• Lesson 5 - Theories of Learning

    • Compulsory Reading

    • Activity (Reflective Thinking, Note Taking and Discussion)

      Choosing a Theory of Learning

      Entwistle (2010) states:

      There are some important questions to ask when considering how much weight to place on evidence or how valuable the theory will be for pedagogy. For example:

      1. Is the theory derived from data or observations in an educational context?
      2. Is the theory presented in language that is readily intelligible to teachers?
      3. Can the aspects identified as affecting learning be readily changed [by the teacher]?
      4. Does the theory have direct implications for teaching and learning [in the particular context in which you are working]?
      5. How realistic and practical are the suggestions?
      6. Will the theory spark off new ideas about teaching?

      It is not sufficient for a pedagogical theory simply to explain how people learn; it also has to provide clear implications about how to improve the quality and efficiency of learning.

      Using Entwistle’s criteria and your own knowledge and experience of teaching, answer the questions below.

      1. Which theory of learning do you like best, and why? State what main subject you are teaching.
      2. Does your preferred way of teaching match any of these theoretical approaches? Write down some of the activities you do when teaching that ‘fit’ with this theory.
      3.  Does your teaching generally combine different theories – sometimes behaviorist, sometimes cognitive, etc.? If so, what are the reasons or contexts for taking one specific approach rather than another?
      4. How do you think new digital technologies, such as social media, affect these theories? Do new technologies make these theories redundant? Does connectivism replace other theories or merely add another way of looking at teaching and learning?

      Share your reflection in Lesson Five Forum.

    • Knowledge Check

    • Key Takeaways

      Key takeaways from this lesson are:

      • Teaching is a highly complex occupation, which needs to adapt to a great deal of variety in context, subject matter and learners. It does not lend itself to broad generalizations. Nevertheless, it is possible to provide guidelines or principles based on best practices, theory and research, that must then be adapted or modified to local conditions.
      • Our underlying beliefs and values, usually shared by other experts in a subject domain, shape our approach to teaching. These underlying beliefs and values are often implicit and are often not directly shared with our students, even though they are seen as essential components of becoming an ‘expert’ in a particular subject domain.
      • No single method is likely to meet all the requirements teachers face in the digital age.
      • Nevertheless, some forms of teaching fit better with the development of the skills needed in a digital age. In particular, methods that focus on conceptual development, such as dialogue and discussion, knowledge management (rather than information transmission), and experiential learning in real-world contexts, are all methods more likely to develop the high-level conceptual skills required in a digital age.
      • Traditional classroom teaching, and especially transmissive lectures, were designed for another age. Although lectures have served us well, we are now in a different age that requires different methods.
      • The key shift is towards greater emphasis on skills, particularly knowledge management, and less on memorizing content. We need teaching methods for teaching and learning that lead to the development of the skills needed in a digital age.