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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Reflection on Study of Learning Theories

The introduction to this course indicated that it was important for us students, as instructional designers to be familiar with the history, theories of and approaches to the “inherently complex process of learning” (Wikipedia, 2011).  Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler (2009) posit that this “multifaceted process” is often “taken for granted” until difficulty is experienced “with a complex task” (p.1).   It therefore begs that any individual, who is charged with the responsibility of helping others learn, must have at least an awareness of this complex process.  Learning theories provide that platform for analysis of learning and everything that comes along with it; role, application, purpose, status, progress, influences, environments, styles, information storage, systems, and so on.    Though humankind’s views on learning are as fluid as the process is, it is critical that educators and/or instructional designers, know how to utilise traditional theories, along with current understandings and trends of learning as lenses or as Bill Kerr (2007) puts it as “filters, not blinkers” for understanding the process.   
In one of my class assignments, I indicated that though I had studied learning theories on previous occasions, I found this course’s approach to be different from my previous experiences, in that assignments allowed for immediate real-life application or simulation.  Another refreshing point for me as I again studied learning theories, was the study of Connectivism.  This theory really caught my attention as it tapped into my interests in modern approaches to learning, influences of technology and avenues/networks of learning and learning influences/sources.  Another point that again stood out for me was learning how with “the advent of technology...the half-life of knowledge has decreased significantly” (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).
My understanding of my personal learning process has been deepened on many fronts.  One example of this derives from the discussion on learning styles.  Prior to this course, I had sought to find my learning style I tried to link my learning experiences – challenges and successes – with what I thought my dominant or preferred learning style was.  In this course, I was introduced to the concept of employing learning styles based on the requirement(s) of the learning task (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008).  This concept, being totally new to me, warranted investigation and personal reflection and having done so, I have concluded in agreement with the notions that “one person can have several learning styles relative to a specific course or subject” and that “when the objectives change, the learning style may also change” (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008).  This revelation has also led me to look differently on the traditional emphasis on catering for, identifying and teaching to learning styles and rather consider, as suggested by Dr. Ormrod teaching students to utilise learning strategies.  I have therefore begun to pay closer attention to my personal learning strategies, a practice that should improve my metacognition.    
As I leave this course, I will be taking many things with me.  The foundation offered by the theories studied, provide insight into various “features of learning” and help to identify factors that influence the learning process (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2009).  From the platform they offer, we can better understand how various factors, both external and internal to the learner, can influence the learning experience.  Learning styles (and strategies), technology and motivation, are three factors that wave significant influence over the learning experience.  Learning theories help us understand their influence and offer suggestions as to how we can exploit their benefits and minimise their potentially negative effects. 
All in all, the knowledge I have gained from this course will definitely assist in broadening my view of and approach to learning.  After all, a multifaceted process requires a similarly multifaceted approach. I feel equipped, armed with my “filters” (theories, facts, views, history, etc.), to better conduct an assessment of a learning experience or potential experience in order to devise or improve a learning experience.  I also feel that I am significantly more prepared to learn about (and eventually effectively devise) instructional designs that are relevant to learners’ needs.


Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from

Kerr, B. (2007). _Isms as filter not blinker [Blog post].  Retrived from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Wikipedia (2011). Learning Theory (Education). Retrieved from

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fitting the Pieces Together: Seven Weeks of Learning Theories

Following seven weeks of analysis of learning theories, approaches and strategies, I am now a lot more equipped to analyse and plan for learning differences.  There have been two major points of impact for me over these past weeks.  The first being a change in my purview of how instruction should be designed and delivered. 

In my previous teacher training, we had been taught to plan objectives, delivery methods and then teaching materials/aids.  Although we studied learning theories at that level, we were never taught to link learning theories with instructional design or delivery methods.  Therefore, as a teacher then, none of my designs, methods, approaches, or aids, was chosen from the perspective of any learning theory.  After studying learning theories again at this level, I have benefited from the weekly considerations on the implications of theoretical approaches for design and delivery.  Going back to the blog discussions between Karl Kapp (2007) and Bill Kerr (2007), Kerr says that learning theories are “something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right” and should be used as filters, not as blinkers, while Kapp proposes that learning is “multi-facetted” and that “there are too many levels for one school of thought or one model to do it all.”  So my take away from these weeks is this: the instructional environment must be firstly examined, with the aid of applicable learning theories.  Then, instructional approaches and materials will be sought, still using the theories that have been deemed as applicable as guides, particularly being informed by the implications these theories offer for the classroom/instructional setting.
The second thing that stands out for me is what was proposed by Dr. Ormrod in her video teaching on Learning Styles and Strategies (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), that instructional designers and deliverers focus on learning strategies, rather than learning styles.  This notion is endorsed by McKeachie (1995) who, in advocating for strategies over styles, proposes that a good teacher teaches students “the skills and strategies needed for continued learning”.  My previous thought on this area was that instructors needed to cater for all learning styles; a feat that can become rather cumbersome.  I have come to the realisation that teaching strategies, because they permeate barriers of learning styles, is a much more effective and efficient approach.

Regarding my learning style preferences, one thing that has shaped my understanding of how I learn, comes from the study of andragogy, which speaks to the self-directedness of adult learners.  The need to take responsibility for my own learning, to be able to set targets, chose resources and learning experiences that meet my learning needs, explains my preference for flexible learning experiences.  Finally, I reflect on my learning methods and approaches just ten to twelve years ago – limited knowledge of the computer and the capabilities of technology.  I contrast that with the way I learn today; I could barely think of engaging in learning, without utilising some aspect of technology, particularly the computer and its bedfellow World Wide Web.  These have replaced physical dictionaries, encyclopaedias, notebooks, graph books, even text books and libraries and my guess would be that at least eighty percent of my learning takes place via or with the help of some form of technology.  

As I said in a previous post, the instructor’s/designer’s understanding of his own learning style is critical in shaping the learning experience for others.  My understanding and insight into learning has been broadened over these past few weeks.  I propose that learners somewhere in the world stand to gain from the learning that myself and colleagues have gained from this course.


Kapp, K. (2007). Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought.   Retrieved from

Kerr, B. (2007). _Isms as filter not blinker [Blog post].  Retrieved from 

Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies [DVD]. In   EDUC-6115-6 Learning Theories and instruction. Minnesota, MN: Dr. Jeanne Ormrod

McKeachie, W. J (1995). Learning Styles Can Become Learning Strategies.  The NationalTeaching & Learning Forum. Retrieved from

Monday, 6 June 2011

Concept Map Review

My connectivism concept map is a representation of my current Personal Learning Network (PLN) which has grown and developed over thirty-odd years of learning experiences.  It is not an exhaustive depiction of the way I learn or anyone learns, as the learning process is so, as Ormond, Schunk & Gredler (2008) describes it, “multifaceted”, that it is hardly fully explained by a single theory or depiction. 

A quick review of the concept map reveals the fact that included in my modes of learning are both traditional and modern modes, as well as universal and non-universal modes.  The map therefore reveals the evolution of my learning network over the years, which of course would have impacted my learning methods and sources.  For example, as a child, one of the modes that would have provided a major part of my learning would have been instructional, through the formal classroom setting.  This method is both largely universal and traditional.  As I grew, types of instructional opportunities increased, eventually including such like sporting instruction or religious instruction, thus expanding the type of learning taking place, the learning sources and learning content.  The growing PLN has also changed the way I seek out information.  For example, in conducting research as a child, my primary source of information may have been a question to the class teacher or after some time, a research text.  With the advent of the World Wide Web, online research has now become an integral part of learning and has definitely increased the availability of information for myself, and anyone else who has access.  Yet another significant change is the increase of non-traditional methods of learning.  Today, much of my learning takes place in a virtual social setting, much of which was non-existent ten years ago.

The growth of my PLN has also meant the expansion of learning tools and particularly, digital learning tools. I remember Audio cassettes and VHS tapes as key learning tools in the not too distant past.  Today, a great portion of learning takes place via digital means, utilising tools that advance exponentially daily.  Key to my present-day learning experience are my computer and access to the internet.  Online reference sites such as Wikipedia,, are some of my most frequented resources and Search Engines, Blogs, RSS feeds and Readers are my some of my favourite learning tools.  Google Reader and Twitter work really well for me as I appreciate the opportunity these resources offer to stay up-to-date with current events and to do so via snapshot information, as is the case with the latter resource.  All in all, with these readily available digital tools, my first response to having a question answered is to hit a search engine, my primary resource for research.
One of the propositions of connectivism is the reduction of the ‘half-life’ of knowledge.  

One of my pet-peeves when I attended a Teachers’ training institution about thirteen years ago was the fact that the physical library had a large number of reference texts from the 1960’s.  Today, references are made almost in real-time, significantly reducing the use of outdated information.  This is reflected and experienced in my Personal Learning Network.  Another tenet of Connectivism that is supported by my or any PLN is that “learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources” (Siemens, 2004).  Learning is facilitated by the entire PLN, which draws on various nodes and sources, and is also the product of the interaction between these same sources to complete a particular learning experience.  This complex interaction supports the theory of Connectivism.


Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction 
         (Laureatecustom edition). New York: Pearson.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace:   
         Everything Elearning.  Retrieved from

Sunday, 5 June 2011


For one of our class assignments, we were tasked with creating a Concept Map to demonstrate our Personal Learning Network (PLN).  My map can be seen below or accessed using the following link:

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Online Learning - Effective as Social Learning Strategy?

Proponents of constructivism suggest that “learners create their own learning” and emphasise the “interaction of persons and situations in the acquisition and refinement of skills and knowledge” (Ormond, Schunk & Gredler , 2008, pp. 184-185).  Knowledge, according to the social constuctivists, is “socially and culturally constructed” and learning is “a social process”, which “occurs when individuals are engaged in social activities (Kim, 2001). Taking these suppositions to be valid, this assignment asks a very relevant question to this course – can the online environment be effective for learning?

In attempting to answer this question through the eyes of the constructivists, we should also ask whether or not the online environment is a social one.  In a broad sense, the term ‘social’ refers to the way in which organisms interact with each other (Wikipedia).  On this premise, we can safely say that the online environment is ‘social’ in nature as it does allow for various levels of interaction between its members (students).  Applied to our discussion, our investigation is aimed at finding out whether or not the interaction between students is adequate enough to facilitate successful learning.  

Ormond, Schunk & Gredler (2008) propose that cognition is influenced by the ‘tools’ of the social environment - cultural objects, language and social institutions (p. 191).  How then do these tools apply or take effect in an online learning environment?  Well, this same source goes on to say that “cognitive change results from using cultural tools in social interactions and from internalising and mentally transforming these interactions”.  In my view, such interaction best takes place in an environment that encourages learner interaction and discussion, which is typical of most online learning forums.  Students interact in discussion boards such as this one, sharing their views, which have been influenced by their cultural tools and mutually learn from each other’s experiences.  Thus far in this programme, I have been able to share views and experiences from my Caribbean background, while at the same time been able to learn about practices and approaches from other cultures, thus broadening my knowledge base.

One significant difference between learning in an online environment over a face-to-face environment is the fact that we cannot rely on observation of and therefore learning from non-verbal cues, which too are socially influenced, and can impact how we learn (of) or view a person or concept.  We therefore have to rely on and are more influenced by interpretation of writing tone in the online environment.
Another key element of applying constructivism to learning settings is that the Instructor needs to challenge learners’ ways of thinking. One way of doing so is by using a variety of teaching/learning methods in instructional delivery.  According to one online source, this is done in the online setting in a variety of ways; including “structured online discussions, collaborative online activities, online assessment, interactive course material, and the changing role of the teacher from ‘a sage to a guide’” (Gulati, 2004).  These techniques aid in fostering that social learning environment; and the teacher’s role as a ‘guide’ fosters that self-discovery which constructivists deem crucial to learning.

So, is online learning better than or as effective as the face-to-face environment, when investigated through the eyes of the constructivists?  I will suggest the view of another writer that “just as in the traditional classroom, it is the quality of the relationships among the professor, the content, and the student which affects learning.”  (St. Clair, 2008).

Gulati, S. (2004). Constructivism and emerging online learning pedagogy: A discussion for formal to
acknowledge and promote the informal.  Education-line.  Retrieved from
Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate
custom edition). New York: Pearson.
St. Clair, J. (2008).  Distance learning: It’s NOT about the technology!. Online Learning: Issues, Challenges
and Opportunities.  Retrieved from
Wikipedia (2011).  Social.  Retrieved from

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Resources on Brain & Learning Research

Ertmer and Newby (1993) suggest that “the way we define learning and what we believe about the way learning occurs has important implications for situations in which we want to facilitate changes in what people know and do” (p. 50).  On this premise, incredible research has been conducted into understanding how learning takes place and numerous theories have been returned as more persons add their voice to their discussion.
A significant portion of the research and discussion has been dedicated to how the functioning of the brain affects learning.  According to Ormond, Schunk & Gredler (2009), “the human brain is an incredibly complex mechanism, and researchers have a long way to go in understanding how it works...Yet they have made considerable progress in the past two decades” (p. 28).  In my reading, I have discovered two online sources (amongst a plethora of similar sources) that provide quite comprehensive insights into some of the research that has been carried out thus far.
The Brain & Learning – Educational Neuroscience (

Created by the Centre for Brain & Learning at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, this website offers insight on the issue at hand.  With the benefit of originating from a non-western educational institution, not only does the site provide a review of some of the recent developments in the research on the brain and learning (Centre for Brain & Learning), but it also gives readers a peak into some of the advances taking place in another area of the world (the Netherlands) into the topic (Home).  I find the FAQ page to be very useful in providing a background to the relationship between how the brain works and learning, in providing simplified responses to common questions (Egs - Why should we build bridges between cognitive neuroscience and educational practice? Are there differences in brain development between boys and girls?), as well as in providing links to other sources of information on similar topics.  In short, I find this site, though simple in layout and content, to be very useful in its presentation of the subject matter.

Brain-based Learning – Funderstanding (
The theory of brain-based learning (BBL) is a recent development in the area of the brain and learning, which seeks to gain insight into the operation and function of the entire brain in learning (WikEd, 2010).  First proposed by Renate and Geoffrey Caine in the 1990’s (WikiEd, 2010), this theory has made its mark in the research repertoire.  This website has been created by the organisation ‘Funderstanding’, which focuses on Instructional Design and Knowledge Management and therefore has a vested interest in offering insight into considerations for the learning process. 
The site’s page on BBL provides a definition of the theory and outlines its major principles, as well as instructional techniques (orchestrated immersion, relaxed alertness, active processing) the impact on the approach to learning and the learning environment.  I find this to be quite a useful source for grasping an initial understanding of the theory and its implications.  The site also offers reference to the two major contributors to this theory.
Again, the research, the notions, the suggestions are numerous.  These sites are a ‘drop in the bucket’ of what is available.  They however, provide simple and comprehensive overviews of influential aspects of the research on the brain and learning.

Divia Lewis


Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical
features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50.

Jolles, J. (2007).  Brain and Learning: An Initiative of Brain & Learning Centre, Institute, Brain
and Behaviour University, Maastricht.  Educational Neuroscience.  Retrieved from

On Purpose Associates (2008). Brain Based Learning. Funderstanding.  Retrived from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom
edition). New York: Pearson.

WikEd (2010).  Brain Based Learning.  Retrieved from