Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Learning Theories

Just finished Ch.2 - Traditional Learning Theories in Adult Learning:Linking Theory and Practice (Merriam& Bierema, 2014) and have done the self test. I originally thought behaviorism would fit my perspective on learning because this is a key component of one of the courses I teach as it is part of a technology program and is competency based .After doing the quiz I see that I jump around and end up having a mix of these perspectives (behaviorism, humanism, cognitivism, social cognitive, constructism). Depending on the situation at had I feel that all of these theories are used in my teaching, which I feel is a  good thing.

Below is a summary of the learning theories.

Learning Theories
Main Ideas
Main Theorists
-learning is a change in observable behavior
 -believe that  human behavior is the result of the arrangement of particular stimuli in the environment
-reward, reinforce, use behavioral objectives in instruction
Pavlov – dog experiment with bell (1890s)
Watson (1920) – founder
Skinner (1971) – developer of theory – arrange environment to bring about desired behavior
-integrated in K-12, and adult education
-used for learning outcomes, competency based curricula, instructional design models, program planning models
-evident in adult career and technical education, business and industry, and military
-other examples – instructional technology, computer based training programs, programs to modify behavior, biofeedback programs
-recognize role of feedback
- Too mechanistic and too controlling- ignores complexity of human being in learning process
** MRAD program, specifically positioning MRAD 117 and clinical
-learning is about development of the person
Maslow and Rogers (1950) – assumption that human beings have the potential for growth and development and that people are free to make choices and determine their behavior
Maslow (1970) goal of learning is  self- actualization – become everything that one is capable of
Rogers (1983) goal of learning fully functioning person
Rogers (1950) – client centered therapy approach = student –centered vs teacher-centered approach
-opposite of behaviorism
-spotlight is on the whole person including body, mind and spirit
-Maslow’s Triangle –hierarchy of needs
    -focus is on inner person, that person’s needs, desires, and wants and how these
require attending to in any learning encounter
    -emphasis on motivation
-teacher is a facilitator rather than a dispenser (Rogers)
** What we are striving for – Camosun and MRAD program
Rogers- defines learning with 5 principles
1)       Personal involvement
2)       Self-initiated
3)       Pervasive
4)       Evaluated by learner
5)       Essence  is meaning
Rogers (1969) – lifelong learners – “an educated person is one who can adapt and change”
3 major adult learning theories have roots in humanistic psychology
- information-processing
-used to facilitate learning and plan instruction with adults.
-explains a lot about how we use the brain and our senses to process information
-Shift to the learner’s mental process
-mind sees patterns and uses prior knowledge to process new information
- (Grippin,Peters, 1984) – “the thinking person interprets sensations and gives meaning to the events that impinge upon his consciousness”
-cognitivists “focus on insight, information processing, problem solving, memory and the brain.”
-Piaget (1972) – cognitive development – 4 stages (infancy, child, ..adult)
Arlin,Sinnot – problem finding
Ausubel (1967) – meaningful learning-connect with concepts already in person’s cognitive structure
Gagne (1985) –taxonomy of learning outcomes
Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) – learning outcomes- cognitive, affective and psychomotor
Gestalt- pattern/shape
Metaphor- computer: input, throughput and output  “information processing”
-cognitive development, memory, instructional design theories
-memory research (Driscoll, 2005)
   -sensory, short and long term
-adult learning- hearing and vision loss in aging may impact sensory memory
** use blooms in lesson planning- outcomes and curriculum planning
Social Cognitive
-Subset of cognitive theory
-Highlights the idea that much human learning occurs in a social environment
-by observing others, people acquire knowledge, rules, skills, strategies, beliefs, and attitudes.
-also learn about usefulness and appropriateness of behaviors (Shunk, 1996)
-observe others and model their behaviour
- draws from both behaviorism and cognitive theory
-learning is social and context bound
-Bandura (1976, 86) – major theorists
   - “persons can regulate their own behavior to some extent by visualizing self-generated consequences.”
  - “ model is a triangle in which learning, the person, and the environment are interactive and reciprocal”
- Gibsons (2004) – suggests social cognitive theory is relevant to the workplace where-on-the job training and behavior modeling can assist in socializing employees to the workplace.
-adults learn social roles by observing and modeling others.
     - cognitive apprenticeships – wherein the mentor or instructor models how to think about whatever is being learned. 
-collection of perspectives that share a common assumption that learning is how people make sense of their experience
-learning is construction of meaning from experience
-constructivists see knowledge as “constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experiences. Learners are not empty vessels waiting to be filled but rather active organisms seeking meaning.” (Driscoll, 2005)
-draw from Piaget, Dewey, Vygotsky
-Piaget- cognitive structure changes as we mature, allowing us to construct meaning at more sophisticated levels.
Dewey’s (1938)- genuine education
Vgotsky (1978) – role of sociocultural context in how people construct meaning from experience
Candy (1991) teaching and learning is a process of negotiation
Brooks and Brooks (1999) – mediators of students and environments –encourage dialogue with instructor, building on what students know
-Brandon and All (2010) – nursing example – active learning
-foundational for understanding much of adult learning
-aspects are central to self-directed learning, transformational learning, experiential learning, reflective practice, situated cognition and communities of practice
** self-reflection in courses
-situated cognition theory-learning is situation specific ie. workplace learning
- learning in context is emphasized in cognitive apprenticeships (Wenger, 1998)
- makes learning ”authentic” ie. field trips


Merriam, S.B., & Bierema, L.L., (2014). Adult Learning: Linking theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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