Many years ago when I obtained my undergraduate degree, I took a course on learning theories. Although it has been a number of years (over 20) since I studied learning theory, what I found most surprising in this course is the wide variety of available learning theories and learning styles. I do not remember studying constructivism or connectivism, however both theories offer explanations for what I perceive as gaps in behaviorism and cognitivism. I was especially interested in the development of connectivism a learning theory that was created to address the limitations of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism to explain the effect technology has had on how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn (Siemens, 2005).
The required readings each week challenged me to think and rethink about my own learning style and the implications my own learning style may have on how I design coursework. As we progressed through the course, I was able to map the different theories on to my own learning and really look at how I utilize different aspects of each theory in my own learning process. My overall conclusion is that more often than not, constructivism best describes my learning process, however knowing that at times I will pull from behaviorism, provides a deeper understanding of how learning styles can fluctuate depending on the material one is learning and one’s current knowledge of the subject matter (Gilbert & Swainer, 2008). As we have progressed through the course it has become very clear that an understanding of my own learning process is important as an Instructional Designer. I believe that an individual is automatically predisposed to design courseware based on how that person learns. Without the understanding of my own learning process, as well as knowledge of learning theory, it is quite probable that my design efforts may not reach individuals with a different learning style or process than my own. Having this awareness allows me to incorporate various learning styles and theories into my instructional design.
As I reflect on what I have learned in this course, a question I have been asked to consider is: what have I learned regarding the connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation? I think one can look at how these four topics are connected from a number of vantage points, however given the educational program I am in is Instructional Design and Technology, I would have to say a connecting force is the instructional designer. As an instructional designer begins the process of design, all of these topics must be considered. The ID (instructional designer) must have a comprehensive knowledge of learning theory and the different ways that people learn to create effective design. Further, the ID must be willing to incorporate a number of different tools in the delivery of the material to facilitate learning and improve performance, which is where educational technology comes into play. Finally motivation is important in instructional design. Although, it is true that to learn something effectively, one also has to want to learn it (Ormrod, 2009), it is imperative that an ID creates a well developed learning environment which will address the motivational requirements of learners (Keller, 1999).
This course has provided me with a heighted awareness of learning theory and the importance of a keen understanding of learning theory to the instructional designer. Armed with this awareness, I will be better equipped to design an effective learning environment that is conducive to all kinds of learning styles. In conclusion, I found this course to be very intriguing, rewarding, and relevant to my ongoing growth and development as a professional in the instructional design industry.
Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf
Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009), Motivation in Learning [Motion Picture].
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm
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