Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Learning Theories and Instruction Reflection

Photo Credit
Being in corporate customer service for ten years, I knew that I was going to start this class at a slight disadvantage compared to my classmates that have a career in teaching and education. This concerned me initially, and I set out to study extra hard to make sure that I would keep up. At the completion of this class, I can honestly say that I was glad that my exposure to learning theories was minimal because I was able to absorb all of the material objectively. From the beginning, it was evident that learning theories and their impact on teaching methodologies has gotten mixed reviews. Some teachers and designers believe that learning theories are bunk, while others attempt to shape their lessons based on the theories themselves. Having no preconceived notion beforehand allowed me to objectively consider all of the theories and draw from them what I felt would be beneficial for my own career. 
Keller’s ARCS and the study of motivation was quite an eye opener for me. Motivation is a common term, but I did not know that there was such a degree of information around the subject. Motivation adds an extra layer to instructional design, because, not only do you have to deliver the right content in the most effective way, you have to maintain the learners motivation throughout your design (Keller, 1993). I am certain to keep my motivation reference material handy and plan to spend some additional time reviewing other resources regarding maintaining motivation.
The learning theories matrix exercise had the most value for me because it helped me create an ‘at-a-glance’ reference that will become a timeless reference. Tying the matrix in with Dale Schunk’s definitive questions highlighted in Ertmer and Newby’s 1993 article Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism: Comparing critical features gave me even more relevance when comparing these theories and their importance in Instructional design, as well as, my current field of customer service (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). Arranging these theories in a matrix further demonstrated to me that learning is complex and dynamic. As an educator, you must find a balance between learning styles and teaching styles, and you must adjust your approach throughout the course. There clearly is no definitive, right or wrong way of teaching but rather, you have to find your way one student and one course at a time. You have to be diligent about personal inventory to discover what you do effectively and identify those areas that need improvement. Each design project will be a learning experience with an opportunity to sharpen skills, and perfect your methods.
Lastly, another significant action item for any instructional designer today is to strive to stay current with the latest technologies. This can be daunting without the proper connections and tools, however, with the many Instructional Design blogs we uncovered in this class, I now feel as if I am connected and will stay apprised on all the latest trends. The personal blogs that we created in this class will further provide a valuable outlet for professional writing, portfolio display and material for job references.
Although the concepts presented in this class were fairly new to me, I gained a solid understanding of the learning theories, the multiple viewpoints regarding these theories, and how to use what I need to create a design that works for each learner. I came to realize that not all students learn in the same way or are motivated by the same things. I will approach each project with a clean canvas until I am able to discover the target learning audience; determine how they learn effectively, and what motivates them. At this point, it seems like a daunting task to be able to pull all of these concepts together into one design, but I am up for the challenge and am anxious to get started.


Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50–71.

Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and Distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Learning Theories-Putting the Pieces Together

View my Learning Theories Matrix

Photo Credit
I must admit that I would have failed testing about learning theories before this class. I have had no exposure to educational training and little recollection of learning theories from my college psychology classes. I do remember, however, that one of my roommates was a psychology major, and she had a dog named Skinner, after BF Skinner. Funny how human memory works. I can say that now with meaning. I never actually knew that there were so many ways defined that one could learn. I do remember hearing conversations of right brain versus left brain and I would always say that I was a right brainer that was creative or a “mid brainer”.

From the start, this class as made me think about how I learn, how I transfer knowledge to my staff and customers, and what elements truly affect those things. I have a much broader understanding of learning and the many layers to consider when designing instructional materials. Being able to analyze how I learn has helped me identify that I am a visual learner but also excel at auditory learning. When I talk to my friends about how they learn, I would often hear "I have to do it in order to learn it” or “if I can put my hands on it, I will get it." I can honestly say that I am not that way. Don't get me wrong, I would learn something by doing it, but I don't have to have my hands on it to get it. I can visualize what is needed by hearing a description or grasp the concept if it is shown to me.  I never seriously thought about that until taking this class. Additionally, I did not realized factors such as environment, social and cultural influences, and personal experiences could affect the way someone learns (Gilbert, J. & Swainer, C. 2008). As I studied the various theories, it became apparent to me that, though, learning styles have been studied and classified, they are not rigid rules for instruction. They can be used as guidelines when planning instructional design, but learners are unique and should be viewed as such, and each learner may learn differently. One of the significant messages for me was in Dr. Ormond’s presentation about learning styles and strategies. She said that, rather than focusing on learning theories, we should try to focus on learning strategies. “A much more optimistic view about how to help people learn is that you teach them strategies for learning effectively rather than cater to these preferences that may or may not actually exist in the self-report kinds of assessment techniques” (Laureate Education, n.d.).  This message put learning theories in perspective for me and gave me a way to apply them without getting lost in trying to include and accommodate them all.

Technology additionally has a growing significance in learning today.  Luckily, I have a higher aptitude for technology and finding creative was to use it for projects, because my career has been in software technology field for many years. I am able to keep up with the latest trends and have access to numerous technology resources. While this may be a plus, on some level, for instructional design, it is only one small part of delivering effective designs. My academic focus will be on content building and delivery, and the studies from this class will be extremely valuable in this journey.  I understand that fancy delivery with bells and whistles is of little value without proper content geared specifically for your learning audience. I plan  to continue to develop creative but effective methods that incorporate technology, learning styles and strategies and effective delivery.

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J. Learning styles and strategies. Laureate Education, Inc. (Accessed 2011). [Video Program]. Walden University Resources.