I was surprised by the Constructivist Theory concept that “Learners create their own unique education because learning is based on prior knowledge” as explained by Ormrod in Chapter 1 of our course text. I had a vision of each learner as unique, bringing their unique background of experience to the course; but, I never made the connection that their “take-away” from the course would be unique. What I have learned about learning through this course makes it seem an obvious consequence.
I had a cursory understanding of Vygotsky, and knew nothing of his Zone of Proximal Development, described by Ormrod in Chapter 6 of our course text, and I found it of great value. Like many organized theories, the premise is very basic: to be effective, lessons cannot be too easy or too difficult, but the concept is quite complex. According to Vygotsky we must gauge a person’s educational level when they enter the course and design instruction based on the information garnered. Thus creating questions such as: how to gauge their educational level, and how to meet their individual learning needs when teaching in a group setting.
Learning about how transfer occurs helped me understand my personal learning process in a deeper way. For example: Cognitive Theory says that learning occurs when a learner understands how to apply knowledge in different contexts. I experienced this at times when I have felt confident that I learned a concept and moved on to learning something else. But then I was shown the same concept in a different context and was surprised to experience the feeling of realization that comes with knowing something more deeply.
When connecting learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and learner motivation you find that the connection-lines cross each other and the ending point becomes the starting point. Using the example of making a pumpkin pie: you might start with educational technology: a video of pie making. Then realize that you need to use relevance as motivation: a promise that the course will culminate in the creation of an actual pie. Now you notice some learners are not paying close attention and you consider learning styles: maybe some of them need to manipulate the pie ingredients as they progress in their learning so you make breaks in the video to allow them to physically process the information as it is presented. The lesson is still not achieving the defined outcome so you decide to make a ZPD assessment: you find that many of the learners lack knowledge of the terminology you are using, so you employ Behaviorism Theory and include an interactive puzzle where they draw a line from the name of a cooking utensil to the picture of that utensil. You progress through the course design in this manner until you arrive at the final step in the lesson, creation of a pie. As demonstrated in this example, there are numerous connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and learner motivation and when designing instruction, they can enter the process in any order.
I feel that this course has provided me with a valuable foundation for designing instruction that includes processes for understanding the learner and thus creating effective teaching tools.
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.