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How do Young People Think They Learn? A Learning Theory Taxonomy Devised from Pupil Preferences



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This paper reports the findings from a small-scale survey of school pupils aged 10-18. It places in order of preference, the learning theories of Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Experientialism, Social & Emotional Learning Theory together with the use of Metacognition. The research is qualitative and quantitative, drawing on responses to a survey with follow-up interviews. The responses were gathered from 109 respondents from every school year group from Year 6 to Year 13 in three schools and compared to the responses from a group of teachers for contrast. The research consisted of a survey about common teaching strategies, each reflecting an overarching learning theory, according to findings from the literature review (and shown in Tables 1-6). Once the strategies were placed in order of preference it was possible to filter the data to reveal a learning theory taxonomy. Findings showed that all learning strategies were judged to be of some benefit but Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) approaches were considered the most important amongst young learners. Adults’ learning preferences were also surveyed and found to be different to those of young people and there were also marked differences between the sub-groups of young learners: school key stage, possession of a computer at home, and home language. A possible implication of the findings is that it may help teachers to consider the theoretical basis on which they plan for effective learning in the classroom across Key Stages.



Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Experientialism, Social & Emotional Learning (SEL), Metacognitio

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Cambridge Educational Research e-Journal (CERJ)

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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

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