Learning Theory Course Reflection
Christina J. Lundberg
Dr. Shirley Weaver
Learning Theories Instruction EDUC-6115-5
To begin, I should confess: I did not learn much in this course; I learned a large amount of information in this course that I did not even fathom attaining. Not only did I learn new information, but I discovered things about myself and my own learning process. I gained the understanding as to why my educational experience was designed the way it was. Additionally, I learned how the learning theories make up what instructional design is and why instructional design is the way it is today. Also, I reached a few important conclusions: that I gravitate to constructivism, that I am an experiential learner, that I display continual interest in innovative designs, and that I want to direct students to how they can find their own ways into learning. Yet, most importantly, as an instructional designer, I want to create aesthetically pleasing on-line experiences for students that bring joy to their learning. I want my designs to inspire students and engage them in the course content.
When it is all said in done, this course brought me to the place of understanding as to what instructional design is and what kind of instructional designer I want to be. Knowing these important aspects of myself and my focal subject matter allow me to set realistic and attainable future goals for myself that give me something tangible to reach and strive for.
Surprising and Striking Elements That Furthered My Knowledge About How People Learn
I was particularly struck by the learning material that was presented in Week 2 in regards to how the brain works. Before I learned about how the brain works in chapter two and chapter 3 of the text book Learning Theories and Instruction I had intuited so much about how I learn and how others learn.
In Week 2, I was particularly taken by Professor Weaver’s explanation to Garth Thorpe in our Week 2 Discussion Forum. Professor Weaver (2015) stated:
“As we think about how the information will be stored by the learners, we need to provide opportunities for the learners to consider what they already know so that they can make associations with other packets of knowledge that already exist in their structure of knowledge. Since we can’t really know what students know, the idea is to provide students with authentic projects that put the onus on them to organize and create something that demonstrates their understanding” (para 2).
This excerpt by Dr. Weaver stood out to me because I have always been so focused on teaching students new knowledge that I have not thought about the relevance of the knowledge that the students already have and how in order for students to learn new information, they have to apply the information they already know to it and then make associations. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) reveal that applying old information to new information is part of learning processing theory. They state that “…people store templates, or miniature copies of stimuli, in LTM. When they encounter a stimulus, thy compare it with existing templates and identify the stimulus is a match is found. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) go on to state that template association does not seem to be a completely true and or correct method as to how people remember material, yet there does seem to be some truth to pattern recognition.
In Week 2 of our course, I stated in my Discussion Post that previously I had been selling myself short as to the full learning process I truly go through as an instructor in learning material and teaching the material to the class. I also added that I may have been selling the students short because I simply did not have a full understanding as to how the brain learned material. To add, I find it interesting that throughout my experience as a graduate writing student and as a writing instructor that I never came across information as to how the brain works. It seems like the information I attained in chapter two of the textbook would have been incredibly valuable information to have as a course instructor when I started teaching over six years ago.
In the Week 2 Discussion Post, I stated: I understand that the process of organizing the content, creating assignments, creating a lecture, and connecting the assignments to the lecture present integral components to my learning process. No wonder these steps I go through take so long, but attribute to successful and rewarding results. Previously, before this course, I had attributed the process I went through to teach a course as a series of separate isolated units that were not connected to each other. I had not understood that my learning process was the same as my students’ learning process. I saw my learning process as situational to my role as an instructor. Mainly, I thought that it was just my job to spend so much time learning because I had to become a course content expert and teach successfully to whoever made up my targeted audience.
Now I see that the elaborate process that worked for me as an instructor would also work for my students and designing a course that allows students the ability to encode information, which involves going through a process of attaining information and making it meaningful is integral to an adult learner’s success in truly learning material and storing it in long-term memory (Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler, 2009). It had never occurred to me that all learners learn material and store it in their long term memories by the act of making and or associating meaning with the material at hand.
In Week 2, I also mentioned how taken I was by learning that about how efficient our human brains are in that the brain does not just learn everything that comes its way, rather it seems to choose selectively as to what information is truly needed to be learned by the person at hand and then discards the information that is not. Before this course, I had always thought that not attaining or retaining information was a hindrance and a negative situation. Now I understand why the brain does not take in and learn information.
In looking at the reasons as to why the brain does not take in information, looking at the psychology of the learner and examining emotional overtones made complete sense to me in that I often saw that when my students harnessed a “I like this material and see how it is relevant to my field” attitude vs. a “this material is not going to benefit me in anyway attitude” that my students who wanted to learn in fact did learn and my students that did not see why they had to learn the material, did not learn. Now, I know that as Allred (2008) stated as an instructor I may be successful by assisting learners to identify with their learning through positive actions, repetition, and reinforcement. Additionally, as Ormrod (As cited in Laureate (Producer), n.d.) pointed out in the Laureate video in Week 8, I can also engage students and inspire them to learn by presenting the course material in a unique way. I can provide them with new and insightful perspectives that surprise the students and engage them to learn.
How This Course Has Deepened My Understanding of My Personal Learning Process
When I began my course study in Week 1, I had studied the first three learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, and I came to the conclusion that my learning style was a conglomerate of all three of these learning theories combined.
As I look back to Week 1, I identified with Grolnick and Ryan’s (1987) description of directive learning. In their definition of directive learning (also referred to as intentional learning) “the learner is provided with an explicit external directive or set to assimilate specific material” (p. 890). Now in Week 8 of our course, I still identify with directive learning. There are times when having a specified knowledge base is important to ensure understanding and to gain credibility among peers. For example, to be a good writing instructor I had to learn all of the grammar rules in the English language. The grammar rules had already been established, and I had to learn them in order to teach others how to improve their writing. Therefore, in order to achieve credibility in my profession, I had to obtain a certain knowledge base that already existed.
I learned that in behaviorist theory my experience in learning the grammar rules is called transfer (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Ertmer and Newby (1993) state the transfer “refers to the application of learned knowledge in new ways or situations, as well as to how prior learning affects new learning” (56). When I learned that all sentences in the English language were derived from four main structures/patterns (The Owl at Purdue, 2015), I learned the four main sentence structures/sentence patterns, and then in order to ensure my understanding I took the sentences I constructed naturally when I wrote a general correspondence and then analyzed what sentence structure I wrote in. I was able to apply my new knowledge of the four sentence structures/patterns to my old knowledge of writing sentences and have a greater understanding of what I was doing. In addition, I was able to begin to apply writing strategy. Specifically, I was able to adjust my sentences within my paragraphs to be comprised of all four sentence structures and apply writing strategy.
Before this course, I had no idea that while I was attaining and applying my sentence structure study – that I was learning by means of a behaviorist theory application. I had never realized that the method that I had acted on had come from a learning theory that was discovered and applied years ago. Being born in the seventies, most of my educational experience stemmed forth from behaviorism and cognitive theory. Ertmer and Newby (1993) reveal that behaviorism theory was dominant before the 1950’s and that instructional design is based on behaviorism theory. Therefore, a lot of the courses I took, especially while I was an adolescent were directly derived from behaviorism theory.
In addition to behaviorism theory, cognitivism theory was popular at the time I was an adolescent. Ertmer and Newby (1993) proclaim that cognitivism theory became popular in the 1950’s with the influence of hat was going on in psychology. Snelbecker (1983) (As cited in Ertmer and Newby, 1993) proclaimed “Psychologists and educators began to de-emphasize a concern with overt, observable behavior and stressed instead more complex cognitive processes such as thinking, problem solving, language, concept formation and information processing. I engage in acts of problem solving constantly. Before this course, I thought that I had merely thought that the reason I learned in a certain way was just how my brain worked, how it functioned naturally. For example, I thought my brain was highly a tuned to problem solving naturally. Now I know that it was most likely a learned way of attaining knowledge.
Another cognitivist theory strategy I employ is that of the active learner. Being a first generation college student, my parents did not teach me how to learn successfully. I intuited and learned as I went along how to be a successful learner. Therefore, I had always thought that my situation dictated my active involvement as a learner. Mainly, I thought that I needed to apply myself – engage in my learning – take control of it – manage it – and find inspiration and ways to motivate myself independently.
Now, I see that I was also encouraged to learn in this way because those were the messages I was receiving in the educational settings I frequented. No one came out and told me these things directly – that in order to be a successful learning, I would have to apply myself. I just watched everyone around me and followed the guidelines of my assignments. Now, I see that learning as an actively involved, independent learner was encouraged because it was a key component of cognitivism theory (Ertmer & Newby, 1993), and cognitivism theory was used to create the lesson plans and I assignments I received as an adolescent learner.
Also, I see that independent, self-driven and directed learning methods are key component of andragogy, adult learning theory (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003). As I continued to be a student into my undergraduate schooling, I learned how to be an activated and involved participant even though most of the classes I attended were taught in the sage on the stage method. Any time group work was assigned, I took an active role and saw that when I did, I not only felt more present and more involved, but I learned more.
In Week Five of our course I learned that when we look at how the brain encodes information, the student would have to be an engaged participant to re-organize information and to attach meaning to it (Ormrod, Schunk, Gredler, 2009). Therefore, the self-directed method I had learned to harness came directly from adult learning theory. Specifically, I discovered that what worked for me in regards to learning my course work successfully also worked for other adults students.
In Week 1, I identified my external control as being pressure. I stated in Week 1 that I learn well under a control of pressure. I would now add that it is not just pressure that motivates me, but I would add that I am motivated by: pressure, stress, accountability, and drive. Drive presents my main motivator. Mainly, I am driven to advance and grow through continual learning. I see my life experience as a dedicated and active learning process that I must take care of, feed, and nurture. I must continue to add value to my life and intentionally live a meaningful life. My current profession and my drive to continue to advance in my career is a big part of my life work. Giving and contributing to the educational community at large as well as helping others learn and grow, present fundamental aspects to who I am as an educator and now as both an educator and an instructional designer.
Specifically, I identified that: I learn well through methods of immediacy and through methods of discovery, mainly because immediate deadlines and discovering something new motivate me to learn. I pointed out that Grolnick and Ryan (1987) recognized that learning under pressure is one method that motivates learning, and they described this type of learning as learnings that “rely heavily on external controls,… “ (p. 890). Behaviorism theory is a theory that relies on “external controls,” particularly the external controls of the environment. Ertmer and Newby (1993) point out that in behaviorism theory the learner reacts to the learning stimulants that are presented within the learning environment. Learning from the environment directly resonates with me, for I have always been highly attuned to being influenced by my environmental surrounding.
From a young age, I often re-arranged my room to “refresh” the room, to change it up and give the room re-renewed energy – that would then in-turn provide me with a re-newed and fresh energy. I always understood that I was curating a space that made me feel good and made me feel productive, yet now I actually see that I was partaking in project work, and I was learning while doing.
I now know that project work and learning while doing are key components of constructivism theory (Ertmer and Newby, 1993). I am influenced by my environment, and I do see how my environmental surrounding orchestrate the activities I do within the environment and influence what I learn while I am in that environment, yet now I also see that when I am re-constructing my environment, and I immerse myself in the process of curating my space that I am learning while I am making something.
Writing is a constructivism practice for me as well. While I partake in the act of writing, my mind works in new ways, I think on the page; I discover ideas while I am writing. Therefore, writing for me is more than writing; it embodies a learning and discovery process each and every time my fingers touch the pen, pencil, or key board.
Other activities I am drawn to are drawing and dancing. In fact, all the things that I enjoy are constructivism activities that involve learning while doing. Thus, as the weeks progressed, I discovered that while I do identify with components of all of the learning theories we learned throughout the course, I am constructivism theory dominant. Research on constructivism theory….
Connectivism theory is the only theory I have not mentioned yet. The reason being is that it is the last learning theory that I have applied in my learning experience continuum. In graduate school I began to use on-line tools like Google regularly. It seemed suddenly that the internet became such a valuable resource for information. Convenience has become such a crutch, if you will in today’s time period, and accessing information on-line is literally the most convenient method there is. Being that humans have a basic need to connect with others (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003), the internet presents such a convenient forum for information discovery and connecting with others and learning by means of others that it is hard not to employ connectivism theory learning methods.
Lastly, in Week 5 we studied adult learning theory, and I strongly identify with being an experiential learner, which is an adult learning theory and is derived from constructivism theory (Conlan, Grabowski, and Smith, 2003). In Week 5 I stated, Knowing that I am an experiential learner, I know that it often takes more time for me to learn material than some other students because I have to experience something to learn it, but the act of learning is incredibly rewarding for me. I form a relationship with the content I am to learn. I get completely involved in it and experience it. This statement remains completely true. When I learning while doing and invest in whatever it is I am learning I not only connect with the material at hand, but I form a relationship with it. This outcome of the relationship presents a truly rewarding experience, one that it is worth investing in – for myself and for others.
As I stated in Week 1, my newfound understanding of the learning theories will take me away from intuiting and or guessing what the best instructional design strategies and structures would be for the multitude of circumstances I will encounter as an instructional designer and allow me to be in control and make decisive, knowledgeable decisions resulting in confidence in my ability. In order for me to design instructional material that will resonate with other people’s learning processes that I must know my own. In knowing my own successful means of learning, I am able to hone in on what I do well and capitalize on my strengths. For example, my analysis reveals that I would be particularly good at designing constructivism learning platforms for adult learners because that is how my brain works best.
What I Have Learned Regarding the Connection Between Learning Theories, Learning Styles, Educational Technology, and Motivation
I have learned knowledge and application in all of these areas are needed in order to design successful learning platforms. As I stated in the Week 8 Discussion forum: An instructional designer wears many hats and performs many roles simultaneously.
I have learned that learning theory understanding is needed to secure foundational instructional design knowledge. Instructional design itself is comprised of learning theory methodologies and practices (Ertmer and Newby, 1993). In order to be a successful instructional designer, an instructional designer needs to know what instructional design is and what it is made of. Discovering that instructional design was based on behaviorism theory (Ertmer and Newby, 1993) was fascinating in that I suddenly understood so much about why my own learning experience as a learner in the U.S. from the 1970’s until now was the way it was. It’s like I always rode the learning wagon, yet I now know why the learning wagon was made the way it is and why it went in the direction it did.
Learning about learning styles, I was able to understand that I am an experiential adult learner (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003). Understanding that learning styles contributes to my understanding as to how students learn. I am going to be designing a course for students to learn in and from, I need to know how these students learn to the best of my ability. The learning theories bleed into this section as well, for students often identify with a particular learning theory or have a certain learning theory that they gravitate to more. Also, knowing that I am contructivism theory dominant (the theory that involves learning by doing) (Ertmer and Newby, 1993), I am able to align myself with more constructivism based courses and institutions.
I should add that a popular instructional designer that I follow Cathy Moore does not believe in learning styles. Moore (2015) states “…the best way to honor people’s individuality isn’t to shove them into simplistic categories so we can pour information into them, but to provide them with the respectful support they need to drive their own learning, at their pace. And if we use techniques that independent studies show actually work, we’re respecting learners’ time and showing true compassion for their needs” (para 25). I do agree with Moore here. Exposing students to various learning strategies that they can thus apply to their course learnings and assignments seems like the best method to employ as an instructional designer. An added bonus is that the method that Moore (2015) presents allowing students to find their own way into the material, which presents a foundational approach to adult learning (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003). Therefore, as an instructional designer, I envision using learning theory knowledge to design the course, and then creating a learning strategy resource that I present for students in the introductory course material section (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). Then student can print out the resource and refer to it throughout the course picking and choosing from the various learning strategies that may appeal to them under different situations and time and place.
Educational technology presents useful tools to apply to enhance the learning experience. If I learn about well-suited technologies that enhance the learning experience, then I will be able to utilize these technologies and well-equip the courses I design. Staying on top of current technology learning trends seems necessary in order to ensure professional success (Lim, 2004). Technology usage often reflects a person’s current learning knowledge. As an instructional designer, I want students to have access to the best technology trends on the market that will enhance their learning experience.
In the Week 8 Discussion Post, I stated that I would like to: design on-line courses that have visually pleasing videos that arouse student’s minds in a cognitive way. To do this, I stated that I would like to create short video productions that I produce and record myself. I would incorporate music, fun and pleasing colors, and I would present an enjoyable narrator, a narrator who speaks in an engaging tone and explains content in a way in which students can understand easily. I communicated that I would like to:
- Conveys enthusiasm
- Gets students involved (physically)
- Convey a positive body image (Laureate (Producer), n.d.)
within my instructional designs. Originally, I was thinking that I could narrate the instructional materials either by means of voice, avatar, or video clips. Now that I think about this further, I could design a fictional character to narrate my instructional design platforms. I could design a stylish, witty character that I could animate – like a personified cat that spoke to the learners and walked them through the various learnings. This fictional character could employ some entertainment and humor throughout the course experience.
How My learning in This Course Will Help Me Further My Career in the Field of Instructional Design
This course has provided me with a foundation as to how educational platforms were first created, what their formats were and why. In addition, it has allowed me to understand how education has evolved. Seeing how behaviorism was the foundational base and then cognitivism was initiated, and then constructivsivm, and then connectivism, and then androgogy… I understand my own educational experience in such a deeper level and why it was designed the way it was. I now see that in order to create something new, I have to have a good, solid understanding of what existed before and why.
Now that I have a solid understanding of the learning theories, I understand what resonates with me as a learner. I am also better equipped to assess specific student populations and apply different learning theory models to work for them. I know how to engage students and to motivate students to find their own ways into the learning process.
In addition, now that I am well-informed, I am able to create learning platforms that are comprised of the best of the best strategies. For example, I am able to focus on the adult learner. I am able to design curriculum that is well-organized and has an environment that enhances student learning. Yet, rather than the learner being directed by the learning environment alone (as in older behaviorism models), I am able to turn the learning environment into an inspiring and positive space in which learners take responsibility to ensure their own learning. I know why implementing projects and problem based assignments present effective learning outcomes.
In addition, I know to create assignments that allow students to connect what they know to their knew knowledge. Additionally, I understand how students encode information, so I can design the course content to be applicable as to how the human mind learns. Knowing how adult learners learn provides me with the knowledge to create learnings and lessons that give students freedom to explore and discover learning on their own. I plan on creating content engaging project based assignments. Additionally, I now know that social connection is a human need and incorporating ways in which learners can truly connect with each other and the instructor seems like they will be vital components to the learning platforms that I create. I plan to harness the latest, applicable technology that will allow students to Technology can allow students to connect with each other via live chats and video cameras. Employing technologies like Skype for business seem like they will help take learning further than it is now – further than it ever was before. I am now able to design learning platforms that are multi-dimensional and contain the best of all the various components that I have learned during this course.
As I stated in Week 2: As a future instructional designer, I see how building positive overtones into learning platforms is integral. Learning does have emotional and cognitive overtones (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009), and visual design can influence emotions, moods, and general states of being. Kwallek, Woodson, Lewis, and Sales (1997) state “Even with an affinity for nature, it has become increasingly important to realize that individuals exist within enclosed structures for most of their lives…understanding how spaces affect individuals is necessary for personal well-being” (p. 121). Therefore, as an instructional designer, incorporating positive overtones and visually beautiful images will be at the forefront of my designs.
Specifically, through color, patterns, natural scapes, and positive – uplifting sounds, I aim to create well organized visually pleasing learning experiences that will both motivate and inspire learners. I want learners to experience joy within the act of learning: a joy that can only be achieved through well-informed, up to date, innovative, and unique learning platforms that people can connect with and attribute meaning and value to. I look forward to sharing my instructional design contribution to the educational community at large. Giving back to a community that has been integral to who I am, and specifically, who I am as a learner, I imagine will be a rewarding and gratifying achievement.
Allred. G. C. (2008). Seven strategies for building positive classrooms. The Positive Classroom, 1 (66). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept08/vol66/num01/Seven-Strategies-for-Building-Positive-Classrooms.aspx
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
Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.
Grolnick W. & Ryan, R. (1987). Autonomy in children’s learning: An experimental and individual difference investigation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52( 5), 890-898. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.110
Kwallek, N., Woodson, H., Lewis, C.M., and Sales, C. (1997). Performance relative to individual environmental sensitivity. University of Texas at Austin, 22 (2), 121-132. Retrieved from: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nancy_Kwallek/publication/232444027_Effects_of_office_interior_color_on_workers’_mood_and_productivity/links/0deec52e9833b10a61000000.pdf
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and problem solving [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 16–23.
Moore, C. (2015). How to respond to learning-style believers. Cathy Moore: Let’s Save The World From Boring Training! [Blog Post]. Retrieved from: http://blog.cathy-moore.com/2015/06/how-to-respond-to-learning-style-believers/
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.
The Owl at Purdue University. (2015). Sentence patterns. [Website]. Retrieved from: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/604/01/
Weaver, S. (2015). Response to Garth. [Discussion Post Week 2]. Retrieved from: https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&forum_id=_3489688_1&nav=discussion_board&conf_id=_1619893_1&course_id=_11196942_1&message_id=_52933626_1#msg__52933626_1Id