Theories and Philosophies

& 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
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 disproved.
(Dorin, Demmin & Gabel, 1990)
Brief overview of some learning
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
one’s 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
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)
Are encouraged to take responsibility for their own
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
Kolb’s 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
Have an
Plan next steps,
experimenting to find
Review that experience
Conclude from that
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)
Don’t 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.
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.
Based on Wilson (1997) & Roblyer
Current educational Goals and
Methods: Two views
Directed instruction: grounded primarily in
behaviorism and the information-processing
branch of cognitive learning theories
(acquisition metaphor).
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 minds.
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
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.
Teacher: guide and facilitator
as students construct their
own knowledge; collaborative
resource and assistant as
students explore topics.
Student: collaborate with
other; develop competence;
students may learn different
Curriculum: based on
projects/problems, etc. that
foster both higher and lower
level skills concurrently.
More methodological differences
Learning goals: stated in terms
of mastery learning and
behavioral competence in a
scope and sequence
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
Learning goals: stated in terms
of growth and increased ability
to work independently and
Activities: group projects,
hands-on exploration,
authentic tasks, product
Assessment: alternative
assessment including
performance assessment,
portfolios; quality measured by
rubrics and checklists;
measures may differ among
Theoretical Foundations:
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 observation.
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 Lost
mouth, etc.)
May lost if not
using regularly
More directed: Gagne’s
Build on behaviorism and information-processing theories,
Gagne translated principles from learning theories into practical
instructional strategies.
Events of instruction (9): to arrange optimal ‘conditions of
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
Cognitive strategies
Verbal information
Motor skills
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.
Gagne’s work has been widely used to develop
systematic instructional design principles (major
influence in business, industry, and military training).
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.
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 constructivism.
Social constructivism
curriculum should arise from student interests
Curriculum topics should be integrated, not
Education is growth, rather than an end in itself.
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.)
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 novice’s efforts alone.
Piaget: Cognitive development
Child’s 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 doesn’t 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 generalize.
Formal operations (12-15) – can form and test
hypotheses, organize information, reason scientifically,
show results of abstract thinking in the form of symbolic
Piaget (cont.)
Piaget’s basic assumptions:
Children are active and motivated learners
Children’s knowledge of the world becomes more integrated
and organized over time
Children learn through the processes of assimilation and
Cognitive development depends on interaction with one’s
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
Bruner: Learning as discovery
Bruner also categorized children’s 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;
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 abilities.
Constructivism (claims)
Constructivism is more a philosophy (i.e.
way of seeing the world), not a set of
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; it’s inside people’s minds, not “out
Constructivism (cont.)
Human interaction– we rely on shared or
“negotiated” meanings, better thought of as
cooperative than authoritative or manipulative
in nature.
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 I’ve
done that here. I caught them as they came in and told
them where to sit. Great improvement! Everyone
working hard on their papers…I sense that students are
relieved that I’ve 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 goals.
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, p.101).
The point is that a given instructional strategy takes
on meaning as it is used, in a particular context.
Holistic way of observing
Hence, instructional strategies that impose
structures may actually help students’
knowledge construction.
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 position.
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
“if by whiskey, you mean the water of life that cheers
men’s souls, that smoothes out the tensions of the
day, that gives gentle perspective to one’s view of
life, then put my name on the list of the fervent wets.
If by whiskey, you mean the devil’s brew that rends
families, destroys careers and ruins one’s ability to
work, then count me in the ranks of the dries.”
Constructivism (still more
claims…would 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.
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. [09/18/2003]