When I first started blogging a couple of weeks ago, I admitted to being a clinical laboratory scientist by trade and a teacher by accident. I also admitted to realizing that I needed to learn more about how to learn, so I could be a more effective teacher. Back then I knew nothing of learning theories, I had heard of people like Bandura and Vygotsky in my college psychology class, but paid no attention to who they were, or what they thought, beyond what was required of me for class. Now I look at their theories and those of others with renewed respect as I think about the effect that knowing about these theories could have on my instructional design and teaching career.
At the beginning of this class, I self-identified as a cognitivist learner – one who learns by “listening, watching, touching, reading, or experiencing and then processing and remembering the information” (Library, 2013). Now having delved into the others; behaviorist, constructivist, social learning, connectivist, and adult learning theories, I now consider myself to be something of a learning theory mutt as I can no longer see only one place where I fit in. Snelbecker, as quoted in Ertmer and Newby sums up my feelings better than I can, when he says that designers of learning cannot allow themselves to be restricted in one theoretical learning position. He urges the designer to examine each learning theory and select the theory that best fits the educational needs of the moment (Ertmer, 1993).
I have always found that I needed feedback before proceeding to work on papers / projects. Good feedback along with positive reinforcement (such as a raise on the job) has often translated into some of my best work. That, I suppose is the behaviorist part of me. My cognitivist side is the side that uses mnemonics to remember almost everything. While I struggle with the constructivist view that knowledge is created internally rather than from external forces (Ormrod, 2009), I like the idea of knowing what my zone of proximal development –the quantity of learning possible given the ideal learning environment (Ormrod, 2009) – is so that my expectations of myself and others can be realistic. The social learning theory recognizes that some learn best by practicing after observation of others (University of Alabama, 2013). In my line of work, this is how we train new employees: first demonstrate the skill, then watch the individual perform the task, then finally have the individual perform the skill by himself. I have found this approach to work well for me and have been frustrated in the past by trainers who have deviated from this and tried to “force-feed” training in an attempt to get it done quickly. My “Linkedin” account attests to my connectivist side. Connectivism works as the learner builds a network of people within their learning community. More nodes are added to the network as needed (Davis, 2008). Finally, my presence in this class speaks for the adult learning theory. Most adult learners seek further education out of a need to further themselves in their careers. They bring with them experience gain from prior learning and work experiences (Conlan, 2003). This definitely describes me, as I mentioned before, my primary motivation for seeking further knowledge in this area is to be a more effective teacher / instructional designer.
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
Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology.
Ertmer, P. N. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Feature from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 50-72.
Library, O. T. (2013, June 30). Understanding Human Behavior. Cognitive processes: storage of information and language. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/26618//en-5.5.3=cognitive%20learning.htm
Ormrod, J. S. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction. New York: Pearson.
University of Alabama. (2013, June 23). Online Learning Laboratory. Retrieved from Social Learning Theory: http://www.southalabama.edu/oll/mobile/theory_workbook/social_learning_theory.htm