Reflections on EDUC 6115-1

It has been eight intense weeks for me. I’ve learned a lot and have a deeper appreciation for learning theories and their role in the process of learning and instruction. I think the biggest surprise over the period was how the new information changed my view of how I learned. When initially asked to diagram my learning network I honestly thought it would be small. As I started to list my connections I realized how extensive my network was and how truly dependent I was on it. I found that my conviction on which theories best explained how I learn was easily swayed once I was exposed to new theories such as connectivism and adult learning theory. I am now certain that no one theory explains how I learn, they all collectively explain the learning process and in some cases seek to build on existing knowledge about learning. Even more surprising was the role that motivation plays for the adult learner.

Schunk, Pintrich, and Meece (2008) defines motivation as “the process whereby goal-directed activity is instigated and sustained”. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic (within the learner) and extrinsic (external factors). Before starting this course, I erroneously had the view that all I needed was intrinsic motivation. ARCS motivational design process put forward by Keller (1987) provides a systematic approach to incorporate motivation in an online course design. Keller focuses on four areas: Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction. “Research has demonstrated that each of these elements promote learner persistence and ultimately, mastery of e-learning content” (Marshall & Wilson, 2013). My rocky road with this module proves Keller right. Initially I was upbeat and eager to learn, as my intrinsic motivation waned I believe the motivation designed in the course took over. When the bulk of work left me feeling like I was about to drown, I didn’t. I found that extra push to complete each assignment. When the final week came and I was presented with ARCS I was completely lost, I was interacting with this for the first time and for the life of me after reading the assigned literature I just did not get it. I spent countless hours researching and reading more on the approach until I could final say “yes, I think I have it now”. I cannot identify one particular thing that kept me going, but the fact that I’m at the eighth week and doing this reflection suggests that I made it through.

My experience has taught me the importance of motivation in the courses I will eventually design. As Marshall and Wilson (2013) stated so eloquently: “learner motivation is an important element of any instructional endeavor”. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) reveals that motivation increases an individual’s energy and activity level; directs an individual toward certain goals; promotes initiation of certain activities and persistence in those activities as well as affects the learning strategies and other cognitive processed an individual brings to bear on a task. The authors further explains that students who are intrinsically motivated, as opposed to extrinsically motivated, perform better in the learning environment. Despite this, they maintain the importance of extrinsic motivation and further explains that a particular motivation can be both instrinsic and extrinsic. There may be cases too where extrinsic motivation results in intrinsic rewards.

This course has further taught me that learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation have a symbiotic relationship. While each stand independently, they all rely on each other to work in a learning environment. If I consider adaptive learning technologies (educational technology) as an example, they rely on learning theories (constructivism, cognitive learning theory, behaviorism and connectivism), information is usually presented using varying styles (text, graphics, audio, video and music) and motivation (extrinsic and intrinsic rewards) is built into the design to assist learners with mastering the content.

My future as an Instructional Designer will most certainly be shaped by what I’ve learned these past eight weeks. The creation of effective instructions must consider what the learner outcomes are. One must bring to bear on the design the various learning theories and how best to structure the lesson for best retention. I will also include a variety of media and activities to aid the learner with understanding and understanding in a way that is meaningful to them. My design will also incorporate motivational tactics to gain the learner attention and keep them attentive throughout the course, demonstrate course relevance and build their confidence all in an effort to ensure their success.

References
Marshall, J., & Wilson, M. (2013, October). Motivating e-Learners: Application of the ARCS Model to e-Learning for San Diego Zoo Global’s Animal Care Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.jaidpub.org/: http://www.jaidpub.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/JAIDOctober2013MarshallWilson.pdf

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

Schunk, D., Pintrich, P., & Meece, J. (2008). Motivation in Education: Theory, Research, and Applications. Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall.

Fitting the Pieces Together

It has been 7 long weeks of learning about Learning Theories and learning styles, how they explain learning and can be applied to the learning environment. I’ve reviewed cognitive learning theory, constructivism, adult learning, connectivism, social learning and behaviorism. I should state upfront that I’ve looked at most of these theories before, adult learning and connectivism would be the only new theories, so this was not expected to be a difficult exercise. During the first week of our class I was asked to identify the learning theory that best explained how I learned. At this point in time I was 100% certain that I learned best through constructivism. While instructing my students I also tend to use this along with behaviorist approach to learning, mostly defining the outcomes and crafting instructions to ensure these behaviors are displayed at the end of instruction.

After 7 weeks and several resources on learning theories I think I must reassess my views. Why is this important? Kemp (1977) argues that successful transfer of knowledge is aided through an understanding of the principles of learning. So, if I want to be a better learner and teacher I must understand how I learn and how my students learn.

What came as a surprise to me is that at current day I am confused! It is obvious to me some theories are meant to build on others and expand the thinking. However, when I reviewed the theories I am no longer as certain as I was a few weeks ago. The material covered has left me with a melting pot of theories and information that I’m not certain I’ve made sense of.

I think the best way to identify my learning style is then to identify the things that matter most to me as a learner.

  • I tend to pull from my prior experiences and knowledge
  • While it’s not extremely important to use new knowledge into my work environment, the information must have some relevance for me and should generally increase the body of knowledge I currently possess.
  • I learn through a variety of technologies, people and resources and frequently add to this network
  • Any new knowledge I gain is usually reviewed and cross checked before incorporating in existing schemas
  • I like learning new things and challenging myself to accomplish just a little bit more
  • I thrive on a challenge and sometimes need intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to continue
  • I also learn vicariously through observation of others and watching videos. In my observation of others, I tend to review the situation to catalog all important variables and pull out this knowledge when the situation requires it

I find it difficult to identify one theory that best describes how I learn. My new knowledge on learning theories does suggest that adult learning theory best explains how I acquire and utilize new information. This theory incorporates principles from cognitivism, constructivism, connectivism and social learning which all explains how I learn.

As convoluted as this may be for some, I’m going to add to this confusion by saying that my learning style is just as complex. For the uninitiated, learning styles are the ways in which the learner generally approach different learning tasks. Everyone has a mix of learning styles that are changeable dependent on the concept and preference and there is no right mix (Advanogy.com, 2015). This is perhaps also true for learning theories. I believe Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler (2009) said it best, “the world can be constructed in many different ways, so no theory has a lock on the truth”.

In spite of the confusing view of theories and styles I can happily report that my dependence on technology has not changed. I am still heavily dependent on technology for most of my daily tasks; from home, to work, to school. My tablet, phone and laptop are my tools of choice for searching and reviewing information on the web. My news, entertainment and education all revolve around these tools. The dark ages will certainly be the result if one or all of these devices fail me one of these days.

References

Advanogy.com . (2015, June 21). Overview of Learning Styles. Retrieved from Learning-Styles-Online.com: http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/index.php

Cassidy, S. (2004, August). Learning Styles: An overview of theories, models and measures. Educational Psychology, 24(4), 419-444.

Kemp, J. E. (1977). Instructional design (2nd ed.). Belmont, California: Fearon Publishers, Inc.

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

Making my network work

I have a curious mind! I thirst for knowledge and generally pursue this relentlessly until I find suitable answers. One random thought will stay with me all day until I can find the time to do the necessary research to address it. I usually start my search at Google then proceed from there to look at websites, blogs or through books that have more information. My laptop, tablet or smart phone are usually never too far away as one of these are my tools to search the internet for new information.

Let’s take a look at my learning process for a few minutes. Let’s say for example, I’m a new employee and we have a vacancy at my office that must be filled. I’d first read through the policies related to recruitment then speak with my HR Manager to get further information. Once we have possible candidates it’s time to prepare for the interviews. A review of the job description and applicants’ resumes would now need to be done. As a newbie, I’ll need help with interview questions so I turn to blogs, websites, my HR RSS feeds and textbooks. After the interviews I speak with my manager to get some feedback on my performance. This is what Siemens (2006) calls a learning network. Siemens defines these as “structures that we create in order to stay current and continually acquire, experience, create, and connect new knowledge”. They also “exist within our minds in connecting and creating patterns of understanding”. Learning requires the connection of several nodes (information sources) in your learning network and knowledge may reside not only in humans but machine and is facilitated by technology (Siemens, 2006).

Over the years my learning network has certainly evolved. Years ago new information could only be acquired in the classroom, from family and friends or reading through tomes in my local library. As computers got cheaper and Internet became widely available in Jamaica my network slowly started to evolve. No longer was I dependent solely on what I learned in a classroom, I could now feed my almost insatiable need for knowledge through websites and other online resources. Back in the early days Yahoo’s directory search was my first point of reference, I could find almost anything there. Now my go to is Google. As my career took me in several directions my network evolved even more. From year to year the resources I relied on would change and so too would the knowledge I needed.

Connnectivism suggests that learning is done in a networked environment. Davis, Edmunds, and Kelly-Bateman (2012) further notes that learning and knowledge “rests in diversity of opinions”. The theory speaks nothing of the construction of knowledge nor does it specifically address the role of experience in learning. I agree that I do learn through my vast network of people, technology and resources. However, the information I gain through this network is usually assessed and not necessarily taken wholesale and as facts. I usually take care to review several resources and compare, contrast and evaluate information to determine what should be included in my new knowledge base on my experience and the experience of others. Given this I believe that connectivism does not completely explain how I learn. I learn best through a combination of constructivism, connectivism and adult learning.

References

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2012, January 26). Connectivisim. Retrieved from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Connectivism

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Lulu.com.