Reflection

One thing I found striking as I progressed through this course (EDUC-6115-5 Learning Theories and Instruction) is that there really isn’t one learning theory that is the most correct or true.  Although theories have evolved from Behaviorism to Cognitivism to Constructivism and then on to social learning theories and Connectivism, there is merit in all of these.  Even more interesting was the discovery that it is important to match learning theories with the type of learning that is to take place, such as how Kapp (2007) describes:

I suggest that lower level learning (lower cognitive load) requires a behaviorist approach (memorize, recognizing, labeling) as does the expectation of outcomes that must be measured.  I then suggest that procedural and rule-based learning requires an emphasis on Cognitivism and finally, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity require a view of Constructivism. (para4)

I will definitely keep these suggestions in mind when designing instruction!

On top of learning theories, one must consider individual learning styles.  Different people have different approaches to learning, and some prefer visual learning to auditory, while others are more “hands-on” learners.  Like learning theories, it is important to align instructional design with learning styles, and one good way to do this is to use strategies that encompass all learning styles.  For example, one may use elaboration, comprehension monitoring, and mnemonics (Learning Styles, n.d.).

One must also consider the motivation of the learner.  There are intrinsic values to learning, such as pride and self-worth, and there are extrinsic values such as the need to get a better paying job or the need for praise from your boss or peers.  All learners need to be stimulated, feel competent, feel a sense of autonomy, and need relatedness (Motivation, n.d.) Understanding the specific motivations of one’s learners will help one to build better instruction.

Interestingly, technology plays a part in tying together learning theories, styles, and motivations.  One can employ technology to support different learning theories.  It could be something as simple as a pop-up smiley face on an online test (as a conditioning reward in Behaviorism) to using online discussion boards to support social learning theories.  Technology can be used to cater to different learning styles, as well.  The visual learner will respond well to computer-generated charts and graphs, while the auditory learner can take advantage of narrated web-based instruction.  The kinesthetic learner may enjoy using computer programs to manipulate objects in a lesson.  As far as addressing motivation, one can use multimedia to pique interest, simulated environments to help learners boost confidence in their abilities, and use online communications such as email and instant messaging to stay in touch with students and help them feel a sense of relatedness.

In reflecting upon my own learning process, I can really see the need for connecting new material to past experiences.  I think this is why I find math to be my most difficult subject – it is hard to connect something abstract to a memory.  Math involves using “rehearsal” (Information Processing and the Brain, n.d.) instead of meaning-making tactics.

What I have learned in this course will help me further my instructional design career. Understanding adult learners is especially important, as many job descriptions I see are requiring the applicant to have knowledge of adult learning theories.  More importantly, knowing about and understanding different learning theories, styles, and motivations will help me to build more relevant learning experiences.

References

Information processing and the brain. [Video file]. (n.d.), Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Kapp, K. (2007 January 2). Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://www.uleduneering.com/kappnotes/index.php/2007/01/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational/

Learning styles and strategies. [Video file]. (n.d.), Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved 
https://class.waldenu.edu

Motivation in learning. [Video file]. (n.d.), Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved 
from https://class.waldenu.edu

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Learning Styles and Theories: Fitting the Pieces Together

intelligences_testI have always loved words.  I love reading, I love listening to people speak, and I even enjoy word puzzles.  It is not surprising that I have always done well in school.  Growing up, my education consisted mostly of either listening to the teacher speak about a subject or reading about a subject in a text book.

Traditional learning has always taken a behaviorist approach, in which students are rewarded (by praise and good grades) or punished (by disapproval and bad grades), and I am a big people-pleaser.  Therefore, it is no wonder that my linguistic tendencies coupled with a high desire to receive recognition resulted in my educational success.

I took an online Multiple Intelligences test.  The results, which are displayed in the graph above, revealed that I am a Linguistic/Musical learner.  I wasn’t surprised by the linguistic result, but I never really thought of “musical” as being a type of intelligence.  Now that I think about it, I often use mnemonic devices that incorporate music or rhythms to assist with learning, especially rote memorization.  Now, as my results indicate, I am NOT a visual/spatial learner.   Graphs rarely bring a deeper understanding to me; in fact, as soon as I received my Multiple Intelligences test results in graph form, I immediately began to look for a link to a description of my results!

So, how will all this information impact the way I learn?  In the future, I will be more cognizant of my preferred learning styles, and I will use them to help learn new concepts.  For example, if I am given a chart or graph to explain something, I will dig further and find a written explanation of the concept.  If I am having trouble remembering a concept, I will immediately employ a mnemonic, musical device to help myself learn better.  Although on some level I am already doing this, I can be more intentional in my learning to tailor new concepts to my preferred learning style.

The different learning theories (i.e. Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, etc.) have also helped me think a lot about how I learn.  I believe there is truth and validity in all of these theories, and I was pleased to find that, indeed, each theory has a time and a place in the scheme of learning.  Ertmer and Newby (1993) explain: “Typically, one does not teach facts the same way that concepts or problem-solving are taught; likewise, one teaches differently depending on the proficiency level of the learners involved” (p. 67).  This revelation helped me see where each of the different theories fit into learning, and I can now identify the theories in my own specific learning experiences.  I have already mentioned the behaviorist approach in my early education.  When I returned to college online over three years ago, I was met with learning strategies that align more with constructivism and connectivism.

How does technology play a role in my learning?  How does it NOT play a role?!  First, the fact that I attend school online immerses me in technology.  I am not only connecting with my instructor and peers online, much of the learning happens online, whether through reading an online article or using the internet to do research.  I love using different software programs such as Photoshop and Audacity to create instruction – I am not only using these tools to construct learning for someone else, but I am in turn learning something new myself.

Reference:

Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing
critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement
Quarterly, 6
(4), 50-71.

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Connectivism and Personal Networks

mind_map_medium

My network has changed the way I learn in that it has changed the way I access information.  Where once I telephoned my friends and colleagues for advice, I am much more apt to send them an email or access them through other digital media.  Where once I would go to a brick and mortar library to do research, I now do all my research online through my school’s virtual library or through websites with scholarly journals and articles.

The access to different opinions, information sources, and up-to-the-minute information supports the principles of connectivism.  I am amazed at the speed of access and complexity of information I can gain through these networks.  As Siemens (as cited in Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008) explains, “By using these networks…learning communities can share their ideas with others, thereby ‘cross-pollinating’ the learning environment.”  I learn – whether I intend to or not – when my Facebook friends post links to articles that interest them, and I subsequently click on their link and read the article myself.  Also, by reading the opinions – whether fact based or not – of others helps me learn and form my own opinions.

For example, almost two years ago I adopted a Pit Bull Terrier mix.  At the time, I was aware that these dogs had an undeserved adverse reputation and often were treated negatively by society (i.e. breed-specific legislation, increased insurance fines, and bans from certain locations).  However, in becoming Facebook friends with other Pit Bull owners, rescue and advocacy groups, and reading countless online articles, I have learned an incredible wealth of information, not only about the breed itself but about many social issues, as well.  I have participated in awareness rallies, attended political meetings, and have built a vast network of people from whom I can obtain advice and support.  Twenty years ago, I never would have had the same experience without the use of online connections.

Reference

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

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Online Resources for the Brain and Learning

brainThis week we are studying how the brain functions and learns, and how this knowledge can be applied to instruction.  In searching for online resources, I found a few interesting ones.

One resource I found was an Edutopia blog simply called Brain-Based Learning.  The tag-line on this blog reads “Understanding how the brain works and how educators and parents can improve the learning process.”  This blog gives practical suggestions, such as Borash’s (2012) article on accelerating student learning, where he suggests having students draw out maps which connect learning concepts, and in essence draw out their neural pathways.  He also recommends being a guide to students by relaying one’s own personal experiences, and he touts the benefits of sleep so that students’ brains can regenerate and prepare for the next learning experience.  (Interestingly, the need for sleep in order to learn comes up over and over again in many of the articles I read about learning and the brain.)

Another great resource is Postit Science’s Brain Connection.  Although the site looks a little old fashioned and cluttered, there is a wealth of information here.   Brain Connection contains an entire library of articles, reviews, and interactive resources.  There are blogs, images, and lists of resources along with brain-enhancing games.  Of particular interest are the interviews of leaders in education and neuroscience.   Topics range from redefining intelligence and learning (Dr. Howard Gardner) to using knowledge of how the brain works to enhance classroom teaching (Eric Jensen).

A third resource is the website for a training and consultation company called Cognitive Design Solutions.  This site has a nice e-book section that covers multiple subjects on learning, including a great article on cognitive design principles.    Right off the bat, the article lists the key cognitive-behavioral learning principles to guide instructional design and development.  The article gives helpful flowcharts outlining cognitive information processing as well as instructional and learning principles from Gagne, Merrill, Clark, and Mayer.

Reference

Borash, T. (2012 November 6). Accelerating Students Along Neural Superhighways. [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/accelerating-students-neural-superhighways-tony-borash

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Blogs: Doorways to Professional Learning Communities

ImageIn searching for interesting and useful instructional design blogs, I had to ask myself, “What qualities make a blog interesting and useful?”  An interesting blog is visually appealing and contains posts that are unique and thought-provoking.  A useful blog is one that not only provides valuable information but is a platform for discussion among ID professionals.  With these thoughts in mind, I searched the internet for three blogs to help me with my professional career and on which I can participate in valuable collaborative discussions.

The Rapid eLearning Blog is one I have subscribed to for several years.  Each post is accompanied by an amusing picture, and the post topics aren’t simple musings of an instructional designer but good, concrete articles that are useful to the ID community, such as “Free Assets from the E-Learning Community,” “5 Ways to Demonstrate your E-Learning Success,” and “Are Your E-Learning Courses Going to Land You in Jail?”  Even the comments are helpful.  For example, January 24, 2012 post titled “How to Create a Learning Journal to Go with Your E-Learning Courses” has forty comments, with helpful suggestions ranging from real-life examples of how e-Learning journals are being used to using E-Learning journals as evidence in competency-based training.  As a student, I have already used some of the tips from this blog, and I foresee the blog being a valuable tool in my instructional design career.

Another great blog is eLearning Technology.  Blogs posts are extremely thorough and often contain screen shots, charts, diagrams, and videos to support the blogger’s discussion.  The blog also reports helpful information, such as the November 13, 2012 post which gave an exhaustive list of 2013 e-Learning conferences.  Although blog posts are infrequent (one every month or so), I believe the information it contains could be very useful in my ID career.

A third blog I find interesting and useful is Cammy Bean’s Learning Visions.  Ms. Bean is the VP of Learning Design at Kineo, a global e-learning services company.   What I like about this blog is that it not only contains practical topics such as “Putting the Design back into Instructional Design” and “Is Your ELearning Interactive?,” but the blog has a very personal feel as Ms. Bean includes simple posts such as “What are You Reading?” where she talks about some good design and learning books.  Having little practical experience in the ID field myself, I like being able to look into the mind of an ID executive to see where her thoughts are trending.

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