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 http://www.arcsmodel.com/Mot%20dsgn%20A%20cate.htm
Kerr, B. 2007. _isms As Filter, not Blinker. Retrieved from http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html
Siemens, G. 2004. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Smith, D.S. (2008) A Case Study in Situated Cognition. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=A_case_study_in_situated_cognition