Learning Theories

During the past several months it has become apparent to me that this blog will be the perfect place for me to record notes about the research I am doing for my MSIDT project; this then is the first installment.

According to Wikipedia, “Learning is acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines. Progress over time tends to follow learning curves.”

In their book Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, Reiser and Dempsey included five essays covering the key ideas and principals of learning theories that have had the most influence over Instructional design and technology (IDT). Derived from the psychological foundations of the field these theories include: behavioral learning theory, cognitive information processing theory, Gagne’s theory of instruction, schema theory, cognitive load theory, situated learning theory, and constructivism (2007).

Epistemology, a branch of philosophy, is the study of theories of knowledge and is divided into positivism/objectivism and relativism/constructivism. Being that the two are diametrically opposed, there are supporters in both camps who argue that there side is the only way, but good instructional designers should be aware of both and utilize each as is warranted in their instructional designs.

Cognitive load theory (CLT) is a learning theory that is embraced in some part by both sides of the epistemology debate, but is arguably more in the positivists realm. CLT is the learning theory that I am basing my MSIDT project around. CLT is one of several theories that are derived from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Cognitive information processing theory, schema theory, and semantic networks are learning theories that also fall under this umbrella (Alessi & Trollip (2001)(Reiser & Dempsey, 2007). There are numerous underlying principals of CLT that make it efficient, effective, and engaging. These principals help make the instructional designer aware of the many factors that influence and increase or decrease the cognitive load placed on a learner during the instructional process. The reultant intstucional goals of CLT being schema acquisition and construction, rule automation, and transfer of learning both near and far.

These two videos help to illustrate the basic concepts of cognitive psychology and cognitive load theory.

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