Learning Theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism

Today I’m blogging about learning theories. This does not come up at work very often, and I find these theories to be generally sequestered by the school of education and possibly psychology. When I meet with a faculty to build a course, often times they are subject matter experts in their particular field, and have not studied pedagogy and all these different learning theories. Still, inn the end, their learning product is generally sound and the students leave the course knowing what they intended to know.

With that said, I do believe that a sound foundation in learning theory leads to better learning outcomes. I was taught by my mentor to follow Blooms Taxonomy and the ADDIE development model. I thought that was all I really needed to know to get started as an instructional designer (ID). I took a very pragmatic approach to design, where I would rarely interfere with the teacher’s ideas and was more a tool that executed their vision.  I feel that for the most part that is the ID’s job, to make the client happy, and for me that’s worked out pretty well. As I learn more in grad school I hope to interject more of the ideas from connectivsm into my courses. I will be working on a course about art and technology next quarter, and I will encourage the TAs to promote the use of blogs and connecting many students together online to form a learning community or network that can link to the outside world of art and technology.

 

Behaviorism

 Art by funderstanding.com

Art by funderstanding.com

People learn through repetition. Learner is a passive blank slate shaped by environmental stimuli, both positive and negative reinforcement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cognitivism

This is a learning theory that was in response to behaviorism. Psychologist who promoted this idea claimed that behaviorism failed to explain cognition. In this theory, mind is an information processor. It emphasizes understanding the concept as a whole instead of just the pieces.

 Art by Yannick Petitclerc

Art by Yannick Petitclerc

This is the learning theory that I was taught in developing online education using Blooms Taxonomy. Examples of cognitivist strategies for learning higher-level thinking are starting a lesson with a hook to create interest, a review quiz to promotes prior learning, using learning outcomes, chunking content into organized bite-sized pieces, using graphic organizers, and the student takes on an active role on learning. The teacher gives lots of encouragement and positive feedback.

Constructivism

 Photo by Mauro Fermariello

Photo by Mauro Fermariello

Students learn new things through experience. They build knowledge through experiences and interactions. In cognitive learning, the students are taught to do something in constructivism. The students are encouraged to discover something on their own; this is known as self-directed learning. The major difference is that cognitive learning is about building on prior knowledge, and constructivism is about building new ideas and concepts based on your own discoveries.

 

 

 

Connectivism

Connectivism is a learning theory developed by George Siemens and Steven Downs. It stresses the connections and combinatorial creativity. All the knowledge is out there - it’s a matter of making the connections. 

Siemens (2004) states, “A community is the clustering of similar areas of interest that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing, and thinking together.”

 Art by Penn State University Blog

Art by Penn State University Blog

For example, if a learner is trying to learn how Donald Trump has risen to power, they may start on a Facebook post that a friend made, which could then take them to an article, but the text is dense and confusing, so instead the student scrolls down to the comments sections and finds another link to a blog, and from the blog there is an embedded Youtube video that they watch to more fully understand the issue. That student has used various forms of gathering information using the Internet, and has gleaned the most salient information by using many different modes to more fully understand the issue.

Siemens, G. (2008).  Learning and Knowing in Networks: Changing roles for Educators and Designers