Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflections on Learning Theories and Instruction

Before this course, I had no formal education on the subject of learning theories and instruction.  I have always felt out of place in conversations because I had no common point of reference with my colleagues.  However, not only do I now have a foundation upon which to build, I have also developed an opinion.  This outcome is really quite astonishing to me, as I have never had a college course where I learned enough to feel I could form an opinion.

What did you find surprising or striking as you furthered your knowledge about how people learn?


As I learned about the mechanics of learning, I became intrigued by the question of how traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects the mechanics of learning.  As an educator who works with veterans, TBI is a common condition.  As I learned how the mechanics should work, I began to understand why certain students where having specific issues with the curriculum.  This course offered me the opportunity to delve deeper into this topic as well as into strategies that can be utilized to help facilitate learning for those with TBI.  I learned of a specific approach, known as the spacing effect can help “improve recall and recognition in individuals who have sustained moderate to severe TBI” (Hillary, et al., 2003).

How has this course deepened your understanding of your personal learning process?


I have always known that my personal learning process was eclectic.  Even though the system would not conform to my personal needs and preferences, I was still a successful learner.  My suspicions were confirmed as I learned more about learning strategies.  Dr. Jeanne Ormrod indicated in a course video that it is learning strategies that give learners the tools they need to learn effectively (Laureate Education, 2013).  One of the opinions I formed was that while learning styles and multiple intelligences are interesting, curriculum cannot be designed specifically to meet the needs of any particular style or intelligence.  No.  In the end, it is strategy, not style that makes the difference.

What have you learned regarding the connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation?


There are many points at issue between the various theories.  One issue that I believed lay outside the control of theory was motivation.  However, early on I realized that each theory had its own views on motivation.  “Students with little motivation to engage in academic tasks can also profit from behaviorist techniques”  (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, M., 2009, p. 179).  In her article on behaviorism, Standridge (2002) discussed the concept of behavior modification as “a method of eliciting better classroom performance from reluctant students” (Behavior Modification).  Yet, the Cognitivists may say that rather than requiring behavior modification, the learner will self-regulate based on their awareness of procedural knowledge.  “Self-regulatory (metacognitive) activities are types of control processes under the learner’s direction” (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, M., p. 130).  At the end of the day, the question of motivation is not really answered, and one is left wondering if it is the ability of the student to problem solve rather than any external carrot-on-a-stick that instills motivation.

How will your learning in this course help you as you further your career in the field of instructional design?


I currently am working as an instructional designer, albeit one with very little training and virtually no experience!  However, this one course has given me a starting point that I lacked before.  While I am still missing many of the details of instructional design, I now have a basic understanding of how people learn, particularly adults.  I have already made changes to existing design based on information gained in this course.  As an adult learner, the immediate application of learning goes a long way towards motivating me to keep moving forward in this program.  As I consider my students, I am left with the conclusion that my job is to provide them with curriculum within a structure that will allow them to succeed.
In some extracurricular research, I found a passage that helped me move forward from a roadblock that resulted from the barrage of learning theories and expert testimonials on the benefits of each:
“As we see it, the pragmatist ideas we advocate neither undervalue education nor aim to provide it with new epistemological foundations.  On the contrary, the aim is to get rid of the unfruitful epistemological speculations that are based on a representational and contemplative conception of knowledge.  Instead of engaging in an endless debate about the requirements of objectivity or rationality, educational theorists should try to create vocabularies and descriptions that are useful in criticising and developing educational practices” (Kivinen & Ristela, 2003, p. 372).
When it all comes down to it, the most important thing I have learned from this course is that one size will never fit all and that flexibility will better serve my students than strict adherence to any one theory or style.

References

Hillary, F. G., Schultheis, B. H., Millis, S. R., Carnevale, T., Galshi, T., & DeLuca, J. (2003). Spacing of Repetitions Improves Learning and Memory After Moderate and Severe TBI. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 49-58. Retrieved November 09, 2013, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1076/jcen.25.1.49.13631
Kivinen, O., & Ristela, P. (2003, September). From Constructivism to a Pragmatic Conception of Learning. Oxford Review of Education, 29(3), pp. 363 - 375.
Laureate Education, I. (2013). Learning Styles and Learning Strategies.
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction (Laureate Custom Edition). New York: Pearson.

Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved November 12, 2013, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

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