I was interested to see what George would come up with re the relationship between learning theories and PLE/PLNs. The Moodle discussion forums have been much quieter – but perhaps this is because it is Week 4 of the course. Dave Cormier has posted somewhere – I think – that this is a hard week in a MOOC – probably made even harder by the subject of learning theories 🙂
I wouldn’t claim to know a lot about learning theories and certainly not all the learning theories that George mentioned, but I do know that they have strongly influenced my life as a teacher. For me, learning theories inform the way I teach. They are perspectives that I take according to the context/situation I find myself in; I use them to inform my teaching according to my own and my learners’ needs. So for example:
I find myself usually opposed to behaviourism, e.g. I do not want my learners to ‘jump through hoops’. I do not want them to think only about the qualification, but to learn for its own sake. On the other hand I am realistic enough to know that their qualifications are important and that they need them – also I know that whilst I might do everything to encourage intrinsic motivation, they also need extrinsic motivation – particularly young children, who love those gold stars, but also adults who respond to those motivational strokes. With enough ‘rewards’, we can encourage even the most reluctant learners to reach their/our goal and they and we are satisfied and happy.
However, there are many occasions when I not only want my learners to simply achieve a given outcome, but also to think about how they have arrived at the outcome. An example would be to ask children to explain how they arrived at a given answer to a mathematical problem/calculation. I have always found this fascinating – if you ask a number of different children to explain how they each arrived at the solution to a given calculation/problem, they are all likely to have come to the answer differently. This cognitivist approach also helps children who get the answer wrong – as they begin to examine their own thinking.
As a science teacher (in the past) I was always interested in the constructivist approach to teaching and learning. This approach, for me, acknowledged that learners have prior experiences which influence how they think about new learning experiences. In the case of misconceptions, which are extremely prevalent in science education, learners need to deconstruct their misconceptions and reconstruct their thinking in the light of their new learning. In science teaching this usually involves a practical activity in which learners’ misconceptions are physically/mentally challenged by the evidence before them. For example, if a learner sees a metal ball and a polystyrene ball of the same shape and volume, dropped from the same height, reach the ground at the same time, then their misconception that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects is challenged.
Behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivist approaches can all be used with individual learners. They apply to the individual’s behaviour or individual learning. But in all my teaching there has very often (but not exclusively) been an acknowledgement that people learn from each other. This has involved learners in communities of practice, group activities and collaborative learning and has been context dependent. These social contructivist approaches engage the learner in development of knowledge and personal identity as they grow as much through their relationships with others as they do through engagement with the concepts being taught/learned. As George said today in his presentation – Week 4: George Siemens – Complex Knowledge & PLE/Ns – learning is socially negotiated and developed.
So where does this leave connectivism? Again according to George – in his presentation today, connectivism is driven by network formation – growing and pruning connections. The spectrum of learning from a connectivist view involves resonance, synchronicity, wayfinding, amplification, learning/knowledge symmetry. A while back I wrote another blog post about connectivism as a learning theory – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/some-notes-on-connectivism/ in preparation for the Networked Learning Conference and in an attempt to understand connectivism as a learning theory and how it be useful from a teaching perspective.
According to George a theory of learning should
- Explain what’s happening
- Predict what could happen
- Be a foundation for action
- Be a foundation for preparing for future needs
All the theories mentioned above seem to fulfil these requirements, including connectivism. They all seem to be useful for providing differing perspectives according to specific contexts. I definitely wouldn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because connectivism, PLEs and PLNs have come along.