Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In Praise of Brenda Mergel!

After reading the “infed” article on learning theory , next on my list was a paper titled “Instructional Design” and Learning Theory” by Brenda Mergel.

MY LEARNING TASK: Read Brenda Mergel paper on “Instructional Design” and Learning Theory

ABOUT MY LEARNING TASK
I first came across Brenda’s paper a couple of years ago when studying for my Postgraduate Certificate in Higher and Professional Education. I find Brenda’s writing on this subject superbly written with great clarity and addresses exactly the questions and issues that were being raised in my own mind.

Brenda neatly and simply identifies the main theories of learning as
  • Behaviorism
  • Cognitivism
  • Constructivism
She gives a concise history and development of the three theories of learning and then proceeds to also offer a brief history of each learning theory in relation to instructional design.

REFLECTIONS
The main question concerning me before reading the article was; What is the difference between theories of learning and models of learning? A short concise overview in the first paragraph cleared that one up? I look forward to seeing how others explain the difference and to read other views on these three main theories of learning.

Behaviorism, the only way to learn – your having a laugh!
It seems hard to comprehend that behaviourists do not acknowledge that the mind and thinking plays a part in learning. Perhaps in the beginning when theories were first being developed it was understandable that this was the line of fire when trying to pin down “what is learning?”, especially as the first theorists also tended to come from a background in the study of animal behaviour. Brenda does point out that many behaviorist after a while did start to incorporate ideas of cognivitism into the theories of learning at a later date.

Brenda’s paper was very good at showing how the theories of learning have developed from behaviorism through cognitivism to the most recent learning theory of constructivism. It also explained that when designing materials for instruction that it may be useful to draw on all three learning theories depending on what type of learning you hope to achieve and depending how early into the learning cycle students may be. The paper indicated that it may be that behavioral objectives in instructional design could be appropriate when learning about a new subject and that more constructivist approaches are better with mid to advanced students.

As I alluded to in my previous blog I was coming to the conclusion that we learn different things in different ways. Brenda’s paper kind of reinforced this for me.

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