Saturday, June 25, 2011

Learning Theories : A final reflection

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”  (Clay P. Bedford). The goal of education is to provide students with the necessary tools for lifelong learning.  The role of the Instructional Designer is to create such a course that is appealing and motivating for the learner and is effective in the of delivery knowledge, creating real life problem solving situations and imparting important skills. In order to do this the Instructional Designer must have extensive knowledge of learning theories.
The way people learn
For an instructional designer to successfully fulfill their role, they must “Conceptually and intuitively understand how people learn” (Malamed, n.d).  The psychology of learning plays an important part in the role of the instructional designer as it impacts “not only on the order in which we present material but the ways in which we present it, the things we ask students to do with it, the questions we ask of them” (Dr, Ormrod, n.d). Knowledge of each of the theories of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Connectivism, Social learning and Adult  learning theory is “critical when attempting to select an effective prescription for overcoming a given instructional problem” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p.51).  The Instructional Designer must not rely on one theory, or give precedence to any one theory over the other; rather they should assess the learner and the task and apply the best possible strategy for the learner.

The author’s personal learning style
Since adults and children have different factors motivating them to pursue education, I have found my learning has changed considerably over the years (Conlan, Grabowski & Smith, n.d). In my early years of education, I was often motivated by external factors and was a passive recipient of knowledge. However, in this stage in my life I feel the pursuit of education is more internally motivated and I am an active participant in my education (Conlan, Grabowski & Smith, n.d).  I can also see how technological advancement has affected the way I learn. I consult many different sources of information due to the availability and instantaneous nature of technology (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Batesman, n.d). 

The connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation
The Instructional Designer, who creates online courses, has a more difficult task than a traditional face to face instructor. A traditional instructor has an advantage and can adapt and change instruction based on the verbal and body language of the student (Huett et al, 2008). So for the Instructional Designer, it is even more important to assess the learner’s needs at the beginning of the course to gauge their learning style and find the appropriate strategy to scaffold the learning and keep them motivated.  In order to design instruction that continually facilitates learning, the use of educational technology needs to be employed as “Nurturing and maintaining connections are needed to facilitate continual learning” (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Batesman, n.d).  Educational technology can also address the various learning styles, as information can be presented in multiple formats and courses can be designed in such a way that learners may submit assessments in multiple formats.  This also helps to keep students motivated and on task (Keller, 1999). The learning theories are tools that that help the instructor “to select an effective prescription for overcoming a given instructional problem” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 51).
The combined knowledge of learning theories, styles, technology and motivation should allow the Instructional Designer to create a course effective, “affective as well as [a] cognitive enterprise” (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2007, p. 259)

Application of this knowledge as an Instructional Designer
Education is going through major changes since students are now competing in global market. Texas recently changed its state test to something more aligned with college standards (TEA, n.d). Educators are urged to move away from teacher centered lessons to more student focused instruction and so there is a need for instructors to design a curriculum that is “both flexible and adaptable” (Morrison and Gary, 2011, vii). Through the extensive knowledge gained on this course, I wish to help the English department in my school in two ways; firstly, by designing effective training for teachers so that they can apply the new STAARs standards in their classrooms and ensure that all assignments and assessments meet the state standards. Secondly, by creating a curriculum that aligns with the STAARs and provides the students with the opportunity to excel at a comprehensive and rigorous test.  The learning theories will equip me with the correct tools to ensure that I am able to create an environment that facilitates and extends learning.
            The STAARs has already made many teachers anxious as they have been teaching TAKS type material for many years. Many feel that they will have to retrain in many areas due to the more challenging standards that the STAARs will bring. Since training can be time consuming and expensive, especially with new budget cuts, “the goal for the instructional designer is to design and develop instruction that will improve performance in a most effective and efficient manner” (Morrison and Gary, 2011, p.3).
Due to the introduction of STAARs many changes will have to be made to the existing curriculum so that it is can meet the new Texas standards. The role of instructional designers is very important in this area as they will produce a curriculum “that serves a necessary purpose, meets the needs of students, is attractive and well organized, is delivered in an appropriate mode and is continually evaluated and improved” (Morrison and Gary, 2011, p.5). The knowledge of learning theories will help me to design a curriculum that, while engaging and motivating students, is rigorous and relevant to the needs of the American society and the global market.
Instructional designers can only be effective in their roles if they can understand how and why human beings learn and Walden University’s course in Learning Theories and Instruction, has certainly provided an excellent background to this. I am excited  to use this knowledge in my existing profession as a classroom teacher and looks forward to using it in any future roles as an Instructional Designer.
Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (n.d.). Adult learning. Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology has a problem. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from
Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (n.d.).  Connectivism. Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology has a problem. Retrieved June 18, 2011, from
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (1993).  Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.
Malamed, C. "10 Qualities of the Ideal Instructional Designer ." E-Learning . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2011. < >.
Morrison, G. R. (2011). Designing effective instruction   (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Learning: A journey of self-discovery

Over the past few weeks I have learnt a lot about my learning. I have discovered many things about the way I learn, and how it has changed over the years, and I think it has really helped me become a better learner. Let me share with you some of my discoveries:

My views on learning

Few weeks ago I thought that most of my learning was Cognitive and Constructivist but after learning about the other theories I found that the ideas of Connectivism, Adult learning and Social Learning Theory also applied to me. I also discovered how much I had changed as a learner. When I was younger I was mainly motivated to learn by extrinsic factors. Positive feedback from the teacher, parent’s approval and high grades were factors that kept me on the straight and narrow.  At this time in my life, there are intrinsic and extrinsic factors that keep me motivated. As well as positive feedback from the instructor and good grades, the will to master knowledge and take on a challenge also motivate me to learn.  Something else I’ve noticed is that how much I enjoy social learning. Throughout my education, I hated group work and assignments. I preferred to work on my own in a secluded spot in the library. Now with age, I have found blogs and discussions to be very valuable sources of information. I have found them to be truly enlightening and have found that the views of my peers can lead me in directions that I would not have normally considered.

My learning style

 Something else I’ve understood is that learning styles and intelligences can change due to many factors such as age, technological advancement, environment, culture and personality. Over the years I have become a more of a social learner, enjoying the benefits of the expertise of other people. I have also noticed that depending on what I’m learning, I like information presented in different ways. However, I’m more likely to remember it if I read it.
I have developed a naturalist intelligence after moving to Houston and enjoy gardening; something I would never have considered in my hometown of Preston, United Kingdom. Something that hasn’t changed much in me is probably my linguistic intelligence. I enjoy playing around with language and still prefer to write papers over any other type of assessment.

The role of technology in my learning

Over the last few weeks, I have realized just about how much I rely on technology for my learning; my mind map on Connectivism is a testimony to that. I always knew that I relied on technology but after listing everything, I was truly surprised. Technology has made learning very instant and personalized and that is one of the reasons I rely on it so much. It has also made connecting to people much easier. As a teacher I can connect with other teachers in other school, states and countries. We can share information and collaborate on projects and help each other with problem areas.  I am able to learn from the expertise of others through online professional learning communities and search for information pertaining to my field of work. I am able to access novels using the kindle application on my laptop as well as my smartphone, which means I am able to read more than I previously could. I use technology not only for my formal learning but also for all types of informal learning. Technology also gives me the advantage of choosing the format of the information; I can read a blog or a wiki or I could watch a video on YouTube. I have also noticed that I now consult multiple sources for information rather than relying on just a book or an encyclopedia. Technology has definitely enhanced the learning process for me and helped me to progress at a quicker rate. 

Friday, June 3, 2011


My personal learning network

A reflection

I was truly amazed at my mind map as it really reflects how I have changed as learner.  Had I made this map ten years ago, it would have looked very different. From this I can conclude that technological advancement can really change the way people learn and I seem to be relying a lot more on technology based resources than the traditional print resources. The internet has made it so easy to get hold of information that I feel I no longer need to use the traditional methods, which can be tedious and time consuming.  I can also collect information from a variety of sources and gain knowledge from the expertise of many people. This notion of gathering information through connecting information sources is central to Connectivism (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Bateman, n.d)   and is the subject of this blog post.

I like to use a variety of tools to gather information. If I need information that is credible then I will avoid Wikipedia and search more credible sources, such as educational databases, to gather information. Now I will confess that if it is general knowledge type information I want, and it is only for me, then I will use Wikipedia. I can imagine the shock and horror on your faces, an English teacher admitting to use Wikipedia! Discerning when to use credible and non-credible sources is an extremely important skill in this digital age and one which every digital user should possess. One of the principles of Connectivism is understanding “new information is continually being acquired and the ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital” (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Bateman, n.d). Credible sources are more likely to keep up with new and changing information. They understand the half-life of knowledge phenomenon and ensure that information is updated regularly as “The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months (Siemens, n.d).    

Another source I often like to use is YouTube and I use it both for professional and personal use. Some people may be surprised that I use YouTube for professional information. The advancement of technology has changed our instructional environments and so it is important to understand that “informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks” (Siemens, n.d).
Sometimes I’ll use a combination of reading and visual sources to help me search for information. The speed of gaining the information has also increased as information is available 24/7 and at the click of a button (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Bateman, n.d). Nowadays when I need some information, I know I have plenty of resources that I can tap into for information. Depending on what information I need and why I need it, I will utilize the best possible route to that information. Sometimes I use a combination of resources to obtain the information. For example if I am looking for resources on teaching media literacy then this is a route I might take:

1)      Ask  friends and colleagues through Facebook on books/websites they might have used

2)      Check for recommendations

3)      Read educational blogs about teaching media literacy  for some suggestions

4)      Check and read excerpts from the recommended books on Google Books to see if I like them

5)      Watch YouTube or School Tube videos posted by other teachers on media literacy

6)      Check out Delicious additional links and  resources for  media literacy

Using a variety of sources to gain and share knowledge creates an environment of “cross pollination” (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Bateman, n.d). I think this has contributed vastly to the half-life of knowledge phenomenon. Due to the easy accessibility of information, more people share information, discuss, engage in critical thinking. This then leads to  more people exploring further, enabling them to refute or enhance existing knowledge.

Technology has made networking do easy that I do not even need to leave my seat to gain knowledge. Gone are the days when I would have to see people personally, or talk to them on the phone, for information. Now social networks, web 2.0 and web 3.0 tools have increased the speed and quality information. I can get information from not only those colleagues that I know personally but also those that reside in other cities, states and countries and include people I have never personally met yet through technology we have made a connection (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly Bateman, n.d). This is an important idea as “experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge” (Siemens, n.d).

The many components of Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism still stand but as these theories were formed before technology, or when it was limited, they did not take into account how technology, especially social networking, will impact learning.  The sharing of knowledge is a key component of Connectivism and as my mind map and reflection show, Connectivism is a huge component of my learning process.  Over the years I have learnt to accept that “complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person” (Siemens, n.d). This has really helped to enhance and advance the learning process for me as learning from a variety of people has given me multi faceted and a deeper insight into the topic.


Siemens, George . "elearnspace. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age." elearnspace. everything elearning.. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2011.

 Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Brain theories and implications for instructional designers

For an instructional designer, the function and capacity of the human mind is very important as it has a profound effect on learning. How the brain develops and how it organizes, processes, stores and recalls information has serious implications for teaching and learning. There are many amazing websites on the internet that explore the wonders of the human mind and here are few of my favorites:

John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist who has been studying the human brain and how it organizes information. This website really explores Dr. Medina’s twelve principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Medina and have attended his professional development sessions and witnessed his passion for the workings of the human mind. What I like about this website is that it contains some very good videos that discuss the brain from childhood and through adulthood and the implications it has for learning. Explore the section on attention and Dr. Medina explains that the human mind is not capable of multi-tasking, a controversial idea for today’s learners who like to listen to music, text, surf the internet and write a paper at the same time, and so this poses some interesting questions for instructional designers.  Check out the news section of the website for some very thought-provoking articles.

The learning solutions magazine provides a wealth of information for the instructional designer on how to create effective e-learning courses. This particular article provides specific, research based strategies that the instructional designer can use to develop an effective curriculum. What I like about this article is that it explains clearly the findings of brain research and then translates these into tangible strategies. The article then gives a detailed description of the strategies and how they assist the learner in storing and processing the information. This is definitely worth checking out.

The learning compass website is an informative site about brain research and its effects on education.  Although this website may seem more appropriate for math and science teachers, there are many parts to this site that would apply to any course. My favorite is the chart on research and implications on teaching. There is a very good section on ways people learn; it looks at students from kindergarten all the way through to twelfth grade. This section has some good advice that can be utilized by instructional designers.

An article in the Maricopa Community College publication sparked my interest as it looks at brain based research and whether it is just a fad. This article has some very sound advice for educators on the dangers of implementing research before clinical trials have taken place.  The article then goes on to give a general list of acceptable research findings and implications for educational use.

This is the journal of an associate professor at the Colorado State University. I wanted to include this because she links brain research to online instruction. The journal is very informative about memory and retrieval, learning Styles, and the role of emotion. Each of these sections has some very lucrative strategies that are relevant to online instruction.  There is a section on brain based instructional suggestions that contains good tips for educators.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The ins and outs of instructional design

There is an array of knowledge on the World Wide Web about instructional design and for any beginner stepping into this field, it can be overwhelming. Some of the information is pretty much common sense but there is a wealth of it that can be extremely useful to new, and even veteran, designers. Some of these blogs will appeal to the avid reader and others to the visual learner. All in all there is something for everyone. Instructional design is one of those fields where change is imminent and so it is necessary to keep up to date with theories and trends. Check out the following blogs and web resources:

This e-learning blog really explains what instructional design is all about. The user friendly interface really connects the reader to the blog. It contains a really good video to make a valid point about how instructional designers need to ensure learners know how to make sense of information.  The blog really explores the role of the instructional designer and the information is broken down into sections. Each section is summarized with a key point.  What is really useful about this blog is that it leads to other blogs about instructional design. Some of the ones worth exploring are:

Here’s How to Make Your E-Learning Course Meaningful

The blog also has some excellent links to instructional design resources which leads to some pretty interesting blogs and blog posts. If you’re looking for something user friendly and manageable then this is worth a look. 

This web resource is a very thorough explanation of the ADDIE system. There are various systems that instructional designers can use to create and deliver their course content and ADDIE is one of them. The wonderful thing about this website is the homepage provides an ‘at a glance’ table of ADDIE. Immediately it can be seen how this model can be used from the preplanning stage of the program to the evaluation stage. The website is broken down into pages; each page explores an aspect of ADDIE. What I love particularly about this website is that it leads to many other websites. It covers everything from learning theories to copyright laws. This web resource isn’t just for the novice; even accomplished designers will be surprised at the range of information that can be found.  Do not be put off by the layout of the website; the information certainly makes up for it.

Although the thirty online resources blog is mostly common sense advice, there is an extensive list for the veteran instructional designer. There are some links embedded in the blog. However, some of these do not work but the ones that do, lead to some very valuable resources. The list of resources covers ways to improve learning and also technology that can assist the instructional designer.  It is worth checking out for the resources.

The aligning learning theory with instructional design blog is very appealing for the visual learner as it displays information through a key term cloud, a visual timeline and very informative table that matches different theories to different stages of expertise. The information is broken down into manageable chunks and the blog also leads to other interesting blogs that visual learners will enjoy.

This web resource is for those who want extensive details about instructional technology. It offers links to hundreds of other sites and maybe a good starting point for those who want to look at various learning theories to help design a program. The website also covers the following important areas such as instructional technology. 

Whatever the needs of the instructional designer, these blogs and web resources should keep everyone satisfied.