This week we were asked to reflect on our first discussion posting of the Learning Theories and Instruction course (Swanson, 2017) and how our views have changed as we progressed through this course. To be honest, my opinion of the most relevant learning theory has not changed since that post, however, what has changed is the amount of evidence I have to back up my opinion. The more I learned about constructivism, the more I agreed about its central tenets, and the more I learned about other learning theories, the more I disagreed with their views.
Based on the research I have performed for this course, I believe that constructivism best explains how we learn. I agree with the notion that when we learn something new, it is filtered through our prior knowledge and experiences, mental structures, social interactions, motivations, and beliefs (Ertmer, 2013; Jenkins, 2006; Keesee, 2011). I agree with the principle that “learners construct much of what they learn and understand” (Ormrod, 2009), rather than acting as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge (Ertmer, 2013). Although I view some aspects of cognitive theory (such as research on encoding, storage, and retrieval) as beneficial to understanding how we learn, I still view the overall learning process as one of construction (Ertmer, 2013). I do not have confidence in the assertion of social learning theorists that social interactions are a requirement for learning, nor do I have confidence in the assertion of connectivism theorists that knowledge being stored in a group of people counts as a method of learning (Davis, 2008; Kim, 2001; Ormrod, 2009; Siemens, 2004). As far as learning styles are concerned, I believe that a better term would be learning preferences, as these represent differing opinions of learners on how they learn best, rather than distinct differences in their learning abilities during different methods of instruction (Armstrong, 2009; Costandi, 2013; Gardner, 2003; Goldhill, 2016; Pullman, 2017).
As far as my own learning preferences are concerned, in order to remember new information, I have always found a need to elaborate on the information and this correlates well with the cognitivist principle of encoding and the constructivist principle of filtering knowledge through prior information (Ertmer, 2013; Ormrod, 2009). I also prefer to both see and hear presented information simultaneously or near-simultaneously, and this corresponds well with the idea of dual-coding. According to Ormrod, “dual-coded knowledge may be remembered better, which has important educational implications and confirms the general teaching principle of explaining (verbal) and demonstrating (visual) new material” (Ormrod, 2009). This makes sense based on the explanation of Cuevas that “conceptual knowledge is widely distributed among neural networks throughout the brain, but the pathways connecting those networks appear to be separate, particularly for auditory and visual stimuli … the combined power of bringing both hemispheres into use will increase our ability to retain information without pushing us into cognitive overload.” (Cuevas, 2014).
Although I am doubtful of the validity of connectivism as a learning theory, I must confess that technology does play a role in how I learn these days. To date I have completed nine online certificate programs, six in-depth online courses (once complete, this current course would bring the total up to seven), and a myriad online personal interest courses through organizations such as Coursera and Udemy. I also perform a good deal of academic research through online university libraries and Google Scholar, not to mention general research on Google and YouTube. Not only does technology help me research, but I also use technology to complete assignments (Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, Audition, Camtasia, Storyline, Captivate, etc.), to collaborate with others (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneNote, WordPress, Twitter, etc.), and to keep in touch with knowledgeable contacts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
Although I have been stubborn in my views on learning, this course has helped me better understand the viewpoints of others and the weaknesses in their arguments. It has also helped me better understand the arguments over learning styles, to which I had only been recently introduced. With the information I now possess, I feel that I would be a much more successful instructional designer.
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