0
What are learning theories
good for?
James Atherton
(FSLTHE14: Oxford Brookes University)
10 February 2014
Plan of session
 Introduction—getting to know a bit about your teaching
 Short presentation on some underlying issues, w...
Anchor point
In your particular
 Discipline
 Setting
 Students
…which of the theories are likely to be of
most use to y...
In what discipline do you mainly teach?
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.

STEM
Social sciences
Arts and Humanities
Languages
Fine/perf...
In what discipline do you mainly teach?
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.

STEM
Social sciences
Arts and Humanities
Languages
Fine/perf...
In what discipline do you mainly teach?
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.

STEM
Social sciences
Arts and Humanities
Languages
Fine/perf...
How would you describe your familiarity with the
different varieties of learning theory?
A.
B.
C.
D.

Close, quite knowled...
Aspiration
 To help you locate learning theories in
relation to each other, so you can
evaluate their relevance to your i...
Argument
 The problem of how to construe
“learning”
 Status of “learning theories”
 Evaluating their range of convenien...
No promises, but any particular points you would
like to see covered? Or at least pointed at?

These were some of
the sugg...
This is “learning”
This is “learning”

The software converted this into
a neat circle—which spoiled the
point!
It’s the haziness and
amorphou...
How big is the pie?

Are we confining the
idea to what happens
in formal “learning and
teaching” situations?
Or does it embrace all
kinds of informal
learning—some of
which we may not
realise is happening?

Or is it this big?
Let’s say it is this big…

This is just a
stipulative
definition.
Do we slice it this way?
Formal learning

Informal learning
But what important
features does a theory
need to capture?
Or this way?

Bloom’s
domains,
of course

Cognitive

Affective

Psycho-motor
So theories of learning are not like
scientific theories, which explain
and predict phenomena—they are
more perspectives o...
What implications do such limitations have
for your use of theory to inform practice?
"Scientific"

Behavioural

Bare bones

e.g. Animal models

Skills
Organism

Learning
Theories

Cognitive

Differences
Capa...
"Scientific"

Behavioural

Bare bones

e.g. Animal models

Skills
Organism

Learning
Theories

Cognitive

07/02/2014 - v4
...
"Scientific"

Behavioural

Bare bones

e.g. Animal models

Skills
Organism

Learning
Theories

Cognitive

Differences
Capa...
This axis is one
fairly obvious set
of differences…

"Scientific"

Behavioural

Bare bones

e.g. Animal models

Skills
Org...
Individual








Teacher-focused
Content
Proactive
Prescriptive
Convergent
Planned
Etc…
But there are
many differ...
Individual
I’m arbitrarily
going to collapse
all those
alternatives, into
one:

Content

Process

Social
So where would
Individual

Content

you

locate the
theories we have
so briefly
discussed?

Process

Social
"Scientific"

Behavioural

Bare bones
Skills
Organism

Learning
Theories

Cognitive

B

e.g. Animal models

Differences
Ca...
Individual

Content

This is where the participants
located the theories
(identified by initial) on the
model. As you can ...
Teacher focus

Conceptual
Change

Information
Transmission

Student focus
11 February 2014
We briefly related the
model to one
developed by Prosser
and Trigwell (1999)

Teacher focus

Conceptual
Change

Informatio...
Teacher focus
14
12

Promotes
surface
learning

10
8
6
4

Conceptual-24 -20 -16 -12 -8
-32
-28
Change
Opportunities
for de...
So?
 Horses for courses
 Each theory will direct attention to a
different aspect of the process
 Find whichever is most...
www.learningandteaching.info
What are learning theories good for?
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What are learning theories good for?

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  • Range of convenience is George Kelly’s term.
  • Bottom right is Rameses fighting the Hittites at the Battle of Khadesh c. 1900 BCE
  • Bottom right is Rameses fighting the Hittites at the Battle of Khadesh c. 1900 BCE
  • Transcript of "What are learning theories good for?"

    1. 1. What are learning theories good for? James Atherton (FSLTHE14: Oxford Brookes University) 10 February 2014
    2. 2. Plan of session  Introduction—getting to know a bit about your teaching  Short presentation on some underlying issues, with discussion opportunity  Brief introduction to broad types/families of theory  Opportunity for discussion  Relating types of theory to your practice, and issues they pose.  Summary and close This was a live webinar to support week 3 of a MOOC. Some of the material which only makes sense in that context has been removed
    3. 3. Anchor point In your particular  Discipline  Setting  Students …which of the theories are likely to be of most use to you?
    4. 4. In what discipline do you mainly teach? A. B. C. D. E. F. G. STEM Social sciences Arts and Humanities Languages Fine/performing arts Professional studies Other The reason for this question was to flag the significance of different academic/ professional disciplines for deciding which approach to teaching is most applicable.
    5. 5. In what discipline do you mainly teach? A. B. C. D. E. F. G. STEM Social sciences Arts and Humanities Languages Fine/performing arts Professional studies Other The reason for this question was to flag the significance of different academic/ professional disciplines for deciding which approach to teaching is most applicable. So STEM disciplines are “hard”, convergent, and privilege precision. Fine/performing arts on the other hand value freedom and creativity.
    6. 6. In what discipline do you mainly teach? A. B. C. D. E. F. G. STEM Social sciences Arts and Humanities Languages Fine/performing arts Professional studies Other Most of the participants selfidentified as B, C or F The reason for this question was to flag the significance of different academic/ professional disciplines for deciding which approach to teaching is most applicable. So STEM disciplines are “hard”, convergent, and privilege precision. Fine/performing arts on the other hand value freedom and creativity.
    7. 7. How would you describe your familiarity with the different varieties of learning theory? A. B. C. D. Close, quite knowledgeable Recognise them when mentioned Vague—remind me Non-existent Numbers were fairly equally divided between A and C with a few Bs
    8. 8. Aspiration  To help you locate learning theories in relation to each other, so you can evaluate their relevance to your interests and practices.
    9. 9. Argument  The problem of how to construe “learning”  Status of “learning theories”  Evaluating their range of convenience  Applying that to your interests and practice.
    10. 10. No promises, but any particular points you would like to see covered? Or at least pointed at? These were some of the suggestions which appeared on the whiteboard
    11. 11. This is “learning”
    12. 12. This is “learning” The software converted this into a neat circle—which spoiled the point! It’s the haziness and amorphousness of the concept which make it so difficult to conceptualise
    13. 13. How big is the pie? Are we confining the idea to what happens in formal “learning and teaching” situations?
    14. 14. Or does it embrace all kinds of informal learning—some of which we may not realise is happening? Or is it this big?
    15. 15. Let’s say it is this big… This is just a stipulative definition.
    16. 16. Do we slice it this way? Formal learning Informal learning But what important features does a theory need to capture?
    17. 17. Or this way? Bloom’s domains, of course Cognitive Affective Psycho-motor
    18. 18. So theories of learning are not like scientific theories, which explain and predict phenomena—they are more perspectives or models, which draw attention to (“privilege” in the jargon) certain selected aspects of the topic.
    19. 19. What implications do such limitations have for your use of theory to inform practice?
    20. 20. "Scientific" Behavioural Bare bones e.g. Animal models Skills Organism Learning Theories Cognitive Differences Capacity Maturation 07/02/2014 - v4 Humanistic Motivation Values Transformation Social Context Communities of Practice
    21. 21. "Scientific" Behavioural Bare bones e.g. Animal models Skills Organism Learning Theories Cognitive 07/02/2014 - v4 Humanistic These are the major families Differencestheories as you will find of Capacity them in most textbooks. We’ll just go through the Maturation kinds of theories they are, rather than their substantive Motivation content Values Transformation Social Context Communities of Practice
    22. 22. "Scientific" Behavioural Bare bones e.g. Animal models Skills Organism Learning Theories Cognitive Differences Capacity Maturation 07/02/2014 - v4 Humanistic Motivation Values Transformation Social Context Communities of Practice
    23. 23. This axis is one fairly obvious set of differences… "Scientific" Behavioural Bare bones e.g. Animal models Skills Organism Learning Theories Cognitive Individual Differences Capacity Maturation 07/02/2014 - v5 Humanistic Motivation Values Transformation Social Context Communities of Practice Social
    24. 24. Individual        Teacher-focused Content Proactive Prescriptive Convergent Planned Etc… But there are many different ways in which other axes can be described  Student-focused  Process  Reactive  Facilitative  Divergent  Opportunistic  Etc. Social
    25. 25. Individual I’m arbitrarily going to collapse all those alternatives, into one: Content Process Social
    26. 26. So where would Individual Content you locate the theories we have so briefly discussed? Process Social
    27. 27. "Scientific" Behavioural Bare bones Skills Organism Learning Theories Cognitive B e.g. Animal models Differences Capacity C Maturation 07/02/2014 - v4 Humanistic Motivation Values Transformation H Make the letters big if you can Social Context Communities of Practice S
    28. 28. Individual Content This is where the participants located the theories (identified by initial) on the model. As you can see, the conversation was quite animated… It largely came down to underlying values Process Social
    29. 29. Teacher focus Conceptual Change Information Transmission Student focus 11 February 2014
    30. 30. We briefly related the model to one developed by Prosser and Trigwell (1999) Teacher focus Conceptual Change Information Transmission Student focus 11 February 2014
    31. 31. Teacher focus 14 12 Promotes surface learning 10 8 6 4 Conceptual-24 -20 -16 -12 -8 -32 -28 Change Opportunities for deep learning 2 0 4 8 12 -2 20 Information 28 32 Transmission 24 -4 -6 -8 -10 -12 -14 -16 Student focus 11 February 2014 16 Whose research suggested this…
    32. 32. So?  Horses for courses  Each theory will direct attention to a different aspect of the process  Find whichever is most useful for your particular area  Don’t expect them all to point in the same direction
    33. 33. www.learningandteaching.info
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