This course (EDUC 6115 Learning Theories and Instruction) has really enriched my understanding of the learning process. In my profession I’ve had occasion to work with all kinds of learners from school age children to adult learners with their ‘briefcases’ of experience and barriers and motivations for learning. The differences between learners is owing to so many things but even with all the nuances involved the commonality is that they’re all engaged in learning. I’ve always seen classifications like visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. These learning styles are a way of classifying an individual’s natural pattern or processing or gaining information. The leading learning theories–the isms–Connectivism, Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism add to the analysis of how people learn by offering insights on motivation, the role of memory and the factors that influence learning. What I found most surprising is that a person’s learning preferences are not static and may be subject to change depending on many variables. The individual who responded to constructivist methods in grade school might find connectivist methods more effective in high school and maybe prefer elements of all of the methods be present in their college level instruction.
This course helped me to realize that I shouldn’t put limitations on the kind of learning I’m capable of being. Sure, I might have an aptitude for a certain kind of learning but I wholly agree with Gardner, the author of the Multiple Intelligences theory, who submits that “some individuals will develop certain intelligences far more than others; but every normal individual should develop each intelligence to some extent, given but a modest opportunity to do so” (Gardner, 1983, p.278). I remember taking some sort of assessment that made the assertion that I was a kinesthetic learner and therefore required very hands-on approaches to learning. I think it’s empowering to know your strengths as a learner but it shouldn’t serve as a crutch or an inescapable label and shouldn’t deter an individual from trying to hone their other intellegences and learning styles.
As I reflect on the connection between learning theories, learning styles, learner motivation and the role of technology the word flexibility comes to mind. None of theories can exist in a vacuum independent of the other. The have to be flexible in their representations as the understanding of pedagogy and andragogy are constantly being challenged and evolving. The learning styles–an individual’s preferred method of taking in information–are tied into the learning theories–the processes behind that learning and new insights are being added to the discussion all the time. With regards to technology the flexibility factor lies with the instructor and his/her ability to recognize the possibilities and implications of a particular technology and align it with effective instructional methods for the benefit of the learner.
This course has presented me with so many insights from talented instructors as well as with valuable resources that I will continue to refer to and consult. It has really opened my eyes to what the role of an effective instructional designer should be. My understanding of learning theories and styles will inform my ability to create effective instruction that takes into account learner strengths, weaknesses and motivations.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books Inc.
- Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different learning theories and learning styles, how has your view on how you learn changed?
I have always thought of myself as a certain kind of learner. I responded best to kinesthetic instruction and my learning style seemed to ve best represented by the Constructivism theory–the idea that learners construct their own knowledge and that several “situational variables such as, emotions, environment, social status and anticipated consequences” (Kapp 2007) have to be taken into consideration. Upon gaining a deeper understanding of the different learning theories and styles I would maintain that I how I learn aligns closely with the constructivism tenets but not to the exclusion of some of the other theories. Where cognitivism, arguably, leaves off connectivism picks up and the common thread between them is that they suggest that learning cannot be done in isolation. Connectivism relies on a “diversity of network” (Davis 2001) while cognitivism submits that “learning occurs internally and through the social interactions with others” (Kerr, 2006). I recognize all 3 of these theories as my brand of learning in that I internalize better when learning and engaging with others and I frequently reach outside of myself and access a network to inform my understanding.
- What have you learned about the various learning theories and learning styles over the past weeks that can further explain your own personal learning preferences?
This learning style schizophrenia (if you will), doesn’t suggest the non-validity of the theories but to me makes perfect sense. I observed early on that they seems to exist on a continuum and not really exclusively of one another. It makes sense that a learner might identify with the effectiveness of one theory–say behaviorism–when trying to methodically learn something and then identify with social learning theories when attempting to really engage with a concept and consider differing perspectives.
- What role does technology play in your learning (i.e., as a way to search for information, to record information, to create, etc.)?
Technology plays a very important part in learning. At some point, chalk and chalkboard were state of the art technology that highly impacted the way people learned. The same applies to the tools that we have at our disposal today. And it should be stated that they are only as beneficial as we make them. They aren’t valuable just by virtue of the fact that they exist but it is in how we apply them that the real value becomes apparent. I’d say it’s important for instructors/designers to look at a tech tool, assess whether it can really fill a need and make an impact or if it’s just the flavor-of the-month, and then devise a way to integrate it into their instruction.
Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism
Kapp, K. (2006). Definition: Cognitivism Retrieved from http://karlkapp.com/in-1980s-several-theories-of-learning/
My network has changed my learning modality from a more visually centered style marked by learning from seeing demonstrations or making lists, to a more kinesthetic style. The visual model lent itself more to learning in isolation, but when I did begin to learn collaboratively I was exposed to many more resources and strategies and leaned more to the kinesthetic type. The kinesthetic learner:
♦ do[es] best when they are involved or active
♦ often have high energy levels
♦ think and learn best while moving
♦ often lose much of what is said during lecture
♦ have problems concentrating when asked to sit and read
♦ prefer to do rather than watch or listen (http://csl.cofc.edu)
This isn’t to say I’ve completely abandoned my visual learning tendencies, but through collaboration with colleagues or classmates I’ve have gained a greater appreciation for learning by doing. I feel that this model really enriches my learning experience and makes the material more meaningful. I am currently challenging myself to get a head start on learning the Adobe CS6 software that I understand we’ll be using later in the program. Now the old Asha, we’ll call her Asha 1.0, would have read through some instructional material like Adobe for Dummies and maybe watched some tutorial videos on the subject. Asha 2.0 takes that learning to the next level by doing, using tools like MOOC’s and/or training libraries like www.lynda.com.
These types of tools facilitate learning for me because they offer a hands on experience and feedback and interaction with students with similar learning objectives. When I have questions this network is very valuable to me and are often the initial resource that I consult. After they’ve provided a frame of reference and some “on the ground” and “in the trenches” advice I go from there adding my own research and point of view. Consulting a network of thinkers to help digest a complex concept is the sort of practice that lies at the heart of Connectivism. Connectivism is all about the power of sharing knowledge from diverse and up-to-date sources. My personal learning network—online communities, mentors in the field, trusted online repositories—is certainly a testament to the theory.
This mindmap details my thought process and the connections that I make when approaching a program or project.