Reflection – Learning Theories and Instruction. . . . . .

Various scholars on Education, both past and present, have regarded Education as a continuous, ongoing learning experience intertwined with our daily lives.  Lindeman, E. (1926) – “….education is life—not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living.”  The Meaning of Adult Education. (p. 6).  Siemens, G. (2006) – “Learning is continual.  It is not an activity that occurs outside of our daily lives.  We have shifted from life stopping when we learn; going to school for two-four years, while not working….to learning in synch with life; constant, ongoing—accretion level.“ Knowing Knowledge (p.47).   Dewey, J. (1916) – “From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in school comes from his inability to utilize the experience he gets outside while on the other hand he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning in school. That is the isolation of the school—its isolation from life.” Meridian, A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal.  The common theme among these scholars, Education is not nor should it be a separate entity from other aspects of our lives is an affirmation of my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction, and of my own view on what education is or should be.  In the following paragraphs I discuss four components related to my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction:  1) surprising or striking observations about how people learn, 2) how understanding of my own learning process has deepened, 3) the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation, and 4) how this course will help me further my career as an Instructional Designer.

What I found strikingWhat really surprised me was the extent to which the psychology of Behaviorism (particularly Operant Conditioning) is deeply rooted not only in education but also in other aspects of society; businesses, government, religion institutions, and even in family structures.  Dan Pink in his book Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us notes, “…other animals also respond to rewards and punishments, but only humans have proved able to channel this drive to develop everything from contract law to convenience stores.” (p. 17).  He further goes on to say “…this general approach remained intact—because it was, after all, easy to understand, simple to monitor, and straightforward to enforce.” (p. 19).  Despite the reality that every person is different and that each one has a unique ability, style for learning, and personality, I am amazed at how we have progressed this far in education by adhering to (mostly) this conformity mode of learning.  This demonstrates the persistence and tenacious nature of human beings in trying to satisfy their curiosity, and their needs (in this case, those obtained via education).   While the Behaviorism approach has served us well in the past, and is still applicable to some aspects of society today, clearly when it comes to education I view it as the least effective theory.  As I have discovered through this course (in numerous sources related to education), my sentiment is also shared by many scholars (including those I referenced in this paper), educators, as well as parents—and fortunately, changes are taking place in the educational ecology.   One example is The Big Picture Learning—whose mission is “…to lead vital changes in education, both in the United States and internationally, by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized schools that work tandem with the real world of the greater community.”   Another example is the Sudbury Valley School in Farmington, Massachusetts that promotes Individuality and Democracy as a way of life.

Understanding of my personal learning process — Priorto this course, unaware of any learning theories or styles, I adopted to whatever mode of instruction was presented to me at different stages of my life.  In the educational setting, I learned strictly through rote memorization.  Although I did very well, in terms of grades, very little of what I learned in school (undergraduate college) applied to my professional or personal life.  I viewed the process of my education as a task to be endured. Today, studying at Walden, and having a greater understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction, I have come to view learning as a relevant—applicable to real life situation, and a joyous journey.  I have discovered that the principles of Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogy—self-directed learning, and autonomy heighten my motivation to learn.  (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith). (2009).  And as a self-directed learner, I seek the guidance of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) when needed.  Vygotsky, L. (1896-1934).  I now recognize the effectiveness and importance of each learning theory and style.  There is no one best theory for everything—each serves differently in different learning situations.  However, one that resonates with me the most is Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory.  The MI theory posits that humans possess various intelligences, (seven to nine intelligences) and that it is “….the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences.”  Howard Gardner in Armstrong, T. (2009).  Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. (p. 5).  As I noted in Week Six’s discussion, what appeals to me about the MI theory is its potential in fostering individuality in the learning environment.  I believe that I am most creative, and learn effectively when I feel free to be who I am, when I am able to apply my intelligence(s).  In addition, exposure to various intelligences of others in a Multiple Intelligence theory learning environment can further enhance my learning experience.

Connections between learning strategies, learning styles, educational technology, and motivationLearning Theories are strategies that are “…a source of verified instructional strategies, tactics, and techniques.  Knowledge of a variety of such strategies is critical when attempting to select an effective prescription for overcoming a given instructional problem.”  Ertmer & Newby (1993). (p. 51).  Each learning theory serves different learning situations.  Behaviorism is best for learning that requires memorization.  Cognitivism serves us well in critical thinking.  In Constructivism we look for meaningfulness, and in Social Learning for real world learning.  Connectivism opens the door for network learning while Adult Learning focuses on self-direction.  In addition to understanding of the learning theories and their purposes, Instructional Designers need to recognize the different learning styles of each learner.  Dunn and Perrin (1994) described learning styles as “the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, and retain new and difficult information.  That interaction occurs differently for each individual.”  Gilbert, J. E., & Swanier, C. A., (2008) Learning Styles: How Do They Fluctuate?  Some learners are visual while others favor verbal.  Some learn by reflecting and yet others by acting.  Understanding the learning styles is essential for Instructional Designers in identifying their learners’ preferences, and thereby, designing instructions accordingly.  When learners’ preferences are addressed in a learning environment the learners are more likely to feel encouraged and motivated to learn.  To further facilitate learner’s motivation Instructional Designers can incorporate the Keller’s ARCS Model in their design.  In this model, the design includes elements that: attract the learner’s Attention, has Relevance to the learner, build learner’s Confidence, and lead to learner Satisfaction.  Specifically, the ARCS motivational design process includes: “knowing and identifying the elements of human motivation, analyzing audience characteristics to determine motivational requirements, identifying characteristics of instructional materials and processes that stimulate motivation, selecting appropriate motivational tactics, and applying and evaluating appropriate tactics.”  Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design.

Educational technology is essential in facilitating learning.  From the quill and parchment of the 6th Century, to the typewriter of the 20th Century, to the iPad of the 21st Century, technology continues to play a crucial role in the learning environment.  The types of technology application may vary from one theory to another and from one style to another.  But primarily educational technology (in the 21st Century) enables learners to access information, and to communicate with other learners and instructors.  In an online program, technology is the means by which the learning itself is conducted—learning will not be possible without it.  It is therefore imperative for Instructional Designers to ensure the online program design is simple, organized, and learner friendly.

Furthering my career in the field of Instructional DesignLearning Theories and Instruction has enhanced my knowledge in several ways:  I have overcome my prejudice towards the “blog” realm, and my anxiety over “blogging” and in fact come to enjoy the task a great deal.  The discussion format of the class has provided me the opportunity to voice my opinion in a scholarly manner.  My communication skills—written and verbal have improved.  And I have gained exposure to educational technologies I never knew existed, such as, the Mind Mapping tool MindNode.  In addition, as a result of the class assignments in this course, I have discovered invaluable learning resources—websites like Thirteen Ed Online, for example.   I have gained exposure to some ordinary and extraordinary people in the field of education, the psychology of motivation, and the Brain.  One example is Jill Bolte Taylor, the Brain researcher who studied her own stroke as it happened.   Most importantly however, this course has strengthened my belief that we are all different, each of us learns differently, and that the collective uniqueness of learners makes for an authentic learning environment.  As an Instructional Designer, I realize that I need to transcend any prejudices I may have towards the abilities, challenges, or styles of my learners in order to design instructions that address each learner’s needs effectively.  In this course I have been able to identify my own learning process and preferences.  As I noted in Week One’s discussion, understanding my own learning process is important in order to: 1-reinforce those which produce optimal learning experience or enhance or change those that do not; and 2-recognize the similarities and differences between my learning process and those of others (perhaps those I may instruct in the future), so that I can design learner-centered instructions.  As I further my career in the field of Instructional Design, I will no doubt be incorporating my newly acquired skills, the concepts of learning theories and instructions (along with common sense), and educational technologies to effectively design instructions.

In this paper, I have addressed four components related to my understanding of Learning Theories and Instruction: 1) what I found surprising or striking observations about how people learn, 2) how understanding of my own learning process has deepened, 3) the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation, and 4) how this course will help me further my career as an Instructional Designer.  I started this paper emphasizing the notion that Education is not (or should not be) separate from the other aspect of our lives.  For education to be in synch with other aspects of a learner’s life, the learning environment must be structured in a manner that fosters the “crystallization” of each individual learner’s intelligences.  Armstrong, T. (2000).  Theories of Multiple Intelligences.  To support this notion, I have addressed the factors an Instructional Designer must consider, and approaches he/she can take in designing an environment that provides optimal learner experience.  The most important factor an Instructional Designer must consider is the learning style differences of his/her learners.  (Laureate Education Inc., 2009).  By identifying the learner’s style, the Designer can tailor instructions to the individual learner by employing the applicable theories and/or strategies.  Moreover, to foster learner’s motivation, the designer can incorporate Keller’s ARCS model in the instructions.

As I conclude my reflection, I want to share a quote from Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Where my Instructional Design career will take me exactly I cannot be certain.  Wherever it may be though, I look forward to becoming a contributor in the positive transformation of our world.

Thank you for reading and best wishes to all my classmates.



Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (2nd ed.).  (Chap. 1-2).  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum.

Behaviorism –

Big Picture Learning –

Cognitivism –

Constructivism –

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

Retrieved March 25, 2012.

Dewey, J. (1916) – quote retrieved from Meridian – A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal, Authentic Learning: A Practical Introduction & Guide for

Implementation. Retrieved, April 21, 2012

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. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Journals.

Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed  – Retrieved April 21, 2012

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

Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Paper presented to the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.    Retrieved April 1, 2012

Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design –  Retrieved April 21, 2012.

Knowles, M. (n.d.). Andragogy –

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). Learning Styles and Strategies (video).

Lindeman, E. C. (1926). The Meaning of Adult Education. (p. 6).

Mind Node (Mind Mapping application) –

Operant Conditioning –

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. (pp. 17, 19). New York, NY:  Riverhead Books

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. (p. 47).  Retrieved April 21, 2012

Social Learning –

Sudbury Valley Schools –

Taylor, J. B. (2008). Stroke of Insight – Ted presentation video –

Thirteen Ed Online –

Vygotsky, L. (1896-1934) –  McLeod, S. A. (2007). Simply Psychology; Vygotsky. Retrieved 22 April 2012, from


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