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.