A Case Study of Ricardo
Learning is the persistence change in the performance potential of individuals. Usually, it is brought about as a result of their interaction with the environment or some form of experience. It is a continuous process that often culminate in behavior change and advanced cognitive capacity of the respective person. In the classroom, setting learning is presumed to take place when the student absorbs the concepts, ideas, new knowledge, and skills. Learning can be viewed as a process where inputs are channeled into a box, the student, producing outputs that are in the form of change of behavior or increase in the level of knowledge.
As a matter of fact, each student is unique, with distinct intellectual capacity. Therefore, the rate of knowledge acquisition and the ease of learning differs for each one of them. Given the classroom setting, teachers are trained to understand that not all students will learn at the same rate. Some are fast learners while others are slow learners. Understanding the process of learning equips the tutor with a valuable tool that facilitates his or her way of handling each student according to their special needs. Learning theories can aid in the design of tactical and strategic formulae that support the learning and development of a student. The paper focuses on a case of a student identified as Ricardo. It attempts to apply fundamental principles of learning theories on the way of learning that he appreciates and evaluate the situation around his environment. It also provides a structure that can guide and facilitate the designing of effective teaching skills to support the student’s development and learning.
Many theories have been advanced to explain learning and development. The ideologies that explain learning are behaviorism theory, the cognitivist theory, the social learning, social constructivism, multiple intelligence theory, and brain-based learning theories. Behaviorism, as described by Skinner and Pavlov, explain learning through operant conditioning and classical conditioning respectively. In behaviorism, learning is an innate response which is inapplicable in the classroom setting. In classical conditioning, Pavlov used an experiment on dogs where a bell will ring every time the dogs were fed. The bell was a conditioned stimulus, the dogs’ salivation characterized an unconditioned response, and the meal denoted an unconditioned stimulus. Repeated simultaneous ringing of the bell and feeding the dogs made them associate food and bell ringing. They learned that whenever the bell rings, food is available. With time the dogs would salivate when the bell rung in the absence of food thus producing the conditioned response. In the experiment learning of behavior is an involuntary process.
On the other hand, operant conditioning explains learning as a voluntary process. Skinner used a mouse in a cage where the mice would be fed (reward) whenever it produced the desired response. It would be starved (punishment) for wrong answers. The mouse eventually learned to do the give the right responses to be fed. His theory is about shaping behavior through selective reinforcement. Operant conditioning requires the differentiation among the stimuli and the environment. If previously reinforced responses are no longer reinforced they become extinct. Reinforcement is anything that increases the production of the desired behavior. Positive reinforcement such as rewards for doing good, negative reinforcement and punishment are for wrongdoing and aim at reducing the undesired behavior.
Developmental and learning theories can be used to account for Ricardo’s behavior. The operant learning theory best describes Ricardo’s success in Maths and Music as a consequence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. His home environment does well in music. He is therefore encouraged to be like the members of the family and inevitably concentrates well on the subject. His father advises him to work hard in Maths as it will help him in future. He has identified with the relevance of the two subjects which continually acts as the positive reinforcement giving value to his need to perform well in the subjects.
On the other hand, Ricardo does not see the relevance of social sciences in his future. It is evident that the withdrawal of the stimulus that enabled him to perform resulted in these concerns. Consequently, he lacks the motivation to work hard in social sciences. Actually, he is highly distracted. There is the lack of positive reinforcement that can encourage his concentration and focus on the two subjects. Additionally, the punishment seems to have failed in reducing the undesired habit of distracting other students during class lessons. Since learning is a voluntary process, Ricardo has not found the need to embrace the two subjects that are not his favorites but voluntarily enjoys Maths and Music. Ricardo’s interests and motivation can be enhanced using better reinforcement such as rewards whenever he performs something well in class. Small tokens can change his attitude. Alternatively, since he seems to obey the instruction from influential people in his society like his father, the teacher can use prosperous models in the social science field and see whether it can arouse his interest in the subjects.
Piaget’s model of cognitive development can be adopted to explain some aspects of Ricardo’s behavior. The model has four stages: the sensorimotor stage in the infancy period. In this case, the pre-operational stage occurs during the early childhood. The use of symbols is utilized to develop language, memory, and imagination. The other stage is the formal operational stage. It characterizes adolescence and adulthood stages where the parties demonstrate intelligence through logical interpretation of symbols related to abstract objects.
Ricardo is in the concrete operational stage and his understanding of concepts relies on the interpretation of concrete objects. It explains why his learning involves an active construction of meanings from the learning material. The concepts and ideas that make sense to him are easily remembered. He does not let go ideas and concepts that he misunderstands. Also at close supervision and when assisted with hands-on concrete examples he comprehends the concepts better. The cognitive theory further explains his behavior and reactions. The social cognitive perspective looks at the determinants of learning as the interaction between the environment, the individual’s behavior, and the person’s cognitive factors. Ricardo’s environment starts from a home that is made up of a large family, and he is the youngest, possibly receiving little attention. His behavior further worsens the chance of performing well as he is unmotivated, distracts others, and gives up easily when frustrated. Personal or cognitive factors include the inability to focus and impulsive nature. His information processing is not efficient as he cannot focus attentively; he is glued to concrete thinking and has very short memory. The factors influence his ability to acquire knowledge which affects his behavior as gets frustrated and emotionally outbursts when he cannot perform like others.
Social learning postulates that learning occurs through observation and sensorial experiences. It is a process of imitation/ modeling. Ricardo learns to work hard in music because he likes it and his family members are his models. Also, his internal nature of an outgoing character facilitates his desire to do well in music. Social learning is a triad of behavior, environmental factors, and cognitive abilities of the child. Further, his environment is affected by his identity issues due to lack of the appropriate model that can help him identify himself. Social constructivism can help further the argument on cognitivist. Learning is constructed around the search for meaning by the learner. He contextualizes ideas and gives them meaning. It is solely the responsibility of the learner and social activity that requires dialogue and recourses. In Ricardo’s case learning fails as he socially does not connect with his teacher, he does not form the dialogue that is necessary for understanding his lessons. The learning theories describe a summary of the events surrounding Ricardo’s learning environment. Learning is unique to a student, and appropriate means should be employed to identify and address their specific needs which will help improve their performance.
When a student’s learning is understood based on the factors explained in the learning theories, strategies can be designed which help the student learn more effectively and in a better manner. Strategies should address the specific problems the student has. For the case of Ricardo, the issues to focus on are lack of interest in the subject, demotivation, easy distractibility, lack of concentration, emotional disturbance, identity issues in a teenager, large family background, and a conducive learning environment. Strategies and methods that address the issues will help Ricardo lean better and improve his concentration in class.
Ricardo’s teacher can design a cognitive strategy that will help him learn the difficult tasks that he fails to solve. Ricardo gives up easily when frustrated but he understands concepts better when he is actively involved in the construction of its meanings. The strategy uses the mind to produce solutions. It helps the learner create internal procedures that enable him to solve complex tasks especially reading comprehension, which is a characteristic feature of social sciences. In the strategy, the student asks himself questions as he reads. By asking questions Ricardo will be able to search answers through searching the text and the combining the knowledge as they create more questions. The role of the teacher is to act as a bridge between the student and the information for learning. The teacher has to communicate effectively to the learner. Content evaluation can also help Ricardo’s case. The teacher should know the importance of the content of the student. If they can explain to Ricardo the significance of learning social sciences he may gain back the interest and motivation to learn. The content evaluation also helps the teacher identifies the simple parts of the tasks which he can start with and build up to enhance the knowledge transferred.
Problem-based learning can be adopted for Ricardo’s case. It is student centered, and they can work in small groups of between six students and ten students. The teacher only becomes the facilitator or tutor. The students focus on a specific problem and stimulate learning. The problem encourages cognitive process through the development of problem-solving skills. The strategy can help the student cope with the hard tasks as he observes the way his peers solve the problems and the attention they give. Given that Ricardo tends to distract other students, it can be a challenge when working groups. Therefore, close supervision by the teacher will help keep them in focus.
Integrating technology is another useful strategy. Technology helps the students to concentrate on the tasks ahead as it curbs their attention. Video presentation in class can improve the student’s concentration. It also adds to the fun and enthusiasm of learning. Varying the way classes are conducted reduces boredom and facilitates concentration.
In the classroom, the teacher should create an active learning environment where the students actively participate in discussions and asking questions. They should not only be solving problems but also participate in giving ideas about the questions. The student should listen, talk, read, write, and reflect on the course content as they solve problems in small groups, simulations, role play, and case studies. Such an instructional strategy that engages the students’ minds in critical thinking make them develop great awareness of the perspectives. Active learning can help Ricardo see the sense in participating in class to solve tasks other than assuming he cannot work them out without giving it a chance.
In summary, learning is a very important part of a child’s development. The environment and the people that the child interacts with can influence his/her learning abilities. The instructional learning strategies should be designed to fit the needs of a particular student which may not be the same as other students. It implies that learning should be student based. Addressing issues of environment and background challenges can go a long way in improving the student’s motivation and booster their urge to lean.
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