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& Philosophies
 Just the tip of the iceberg
         EDER 671
        Dr. Qing Li
Learning Theories
   What is a theory? A theory
       provides a general explanation for observations made over
       Explains and predicts behavior,
       Can never be established beyond all doubt
       May be modified
       Seldom has to be thrown out completely if thoroughly
        tested but sometimes a theory may be widely accepted for
        a long time and later disproved.

    (Dorin, Demmin & Gabel, 1990)
  Brief overview of some learning
               based on OCSLD (2002)

There are many different theories of learning.
It is useful to consider their application to
how your students learn and how you teach.
It is important to think how you learn and
realize that everyone does not learn the way
you do.

Sensory Stimulation theory
    Its premise is that effective learning occurs when the
     senses are stimulated.
    75% knowledge held by adults is learned through seeing,
     13% through hearing. Other senses- touch, smell & taste
     account for 12%.
    By stimulating the senses, particularly the visual sense,
     learning can be enhanced.
    If multi-senses are stimulated, greater learning takes place.
    How: through greater variety of colors, volume levels,
     strong statements, facts presented visually, use of variety
     of techniques and media.

Reinforcement Theory
   Skinner: positive reinforcement, negative
    reinforcement, punishment. (details later)
   Note: much „competency based training‟ is
    based on this theory.
   Very useful in learning repetitive tasks, but
    higher order learning is not involved.
   Criticism – too rigid and mechanical.

Holistic learning theory
   Premise: the individual personality consists of
    many elements… specifically… the intellect,
    emotions, the body impulse (or desire),
    intuition and imagination that all require
    activation if learning is to be more effective

Facilitation theory (the
humanist approach)
   Carl Rogers, Premise: learning will occur by the
    educator acting as a facilitator, by establishing an
    atmosphere in which learners feel comfortable to
    consider new ideas and are not threatened by
    external factors.
   Believe that human beings have a natural
    eagerness to learn;
   There is some resistance to, and unpleasant
    consequences of, giving up what is currently held to
    be true;
   The most significant learning involves changing
    one‟s concept of oneself.

Facilitation theory (2)
   Teachers are:
       Less protective of their constructs and beliefs
        than other teachers,
       More able to listen to learners, especially to their
       pay as much attention to their relationship with
        learners as to the content of the course
       Apt to accept feedback, both positive and
        negative and to use it as constructive insight into
        themselves and their behavior.

Facilitation theory (3)
   Learners
       Are encouraged to take responsibility for their own
       Provide much of the input for the learning which
        occurs through their insights and experiences
       Are encouraged to consider that the most
        valuable evaluation is self-evaluation and that
        learning needs to focus on factors that contribute
        to solving significant problems or achieving
        significant results.
Experiential learning
   Kolb‟s 4-stage
    learning process
    •The process can
    begin at any of the
    stages and is                                     Have an
    continuous (no limit to
    the # of cycles).
                              Plan next steps,                 Review that experience
    •Without reflection we    experimenting to find
    would simply continue     solution
    to repeat our
                                          Conclude from that
Experiential learning (2)
   Learning is through 1) concrete experience,2)
    observation & reflection, 3) abstract
    conceptualization, 4) active experimentation.
   People begin with their preferred style in the
    experiential learning cycle. Hence 4 learning styles:
    activist (prefer to learn by doing), reflector ( like to
    observe & reflect), theorist (like to have everything
    organized into a neat schema ASAP), pragmatist
    (enjoys the planning stage and keen to test things
    out in practice)
   Don‟t know your learning style?
Action Learning
   Links the world of learning with the world of
    action through a reflective process within
    collaborative learning groups- “action learning
    sets”. The “sets” meet regularly to work on
    individuals‟ real life issues with the aim of
    learning with and from each other.

Adult Learning (Andragogy)
   Knowles: adult learning was special.
   adults:
       Bring wealth experience to the learning environment –
        should be used as a resource.
       expect to have a high degree of influence on what they are
        to be educated for, and how they are to be educated.
       Andragogy is: student-centered, experience-based,
        problem-oriented and collaborative very much in the spirit
        of the humanist approach to learning and education.

Why bother?
   Some reasons:
        Learning theories permeate to all dimensions of
        educational technology. E.g. depending on the
        learners and situations, we design our
        instructional events (environments, systems,
        software) which would affect student learning.
       In ID, the designer must understand the strengths
        and weaknesses of each learning theory to
        optimize their use in appropriate instructional
        design strategy.
Your reason?
   Can you think of at least one good reason for
    us to learn all these theories?
   Can you use examples from your previous
    experience to explain your reasons?

    Objectivism vs.
Based on Wilson (1997) & Roblyer
Current educational Goals and
Methods: Two views
   Directed instruction: grounded primarily in
    behaviorism and the information-processing
    branch of cognitive learning theories
    (acquisition metaphor).
   Constructivist instruction evolved from other
    branches of thinking in cognitive learning
    theory (participation metaphor).

Philosophical foundations
   Objectivist: knowledge has a separate, real
    existence of its own outside the human mind.
    Learning happens when this knowledge is
    transmitted to people and they store it in their minds.
   Constructivist: humans construct all knowledge in
    their minds by participating in certain experiences;
    learning occurs when one constructs both
    mechanisms for learning and her own unique
    version of the knowledge, colored by background,
    experiences, and aptitudes.
   A tree was falling off in the middle of a forest in BC
    and no body was around. Since nobody heard, did
    the falling tree make a noise?
Methodological differences
               Directed                           Constructivist
   Teacher: transmitter of                Teacher: guide and facilitator
    knowledge; expert source;               as students construct their
    director of skill/concept               own knowledge; collaborative
    development through                     resource and assistant as
    structured experiences                  students explore topics.
   Student: receive information;          Student: collaborate with
    demonstrate competence; all             other; develop competence;
    students learn same material            students may learn different
   Curriculum: based on skill              material
    and knowledge hierarchies;             Curriculum: based on
    skills taught one after the other       projects/problems, etc. that
    in set sequence.                        foster both higher and lower
                                            level skills concurrently.

More methodological differences
               Directed                            Constructivist

    Learning goals: stated in terms        Learning goals: stated in terms
     of mastery learning and                 of growth and increased ability
     behavioral competence in a              to work independently and
     scope and sequence                      collaboratively.
    Activities: lecture,                   Activities: group projects,
     demonstration, discussions,             hands-on exploration,
     drill practice, seatwork, testing       authentic tasks, product
    Assessment: written tests and           development
     development of products                Assessment: alternative
     matched to objectives; all tests        assessment including
     and products match set                  performance assessment,
     criteria; same measures for all         portfolios; quality measured by
     students.                               rubrics and checklists;
                                             measures may differ among

Theoretical Foundations:
   Behavioral theories: concentrate on
    immediately observable, thus, behavioral,
    changes in performance (tests) as indicators
    of learning.
       Pavlov: „conditioned response‟, behavior is largely
        controlled by involuntary physical responses to
        outside stimuli (e.g. dogs salivating at the sight of
        dog food).

   Behaviorist (Skinner, „stimulus-response‟ )
       behavior is more controlled by the consequences of
        actions than by events preceding the action. A
        consequence is an outcome (stimulus) after the behavior
        influence future behaviors. (e.g. a child reasons she will
        get praise if she behaves well in school).
       Since internal learning processes cannot be seen
        directly, the focus is on cause-and –effect relationships
        that can be established by observation.
       Human behavior can be shaped by „contingencies of
         positive reinforcement – increase in desired behavior
           from a stimulus (study hard- praise)
         Negative reinforcement -increase in desired behavior
           from avoiding or removing a stimulus (not finish
           assignment – detention).
         Punishment – decrease in undesirable behavior from
           undesirable consequences. (cheating– failure)

    Theoretical Foundations:
    Directed (cont.)
   Information Processing Theories: behaviorisms focus
    only on external directly observable indicators of
    learning, information-processing theory (first and most
    influential of the cognitive-learning theories) try to
    visualize what is impossible to observe directly.
   Human brain has 3 kinds of memories:
       sensory registers--memory that receives all the information a
        person senses (1 second)
       Short-term (working) memory (5-20 seconds)
       Long-term memory (indefinitely).

      Theoretical Foundations:
      Directed (cont.)
          Information-Processing Theory: Model of
           human memory system Lost

               Sensory                Working                 Long
Input          Register   attention   (short                  term
(through                              term)                   memory
eyes,                                 memory
mouth, etc.)                                    Meaningful
                                                Elaborating            May lost if not
                                                                       using regularly

More directed: Gagne’s
      Build on behaviorism and information-processing theories,
       Gagne translated principles from learning theories into practical
       instructional strategies.
      Events of instruction (9): to arrange optimal „conditions of
    1.   Gaining attention
    2.   Informing the learner of the objective
    3.   Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning
    4.   Presenting new material
    5.   Providing learning guidance
    6.   Eliciting performance
    7.   Formative assessment
    8.   Summative assessment
    9.   Enhancing retention and recall

More Gagne
      Types of learning: he identified types of learning as behaviors
       students demonstrate after acquiring knowledge. They differ
       according to the conditions necessary to foster them. He
       showed how the Events of Instruction would be carried out
       slightly different from one type of learning to another:
    1.    Intellectual skills
              Problem solving
              Higher order rules
              Defined concepts
              Concrete concepts
              discriminations
    2.       Cognitive strategies
    3.       Verbal information
    4.       Motor skills
    5.       attitudes

One more Gagne
   Learning hierarchies: the development of
    „intellectual skills requires learning that amounts to a
    building process. Lower level skills provide a
    necessary foundation for higher level ones. E.g. to
    learn long division, students first have to learn all
    prerequisite skills including number recognition,
    addition and subtraction, etc.
   Gagne‟s work has been widely used to develop
    systematic instructional design principles (major
    influence in business, industry, and military training).

                 Your task:
   Working in groups of 3, try to
    develop a metaphor with a graphic
    presentation that shows your
    understanding of major
    characteristics of theories and
    philosophies behind “directed
    instruction”. Prepare a 2 min.

   The differences among those who think of
    themselves as constructivists makes it
    difficult to settle on a single definition.
   Theorists like Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, and
    Bruner are credited with fundamental
    premises of constructivism.

Social constructivism
   Dewey:
       curriculum should arise from student interests
       Curriculum topics should be integrated, not
       Education is growth, rather than an end in itself.
       Learning occurs through its connection with life,
        rather than through participation in curriculum.
       Learning should be hands on and experience
        based, rather than abstract.

Social constructivism (cont.)
   Vygotsky:
       Cognitive development is directly related to and
        based on social development.
       Zone of proximal development: difference
        between two levels of cognitive functioning
        (adult/expert and child/novice).
       Scaffolding: the assistance that an expert gives a
        novice to help him/her reach higher than would be
        possible by the novice‟s efforts alone.

Piaget: Cognitive development
        Child‟s 4 stages of cognitive development:
    1.    Sensorimoter (birth-2 yrs.) –explore world through senses
          and motor activity. Cannot differentiate between self and
          environment (if they cannot see, it doesn‟t exist)
    2.    Preoperational: (2-7) – develop greater abilities to
          communicate via speech and to engage in symbolic
          activities (drawing object, play pretending and imaging).
    3.    Concrete operational (7-11) – increase in abstract
          reasoning ability and ability to generalize.
    4.    Formal operations (12-15) – can form and test
          hypotheses, organize information, reason scientifically,
          show results of abstract thinking in the form of symbolic
Piaget (cont.)
Piaget‟s basic assumptions:
1.  Children are active and motivated learners
2.  Children‟s knowledge of the world becomes more integrated
    and organized over time
3.  Children learn through the processes of assimilation and
4.  Cognitive development depends on interaction with one‟s
    physical and social environment
5.  The processes of equilibration (resolving disequilibrium) help to
    develop increasingly complex levels of thought
6.  Cognitive development can occur only after certain genetically
    controlled neurological changes occur.
7.  Cognitive development occurs in four qualitatively different

Bruner: Learning as discovery
   Bruner also categorized children‟s cognitive development stage:
     Enactive stage (0-3)
     Iconic stage (3-8)
     Symbolic stage (8-)
   Discovery learning: an approach to instruction through which
    students interact with their environment – by exploring and
    manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies,
    or performing experiments.
   However, teachers found that discovery learning is most
    successful when student have prerequisite knowledge and
    undergo some structured experiences.

Gardner: Multiple intelligences
   Of all theories embraced by constructivists,
    Gardner is the only one that attempt to define the
    role of intelligence in learning.
   Types of intelligence:
      Linguistic; Musical; Logical-mathematical; Spatial;
      Bodily-kinesthetic; Intrapersonal; Interpersonal;
   Educational implication: teachers need to try to
    determine which types of intelligence each student
    has and direct the student to learning activities that
    capitalize on these innate abilities.

Constructivism (claims)
1.       Constructivism is more a philosophy (i.e.
         way of seeing the world), not a set of
         The nature of reality– mental representations
          have „real‟ ontological status just as the “world
          out there” does. Or, reality is more in the mind of
          the knower, the knower constructs (interprets) a
          reality based upon his/her apperceptions.
         The nature of knowledge – it is individually
          constructed; it‟s inside people‟s minds, not “out
Constructivism (cont.)
   Human interaction– we rely on shared or
    “negotiated” meanings, better thought of as
    cooperative than authoritative or manipulative
    in nature.
   The nature of science-it is a meaning making
    activity with the biases and filters
    accompanying any human activity.

Philosophy or Rules?
   If we see the world in constructivist terms, we
    go about our jobs in a different way. But this
    difference cannot be reduced to a discrete
    set of rules or techniques.
   Too often, constructivism is equated with low
    structure and permissiveness-imposing
    predefined learning goals or a learning
    method is somehow interfering with students‟
    construction of meaning. This maybe true in
    extreme cases.
One example
   Scott, a teacher, who holds definitely constructivistic and
    anti-authoritarian philosophy wrote in journal: “Third hour
    composition I went to a seating chart, the first time I‟ve
    done that here. I caught them as they came in and told
    them where to sit. Great improvement! Everyone
    working hard on their papers…I sense that students are
    relieved that I‟ve imposed more structure”. Imposing a
    seating chart is a clear act of asserting authoritative
    control and imposing structure. Is Scott betraying his
    principles, or can an ostensibly “objectivist” instructional
    technique actually serve his constructivist learning and
    teaching goals? The students‟ answer clearly indicate
    that they view it as supporting their own learning goals.
Creativity vs. Discipline
   Yet to help students become creative, some kind of
    discipline and structure must be provided.
   “Creativity arises out of the tension between
    spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like river
    banks) forcing the spontaneity into the various forms
    which are essential to the work of art… The
    significance of limits in art is seen most clearly when
    we consider the question of form. Form provides
    the essential boundaries and structure for the
    creative act” (Laurel, 1991, p.101).
   The point is that a given instructional strategy takes
    on meaning as it is used, in a particular context.

Holistic way of observing
   Hence, instructional strategies that impose
    structures may actually help students‟
    knowledge construction.
   One instructional strategy cannot tell whether
    it hinders or serves constructivist learning
    goals, rather the entire situation needs to be
    examined to make the judgments.

Constructivism (more claims)
2. You do not have to be a philosopher to take
   a position.
3. Basically, nobody admits to be an
     Objectivism is primarily a pejorative label given
      by constructivists to the offending others.
     Realists (other name) believe there is a “reality”
      exists, and the quality of mental representations
      can be judged by their correspondence to the
      reality (another hotly debated issue).

What is your take on?
   There are many different interpretations of
    constructivism. An example: a Florida politician's
    position on a county option to permit the sale of
   “if by whiskey, you mean the water of life that cheers
    men‟s souls, that smoothes out the tensions of the
    day, that gives gentle perspective to one‟s view of
    life, then put my name on the list of the fervent wets.
   If by whiskey, you mean the devil‟s brew that rends
    families, destroys careers and ruins one‟s ability to
    work, then count me in the ranks of the dries.”
Constructivism (still more
claims…would it end? :)
   Neither side is right. Mind is not a box that
    inside the box are reflections of what lies
   The starting point is recognizing that we
    simply are in the world, working, acting and
    doing things. Hence individual cognition is
    dethroned as the center of the universe and
    placed back into the context of being par of
    the world.
   Prepare a debate on the benefits of using directed
    vs. constructivist models for teaching and learning.
   Each group should gather evidence to support
    arguments on one of the following aspects of one of
    the models: real, practice problems they address;
    the soundness of their underlying theories; the
    usefulness in preparing students for future
    education and work. (6 groups total).
   Conduct the debate in class.

   Dorin, H., Demmin, P., Gabel, D. (1990). Chemistry: The study of
    matter. (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
   OCSLD: The oxford centre for Staff and Learning Development.
   Roblyer, M., & Edwards, J. (2000). Integrating educational
    technology into teaching (2 ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
   Wilson, B. (1997). Reflections on constructivism and instructional
    design. In C. Dills & A. Romiszowski (Eds.), Instructional
    development paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational
    Technology Publish. [09/18/2003]


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