Reflection: Theories and Applications

This serves as my reflection on the past eight weeks of studying Learning theories and allied subjects. While studying learning styles, as well as having discussions with colleagues on the discussion boards, I identified various techniques. Dr. Keller’s ARCS model merged seamlessly with the foundations in learning theory, thus making application easy. Provided reference materials were very useful, but not as accessible as they had been in previous course weeks. And, based on what I learned about scaffolding and the use of increasing complexity of learning modules to stretch cognition, I believe that the course designers have used this strategy well to help students gain skills and techniques which will help the Instructional Design career as we move forward.

Introduced to Blogs and RSS feeds early in the course, I was able to design and publish this blog site (Design4intelligence). It is blog directed at Instructional designers, focusing on design methodologies, design tools, and best practices. Within these eight weeks, Design4intelligence has had seven new posts and various constructive comments from readers. I have also subscribed to six RSS feeds from allied blogs, and I am glad I was introduced to blogging as a tool for engaging my professional world as well as a constructivist learning tool employing Connectivist methodologies. I have also enjoyed using mindmap designs in my publications.

The materials which dealt with Andragogy as a different science when compared to Pedagogy, helped me understand the usefulness and focus of both areas of study (Pew, S. 2007). I think the Instructional Designer of today’s Online class modules needs to be well aware of the principles in both. Due to the diversity of today’s classroom, separation may not be as easy as theory suggests, therefore, I see a merged approach being the most feasible choice. I proposed in one of my Discussion posts, an andra-pedagogical approach. Also, I came across a term: Heutagogy, in the process of my studies, and it will probably be the focus of some of my research in the future. (Hase & Kenyon, 2000)

I was quite excited when in the final weeks of this course, we started on the subject of motivation. Having had challenges with motivation many years ago as a newcomer to the virtual classroom, I was glad that a pet interest of mine which developed into a capstone paper last year, could receive the boost that came with my learnings in this class on ‘Motivation’. I am absolutely convinced of the tremendous impact that Instructional Designers can bring to bear on student engagement, motivation, learning and success through the application of resourceful and focused design strategies. (Huett, Moller, Young, Bray & Huett, 2008) (Huett, Kalinowski, Moller & Huett, 2008).

References

Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase Articles, 5(3), 1-10.

Huett, J., Kalinowski, K., Moller, L., & Huett, K. (2008). Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-based E-mails. American Journal of Distance Education, 22(3), 159–176.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Young, J., Bray, M., & Huett, K. (2008). Supporting the distant student: The effect of ARCS-based strategies on confidence and performance. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 9(2), 113–126.

Pew, S. (2007). Andragogy and pedagogy as foundational theory for student motivation in higher education. Insight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 2, 14–25.

 

Fitting the Pieces Together

At the beginning of my odyssey into the world of learning theories and their implications for Instructional design, I wrote about a few things I could remember about my own learning activities. I use the word ‘remember’ because it was an exercise after-the-fact. I found out that over the years, most of my learning had been subconscious. I had taken learning for granted, almost as we all take breathing for granted, and had not consciously ‘observed’ the transitions or steps I took in learning. In other words, I had not consciously adopted strategies, neither was I labelled by a learning style.

With weeks of researching texts on learning, engaging in discussions with other learners, and using what I have now labelled ‘ My learning network’,  I have integrated layers of new discovery into my thinking. Almost as Archimedes screamed eureka!, on discovering the law of density and floatation, I had found an insight into a process which had dwelled under my ‘nose’ (so-to-speak) all the time. I too could scream Eureka, now!

Now, I understand the following:

  • Though learning is taken for granted most of the time, it surely is taking place, more subconsciously than consciously.
  • Different people may have different approaches to learning based on their understanding. No one is really wrong, what could be a failure, is failing to meet an objective.
  • Approaches form part of strategies and start with styles which are based on the nature of the material or situation at hand.

I was intrigued by the work of Philosophers and thinkers like Bandura, Vygotsky, and Siemens. All taking a piece of the learning experience and proposing theories on observable phenomena. Their theories got me to be more inquisitive about my own learning process, a process I had taken for granted for too long.Learning

Fig 1. A Mind map with an overview of my Learning

Studying Learning theories has given me a composite understanding of the underlying structures of learning. There are sub-processes which subconsciously lead toward eventual learning and by these one identifies with a predominant learning style. The application of a style is a learning strategy, and a very significant aspect of my strategy is a learning network of sources of information. Composed of Libraries, blogs, mentors, internet links etc., my sources of information come together in a learning matrix, the core of which is the driving engine of technology. I use technology to source, record, share and evaluate facts, data and information.

Connectivism: Reflections on Learning Network

Apart from materials provided by my University, I have had to learn to source and access other resources by using parameters such as:  knowing where to look, what quality standards to apply and how to utilize networks, in order to leverage information as well as value added.

Based on my continuous search for factual information, and a plan to be  open to scholarly review and citation, I have acquired a network of sources which have proved to be quite reliable. I call it my learning network. A learning network is made up of constructionist resources with connectivity capabilities and gives a summarized overview of the latitude and potential of combinations as information is assembled. The mindmap is a graphic representation of critical thought selections, reviews, and reinforcements. It is a good template to have, even as I plan to research materials for any learning project.

Although I didn’t have it in mindmap form until a few days ago, It was rooted in deep memory, and by regular recall with use, it became readily available in my working memory. Depending on the particular project I am working on, I am sometimes able to obtain enough resources going through just half of the nodes displayed in the mind map.

Connectivism: Mapping my learning connectionsTraversing the map, one will observe a synergy of learning opportunities from different sources. With the flexibility and utility of advanced technology, this schema actually upholds the tenets of Connectivism. Connectivism is a learning theory which was developed after the traditional three. The traditional three theories are Constructivism, Cognitivism, and Behaviorism. (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).This quote of Siemens wraps up what connectivism is:

Decision-making itself is a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision (Siemens, 2005, para. 24).

According to some Researchers, Vygotsky’s contributions to the psychology of learning through his socio-cultural theory has many useful applications. Some of such applications are metacognition and self-regulated learning. My social interactions, collaborations & learning with my virtual classmates and the rest of the cyber-community through social media contacts have helped me generate continuously growing concepts of learning. And on close observation, one would see that the elements in my constructivist mindmap depict navigations around these concepts during each online learning experience.

I developed this mindmap by recollecting a schema which is deep-seated in memory, finding that it helps me troubleshoot and  improve my metacognition as well as apperception. It also assists me to provide meaningful discussion points during my weekly online discussion forum activities, as well as to write scholarly reports.

According to George Siemens:

“When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.” (Siemens, 2005.)

  • Digital tools

The following are tools of interest: Adobe Captivate, WordPress CSS/HTML, Adobe E-Learning Suite 2.5, Articulate Storyline 2.

  • Learning by questions

When I question a scenario, my eventual learning occurs by what is known as metacognition. On the back of that is another phenomenon termed: apperception.

  • Proof of Connectivism

My personal learning network supports connectivism as described by George Siemens because it is a decision-making schema that helps me construct my own personal learning. (Siemens, 2005)

References

Cognitive Learning Theory.(n.d) Accessed at https://lynnmunoz.wordpress.com/learning-theories/cognitive-learning-theory/ (on 4/3/16).

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects. coe. uga. edu/epltt/index. php.

Siemens, G. (2005, January). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, Retrieved 4/1/16, from www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/index.htm