Reflection on Learning Theories Instruction

I began this class believing that learning styles weighed heavily when evaluating which approach to use in teaching a specific class. After eight weeks of examining the foundation of learning theories and instruction, I will not give students’ learning styles any weight at all. Instead, I will evaluate which learning theory is most appropriate for the material I’m planning to teach, and I will consider what might motivate my students, based on an analysis of my audience. I now understand that it is critical that as an Instructional Designer I strive to provide situated motivation—motivation that is “partly a function of the learning environment” (Ormrod, 2009, p. 224). This includes ensuring, according to the ARCS motivational process (Keller, 1999), that my curriculum (1) captivates my students’ attention, (2) is relevant to their lives, (3) that my interaction with them promotes confidence in their ability to succeed in my class, and (4) that they are satisfied with the material covered, the way it was covered, and their interaction with me as an instructor.

Some of the things I found surprising as I moved through this course included the role of arguing in developing critical thinking skills, the importance of elaboration and social interaction, and the theory of multiple intelligences.

Most of my life I have avoided conflict whenever possible. My husband is the opposite—he taught our children when they were adolescents how to argue either side of any issue. At the time I found this stressful, and I would either try to intervene and stop the conversation or I would leave the room and sometimes the house. They all found it humorous that I couldn’t abide what I considered arguing. A few weeks ago my husband and I were having lunch with three of our grown children, and a discussion started in their old style of debating. After about ten minutes one of my daughters turned her attention to me and said to the others, “Oh no. Mom has her ‘you better stop your arguing right now’ face on.”

I considered for a moment before responding, “I’m fine. You’re just expressing conflicting ideas on a subject, you aren’t arguing. ” They all stared at me for a few minutes as if I’d grown a second head. I believe that was shortly after reading Chapter 6 on the Constructivist Theory. Ormrod et al. emphasizes that from a Constructivist perspective, “The most straightforward recommendations are to involve students actively in their learning and to provide experiences that challenge their thinking and force them to rearrange their beliefs” (2009, p. 188). I’m grateful to my husband that he did this to help our children develop critical thinking skills.

I plan to integrate technology into the curriculum whenever it is the best way to introduce or elaborate on a specific subject. Considering that social interaction is so important, when working with teenagers I would set up a social network page and use it to provide a friendly environment for the exchange of ideas and to encourage elaboration of curriculum.

For the most part I expect to be teaching adults through web-based tutorials. The first class I will teach is in the development stages. Our authors, who are subject matter experts, do not want the production team’s help in writing for the web. My task is to work with my supervisor to write templates that both communicate how to structure web-based tutorials while providing an environment in which to do so. Our goal is to provide them with the tools they need while demonstrating how we can add value to their products. Historically, they work in Word and hand us a long document that is written appropriately for a report (maybe), but not for the web. I am excited about using what I have learned in this class to work with the SMEs to produce excellent material.

 

Reference

Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).

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

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Learning Theories and my Personal Learning Preferences

At this point in my Learning Theories and Instruction course, three things I’ve learned about myself and about learning stand out. The first is that, instead of using flash cards to memorize what I need to learn, I should spend time elaborating on what I’m learning to transfer it to my long-term memory and to make as many “connections” as possible. There might be times when flash cards and the Behaviorist theory are appropriate for what I’m learning, but not often.

The second thing that stands out is that the material I’ve explored during this class validates my preference for learning by researching and solving problems that directly affect my life. Relevance is critical to me, as I have little free time and there are SO many things I want to learn!

The third thing that stands out validates my preference to spend time learning with others—socializing is an important aspect in several of the learning theories, not just the Social Learning Theory. According to Davis et al., with the Constructivist theory learners create meaning in social environments (2008), and making and nurturing connections is critical to Connectivism. I thrive in social environments, especially those that include brainstorming on writing projects. I don’t learn in just one way, and by using different theories in different situations I maximize my learning potential.

Technology plays a critical role in my learning, although my methodology is hybrid: I use what I need from the 21st Century (the Internet, Word processing, my smart phone) without giving up some of the tools that worked for me in the 20th Century, like highlighters. I don’t live close to a good library, so when I do research for myself I do it online, where once I did it at a library. I appreciate that “good” library material is available online, which makes it easier to find solid sources. Even if I’m only looking for verification that certain words (like species) are italicized and capitalized, I search through journals because I know their publishing standards are strict and they are reliable sources.

I still prefer readying hard copy books over electronic books when I’m learning so I can highlight specific passages. Then once I begin writing I lay different articles out on a large table and can easily find each bit of information I need. At work almost all of my research is electronic. If I’m going to write from my research, I usually print it out and use the same methodology I use at home, highlighting and then spreading the articles out when I begin to write.

My smart phone is an important part of this process. I can’t think creatively when I have to block out background noise with words in it such as television. While I research and write I listen to a “Dolphins and Whales” station on Pandora radio. It is my background white music of choice, and it frees my mind for hours at a time.

Once I know what part of my research materials I will use, I locate the electronic copies of my research articles, open a new Word document, and cut and paste from html or PDF to Word and then write around my notes. Eventually I delete everything that doesn’t work, and rearrange information until either I’m satisfied with it or until I run out of time—usually the latter. I look at it as whittling: I pick up a stick (all my research material), see what is waiting to be brought to life within the stick, and cut out everything that isn’t part of the finished vision.

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Connectivism

MindMap5

My network connections

Larger view available at http://www.webspirationpro.com/view/1289322aa243

Several years ago my supervisor introduced me to Delicious, a social bookmarking application. I started using my original account to bookmark web development sites at work so I could spend more time exploring them at home. At work I use two different computers, and home I now have three different computers I might use for homework as well as paying bills, writing, and socializing. This application reduced the frustration I previously felt when trying to find a site that was important enough to save, but I couldn’t remember which computer I was on when I bookmarked it. It also saves me hours of trying to find previously identified information. At the beginning of this class I started a new account specifically for Instructional Design. I will continue to add useful sites throughout all of my classes so I will be able to find what I need wherever I am.

Currently, Walden University Portal, Lynda.com, and U-Learn best facilitate learning for me. I am using the Walden Portal the most because this class is my highest learning priority. U-Learn is a collection of books and lectures available to me at work. We are allowed to download 15 chapters per month. I’ve reached my limit for February already; last week I downloaded a book, Preparing Instructional Objectives by Robert F. Mager, as I am working with subject matter experts (SMEs) to analyze web pages they have written to determine those that have a purpose and answer a need for our clients as opposed to those that just give information. Working from this book I am developing a list of questions for the SMEs that will help answer the question of “So What?” or, “Why is this module of pages important to our overall mission?” Last month I completed a Lynda.com certificate on Time Management, which has helped me be more organized. I expect my new Kindle to be on my list of top digital tools as soon as I get more comfortable with it. As of today Mager’s book is loaded on my Kindle, so whenever I have a bit of time I can work my way through the rest of it.

When I need answers I either go to my bookshelf, Delicious, or Google, depending on what type of answers I need. At work I frequently refer to my hardcopy Chicago Manual of Style and my hardcopy chemical reference book (I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s about four inches thick). If I’ve found the information on a website in the past, I go to my Delicious account to see if I was smart enough to bookmark it. When I Google information, I’ve found that using a combination of search terms is the most efficient way to ensure I have a valid source. For instance, if I want to see if a specific biological term should be italicized (such as B. Anthracis), I add “journal” to the search. Reputable journals are the most likely sources to provide me with consistent, accurate answers. I know enough to know that it probably should be italicized, but not enough to be positive, so I go there looking for confirmation.

If I want to learn more about how my family and friends are doing, I turn to Facebook or my email. I’d rather socialize on the phone, but time and conflicting schedules are a problem, so I use digital tools instead.

My personal network supports the tenets of connectivism as defined by George Siemens in this week’s video, “a learning theory that integrates technology, social networks, and information”. I use technology (my computers) to connect to various social networks (Walden Portal, Facebook, Delicious, Lynda.com, U-Learn, and Linked-In) to learn about many different things. In an online article “Connectivism”, Edmunds and Kelly-Bateman define the principles of this learning theory based on information from Siemens. The principle that resonated the most with me was “Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning”. This is especially true with online education.

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Connectivism

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Week 2: Information Processing Theory and Problem-solving Methods

Week 2

“Brain research and information processing are providing exciting insights into the learning process, inviting us to observe learning as a natural phenomenon…” (Nummela & Rosengren, 1986, p. 50).

In their article, What’s Happening in Students’ Brains May Redefine Teaching, Nummela and Rosengren emphasize the need to develop content that is meaningful and challenging, with an absence of threat to encourage effective learning. They also suggest involving multiple senses and using a story format to emotionally engage students so that “both sides of the brain will participate in the educational process regardless of subject matter” (1986, p. 51). This resonates with me as I learn best through story.

This article describes the teaching methods of Ivan Barzakov, moving sequentially from pre-exposure to exposure, expansion, and re-creation. Barzakov stresses that repeating information in different ways is critical to facilitate long-term storage. It is ironic that, according to Nummela and Rosengren, learning should be looked at as “an expansion of knowledge…and not as the accomplishment of goals to be evaluated and rewarded” (1986, p. 52). Yet teachers today are required to teach to the Test. What our educational system requires is the opposite of how we learn effectively.

This article further goes on to discuss (1) barriers that prevent students from processing information effectively and (2) “downshifting”, which occurs when “higher brain functions of reasoning and problem solving are abandoned; overpowering emotions characterized by the subcortical limbic system or older brain take over” (p. 52). This intrigues me as Asperger’s students frequently have anxiety issues that could cause this downshifting and acting out.

Nummela, R.M. & Rosengren, T.M. (1986). What’s Happening in Students’ Brains May Redefine Teaching. Educational Leadership.

The second article that I found valuable was Effect of Using Problem Solving Method in Teaching Mathematics on the Achievement of Mathematics Students, by Ali, R., et al (2010). This article discusses the merits of problem solving methods rather than traditional teaching methods while teaching mathematics to elementary school children. “Problem based learning is a model which centred on students, develops active and motivated learning, problem solving skills and broad field knowledge” (2010, p. 68). The reason I found this article valuable was because it empowers the students to be active participants in the resolution of problems presented. This makes the the learning process meaningful and increases the effectiveness of long-term storage.

Ali, R., Hakamdad, Akhter, A., Khan, A. (2010). Effect of Using Problem Solving Method in Teaching Mathematics on the Achievement of Mathematics Students. Asian Social Science, 6(2), 67-72.

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Week 2: Additional resources

NOTE to self: More resources to explore.
http://www.designingmlearning.com

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Week 1: Instructional Design Blogs

Week 1: Resource Blogs

As I complete my first week of my first class in Learning Theories and Instruction at Walden University, I am creating this blog as a gathering spot for reference material and notes that I’ll use throughout my courses. It will include references to material on Instructional Design as it relates to both work assignments and designing information for children with Asperger’s.  As this is an accelerated program, I will be on a steep learning curve for the foreseeable future — I’m looking forward to the journey!

Learning Theory Blogs

Blog Site: Blogs About Learning Theory from the University of Scranton

This blog provides an overview of several educational blogs as well as a wealth of links to articles, videos, and blogs that expound on Learning Theory. I expect to add to my blog many more feeds gleaned from this resource.

Blog Site: Learnlets: Clark Quinn’s Learnings about Learning

Clark Quinn, the author of Learnlets, has a PhD in applied cognitive science and broad experience in technology to learning and performance. His latest posting, “Refining Designing” (2013), discusses interweaving practice with resources as part of the learning experience. Quinn is trying to “find ways to represent design that helps reduce our overemphasis on all training being about trying to put everything ‘in the head’…” (“Quinn 2013). What I took away from this posting was that we need to teach our students how to learn, how to find the information they need so they can succeed without memorizing everything. This is important in my workplace as the information needed by the clients is in a constant state of flux. Our clients need to know how to work the tools we provide so they can access the latest information immediately. According to sources quoted by Ertmer and Newby, “Constructivists emphasize the flexible use of pre-existing knowledge rather than the recall of prepackaged schemas” (Ertmer and Newby, 1993, p. 63). This needs to be the emphasis of my work project.

Quinn’s blogroll includes over 40 links to blogs about development, eide neurolearning, elearning technology, informal learning, to name just a few. I could immerse myself for days following his links.

Reference

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.

Asperger’s Blogs

Blog Site: Psychology Today: Asperger’s Diary

I expect this blog to help me better understand the learning challenges of having Asperger’s as I make decisions on which theory best fits each situation in teaching those with this disorder. The purpose of this blog is to help build awareness on what it means to have Asperger’s, and to help readers understand that when the strengths of those with Asperger’s are harnessed, they have a great deal to offer the world. This blog has current, relevant information with links to additional articles and references to books that might be helpful.

The most recent posting, “Shootings, Stigma, and the Myth of Safety”, addresses the damage caused after the Newton shooting as some answered the “why” of this tragedy with one of the first things mentioned in news updates: the shooter, Adam Lanza, allegedly had Asperger’s. According to an article by Jessica Jaglois in NBC12 News Today, a hate group named “Asperger’s Prevention Campaign” popped up on Facebook. They posted “When we reach 50 likes, we will find an autistic kid and set it on fire.” Although this page has been pulled down, it shows the danger of stereotyping and of fear.

Another posting on Soraya’s blog, “When Pride Means Pain”, discusses the impact of environmental factors on her ability to learn. She did well in school during the years when she attended a school where, “I wasn’t forced into a one-size-fits-all academic program. They were able to tailor a program specifically to me, something that allowed me to thrive.” This statement motivates me to dig deeper to discover which attributes of the program helped her to thrive, as I might want to include these attributes into my own plans.

Reference
Jaglois, Jessica. Parents of children with Asperger’s concerned after Newton. NBC12 News Today. Retrieved from (http://www.nbc12.com/story/20386590/woman-with-aspergers-defends-the-condition).

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Quotations

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

“Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams

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