Nurturing Students for Life: The Power of Teachers as Role Models and the Integration of Learning Theories

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​The most valuable thing that teachers can provide for a student is not only the pure knowledge but also ability to preparation for life. All teachers should be aware of their power on children and be a good role model for them even though it is a huge responsibility to bear. Gaining in depth knowledge about learning theories for a teacher plays a significant role in the teaching process, but it is not an only thing to consider. In this sense, teachers should break the rules in their mind and try to touch every students’ life in some way as every one of them is shaped by their teaching style. How to achieve that is not an obvious thing or rules to obey for a teacher, it gives signals in the process of teaching. Besides gaining strong knowledge about learning theories, analyzing students is integral part of the teaching. In analyzing students, the teacher should discover who their students are and the special needs of them. Every student requires special treatment in terms of their background knowledge, capacity, sociocultural environment, level and needs. It is a need to come to the classroom with innovatory practices considering both the learning theories and learning environment for teachers. At this point, implementing only one theory, or all the theories without concerning about learning environment could be a huge mistake for both the learners and teachers.

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​According to the Piaget, babies born with innate structures of knowledge called as schema. The most important and known factor about Piaget is, he categorizes the cognitive development as stages. These stages start with sensory motor which is preliminary of cognitive development and end up with formal operational stage which requires hypothetical and logical thinking. Not all individuals can reach the final stage. Coming to the schema, it represents categorizing every knowledge in the mind. As it is mentioned above, people already born with schema and tend to categorize new knowledge in their mind. If a new knowledge cannot be settled down in the existed schema, a new schema is created. In adopting Piaget’s language theory, it is a need to know Piaget’s cognitive development stages because analyzing the students and deciding which stage they are in can help to meet their needs. But not concerning the socio-cultural environment could occur some problems such as inefficient communication which is significant in language classrooms. Also, assessment for only product by on only one criterion like test score recommended by Piaget can cause to ignore skills gained in the process.

​Environment is one of the most important things in the both the learning and teaching processes. Vygotsky is a developmental psychologist claims that development and learning embedded in child’s social environment. According to Vygotsky, children learn from interaction and people around them. Vygotsky, in contrast to Piaget, defends that children can develop their cognitive skills under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. Teachers should analyze what their students’ know already and with analyzing them they should provide the extra information. Domains of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) developed by Vygotsky refers that children should be provided with integrated information includes life and science. Topic should be everyday topic and pretend to be an adult when roleplaying helps to preparation for future. The other important term is scaffolding that refers the role of adults in the process of teaching. Teachers should prepare tasks to similar students’ existing knowledge according to their needs, timely support should be ensured and with the achievable divided parts tasks should be completed considering learning goals. In this process, support should be reduced gradually to act them more independently. English curriculum in Turkey based on Vygotsky’s Communicative Theory and it is quite useful for language classes because language cannot be thought separated from communication. Not always students need an adult to comprehend sometimes they need more independent environment to explore knowledge itself to achieve critical thinking. But interaction with their peers or teachers to show signs of development plays crucial role.

​Bruner’s theory shows little differences from Vygotsky’s theory. It emphasizes social interaction while learning. In a similar vein to Piaget, Bruner also claims that intellectual ability is developed in stages. For this theory, preparation for students’ background knowledge is very important. In the meantime, the teacher and students should not get lost in details and revisit the previous knowledge as it is based on spiral curriculum which is sometimes seen in some establishments. This theory recommends that students should go beyond the given information and use their intuitions. The lesson should be the side of the process rather the product. Because not every skill can be measured with the product. Sometimes, quite important skills can be gained during the process. And these skills can only be measured through multi-dimensional assessments. The teacher should also revisit the existed knowledge and set the new knowledge according to them but revisiting them in every lesson can take too much time and the learning new knowledge can be exhausting when considering the time amount given in the each session. So, spiral curriculum might not be as efficient as a curriculum based on communicative theory.

​All the theories show different details of the learning and teaching. Piaget’s cognitive development stages should be taken into consideration when thinking the needs and characteristic of every students profile. Because the child who is in the formal operational stage is different from concrete operational. It does not make sense if a teacher teaches abstract themes to a child who is in concrete operational stage. The other factor is communication. Learning cannot be thought without communication because people are shaped by their environment mostly. Family, the teacher, and their friendship play crucial roles in a child’s development. Thus, every person of children’s environment should be very careful when teaching to them in early stages of their life. Surely, in adult guidance students can gain more accurate knowledge but sometimes support from adults should be reduced to explore knowledge themselves as it can lead to last the knowledge permanent. Interaction is the basis of a language. In this sense, Genie who was locked by her father for 13 years in early stages of her life can be an example. She was not able to speak or meet basic life needs. After being rescued and receiving education for years she was still quite poor in language. It is quite important to know all of that and adopt them in classes in a holistic view. A good teacher should benefit from each theory according to their classes’ needs and capacity. Small amount of each learning theory and an understanding the contribution of condition of learning environment can contribute lots of things to students’ competence and becomes a big step to success.

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