Teachers have been oriented to believing that every student has a specific learning style and once we are able to identify and categorize our students into their specific styles, then we will know how they learn best and what strategies will work well for them throughout their educational career. It’s no wonder why we have an abundance of unnecessary labels on our students. I have now come to think of learning style as a set of preferred learning strategies that the student uses to help facilitate their learning.
I am amazed at how technology has impacted education and the way we learn. Technology has had and will continue to have such an impact on learning that George Siemens is trying to propose a new learning theory called connectivism. Connectivism takes a look at how the learner utilizes and applies information that is gathered from a variety of technological resources (i.e. internet search, blogs, websites, chat rooms, ect) that aid in their decision making process. Connectivists believe that one’s ability to make decisions based on these connections is part of the learning process. I never would have imagined that learning resides in non-human appliances; then again what might be right today may be wrong tomorrow.
Understanding my own learning style has allowed me to analyze the reasons why I like to use certain strategies more than others. I also recognize that there are learning situations when my strategies vary and fluctuate depending upon the subject or task. Being able to analyze my own learning style gives me an idea about how I process information and what strategies I need to employ to enhance both my working memory and long term memory objectives. I used to think of myself as being forgetful until I learned that other information is simply competing during recall. Based on my learning preference, the best way for me to retain information is through sensory registers that utilize both visual and auditory stimuli. Once the information is registered in my working memory, I require frequent rehearsals and organizational imaging that is paired with specific codes of meaningfulness that is stored in my long term memory. My ability to retrieve the needed information from my long term memory depends on the strength of the cues that were present during the encoding process.
The various learning theories are explanations of how learners process information. Knowing how learners process information is vital for instructional designers. The Behaviorist model proposes that learning occurs when there has been an observable change in behavior, while Cognitivists look for elements in learning through the changes in the states of knowledge. Both are influenced by the environment, with emphasis on reinforcement and feedback. The Social Learning and Cognitive theorists propose that learning takes place through the observation and interaction of others. Cognitivists believe that learners create meaning from experiences that occur within the environment, while Social Constructivists rely on social participation and community practice. Connectivists believe that learning occurs through the use of networks, specifically non-human or technological networks. Learning is then influenced by the diversity of ideas and information that can be gathered through the network systems.
Over time learners develop into self-regulators who use metacognitive strategies that keep them focused and motivated. Motivation allows learners to attend to tasks and add meaning to information for processing. There are environmental influences that promote extrinsic motivation, but factors that influence intrinsic motivation have a greater impact on learning. Effective instruction will require tasks that are cognitively stimulating and relevant for the learner. Advances in technology has enhanced student engagement and provided a sense of relevance for the 21st century learner. Technology has opened up a world of informational resources that include; search engines, websites, blogs, wikis, and smart devices, all of which provide immediate access to information. Technology has also paved the way for online learning which has made it convenient for adult learners to continue to develop within their fields. Online learning requires learners to be highly motivated and self-directed. The best way to keep online students engaged during online learning activities is to create simulations based on real world situations.
In this course I have learned that students are learners who possess multiple intelligences. My knowledge of the various learning theories will allow me to design learning activities that are well balanced for all learners. In order to design effective instructional tools, instructional designers need to understand how learners process information. Knowing what stimulus will catch the learner’s attention, will assist in the production creative learning tools. Learners who attend to information have a greater chance of organizing and storing information for later retrieval. Instructional designers also need to become familiar with learner concepts and values that will generate a sense of meaningfulness for the learner. When a learner is able to relate and pair new information with previous information, the learner will have a greater chance of retrieving that information from their long term memory. As an instructional designer I will strive to implement learning strategies that will aid the learner in making meaningful connections while processing information. Our minds are continually evolving and so should the design in instruction.
- 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.
- Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf
- Orey, M. (2001). Information processing. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved fromhttp://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Information_processing
- Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.