Over the past eight weeks I have been engrossed in an exploration of the theories surrounding learning and instruction. I have unearthed valuable nuggets about how people learn, discovered a deeper understanding of how I learn, connected the theories about learning to learning styles and technology, and noted strategies that I can apply to my professional practice as an instructional designer. Smith (1999) posits that learning can be treated as the resultant change in behavior caused by our experiences. Therefore, an understanding of how people learn is foundational to designing instruction and instructional materials (Laureate Education, n.da.).
Although the prevalent perspective of learning has been in a state of flux many practitioners seem to favor one theory of learning over another—behaviorism over cognitivism or constructivism, for example. Although logical, this notion it is flawed because “no single theory can adequately account for all learning” (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009, p.6). For instance, mastery of particular content can be effectively facilitated using a behavioral approach, cognitive strategies aid in teaching problem-solving, and for complex and ill-defined problems the constructivist approach may be better suited (Ertmer, & Newby, 2013). This is corroborated by Kapp (2007) who advocates that lower level learning such as memorization and labeling requires a behaviorist approach, cognitivism is better suited to procedural and rule-based learning, while problem-solving, collaboration and creativity require a view of constructivism. In essence therefore, the theories can “coexist because they address different aspects of learning” (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009, p.10).
When we consider how the brain functions in processing and storing information my appreciation for how I learn was further strengthened. Two points are of significant personal value. First, while rehearsal may be a good strategy for me to store information in long term memory, its retrieval is enhanced if I can associate it with information I already know or with situations where it might be useful as well as if it is encoded in multiple ways (Laureate Education, n.dc). Second, self-regulation plays an integral role in offering strategies for checking my comprehension on an on-going basis and maintaining motivation (Laureate Education, n.db). A further consideration is the peculiar benefit that instructional activities that are situated in real-world examples and authentic learning tasks bring to bear in enriching my understanding (Smith, 2008).
Learning theories seek to capture the events that occur in order to facilitate learning (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009), whereas a learning style is a preference on the part of the learner for a particular modality in which information is presented to them (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2009). ‘Traditional’ learning theories such as behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are not entirely compatible with the twenty-first century learning because not only are learners changing—prefering to learn by doing, desiring more informal learning settings, and are digital natives who think differently, but technology is also transforming the learning process (Ertmer, & Newby, 2013). In fact, Siemens (2004) argues that many of the processes that were accounted for by learning theories are easily supported by technology to the extent that understanding where to find knowledge appears to be more valuable than the know-how and the know-what. We see an expansion in online learning which requires more careful consideration of strategies to maintain high levels of interest in learners.
It is indeed an exciting time to be an instructional designer. This course, EDUC 6115 – Learning Theories and Instruction, has offered me a toolkit of strategies and their associated supporting philosophies to develop programs of instruction that recognize the situated nature of learning (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989), using various technologies as an efficient delivery system for learning experiences that arouse the attention of learners, providing content that is relevant to their individual and collective needs, with enough scaffolding that they can confidently complete challenging tasks and derive the satisfaction of achieving their personal goals (Keller, 2008) .
Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71
Kapp, K. (2007). Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought. Karl Kapp. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://karlkapp.com/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational/
Keller, J. M. (2008). First principles of motivation to learn and e3-learning. Distance Education, 29(2), 175-185. Retrieved from http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/maclachlan/EDER_679.06_Fall_2008/Motivation_Keller_eLearning.pdf
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.da.). An introduction to learning [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.db.). Information processing and problem solving [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.dc.). Information processing and the brain [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Custom edition). New York, NY: Pearson
Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119. doi:10.1111/j.1539-6053.2009.01038.x
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age [online]. Retrieved November 22, 2016 from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Smith, D. S. (2008). A case study in situated cognition. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved November 8, 2016, from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=A_case_study_in_situated_cognition
Smith, M. K. (1999). Learning theory. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-learn.htm