Class 1 theoretical orientations to learning

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  • The basis for what I’m going to cover is outlined by Merriam and Caffarella in Learning in Adulthood; however, they don’t adequately address theories of situated learning and critical theories, so I am going to talk about these two theoretical perspectives separately. If you want to follow M & C’s outline that was in your assigned readings, feel free to pull it out now and use it as a guide to give you some additional info on these theoretical orientations to learning. For those of you who weren’t able to copy this from Prometheus, here are copies. When we finish this overview, we’ll talk about how these compare to the 5 teaching perspectives that Pratt discovered in his research. Then, I’ll introduce you to a framework that was introduced by two sociologists a number of years ago that is applicable to organize these theories into frameworks that are commonly used in educational research for categorizing them according to theoretical orientation. Here’s what you should focus on: a macro-level understanding of these seven different orientations to learning. You will run into these terms again and again in the adult educ literature, so consider this your “first” exposure.
  • The first five of these are listed in Merriam and Caffarella’s overview. However, they do very little to address critical theory in their textbook and they have combined situated theories of learning and social constructivist perspectives into the constructivist categories. I’m lifting them out as worthy of separate discussion.
  • The behaviorist orientation to learning derives from behavioral psychology. The process of learning in behaviorist theories has three basic assumptions: 1. Observable behavior rather than internal thought processes is the focus of study. How do we know when learning has occurred? When there is a change in observable behavior. If there is no change in behavior, then learning has not occurred. 2. Second, this view assumes that the environment has a role in shaping people’s behavior; what a person learns is determined by the elements in the environment, not by the individual learner. Learning involves moving from a present performance level through successive approximations to a goal. 3. Two principles are central to explaining learning: How close in time two events must be for a bond to be formed between them (principle of contiguity) Principle of Reinforcement - any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated. Today, behavioral learning strategies are best used with either beginning or advanced skill development, whenever a motor or cognitive skill needs to be learned as accurately and efficiently as possible.
  • John B. Watson is considered the father of behaviorism in the early decades of the 20th century. This theoretical perspective loosely encompasses the work many individual theorists. Two of the major ones were Edward Thorndike and B. F. Skinner. Thorndike did pioneering work in learning theory and in many other areas of educational practice, including intelligence testing. His major contribution to learning has come to be called connectionism, or the Stimulus-Response theory of learning. Using laboratory animals, Thorndike discovered connections between sensory impressions, called “Stimuli” and the subsequent behavior, called “Responses” were strengthened or weakened by the consequences of behavior. Thorndike formulated 3 laws to describe these connections. The Law of Effect says that learners will acquire and remember responses that lead to satisfying after-effects. The Law of Exercise asserts that the repetition of a meaningful connection results in substantial learning. The Law of Readiness says that if the organism is ready for learning, learning is enhanced; otherwise, learning is inhibited. However, it was with the work of B. F. Skinner and his concept of operant conditioning that behaviorism was most developed as a theory of learning. Operant conditioning was Skinner’s term to say behavior that is reinforced is repeated and behavior that is not reinforced becomes “extinct.”
  • The behaviorist orientation to learning derives from behavioral psychology. The process of learning in behaviorist theories has three basic assumptions: 1. Observable behavior rather than internal thought processes is the focus of study. How do we know when learning has occurred? When there is a change in observable behavior. If there is no change in behavior, then learning has not occurred. 2. Second, this view assumes that the environment has a role in shaping people’s behavior; what a person learns is determined by the elements in the environment, not by the individual learner. Learning involves moving from a present performance level through successive approximations to a goal. 3. Two principles are central to explaining learning: How close in time two events must be for a bond to be formed between them (principle of contiguity) Principle of Reinforcement - any means of increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated. Today, behavioral learning strategies are best used with either beginning or advanced skill development, whenever a motor or cognitive skill needs to be learned as accurately and efficiently as possible.
  • The earliest challenge to behaviorist thinking came in 1929 with a publication by Bode, a gestalt psychologist who criticized behaviorism for being too concerned with singular events and actions and too dependent on overt behavior to explain learning. The Gestalt psychologists proposed looking at the whole, instead of the parts and at patterns rather than isolated events. By the mid 20th century, gestalt views of learning rivaled the behaviorist models. These views have become incorporated into what we know as cognitive or information processing learning theories. Whereas the words we associate with behaviorism include stimulus-response, repetition, reinforcement, cueing, shaping, the words that we associate with cognitive theories include such terms as organization of knowledge; simple to complex; divergent and convergent thinking. From the gestaltists we have have terms such as perception, insight, and meaning. Cognitive learning theory is an information processing model that defines learning as the reorganization of experience to process stimuli that come in from the environment. According to cognitive theorists, the human mind is not just a passive exchange terminal system where stimuli arrive and the appropriate response leaves; instead, the thinking person interprets sensations and gives meaning to events that impinge upon her consciousness. In cognitive theory, the starting point is the mental processes involved in learning. A sensory register in the brain acts as a filtering and control mechanism determining what info comes in and how it is processed.
  • Levels of cognitive processing: goal is match level of cognitive processing with the task, and gradually move up the hierarchy to more sophisticated levels of cognitive processing.
  • To do this, the instructor, 1. Clarifies the aims of the lesson; 2. Presents the organizer by identifying examples and attributes and the context, and 3. Then prompts awareness of learner’s relevant knowledge and experience. Essentially, the instructor makes the organization of the material explicit in advance. Thus, Ausubel emphasized the importance of the learner’s cognitive structures in new learning. Ausubel’s work is an antecedent to current research on schema theory. In schema theory, schemata are cognitive structures that organize the learner’s worldview and thus determine how people process new experiences.
  • Bruner’s views about cognitive learning were very different, in that he emphasized learning as a discovery process -- defining “discovery” as a matter of rearranging or transforming evidence in such a way that a person can go beyond the assembled evidence to additional new insights. To acquire concepts, Bruner believed that learners needed to inductively compare and contrast exemplars and nonexemplars and discover the concept through their own reasoning processes, generating their own examples.
  • In many of these learning theories, the individual stands apart from society and societal influences; critical theory directly confronts the influence of the social structures in which we live.
  • Class 1 theoretical orientations to learning

    1. 1. Theoretical Orientationsto Learning for TiMEBased on the work of Merriam, Caffarella,& Baumgartner, Learning in Adulthood,2005 (3rded).
    2. 2. Contemporary Views of LearningTheory
    3. 3. Behaviorism
    4. 4. Behavioral Learning Theory Three basic assumptions:Learning results in a change inbehaviorEnvironment shapes behaviorPrinciples of contiguity andreinforcement
    5. 5. Behaviorists John B. Watson, early 20th century Edward Thorndike (1920s) Stimulus Response Law of Effect Law of Exercise Law of Readiness B. F. Skinner (1950s - 1970s) Operant conditioning
    6. 6. Behavioral Theory Today Measurable goals and objectives Competency based instruction Outcomes focused Computer assisted instruction Instructor accountability Human performance technology
    7. 7. Cognitivism
    8. 8. Cognitive Learning Theory Defined learning as reorganization ofexperience to make sense of stimuli fromthe environment Focuses on mental processes Accounts for insight Locus of control for learning is not in theenvironment, but internal to the learner
    9. 9. Bloom’s TaxonomyEvaluationSynthesisAnalysisApplicationComprehensionKnowledge
    10. 10. Ausubel’s (1963) Concept ofAdvance Organizers Phase 1: Present the advance organizer Phase 2: Present the task or material Phase 3: Strengthen cognitiveorganization
    11. 11. Bruner’s (1967) Concept AttainmentStrategyLearners should: Compare and contrast exemplarsand non-exemplars Inductively discover concepts Generate their own examples Discuss hypotheses and attributes"Learners are encouragedto discover facts andrelationships forthemselves."
    12. 12. Evidences of CognitiveLearning Theory in Use Today Research on cognitive developmentin adulthood Learning how to learn research(metacognition) Study of learning processes as afunction of age
    13. 13. Humanism
    14. 14. Humanist Learning TheoryHumans are in control of their owndestinies with unlimited potential forgrowthMotivation to learn is intrinsicGoal of learning is self-actualization
    15. 15. Influences of HumanisticThought in Learning Theory Andragogy (Knowles, Houle, Tough) Personal growth movement Self-directed learning Teacher as “facilitator” Developer of talent in organizationsthrough coaching, mentoring
    16. 16. Who was AbrahamMaslow?Famous for concept of ahierarchy of human needsWho was Carl Rogers?Known for “client-centered” or “non-directive” therapy. Education adopted hisviews in “learner-centered” education
    17. 17. SocialCognitivism
    18. 18. Social Cognitism LearningTheoryDraws from both behaviorist andcognitivist perspectivesBelief that behavior is a function of theperson with the environmentLearning through observation and imitatingothersOccurs in social context
    19. 19. Evidences of SocialCognitivism in Use TodayIncreasing awareness of importance ofcontext to learningVicarious learning through role modelingMentoring Self-efficacy research
    20. 20. Situated Learning and SocialConstruction of LearningTheory Participation in communities of practice Novice to expert, apprenticeships Tool-dependent Learning “in situ”
    21. 21. Constructivism
    22. 22. Constructivist Learning TheoryLearning as meaning-makingMeaning actively constructed throughknowledge “structures”Internal cognitive activityCentral role of experienceDevelopmental throughout the lifespan
    23. 23. Evidences of Constructivism inUse Today Experiential learning Self-directed learning / learner autonomy Reflective practice Perspective transformation
    24. 24. Critical TheoryGoals of learning is to free individualsfrom oppressionSocial reform perspectiveChallenges unexamined assumptionsabout oppressive nature of socialstructures
    25. 25. Evidences of Critical Theory inUse TodayHeightened sensitivity to diversity issuesin organizations: race, gender, etc.Awareness of praxis (the power of action)to increase opportunities for thedisadvantaged to have a place in societyEncourages “voice”
    26. 26. Critical Theory: PostmodernPerspectivesExamines exploitative nature of socialstructures from power perspective aswell as race, gender, sexual orientation,etc.Poststructurist feminist literatureGender as socially constructed
    27. 27. With which of theselearning theories do YOUmost closely identify?This is the key to your personalphilosophy of practice as an educator.

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