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Theories & Philosophies Just the tip of the iceberg EDER 671 Dr. Qing Li Learning Theories What is a theory? A theory provides a general explanation for observations ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Theories

Theories Philosophies
  • Just the tip of the iceberg
  • EDER 671
  • Dr. Qing Li

Learning Theories
  • What is a theory? A theory
  • provides a general explanation for observations
    made over time,
  • Explains and predicts behavior,
  • Can never be established beyond all doubt
  • May be modified
  • Seldom has to be thrown out completely if
    thoroughly tested but sometimes a theory may be
    widely accepted for a long time and later
  • (Dorin, Demmin Gabel, 1990)

Brief overview of some learning theories based
on OCSLD (2002)
  • There are many different theories of learning. It
    is useful to consider their application to how
    your students learn and how you teach. It is
    important to think how you learn and realize that
    everyone does not learn the way you do.

Sensory Stimulation theory
  • Its premise is that effective learning occurs
    when the senses are stimulated.
  • 75 knowledge held by adults is learned through
    seeing, 13 through hearing. Other senses- touch,
    smell taste account for 12.
  • By stimulating the senses, particularly the
    visual sense, learning can be enhanced.
  • If multi-senses are stimulated, greater learning
    takes place.
  • How through greater variety of colors, volume
    levels, strong statements, facts presented
    visually, use of variety of techniques and media.

Reinforcement Theory
  • Skinner positive reinforcement, negative
    reinforcement, punishment. (details later)
  • Note much competency based training is based
    on this theory.
  • Very useful in learning repetitive tasks, but
    higher order learning is not involved.
  • Criticism too rigid and mechanical.

Holistic learning theory
  • Premise the individual personality consists of
    many elements specifically the intellect,
    emotions, the body impulse (or desire), intuition
    and imagination that all require activation if
    learning is to be more effective

Facilitation theory (the humanist approach)
  • Carl Rogers, Premise learning will occur by the
    educator acting as a facilitator, by establishing
    an atmosphere in which learners feel comfortable
    to consider new ideas and are not threatened by
    external factors.
  • Believe that human beings have a natural
    eagerness to learn
  • There is some resistance to, and unpleasant
    consequences of, giving up what is currently held
    to be true
  • The most significant learning involves changing
    ones concept of oneself.

Facilitation theory (2)
  • Teachers are
  • Less protective of their constructs and beliefs
    than other teachers,
  • More able to listen to learners, especially to
    their feelings,
  • pay as much attention to their relationship with
    learners as to the content of the course
  • Apt to accept feedback, both positive and
    negative and to use it as constructive insight
    into themselves and their behavior.

Facilitation theory (3)
  • Learners
  • Are encouraged to take responsibility for their
    own learning
  • Provide much of the input for the learning which
    occurs through their insights and experiences
  • Are encouraged to consider that the most valuable
    evaluation is self-evaluation and that learning
    needs to focus on factors that contribute to
    solving significant problems or achieving
    significant results.

Experiential learning
  • Kolbs 4-stage learning process
  • The process can begin at any of the stages and is
    continuous (no limit to the of cycles).
  • Without reflection we would simply continue to
    repeat our mistakes.

Have an experience
Review that experience
Plan next steps, experimenting to find solution
Conclude from that experience
Experiential learning (2)
  • Learning is through 1) concrete experience,2)
    observation reflection, 3) abstract
    conceptualization, 4) active experimentation.
  • People begin with their preferred style in the
    experiential learning cycle. Hence 4 learning
    styles activist (prefer to learn by doing),
    reflector ( like to observe reflect), theorist
    (like to have everything organized into a neat
    schema ASAP), pragmatist (enjoys the planning
    stage and keen to test things out in practice)
  • Dont know your learning style?

Action Learning
  • Links the world of learning with the world of
    action through a reflective process within
    collaborative learning groups- action learning
    sets. The sets meet regularly to work on
    individuals real life issues with the aim of
    learning with and from each other.

Adult Learning (Andragogy)
  • Knowles adult learning was special.
  • adults
  • Bring wealth experience to the learning
    environment should be used as a resource.
  • expect to have a high degree of influence on what
    they are to be educated for, and how they are to
    be educated.
  • Andragogy is student-centered, experience-based,
    problem-oriented and collaborative very much in
    the spirit of the humanist approach to learning
    and education.

Why bother?
  • Some reasons
  • Learning theories permeate to all dimensions of
    educational technology. E.g. depending on the
    learners and situations, we design our
    instructional events (environments, systems,
    software) which would affect student learning.
  • In ID, the designer must understand the strengths
    and weaknesses of each learning theory to
    optimize their use in appropriate instructional
    design strategy.

Your reason?
  • Can you think of at least one good reason for us
    to learn all these theories?
  • Can you use examples from your previous
    experience to explain your reasons?

Objectivism vs. Constructivism
  • Based on Wilson (1997) Roblyer (2003)

Current educational Goals and Methods Two views
  • Directed instruction grounded primarily in
    behaviorism and the information-processing branch
    of cognitive learning theories (acquisition
  • Constructivist instruction evolved from other
    branches of thinking in cognitive learning theory
    (participation metaphor).

Philosophical foundations
  • Objectivist knowledge has a separate, real
    existence of its own outside the human mind.
    Learning happens when this knowledge is
    transmitted to people and they store it in their
  • Constructivist humans construct all knowledge in
    their minds by participating in certain
    experiences learning occurs when one constructs
    both mechanisms for learning and her own unique
    version of the knowledge, colored by background,
    experiences, and aptitudes.
  • A tree was falling off in the middle of a forest
    in BC and no body was around. Since nobody
    heard, did the falling tree make a noise?

Methodological differences
  • Directed
  • Teacher transmitter of knowledge expert source
    director of skill/concept development through
    structured experiences
  • Student receive information demonstrate
    competence all students learn same material
  • Curriculum based on skill and knowledge
    hierarchies skills taught one after the other in
    set sequence.
  • Constructivist
  • Teacher guide and facilitator as students
    construct their own knowledge collaborative
    resource and assistant as students explore
  • Student collaborate with other develop
    competence students may learn different material
  • Curriculum based on projects/problems, etc. that
    foster both higher and lower level skills

More methodological differences
  • Directed
  • Learning goals stated in terms of mastery
    learning and behavioral competence in a scope and
  • Activities lecture, demonstration, discussions,
    drill practice, seatwork, testing
  • Assessment written tests and development of
    products matched to objectives all tests and
    products match set criteria same measures for
    all students.
  • Constructivist
  • Learning goals stated in terms of growth and
    increased ability to work independently and
  • Activities group projects, hands-on exploration,
    authentic tasks, product development
  • Assessment alternative assessment including
    performance assessment, portfolios quality
    measured by rubrics and checklists measures may
    differ among students.

Theoretical Foundations Directed
  • Behavioral theories concentrate on immediately
    observable, thus, behavioral, changes in
    performance (tests) as indicators of learning.
  • Pavlov conditioned response, behavior is
    largely controlled by involuntary physical
    responses to outside stimuli (e.g. dogs
    salivating at the sight of dog food).

  • Behaviorist (Skinner, stimulus-response )
  • behavior is more controlled by the consequences
    of actions than by events preceding the action.
    A consequence is an outcome (stimulus) after the
    behavior influence future behaviors. (e.g. a
    child reasons she will get praise if she behaves
    well in school).
  • Since internal learning processes cannot be seen
    directly, the focus is on cause-and effect
    relationships that can be established by
  • Human behavior can be shaped by contingencies of
  • positive reinforcement increase in desired
    behavior from a stimulus (study hard- praise)
  • Negative reinforcement -increase in desired
    behavior from avoiding or removing a stimulus
    (not finish assignment detention).
  • Punishment decrease in undesirable behavior
    from undesirable consequences. (cheating failure)

Theoretical Foundations Directed (cont.)
  • Information Processing Theories behaviorisms
    focus only on external directly observable
    indicators of learning, information-processing
    theory (first and most influential of the
    cognitive-learning theories) try to visualize
    what is impossible to observe directly.
  • Human brain has 3 kinds of memories
  • sensory registers--memory that receives all the
    information a person senses (1 second)
  • Short-term (working) memory (5-20 seconds)
  • Long-term memory (indefinitely).

Theoretical Foundations Directed (cont.)
  • Information-Processing Theory Model of human
    memory system

Sensory Register
Working (short term) memory
Long term memory
Input (through eyes, mouth, etc.)
Rehearsal Meaningful learning Organizing Elaborati
ng Imagery
May lost if not using regularly
More directed Gagnes Principles
  • Build on behaviorism and information-processing
    theories, Gagne translated principles from
    learning theories into practical instructional
  • Events of instruction (9) to arrange optimal
    conditions of learning.
  • Gaining attention
  • Informing the learner of the objective
  • Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning
  • Presenting new material
  • Providing learning guidance
  • Eliciting performance
  • Formative assessment
  • Summative assessment
  • Enhancing retention and recall

More Gagne
  • Types of learning he identified types of
    learning as behaviors students demonstrate after
    acquiring knowledge. They differ according to
    the conditions necessary to foster them. He
    showed how the Events of Instruction would be
    carried out slightly different from one type of
    learning to another
  • Intellectual skills
  • Problem solving
  • Higher order rules
  • Defined concepts
  • Concrete concepts
  • discriminations
  • Cognitive strategies
  • Verbal information
  • Motor skills
  • attitudes

One more Gagne
  • Learning hierarchies the development of
    intellectual skills requires learning that
    amounts to a building process. Lower level
    skills provide a necessary foundation for higher
    level ones. E.g. to learn long division, students
    first have to learn all prerequisite skills
    including number recognition, addition and
    subtraction, etc.
  • Gagnes work has been widely used to develop
    systematic instructional design principles (major
    influence in business, industry, and military

Your task
  • Working in groups of 3, try to develop a metaphor
    with a graphic presentation that shows your
    understanding of major characteristics of
    theories and philosophies behind directed
    instruction. Prepare a 2 min. presentation.

  • The differences among those who think of
    themselves as constructivists makes it difficult
    to settle on a single definition.
  • Theorists like Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, and
    Bruner are credited with fundamental premises of

Social constructivism
  • Dewey
  • curriculum should arise from student interests
  • Curriculum topics should be integrated, not
  • Education is growth, rather than an end in
  • Learning occurs through its connection with life,
    rather than through participation in curriculum.
  • Learning should be hands on and experience based,
    rather than abstract.

Social constructivism (cont.)
  • Vygotsky
  • Cognitive development is directly related to and
    based on social development.
  • Zone of proximal development difference between
    two levels of cognitive functioning (adult/expert
    and child/novice).
  • Scaffolding the assistance that an expert gives
    a novice to help him/her reach higher than would
    be possible by the novices efforts alone.

Piaget Cognitive development
  • Childs 4 stages of cognitive development
  • Sensorimoter (birth-2 yrs.) explore world
    through senses and motor activity. Cannot
    differentiate between self and environment (if
    they cannot see, it doesnt exist)
  • Preoperational (2-7) develop greater abilities
    to communicate via speech and to engage in
    symbolic activities (drawing object, play
    pretending and imaging).
  • Concrete operational (7-11) increase in
    abstract reasoning ability and ability to
  • Formal operations (12-15) can form and test
    hypotheses, organize information, reason
    scientifically, show results of abstract thinking
    in the form of symbolic materials.

Piaget (cont.)
  • Piagets basic assumptions
  • Children are active and motivated learners
  • Childrens knowledge of the world becomes more
    integrated and organized over time
  • Children learn through the processes of
    assimilation and accommodation
  • Cognitive development depends on interaction with
    ones physical and social environment
  • The processes of equilibration (resolving
    disequilibrium) help to develop increasingly
    complex levels of thought
  • Cognitive development can occur only after
    certain genetically controlled neurological
    changes occur.
  • Cognitive development occurs in four
    qualitatively different stages.

Bruner Learning as discovery
  • Bruner also categorized childrens cognitive
    development stage
  • Enactive stage (0-3)
  • Iconic stage (3-8)
  • Symbolic stage (8-)
  • Discovery learning an approach to instruction
    through which students interact with their
    environment by exploring and manipulating
    objects, wrestling with questions and
    controversies, or performing experiments.
  • However, teachers found that discovery learning
    is most successful when student have prerequisite
    knowledge and undergo some structured experiences.

Gardner Multiple intelligences
  • Of all theories embraced by constructivists,
    Gardner is the only one that attempt to define
    the role of intelligence in learning.
  • Types of intelligence Linguistic Musical
    Logical-mathematical Spatial Bodily-kinesthetic
    Intrapersonal Interpersonal Naturalist.
  • Educational implication teachers need to try to
    determine which types of intelligence each
    student has and direct the student to learning
    activities that capitalize on these innate

Constructivism (claims)
  • Constructivism is more a philosophy (i.e. way of
    seeing the world), not a set of strategies.
  • The nature of reality mental representations
    have real ontological status just as the world
    out there does. Or, reality is more in the mind
    of the knower, the knower constructs (interprets)
    a reality based upon his/her apperceptions.
  • The nature of knowledge it is individually
    constructed its inside peoples minds, not out

Constructivism (cont.)
  • Human interaction we rely on shared or
    negotiated meanings, better thought of as
    cooperative than authoritative or manipulative in
  • The nature of science-it is a meaning making
    activity with the biases and filters accompanying
    any human activity.

Philosophy or Rules?
  • If we see the world in constructivist terms, we
    go about our jobs in a different way. But this
    difference cannot be reduced to a discrete set of
    rules or techniques.
  • Too often, constructivism is equated with low
    structure and permissiveness-imposing predefined
    learning goals or a learning method is somehow
    interfering with students construction of
    meaning. This maybe true in extreme cases.

One example
  • Scott, a teacher, who holds definitely
    constructivistic and anti-authoritarian
    philosophy wrote in journal Third hour
    composition I went to a seating chart, the first
    time Ive done that here. I caught them as they
    came in and told them where to sit. Great
    improvement! Everyone working hard on their
    papersI sense that students are relieved that
    Ive imposed more structure. Imposing a seating
    chart is a clear act of asserting authoritative
    control and imposing structure. Is Scott
    betraying his principles, or can an ostensibly
    objectivist instructional technique actually
    serve his constructivist learning and teaching
    goals? The students answer clearly indicate that
    they view it as supporting their own learning

Creativity vs. Discipline
  • Yet to help students become creative, some kind
    of discipline and structure must be provided.
  • Creativity arises out of the tension between
    spontaneity and limitations, the latter (like
    river banks) forcing the spontaneity into the
    various forms which are essential to the work of
    art The significance of limits in art is seen
    most clearly when we consider the question of
    form. Form provides the essential boundaries and
    structure for the creative act (Laurel, 1991,
  • The point is that a given instructional strategy
    takes on meaning as it is used, in a particular

Holistic way of observing
  • Hence, instructional strategies that impose
    structures may actually help students knowledge
  • One instructional strategy cannot tell whether it
    hinders or serves constructivist learning goals,
    rather the entire situation needs to be examined
    to make the judgments.

Constructivism (more claims)
  • 2. You do not have to be a philosopher to take a
  • 3. Basically, nobody admits to be an
  • Objectivism is primarily a pejorative label given
    by constructivists to the offending others.
  • Realists (other name) believe there is a
    reality exists, and the quality of mental
    representations can be judged by their
    correspondence to the reality (another hotly
    debated issue).

What is your take on?
  • There are many different interpretations of
    constructivism. An example a Florida
    politician's position on a county option to
    permit the sale of liquor
  • if by whiskey, you mean the water of life that
    cheers mens souls, that smoothes out the
    tensions of the day, that gives gentle
    perspective to ones view of life, then put my
    name on the list of the fervent wets.
  • If by whiskey, you mean the devils brew that
    rends families, destroys careers and ruins ones
    ability to work, then count me in the ranks of
    the dries.

Constructivism (still more claimswould it end? )
  • Neither side is right. Mind is not a box that
    inside the box are reflections of what lies
  • The starting point is recognizing that we simply
    are in the world, working, acting and doing
    things. Hence individual cognition is dethroned
    as the center of the universe and placed back
    into the context of being par of the world.

  • Prepare a debate on the benefits of using
    directed vs. constructivist models for teaching
    and learning.
  • Each group should gather evidence to support
    arguments on one of the following aspects of one
    of the models real, practice problems they
    address the soundness of their underlying
    theories the usefulness in preparing students
    for future education and work. (6 groups total).
  • Conduct the debate in class.

  • Dorin, H., Demmin, P., Gabel, D. (1990).
    Chemistry The study of matter. (3rd ed.).
    Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall, Inc.
  • OCSLD The oxford centre for Staff and Learning
    Development. http//
    d/2_learntch/theories.html 09/18/2003
  • Roblyer, M., Edwards, J. (2000). Integrating
    educational technology into teaching (2 ed.). New
    Jersey Prentice-Hall.
  • Wilson, B. (1997). Reflections on constructivism
    and instructional design. In C. Dills A.
    Romiszowski (Eds.), Instructional development
    paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Educational
    Technology Publish. http//
    ilson/construct.html 09/18/2003
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