Monthly Archives: February 2012

Reflection on Learning Theories


Fundamental to George Siemens’ theory of Connectivism is the notion that “knowledge” is based on a core of conditions that are fluid and continuously changing (Siemens, 2004).  My understanding of learning, its styles and influences, was static eight short weeks ago.  I was a visual-kinesthetic learner, and that was that.  If you let me see it, touch it, and practice it, I learn it.  From the start of the current study I have been forced to take a look at myself in the light of hard science and learning philosophy, and like Siemens’ Connectivist, have found my “conditions” shifting under once solid footing.


The single most surprising element of the term has been the multitude of theories, each with value, that have been presented.  Coupled with that is the understanding, from Bill Kerr’s (2007) blog, that “these _isms do not stand still. They evolve, they listen to criticism and move on.”  There has been no one theory, from behaviorism to constructivism, from multiple intelligences to cognitivism, that is in itself adequate to explain the differences between learners, how they learn, and what makes any given learner successful and another unsuccessful.


While my understanding of my own learning process has evolved over the past eight weeks, I can confidently conclude that it is primarily cognitive in approach.  Ertmer and Newby (1993) derive from Jonassen’s 1991 work and build on it to determine that such an approach is concerned primarily with the acquisition and organization of knowledge. “How do I gain and process knowledge?” is a question for the cognitive learner.  As I reported in a blog post last week,

D. Scott Smith’s (2008) “case study in situated cognition” describes an almost ideal learning environment for me: table teams working together, solving complex problems and learning together.


The one constant I find among learners – myself included – is that there is equilibrium to learning.  There is a delicate balance among theory, methodology, capacity, and motivation.  I propose that for learning to be successful, each of the four must be considered.  The theory held determines how one views the learner; methodology involves the implementation of theory; both of these legs to the table involve the teacher.  Capacity is the learner’s ability to absorb, process, and implement learning; motivation, obviously, is the learner’s willingness to do so.  Like any four-legged table, these must exist in balance.  Over-emphasis on any of the four results in instability and loss of learning.  The same is true of learning theory, learning style, instructional technology, and motivation.


As I move forward in instructional design, I will have much to consider from my study of learning theories.  I have already used the mind mapping technique in one of my sales skills workshops, giving sales reps a “mapped” technique for qualifying customers. Rising to the top in terms of practical use is Keller’s ARCS motivational technique. The simplicity of the model, with its emphasis on attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction (Keller, 2006), will factor strongly into each of my course designs.


There is still much to learn.  It is likely that as I burrow deeper into the soil of learning, I will uncover new roots, new fruits, a rock or two, and new understanding of learning.  The landscape continues to change and evolve, and theories will no doubt continue to come to the fore, as they have over the last years.  From visual-kinesthetic to cognitive learner, my metacognitive process goes on, and I will continue to “think about thinking.”





Ertmer, P., Newby, T. 1993. Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Weekly, Volume 6, Number 4.


Keller, J. 2006.  What Are the Elements of Learner Motivation?  Retrieved from


Kerr, B.  2007. _isms As Filter, not Blinker. Retrieved from


Siemens, G. 2004. Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from


Smith, D.S. (2008) A Case Study in Situated Cognition.  Retrieved from



Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


Fitting the Pieces Together

Over the past seven weeks, I have engaged in a good deal of reflection regarding my own learning style.  I posed early on that I at the very least began as a behaviorist; I “learned” as a youth by determining the response my teachers sought, and responding to stimuli accordingly.  I now understand that even this was metacognitive.  I did not simply “respond” to stimuli; I learned what the desired response would be, and gave that response to the teacher.  In essence, I was thinking about thinking – finding the desired answer or skill and giving it in order to achieve the reward I desired.  As the weeks progressed, I came to a more balanced conclusion:  I am confident that I am somewhere between a cognitive learner and a constructivist, with the emphasis on cognition.  D. Scott Smith’s (2008) “case study in situated cognition” describes an almost ideal learning environment for me: table teams working together, solving complex problems and learning together.


Perhaps the most impactful revelation of the term was Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner (as summarized by Armstrong, 2000) initially posed that each person possesses at least seven “intelligences,” which are proportioned based on hereditary factors and shaped by environmental factors. (Gardner later added an eighth intelligence).  Understanding the predisposition to one or more of these intelligences can dramatically increase one’s effectiveness in life and career, offering a guide for learning concentration as well as an understanding of learning strengths and weaknesses.  Though only two chapters of Armstrong’s work were required in our course work, I am excited to pursue the theory further, if only to better understand my own tendencies.


When it comes to technology in learning, I am moving closer and closer to the front of the line.  I own a smartphone and two tablets (an iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Tab), carry another of each for work, and also own a laptop and carry a work unit as well.  It is one thing to carry all of this technology; it is quite another to actually use it, and use it I do!  My 7-inch Galaxy serves as my primary e-reader, with a good deal of both fiction and non-fiction loaded; my iPad is my main interactive device.  I have loaded several learning programs which I use for work and for college: a flash card creator to help me remember facts and figures and the “Good Reader” application to read and annotate electronic course materials are two examples.  I also have the Walden University app loaded on iPad and iPhone, so I can get to my coursework on the go.  Of course, like many other students, I have found to be one of my very best friends when searching for informational articles to supplement course readings.  The next course in my degree program will have me using one of Adobe’s creative programs, and I am anxiously looking forward to it.  Needless to say, technology is the axis my learning revolves on!


As the learning journey progresses, I may, like the connectivist, find that my understanding will change as the conditions change; for now, I keep an open mind and open heart to what lies ahead.




Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple intelligences in the classroom (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development


Smith, D.S. (2008) A Case Study in Situated Cognition.  Retrieved from

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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


Connectivism and the Learning Network

As evidenced by the graphic in my last post, my learning network is comprised of human, non-human (technological), and hybrid factors.  The human element is two-fold, comprised of mentors and peer coaches.  Mentors are those whose experience exceeds my own both in time and breadth.  These individuals have poured of themselves into my life, sharing the results of their experience to enrich and expand mine.  Peer coaches, generally do not have length of experience as an advantage over me; they bring varied backgrounds, education, and experiences to broaden and enrich my life.  These coaches are an invaluable part of learning.


The technological parts of my learning – the web and books (both paper and electronic) – form what I term the “personal aspects” of learning.  For me, the most functional of these, and the most useful, is the e-book.  Less cumbersome than accessing the web via computer or laptop, yet more suited to my aging eyes than conventional paper, e-books have become my medium of choice.  My tablet goes with me nearly everywhere, and I have both fiction and nonfiction books in progress at any given time.  Further, when I do need to access the broader base of information found on the internet, the tablet gives me that access.


The final element of my learning network is the “hybrid,” my social and business-social networks.  Carrying the interactive elements of the human support system into the realm of the technological, these networks offer the information-heavy experience of the web and e-books with the ability to offer input and ask questions of the people behind the posts and responses – sometimes in near-real time!


Where I go to gain knowledge depends largely on two factors: the nature of the need and the time factor involved.  When I need to learn something of a very specific nature – facts – I will generally turn to the internet, often beginning with a search engine such as Google.  This is particularly useful when I am under a time constraint.  If the subject matter is something that one of my peers or mentors is known to have experience in, I will often contact one of my mentors or peer coaches.  An example would be when I recently was preparing a lesson for my job and needed the counsel of my Master Trainer as to the best way to approach the presentation. It would not have made sense to go to the non-human sources, when this mentor’s vast training experience was directly suited to the need.


In total, this diverse network supports one of the fundamental tenets of connectivism, voiced by Karen Stephenson and quoted by George Seimens on  “Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge.” (Seimens, 2004)  Further, since according to connectivist principle, knowledge is evolutionary, the multitude of resources I have found give me the varied opinions, experiences, and understanding to keep up.



Seimens, G.  2004.  Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age.  Retrieved from

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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized



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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Uncategorized