This blog post relates to my study of CCK11 and the study of learning theory.
One of the week 1 readings is a document titled “What is Connectivism?” George Siemens uses Ertmer’s and Newby’s “five definitive questions to distinguish learning theory” framework to produce a table comparing and contrasting Connectivism with 4 other prominent learning theories: Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism.
I found this to be quite helpful in making sense of learning theories.
While I have studied, albeit in a very small capacity these other learning theories, it occurs to me that in some ways and in some contexts, each of these learning theories makes sense.
For instance, taking a look at how learning occurs in behaviourism, the idea of learning being a black-box and being focused on observable behaviour makes sense. How do you determine learning without some observable action? Kind of reminds me of the expression “does a bear shit in the woods?” Everyone assumes so, but do we really know for sure? 🙂 Yet, if you look at Constructivism, learning occurs socially and meaning is created by each learner. This too makes sense to me. When I say it makes sense, it is something that resonates with me and fits with my experiences – previous patterns in my life. I’m sure others will have different resonances with this matrix. I’m interested to hear which parts of the matrix matches their life experiences if you are comfortable sharing as a comment?
If I work my way through the list, there seems very little amongst the learning theories that appear untrue and does not connect with my life experiences. Some may take precedence over others, depending on the context, but most seem valid.
Taking a step back, does it make sense to have learning theories, or to state “this is how we learn?” It’s a big call. Beyond the chemical/physical exchanges and reactions that occur within one’s grey matter, is it really definable? Are thoughts, ideas; is learning “real”? I believe context has a vital bearing on how we learn and context, particularly in today’s society is so incredibly diverse, with infinite possibilities. Is there a taxonomy for learning contexts? Perhaps there is, I shall googleith and find out. I’ll make a prediction in saying that if there is a taxonomy, it will be of formally structured learning only, and exclude informal, spontaneous learning. But always happy to be proven wrong – what do I know? 🙂
Are all learning theories both right, and wrong at the same time? I blogged previously about complexity in teaching and my uncertainty about complexity in learning. Perhaps context is what brings about complexity in both teaching and learning?
Can any of these learning theories be proven right, or wrong? I am guessing not otherwise theories would have been proven or disproven by now. This is a social science, and so there are no absolutes. In which case, is all this discussion of learning theories just naval-gazing and meaningless?
Note, this is a real question (not rhetorical) – I don’t know the answer, but I wonder why we try to categorise/frame/conceptualise/organise and all the other verbs when perhaps its just a futile exercise. Or maybe I have just invented the defeatism learning theory. 🙂
Next, my discussion of the big bang theory. 🙂