[I wrote this during module H809 Week 7 of the MA ODE. I was suitably intrigued by learning theories but not knowledgeable of their application lacking as I was in practical experience. December 2020].
Thank you Elodie. You’re far braver than me to give this a go. It looks great. Really useful. I am slowly getting there but still feel overwhelmed by the number of learning theories and how they interrelate – all human constructs of course.
I’ve come across a very useful book, Learning Theories A to Z. I have bought it yet – even the Kindle version is $42, but spinning through the pages I can see its value … several hundred learning theories, 500-700 words on each, also organised by author with the multiple overlaps explained. I need to get back to Conole’s ‘tool box’ to understand how ‘off the shelf’ a theory might be matched up to a practice and in that way start to understand, retrospectively, what theories I was using in the TMA01 … so that I can write TMA02. Good luck, a bientot!
With the submission of TMA03 the focus in H807 shifts to the design of e-tivities (Salmon, 2000). The ultimate block starts with a study of the theoretical foundations that underpin activity design explicitly or, more often, implicitly, as pedagogic assumptions.The key text is a review of e-learning theories by Mayes and de Freitas (2004), complemented by e-books from Terry Anderson (2008) and Peter Goodyear (2001).
Learning theories are not new theories, but rather e-enhancements of existing learning theories (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004). They form “sets of beliefs: about the nature of knowledge and competence, about the purposes of learning, about how learning occurs, about how people should and should not be treated, etc” (Goodyear, 2001, p.51)
Consecutive learning theories don’t replace each other, but complement each other, each contributing its legacy to learning. Theories can be considered as various levels of aggregation, with associative/behaviourist approaches addressing observable factors, cognitive approaches focusing on the ‘detailed structures and processes that underlie individual performance’ and situative approaches taking into account the social and cultural aspects of learning (Mayes and de Freitas, 2004).
Activity designs are usually a blend of different learning theories. Being aware of the main learning theories helps building a consistent design and clarifying what type of learning and interaction is intended.An example provided by Goodyear (2001):
It is not uncommon to find some members of a team believing that learners are poor at organizing themselves and learn best by being fed information in small amounts, while other members of the team want to promote active, student-managed learning.The table below summarizes key concepts of different learning theories and their implications for online learning, taken from the publications from Anderson, Mayes and de Freitas and Goodyear.
|Associative/ Behaviourist approaches||Design principles|
|Looking for observable behaviour||Explicitly mentioning course outcomes|
|Behavioural objectives||Ability to test achievement of learning outcomes|
|Instructional Systems Design (ISD)||Decomposing learning into small chunks|
|Routines of organised activity|
|Learning hierarchies (controversial!)||Sequencing learning materials with increasing complexity|
|Giving direct feedback on learning|
|Individualized learning trajectories|
|Cognitive psychology (constructivism)|
|Types of memory (sensory – short term – long term)||Maximize sensations: strategic screen layout|
|Research on memory, perception, reasoning, concept formation.||Maximize sensations: well-paced information|
|Learning is active||Maximize sensations: highlighting main elements|
|Learning is individual (knowledge construction)||Relate difficulty level to cognitive level of learner: providing links to easier and more advanced resources|
|Use of comparative advance organizers|
|Use of conceptual models|
|Importance of prior knowledge structures||Pre-instructional & prerequisite questions|
|Experimentation toward discovery of broad principles|
|Promote deep processing||Use of information maps zooming in/ out|
|Cognitive Apprenticeship (Brown et al, 1989)||Interactive environments for construction of understanding|
|Metacognition (reflection, self-regulation)||Relate to real-life (apply, analyse, synthesize)|
|Learning styles (controversial!)||Address various learning styles|
|Cognitive styles||Let students prepare a journal|
|Dual coding theory||Use both visual information and text|
|Motivate learners (ARCS model)||Use techniques to catch attention, explain relevance, build confidence and increase satisfaction|
|Situated learning (constructivism)|
|Personal knowledge construction||Personal meaning to learning|
|Situated learning: motivation||Relate to real life (relevance)|
|Holistic/ Systemic approaches||Conduct research on internet|
|Build confidence with learners|
|Identity development||Use of first-hand information (not filtered by instructor)|
|Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger)||Collaborative activities|
|Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky)||Fostering the growth of learning communities|
|Learning as act of participation||Legitimate (peripheral) practice, apprenticeships|
|Lifelong learning||Authentic learning and assessment tasks|
|Information explosion||Digital literacies|
|Learning in network environment||Keep up-to-date in field|
|Knowledge base||Multi-channel learning|
|Distributed learning||Build diversity, openness in learning (different opinions), autonomy|
|Personal Learning Environment||self-directed learning, just-in-time|
Some comments on the table:1. It’s difficult to draw sharp lines between these theories.
Some authors distinguish between cognitive constructivism (based on the work from Piaget) and social-cultural constructivism (based on the work from Vygotsky). The work of Vygotsky formed the basis for the anthropological work from Jean Lave and the concept of ‘communities of practice’.
The work of Engeström on activity theory forms a bridge between situative learning (with the activity system, it takes a more social unit of analysis than the individual) and constructivist approaches.2 .
Constructivism doesn’t really fit into the overview. Goodyear (2001, p.75) mentions the following description of constructivism:“…learning is a constructive process in which the learner is building an internal representation of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. This representation is constantly open to change, its structure and linkages forming the foundation to which other knowledge structures are appended….this view of knowledge does not necessarily deny the existence of the real world..but contends that all we know of the world are human interpretations of our experience of the world….learning must be situated in a rich context, reflective of real world contexts…”
In other words, constructivism states that knowledge is relative and is different for every user. Learning, in this position, means actively building a personal and contextualised interpretation of experience.ReferencesGoodyear, P. (2001)
Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines, Networked Learning in Higher Education Project (JCALT), Lancaster, CSALT, Lancaster University, [online] Available from:http://www.csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/guidelines_final.doc(Accessed 28 May 2012)
Anderson, T. (ed.) (2008) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, 2nd ed. Athabasca University Press.
Mayes, T. and de Freitas, S. (2004) Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models, Bristol, The Joint Information Systems Committee, [online] Available from:http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20%28Version%201%29.pdf(Accessed 28 May 2012).