is the emergence of the multi-faceted philosophy of constructivism (Gredler, 1997). The notion that knowledge and understanding is developed from one's own construction of meaning has contributed largely to changes in contemporary teaching practices and learning processes of today's learners (Bredo, 1994; Bruning, Schraw, & Ronning, 1995; Greeno, 1989). The emergence of constructivism as a theory was a reaction to the disappointment with cognitive theories that often thrusted students into learning isolated, non-personalized, and limited real-life application of skills and knowledge (Bredo, 1994; Gredler, 1997). One of the basic tenets of constructivism is that people are active learners and must construct knowledge for themselves (Geary, 1995).
    Instructional approaches to constructing one's own meaning have been explained by four perspectives (Gredler, 1997). Radical constructivism, derived from a Piagetian viewpoint, sees knowledge as adaptive (von Glaserfield, 1987; Gredler, 1997). The teacher's role is to facilitate learners in developing models, paradigms, philosophies and perspectives pertaining to certain ideas and principles, to devise situations that challenge their ways of thinking, and to help students evaluate the coherence in their present ways of thinking (Confrey, 1985; Piaget, 1973; Prawat & Floden, 1994).
    The second perspective, social constructivism (Prawat & Floden, 1994), views knowledge as evolving through negotiation and discourse (peers and others) with cultural and social factors influencing the final product of meaning. The focus here is on the learning of specific cognitive skills and strategies and the eliciting of important and new ideas around the academic disciplines. The teacher's role is to create discourse communities, in-depth discussions and debates over real-life issues and to arrive at new solutions or views on such situations.
    Pragmatic or emergent constructivism (Cobb, 1995) is a form of constructivism that takes place in the classroom as the need arises. Two important tenets to constructing knowledge are included in the emergent approach. They resemble some of the principles espoused by Brookfield (1987) in teaching students how to become critically reflective and introspective learners. In this form, knowledge is actively constructed by learners through self-reflection of their mental and physical actions, and substantial learning takes place in periods of conflict, confusion, surprise, and over extended periods of time (Wood, Cobb, and Yackel, 1991.)
    Lastly, transactional constructivism, often referred to as situated cognition (Bredo, 1994), posits that knowledge can not be constructed without a wholistic interaction of the person with a real-life contextual setting. Certain processes occur, for example, in solving a problem, or learning an applied skill, such as becoming a tailor. The learner may take notes, use a set of meta-cognitive strategies, and seek advice from his colleagues and mentors. The essential element is that knowledge is constructed by the interactive involvement of the person, his mental and physical processes, and the environmental exposure to practitioners and their practices (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Such construction of knowledge is experienced in job and career training programs, in practicums, internships, and apprenticeships, such as in learning to be a teacher, nurse, butcher, and pilot.
    Therefore, a constructivist view uses the learner's experiences and personal framework, such as memories, associations, feelings, sounds, experiences, rules acquired, and information collected, to help students learn how to actively apply knowledge, solve problems, and promote conceptual understanding. In the process, students can examine in more detail any incoherent or poorly formed concepts and beliefs and adjust them towards more refined and rigorously examined thinking. Teachers using constructivist approaches tend to challenge students with classroom projects and products that allow them to major (Brown, 1994) in areas of their own interests within a topic of study. Teachers also tend to present information across Gardner's multiple intelligence, so that the student's learning styles are consistently optimized. Closely related to a constructivist approach to teaching and learning is the importance of the social environment, peer interaction, and the learning from and with others. The constructivist philosophy to teaching and learning have literally paved the road for the popularity of social learning theories and the application of such practices in learning settings.

Social Learning Theories:

    Social learning theories posit that a major portion of human learning occurs in a social context (Schunk, 1996). The theory of social learning suggests that the most optimal learning occurs when one is learning socially with and from others. The social learning theories that are having the most impact on current classroom practices are social cognitive, social cultural, and social critical theories.

            1)  Social Cognitive Theory:

    Bandura's social cognitive theory (1986) consists of two important concepts of self-efficacy and self-regulated learning. Self-efficacy refers to one's perceived beliefs and judgments about one's capability to complete a given task or activity necessary to attain designated levels of performance (Bandura, 1977a, 1977b, 1986). Learning consists of developing self-efficacious behaviors through mastery learning, imitation, modeling and social persuasion techniques. According to Bandura (1986, 1995), human learning occurs when individuals observe the behaviors of others, abstract information from those behaviors, make decisions as to which ones to adopt, and later, enact those selected behaviors. While the meta-cognitive skills are essential, the affective factors such as beliefs, expectations, introspections (forethought), and even persistence play major roles in learning.
    In the social cognitive view, personal and social change relies extensively on the empowerment of the individual. People can effect change in themselves through their own efforts. Change is dependent on one's perceived belief about their ability to exercise control. Evaluations of one's performances, resulting in consequences, play a critical role in changing behavior. Successful consequences tend to be repeated and retained; failure consequences are discarded (Schunk, 1996).
    A social-cognitive perspective views learners as having the same basic skills to perform a given task. Poor, adequate, and exceptional performances are the result of social and cognitive factors, such as the choices made in the process, the amount of effort exerted, the degree of persistence, expectations made, and the goals set. The higher the goals and expectations people set for themselves, the firmer the commitment, and the more self-directed and regulated are they in their endeavors (Zimmerman, 1994). Setting challenging and attainable goals by students have been found to be a very effective classroom strategy that enhances both self-efficacy and learning achievement (Schunk, 1985; Hom & Murphy, 1985).
    Therefore, social cognitive theory, as was seen in the constructivist view, places the teacher once more in the role of a facilitator, guide and model of specific domains of learning. Students can become more efficacious learners in several ways. The most effective way of developing a strong sense of self-efficacy is through successfully learned and mastered experiences (Bandura, 1988). Learning is best accomplished when the steps are small, paced, and successfully mastered before going on to the next step.
    Modeling of behavior takes a second place to mastery learning. Observational learning through modeling expands the learning rate, as well as the amount of knowledge acquired. Simply observing a model, be it a teacher or peer, does not guarantee learning, but it can set the scene for further learning processes. Observing similar peers improving their skills have instilled a sense of self-efficacy in students for learning, whereas observed failures have casted doubts on students' capabilities to success (Schunk, 1985; Bandura, 1988). Thus, it is essential that learners with lower levels of self-efficacy in specific domains learn from those who can model skills and tasks with success.
    Another strategy for efficacy development is in the use of social persuasion. Giving verbal and social praises and encouragements that lead learners to exert more effort are more likely to bring success than those who fear their capabilities. Bandura (1988) cautions teachers and efficacy builders to avoid setting unrealistic levels of efficacy in students. Rather, he suggests assigning tasks that bring success and avoiding premature placement into situations where they are likely to fail. To ensure progress in personal development, success can be measured in terms of self-improvement rather then by triumphs over others (Bandura, 1988). Competition in grades and tasks has little place in social-cognitive learning processes.

               2)  Social-Cultural Theory:

    Probably no theorist has influenced social learning and constructivist theories more then Vygotsky (1978). His primary hypothesis is that much learning occurs in social contexts (Vygotsky, 1979). One of his main contributions to cognitive and social learning has been his emphasis on "socially meaningful activity" as an important influence on learning (Kozulin, 1986). He considers the social environment critical for learning. With the integration of a person's cognitive and personal factors within the social context, learning can most optimally occur. The social environment influences cognition through its "tools," namely, its cultural objects (cars, machines, and computers) and its languages and social institutions (churches, schools, organizations, and companies). According to Vygotsky, the signs and symbols of a culture, and especially its language, dialect, and speech, are the keys to understanding complex human behaviors. Words are the key to knowing oneself (Vygotsky, 1979). The social environment and cultural context in which a learner finds him/herself is the source of both social behaviors and individual thoughts. Stated in another way, "human mental activity is a particular case of social experience, and an understanding of human mental activity rests on an understanding of the mechanisms of social experience" (Gredler, 1997, p. 239). While evidence seems to indicate that Vygotsky's claim that all learning is dependent on the culture (Geary, 1995) may be too strong, research does support that the learner's culture is important and needs to be explained in understanding learning (Schunk, 1996).
    Vygotsky has become known for a second concept, the zone of proximal development or ZPD (Vgotsky, 1978). The ZPD defines the distance between a student's current level of learning and the level he/she can reach with the help of tools, people, and powerful artifacts (Brown, 1994). In the ZPD, the teacher and learner work together on tasks that the learner could not perform independently because of the difficulty level. This process captures the idea of collaborative and mentoring processes, requiring the teacher, who has and knows more skills, to share that knowledge in a culturally mediated interaction (Bruner, 1984; Daloz, 1986) with a student or a group of students working together.
    Applications of teaching strategies from Vygotsky's sociocultural theory are many. A major application involves the concept of instructional scaffolding (Bruning,, 1995). This is a process in which the teacher determines and controls the number of tasks (elements) to be learned, and based on the progress of the learner, includes the next set of concepts based on the learner's progress. This term is analogous to scaffolding used in construction projects and contains five main functions: provide support, function as a tool, extend the range of the learner, permit the attainment of tasks not otherwise possible, and use selectively only as needed (Schunk, 1996).
    A more recognized application of Vgotsky's theory is reciprocal teaching. It involves an interactive learning process in which the teacher models behaviors (questioning, posing a problem, modeling a strategy or teaching a skill) that create dialogue about information presented. As the process continues, the students begin to take turns being the teacher. Another example of the application of reciprocal teaching designed to provoke zones of proximal development were "reading groups" established by Palincsar and Brown (1984). In their research, reciprocal teaching seminars were led by teachers, parents, peers, and even older students. Up to six students form a group, taking turns being the leader and discussing the contents of an article, video, and/or material presented. Such skills as summarizing, asking questions, clarifying the issues, and predicting outcomes evolve. Group members cooperate in bringing to consensus the meaning, relevance and even importance of the subject matter. Peers begin to collaborate and assist others who may not be capable of full participation. This concept of ZPD is a vehicle for pushing learners to heightened levels of learning competencies.

            3)  Social-Critical Theory:

    One of the more complicated, intricate, and often difficult to grasp theories is social-critical theory (Merriam, 1993). The ideas of Habermas and his critical theory have provided many educators, and especially those who work with adults, with a fresh perspective about the diversity of learning processes of individuals' knowledge, language, and social contexts (Habermas, 1972; 1984; 1987). According to Habermas, learning is not only relegated to scientific ways of knowing, what he calls "technical knowledge," the process in which man interacts with nature and the world to create some level of control and prediction through "empirical and scientific" analysis. Within society, each person engages in communicative and dialogic interactions with others (at work, home, and in the community) that form a "practical" process of creating meaning and reaching consensus with others. Habermas calls this form of learning "hermeneutics", or the science of interpretation. The importance of language and the level of skills of such communicative interactions in society play a major role in a learner's human condition.
    His third form of knowledge must be "critical" in nature. This type of knowledge seeks to achieve emancipation and/or freedom from various forms of domination in society. In Habermas' view (1984, 1987) each person in society is subjected to various forms of power relationships with others, be they with a boss, a company, government, a parent, and even a teacher. Through critical reflection and thinking, a person achieves a sense of empowerment and autonomy within himself.
    In essence, social-critical theory posits a very sophisticated three-step process (Welton, 1993). Human beings learn through an integration of different types of knowledge. When knowledge, acquired through combinations of both scientific and experiential means, are integrated with such emancipatory processes as critical reflection, questioning, and reasoning, learning truly occurs (Merriam,1993). In practical terms, a social-critical approach to learning purports to empower learners to engage in responsible personal action and to make changes in the conditions of their everyday life resulting from communication, critical thinking, reflection, and reasoned analysis. The role of the student in learning is to personally seek autonomy, social interdependence, truth, justice, and fairness. This level of empowerment is similar to Bandura's theory of social-cognitive theory and his concept of self-efficacy, described earlier.
    In terms of application, social critical theory suggests that students be engaged consistently in discussing, debating, and dialoguing about personal, social, cultural issues, situations, and events. The continued sophistication of our society, the global and international nature of our interactions, has shown the need for improved communication skills for all members of society. Communication and critical thinking strategies such as the use of deductive and inductive questioning processes, developed by Taba (1962), consensus building exercises, and problem-solving paradigms have become effective practices evolving from social critical theory and social learning processes.

            4)  Cooperative Learning Approaches:

    The insights gleaned from these three theories and constructivism have led to a simultaneous and major development in cooperative learning techniques as a very popular teaching strategy and context for learning (1990; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Johnson, Johnson, Holubec, & Roy, 1984; Kagan, 1990; Slavin, 1990,1983). Cooperative learning, while not a theory, has provided a number of effective teaching approaches and strategies for shaping education in the 1990's. Such research and experiences have transformed the classrooms into meaningful, student-centered learning, resulting in social and intellectual development (Burton, 1987; Cohen, 1984), and the effect of collaboration on student achievement and attitudes to learning (Bandura, 1986; Zimmerman, 1994; Slavin, 1989).
    This approach views the contemporary teacher as an organizer and guide who facilitates, promotes and, in some cases, actually directs the learning of the student. The focus of teaching is learner-centered. The classroom functions as a "learning community" (Brown, 1994), requiring learners and teachers to become collectively responsible for learning, and where cooperation, and active communication are primary educational concerns (Adams and Hamm, 1994).
    There is another reason for classrooms and schools to be developed into "learning communities." At the heart of schooling is the personal relationship between student and teacher that develops over matters of content (Adams and Hamm, 1994). Studies show that when students and teachers cooperate to reach a common goal they learn to appreciate and respect one another more fully (Babad, 1990).
    Some examples of cooperative learning strategies are presented here. The "expert jigsaw" is a cooperative learning strategy, designed by Aronson (1978) and popularized by Kagan (1990), which requires students to engage in both their own respective independent study and collective research. As researchers, they divide up units of study, similar to that of a puzzle. They share responsibility for learning and teaching their piece of the puzzle to each other (Kagan, 1990; Brown, 1994).
    Learners are placed strategically into teams, which is different than simply putting learners into groups. Specific roles may be assigned to various team members, such as facilitator, checker, reader, recorder, encourager, timer, and note taker (Adams & Hamm, 1994). To assure diversity levels among students and their functioning differences, the technique of a line-up is often used. This is a cooperative process in which students evaluate themselves according to some trait (humor), level of confidence (in speaking before others), or even mastery of a skill (speaking another language). Students evaluate themselves individually and place themselves on a continuum that best describes themselves based on a criterion. Members who represent each level on the continuum form teams.
    In cooperative learning processes, students are often asked to think by themselves about a concept learned or discovered, then discuss their personal thoughts with another peer, and then together in pairs, share a consensus viewpoint of the concept or issue studied. This process is called "think-pair-share" (Kagan,1990). Another form of reflective thinking and decision-making consists of the "corners" strategy. Students study an issue across several perspectives. Each student chooses one perspective, joined by other members who have similar interests. Such teams with differing perspectives proceed in developing reasons and rationale for their choices related to the issue (Kagan, 1990; Johnson & Johnson, 1989).

            5)  Transformational Theory:

    The concept of transformation refers to change. While transformational processes have been studied by psychologists throughout history, it has only been within the past two decades that it has been a subject of study in education, and more specifically in the domain of adult learning. Transformational learning is a new and evolving theory resulting from the research and work of three main authors, Freire, Daloz, and Mezirow. Transformational theorists share the humanistic vision that learners are capable of change and free to act on the world (Merriam, 1993).

                    A)  Perspective Transformation:

    According to Mezirow (1985), learning is a process of using previous experiences, learning, and prior interpretative meanings to construct new and/or revised interpretations and meanings of such experiences to guide future action. Mezirow's concept of transformational learning is directed to personal development and growth (Merriam, 1993). The construction of meanings and their respective interpretations are filtered through two basic frames of reference, consisting of broad, generalized predispositions of thinking, known as "habits of expectation" (Mezirow, 1990, 1991), that often limit one's perceptions, and those beliefs, feelings, attitudes and value judgments that shape an interpretation (Mezirow, 1996).
    When one's action, guided by such ways of thinking and beliefs, fail to produce successful or expected results, one's frame of reference tends to be transformed through a critical analysis and reflection of their assumptions. Individuals with more functional frames of reference tend to be more inclusive, differentiating, permeable, critically reflective, and integrative of their own experiences and interpretations with others (Mezirow, 1991). A transformational learning experience requires that the learner make an informal and reflective decision prior to activity. Such meta-cognitive processes as problem-solving strategies, problem-posing questions, and communicative dialogue and discourse with self and others allow one to move to increased awarenesses and become more critically reflective on prior assumptions and beliefs, to negotiate one's own purposes, values, and meanings, rather than to simply accept those of others. Mezirow and his colleagues (1990) have suggested such strategies as journaling, analyzing metaphors, developing historiographies, and even using literature to stimulate critical consciousness (Merriam, 1993).

                    B)  Critical Pedagogy:

    The critical pedagogy of Freire (1970) focuses on social change and transformation of the individual. Freire seeks to liberate individuals through a dialogic problem-posing pedagogical style that challenges learners to become aware of the oppressive social structures in the world, to understand how these structures have influenced their own thought, and to recognize their own power to change their own world (Freire, 1973). Freire calls this process, conscientization, and is achieved through a combination of action and reflection, the integration of which he calls "praxis." As with Mezirow, Freire places importance on the ability of the person to be free to reflect on one's situation. This conceptual framework is his main purpose for education and learning. Education through praxis, the linkage between reflection and action, empowers the learner to make changes and transform one's realities.
    Problem-posing processes and Freire's critical thinking strategies have been developed across many community-based adult education programs, such as the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee (Merriam, 1993). Such processes include codification, which consist of concrete, current, and real-life situations, presented in the form of visuals, dialogue, video, poems, etc., and which are central to a specific group of learners. Problem-posing through a series of questions aids learners in identifying various viewpoints of a given problem, with the learners required to describe the content of the situation, and their respective feelings of the characters and situations which are designed to lead them towards defining the problem from their own perspective. Interactive questioning and dialogue involving critical reflection and thinking follow. The final step requires the students to recommend, and if possible, take some real-to-life action in their own personal lives. They are asked to take action to resolve the problem discussed and thereby gain insights into their own respective lives.
    Other critical thinking strategies have been developed by Taba (1962) that utilizes a sets of six different types of questioning that involves both inductive and deductive reasoning processes. Strategies for developing critical reflection processes have been clearly delineated by Brookfield (1990, 1995), especially his suggestions of having students report their own critical incidents of learning through a "critical incident questionnaire (CIQ)."

                    C)  Mentoring Theory:

    A third conceptualization of transformational learning is presented by Daloz. His main interest of study focuses on what impact education has on the diversity of adult learners (Daloz, 1986). Daloz also places the concept of transformation at the core of his thinking by viewing growth and change as a very scary but challenging process of letting go of old beliefs, perceptions and principles, by embracing new ones which initially feel awkward, complex, and even foreign to the person (Merriam, 1993). An example of this transformative process may occur when a teacher, who after some critical reflection and discontent with present successes of his/her students, changes from a very-teacher directed, lecture driven teaching style to the process of facilitation and learner-centered practices.
    The adaptation to such changes is often facilitated by a knowledgeable and caring friend, colleague, teacher who acts as a mentor and supporter (Daloz, 1986). In this case, Daloz's concept of mentor is not only concern for developing cognitive competency, but more importantly in fostering the personal growth of the person. In a teaching and learning environment, personal growth and development is facilitated by a relationship of care between the teacher and student(s). Through a mentoring relationship, consisting primarily of one-to-one interactions, interventions, and individually meeting with each learner, teachers facilitate learners in constructing meaning and in making sense of their respective worlds, and in gaining their own sense of autonomies and self-efficacies about themselves and their actions.

Some Final Thoughts:

    So, why the need for learning new trends and theories in teaching practices? Certainly, it is not because the old ones don't work, but rather because we have a whole new set of emerging theories with teaching strategies that are proving to serve our present population of learners in a more socially-driven, culturally empowering, and transformative manner. The emergence of such trends and theories in teaching and learning means changing the school culture (Adams and Hamm, 1994).
    Changing the school culture can be accomplished by educators acting and thinking differently, especially in regard to their students. Students are no longer empty vessels into which knowledge is poured, commonly referred by Freire as "banking education" (1970). Today's learners are perceived with value and autonomy, of having needs for self-direction and the construction of personal meaning. The contemporary classroom of children and adults suggests the formation of a "community of learners" (Brown, 1994). Successful teachers in such classrooms provide a supportive environment that is a safe, effective learning community, with flexibility, and commitment to effective and meaningful learning (Good and Brophy, 1994), that is student centered, constructivist and social in form, and dynamic in nature.
    In addition, continued and lifelong professional development that contributes to teachers' abilities to improve their own work will be a central feature of schools in the near future. While the precise direction of teacher professionalization remains uncertain, the concept of the teacher as an autonomous professional is now a given (Finn, 1992). In this context, teachers will be given greater freedom and responsibility to stay current with those emerging trends and theories which impact on classroom practices.
    If education is postulated as a national goal, then it follows that the tools of teaching and learning be the most sophisticated, efficient, and effective. Just as the science of medicine must continue to embark on new research and technology to eradicate disease and health issues, so also the profession of teaching and learning must continue to employ more improved and effective learning theories, approaches and respective teaching practices in order for the schools of the 21st. century to eliminate illiteracy, improve the thinking and problem-solving skills of learners, and develop efficacious and empowered individuals.



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