Implication of Bruner’s learning theory
This post tries to describe the implication of Bruner’s learning theory. It starts by a brief presentation of his theory and ends up with specific implications on teaching practices.
A summary of Jerome Bruner’ theory
Jerome Bruner’s theory is very influential and has direct implications on the teaching practices. The main ideas of the theory can be summarized as follows:
- Learning is an active process. Learners select and transform information.
- Learners make appropriate decisions and postulate hypotheses and test their effectiveness.
- Learners use prior experience to fit new information into the pre-existing structures.
- Scaffolding is the process through which able peers or adults offer supports for learning. This assistance becomes gradually less frequent as it becomes unnecessary.
- Intellectual development includes three stages. The enactive stage which refers to learning through actions. The iconic stage refers to the learners’ use of pictures or models. The symbolic stage refers to the development of the ability to think in abstract terms.
- The notion of a spiral curriculum states that a curriculum should revisit basic ideas, building on them until the student grasps the full formal concept.
- Although extrinsic motivation may work in the short run, intrinsic motivation has more value
Implications on the learning process
Bruner’s learning theory has direct implications for teaching practices. Here are some of these implications:
- Instruction must be appropriate to the level of the learners. For example, being aware of the learners’ learning modes (enactive, iconic, symbolic) will help you plan and prepare appropriate materials for instruction according to the difficulty that matches learners’ level.
- The teachers must revisit the material to enhance knowledge. Building on pre-taught ideas to grasp the full formal concept is of paramount importance according to Bruner. Feel free to re-introduce vocabulary, grammar points, and other topics now and then to push the students to deeper comprehension and longer retention.
- The material must be presented in a sequence giving the learners the opportunity to:
a. acquire and construct knowledge,
b. transform and transfer his learning.
- Students should be involved in using their prior experiences and structures to learn new knowledge.
- Help students to categorize new information to able to see similarities and differences between items.
- Teachers should assist learners in building their knowledge. This assistance should fade away as it becomes unnecessary.
- Teachers should provide feedback that is directed toward intrinsic motivation. Grades and competition are not helpful in the learning process. Bruner states that learners must “experience success and failure not as reward and punishment, but as information” (Bruner 1961, p. 26)
Read more about Bruner’s theory:
- The Process of Education
- Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (The Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures)
- The Culture of Education
- Toward a Theory of Instruction (Belknap Press)
- On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand, Second Edition
- Relevance Of Education
Bruner, J. S. (196 1). “The Act of Discovery.” Harvard Educational Review 31: 21-32.