Leading head: LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 1 Learning Theory and Its Role in Instructional Technology Krista M. Hess East Stroudsburg University
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 2 AbstractThis paper explains the three major learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, andconstructivism. After the theories are explained and defined, they will also have their meaningand uses in instructional technology explained and an example of each type of classroom isgiven. The differences and similarities are also explained shortly where it is appropriate. Afterthese theories are explained, a fourth and final learning theory is introduced. This theory issociocultural learning theory. This theory brings the previous three theories together andenhances them. Once this theory has its explanation, instructional technology influences, andexample given, the paper will prove how important it is to have this theory utilized by teachers oftwenty first century learners. Keywords: learning theory, behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, instructionaltechnology, socioculturalism
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 3 The students of today are very different from the students of about fifteen years ago.These new students will go into a working world where computers are in their everyday life.Also known as a twenty first century learner, these students needs an education wheretechnology is used to enhance their learning environment and to make sure their skills are up topar. For years many theorists have come up with learning theories to explain how a studentlearns and how they should be taught. There has been Behaviorism, Cognitivism, andConstructivism and many more. These three, however, are the most well known, and the basisfor many other theories. Each has their own positive and negative themes. The one entity thatthey all focus on is the student, as an individual. What they don’t focus on is interaction betweenstudents and its affect on learning. Sociocultural learning theory, conversely, does focus oninteraction between students. This paper will seek to prove interaction’s importance in theclassroom and a student’s successful future. However, the three main learning theories will beexplained first to lay the ground for this newer theory. The first theory that tried to describe a means of teaching was behaviorism. This was thestand out school of thought during the first half of the twentieth century. Pavlov, Watson,Tolman, Hull, Skinner, and Thorndike were major theorists of this time. Behaviorism focuses onthe consequences of behaviors. These behaviors determined whether the student learned or not.According to Robinson, Molenda and Landra (2007), behaviorism focuses on events that can beobserved and they should precede and follow certain behaviors. This article also explains that ateacher that follows a behaviorist view usually determines what their students already know,make goals that are appropriate for them and then provide prompts to guide them. The teacherwants certain behaviors as the outcome. Then, they arrange reinforcement for the desired
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 4 behavior of choice. In a nutshell, the focus of the education is the relationship between stimuliand responses. For Educational or Instructional Technology, the first definition of the field wasinfluenced by behaviorism. In Robinson et al. (2007), “Design and use of messages whichcontrol the learning process” is quoted as part of that definition. The use of the word “control”meant that these educators believed that consequences of behaviors determined whether or notthe student learned. Behaviorism and technology were widely influenced by the theorist,Skinner. He had created a ‘teaching machine’ in the 1960’s and changed the term from‘technology of teaching’ to ‘educational technology’. Before this machine, audiovisual educationwas popular. Behaviorism also introduced direct instruction, personalized system of instruction(PSI), and several templates or frameworks for instruction. These templates have beenincorporated in hard technology mechanically, electro-mechanically and otherwise. Mostrecognizable is Computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and online distance education. Since behaviorism led the way for major learning theories, it had many downfalls. Someof these included the fact that drill and practice was a major format in the classroom andeverything was based on test scores. These kinds of practices are still used today, in mathematicsfor example. To learn the multiplication tables, many teachers drill the numbers over and over,and then the students practice until they learn. To facilitate with this theory, it was too expensivebut the student could work at his or her own pace without a live teacher; which could be arguedas the opposite of facilitating. While behaviorism focused on observable events that preceded and followed certainbehaviors, our next theory, Cognitivism focused on conditional mental circumstances or thechain of internal activities associated with learners. Cognitivism differs from behaviorism
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 5 because of its belief that the internal mental processes must be understood in order to have astrong theory of human learning. Just focusing on outward behaviors is not enough. This‘revolution’ intended to stop the ignorance of the mind in human sciences after a long span ofobjectivism. According to Schuh and Barab (2007), behaviorism was meant to be replaced byCognitivism not just reform it. Cognitivism was dominant by 1970. The focus is on the learners using their memory andprocesses of thought to store and manipulate mental representations and ideas as well as generatestrategies (Robinson et al., 2007, p. 27). Important terms for this theory are schema and cognitiveload. There is also focus on the frontal lobe in the brain, which organizes thoughts. Informationprocessing theory is also within the Cognitivism theory. It explains how information is stored inmemory and moves from one stage in development to the next during a human’s life.For educational technology, Cognitivism led the way for organization of content. Audiovisualeducation was used again to show how the brain interprets all these different stimuli. Digitalmultimedia helps to make the presentation of all these things even easier than the old schoolaudiovisual. As for facilitating in a cognitivist classroom, the teacher helps to arrange steps ofthe learning event to better engage the student’s mind. An example of a cognitivist educator’sideal setting would be one where students are engaged and use their previous and newknowledge to problem-solve and synthesize while creating solid connections to aide in memoryencoding. The students shift the learning from a computer to learning with a computer.Cognitivism took education from receptive to engaging the students and from focusing on theclassroom to involving the real world. Behaviorism and cognitivism are both primarily objective, and the world is real andexternal to the learner. However constructivism, the last of the major theories, took educating a
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 6 whole other level. The difference between constructivism and cognitivism is that knowledgeconstructions do not necessarily bear any correspondence to external reality (Robinson et al.,2007, p. 33). A good metaphor for constructivism is that the student is not a costumer. They are aworker who is doing the hardest part of constructing new knowledge, skills, and attitudes.Student motivation is the focus and this concludes in achievement. Constructivism can be aconfusing theory to understand because there is no single theory inside it. There is moderate,social, and many more. In general, this theory is very focused on the type of student that thispaper discussed at the beginning, the twenty first century learner. Real world situations are usedwith formats like anchored instruction, problem-based learning, and computer-supportedcollaborative learning. It is very helpful with math and medical education. In this theory thestudent is an explorer, his or her own teacher, and cognitive apprentices. The teacher’s main roleis to facilitate through and through. The student uses their personal experience that the teacherguides to gain their knowledge. This is a far cry from repeating facts as in behaviorism. Constructivism is huge for instructional technology. A great example of this is aWebQuest. This could be a PowerPoint that the student or group of students go through on theirown and find knowledge from given resources to create a final product. The teacher facilitates bygiving the WebQuest, the resources for the students to research with, and expecting a finalproduct. The students teach themselves everything, which is the base of constructivism. In thistype of activity and in most constructivist activities, the students work alone and eventually cometogether to put the project together. They do not, however, work closely together, discuss theirfindings, or argue different points. The student is accountable for his or her own knowledge, andhis or her own knowledge alone.
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 7 Constructivism is supposed to be based on the real world. However, in the real world,students will one day work in an office with other individuals. They will have to work with theirco-workers to finish projects by due dates or other situations. They will want to know if theproduct they are working on needs any improvements, and how can this be done without a peerto help along the way. Sociocultural learning theory helps with that problem. Media is only a vehicle of instruction. Computers and other technology do not influencestudent achievement anymore than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in ournutrition (Robinson et al., 2007, p. 41). Socioculturalism combines technology, the learner, andgroup settings to create the student’s knowledge. Collaborative learning is the major facility inthis theory. The teacher acts as a motivator in a community functionality. Even in highereducation settings, behaviorist approaches were used for a long time. However, students need todevelop their critical thinking and lifelong learning skills for the real world. They need to learnhow to learn! Cognitivism and Constructivism focused too much on the individual and ignoredthe social and cultural contexts of learning. Socioculturalism does take a learner-centeredapproach like the previous theory; however it takes social relations, community, and culture intoconsideration. Learning is continuous and occurs through social networks, working towardcommon goals in a group and many other interactive settings. An example of this type of classroom is one where students interact with learning toolsand other members in group activities. In this group, the students express and conceptualize theirviewpoints and then listen to others in order to problem solve, generate new ideas, and completetasks. The students gain new and different perspectives and learn. Having a sense of communityin the classroom through the teacher and the learner is important here. The jigsaw model isanother example where each student learns a part of a theory, sort of like constructivism, but then
LEARNING THEORY AND ITS ROLE IN INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY 8 the students explain that part to the rest of the group to know the entire theory. The last exampleis a resource-based learning model, which can be used in instructional technology settings. Instructional technology is also influenced by sociocultural theory where discussionforums and email feedback are concerned. A study was done on doctoral candidates and itshowed that formative assessment via blended learning was a positive experience. Using theirown website with a discussion forum and meeting in the classroom helped these future doctors ofeducation to be more diverse, increasingly identify with this particular community andparticipate fully in its practices, and they felt that they were continuously learning from theirpeers. If highly educated adults feel this way about sociocultralism’s use, then its effect on achild’s education can only be surmised to be positive as well. In conclusion, each of these learning theories can have a positive effect on a student’seducation and knowledge base. Socioculturalism brings them all together to enhance lifelonglearning and professional identities. Utilizing this learning theory seems like the next best andpositive step in the twenty first century to make sure the world’s future leaders are experts withtechnology, social skills, problem-solving skills, and that they are ultimately concrete in theirknowledge and are innovative in the real world.
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