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Sep 22, 2017

Learning Learning Theories

Coming from an island nation in the developing world, I have vivid memories of learning the alphabet, multiplication tables, and phonetic pronunciation in a schoolroom full of children—all speaking in unison. Rote repetition and strict adherence grammatical rules were the order of the day. Although it doesn’t seem like it should have, this lead to my early reading and comprehension (by age five I had skipped over seeing spot run in favor of Alice’s Adventures).

As I grew, my instructors favored different types of learning models. In fact, I was able to experience all of the major leaning theories in my education; without knowing their characteristics specifically. From recent study, I’ve begun to understand—and plan to further explore—specifics of these theories in action. I’m over-simplifying it a bit here, but here’s a synopsis:

  • Objectivist (includes both Behaviorist and Cognitivist) learning theories can be characterized by an instructor-led environment learning through drills and practice.
    • Instructional Design Theories: Motivation Theories of Learning, Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, eLearning Theory
    • Instructional Model: ADDIE, ID, ARCS
  • In a Constructivist learning environment, the focus is on group work and peer-to-peer collaboration.
    • Instructional Design Theories: Motivation Theories if Learning, Online Collaborative Learning, Communities of Inquiry (CoI). ELearning Theory
    • Instructional Model
  • In the Connectivist environment, students work—primarily individually—to gain knowledge and understanding from a variety of different media and sources.
    • Instructional Design Theories: Motivation Theories of Learning, eLearning and Online Collaborative Learning tempered with Communities of Inquiry (CoI) and Practice (CoP)
    • Instructional Model: ADDIE, ID, ARCS

Concept Mapping Learning Theories <!--[if gte mso 9]>
Final version of my concept map outlining the major learning theories.


(a work in progress) Click on the image to see full size-details

Click on the image to see full size-details

To make sense of the differences and similarities of these theories, my goal was to create a concept map. Surprisingly, this was an extremely difficult activity for me to tackle. I don’t think in mind-map—an organic chart is not a useful chart for me—I think in outlines and grids. I think in words and images, spreads and layouts.

So, as this is an activity to create a resource—not faculty or students—I decided to map for me. This decision came to me after three tries using some of the ‘styles’ of the multiple examples.

Putting It to the Test How can these theories be applied to real-classroom scenarios? Let’s take a look:

  • SCENARIO: Math 111-Students will formulate and solve algebraic equations.
    • LEARNING THEORY: Applying the Constructivist Theory, students are placed in small groups (4-5), then they first work individually to devise a series of algebraic problems of varying levels of complexity. They then test their knowledge by having members of the group each solving the entire pool of questions. This is followed up by the groups members comparing/explain final answers.
  • SCENARIO: Econ 201-Students will understand how households (demand) and businesses (supply) interact in various market structures to determine price and quantity of a good produced.
    • LEARNING THEORY: Connectivist theory (with a smattering of Constructivist) can be employed here as students work with a variety of resources; not least of which are their in-class peers, via a survey or poll, then of course online research utilizing visual analytics, articles and case studies to build their body of research.

  • SCENARIO: Hist 301 Learning Objective: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the chronology and significance of major events and movements in U.S. history
    • LEARNING THEORY: Objectivist theory seems to fit well in this scenario. Historical dates and significance can be learned by reading and practicing drills to build memories. In 14-Hundred-and-Ninety-Two, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.

Excellent Sources:

Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective

Why Educators Need to Know Learning Theory