Learning Theories Summary

25 02 2013

What is a learning theory? Should we seek to understand them?

According to the textbook I am using for my graduate learning theories class…”a well-developed theory of learning fulfills several functions. In addition to serving as a framework for research, theory should bring new insights to situations, and serve as a working explanation of events. Specific functions primarily address instruction, including planning and evaluating instruction and providing information about classroom problems” (Ormrod, Schunk,, & Gredler, 2009, p. 11). The learning theories I have researched over the course of 7 weeks are: Behaviorism, Cognitive, Constructivism, Social Learning, Connectivism, and Adult learning. I have now been charged with answering the following questions:

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different learning theories and learning styles, how has your view on how you learn changed?

After completing my research of the above theories, I believe I have a much more open minded view of how I learn. Before I delved into specific learning theories, I knew I was much more of a visual/auditory learner who liked to see notes written on a board or on a handout. However, I now know my learning style or preference goes much deeper. I am an adult learner who brings prior knowledge and experience to the table that impacts the way I learn new material. I now know why my Grandmother used to say that “experience is the best teacher.” According to Dr. Jeanne Ormrod, “We tend to bring in all kinds of ideas from what we’ve learned from other people, what we’ve learned from our reading and so on, and we pull them together in order to solve a new problem or address a new situation. We do this with other people; often with our parents when we are young; then as we get older, with our teachers, with our classmates, with our peers, and so on” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2009). Here Dr. Ormrod is talking about Vygotsky’s work with social learning theory. This specific theory talks about our human need for socialization and how much our cultural environment impacts us. Constructivism is another theory that talks about prior knowledge and experience we bring to the learning environment and how we construct our learning. “Constructivism contrasts with conditioning theories that stress the influence of the environment on the person; constructivist theory also contrasts with cognitive information processing theory that places the locus of learning within the mind with little attention to the context in which it occurs” (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). While I may have a preference for a particular learning style, there are other ways I adapt based on prior knowledge and experience and other factors when placed in certain situations.

What have you learned about the various learning theories and learning styles over the past weeks that can further explain your own personal learning preferences?

When I look at the research and back over my childhood, I can see how I adopted a more visual/auditory learning style. I grew up in a home with a single mother and four brothers and our access to opportunities were not that ideal. We were considered poor according to the poverty guidelines, but we were rich in family. In my home, we learned a lot of things from watching my mom and other family members carry out task. We also listened to the older family members and friends who visited our home on a regular basis share stories and give us advice. For me, all of the learning theories are connected through human interaction and the environment. How we connect with our environment impacts our behavior, thinking, learning and social interactions. Our environment shapes our personhood and our learning abilities. In fact, the behavior and social learning theories are often referred to as environmentalist theories:

Theorists such as John Watson, B.F. Skinner, and Albert Bandura contributed greatly to the environmentalist perspective of development. Environmentalists believe the child’s environment shapes learning and behavior; in fact, human behavior, development, and learning are thought of as reactions to the environment. This perspective leads many families, schools, and educators to assume that young children develop and acquire new knowledge by reacting to their surroundings (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory).

What role does technology play in your learning (i.e. as a way to search for information, to record information, to create, etc.)?

When I studied Connectivism, I realized the importance of technology in my learning. There was a time in my life that I relied heavily upon books to learn the additional knowledge I needed for certain situations, but this is no longer the case. When I went to high school, there were no career tech teachers devoted to teaching me how to do research using search engines. In fact, search engines in my world were not even heard of yet. Technology began to impact my life when computers entered my workplace. Since my prior experience was almost non-existent, I had to make a choice to enroll in an Introduction to Microcomputers class to learn the new world of computers or be stuck in the entry level job I was currently assigned to. Connectivism changes how we use technology to learn. “New technology forces the 21st century learner to process and apply information in a very different way and at a very different pace from any other time in history. As a result, the span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease” (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008). Even in my online learning theory class, technology is changing the way I search for information and create discussions with my fellow classmates. I am definitely learning to process and apply information in a different way! Just look at the ways we are able to connect through social media.

I hope you have a sense of how learning theories are not cut and dry scientific explanations for how we learn. We are complex human beings who may have certain learning styles and preferences for the way we learn, but we are adaptable in many ways! Learning theories are great guideposts to use as framework in helping us learn more effective and streamlined ways of learning information.


Davis, C, Edmunds, E, & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

Laureate Education (Producer). (2009). Theory of Social Cognitive Development. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD: Dr Jeanne Ormrod.

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Theories of child development and learning. Retrieved from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/students/earlycld/ea7lk18.htm



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