Learning theory

Personal reflection

When reflecting on my personal learning experiences and trying to decide which one were the most impactful I’ve determined that one’s learning preference determines how impactful a lesson will be. I’ve read from several people that they learn best under the constructivist learning methods, while I do agree with this as well, I have found that in order for me to learn under that I need to have a solid base in which to build from. In in that aspect I find that to establish that base I learn the best when the cognitive approach is taken. I like things to be methodical and visual, utilizing such things as structural outline or story maps for example. This in one sense contradicts directly with the cognitive learning theory which McLode explains that “learning is only meaningful when it can be related to concepts that already exists in a person’s cognitive structure.” This Rote idea of learning is directly tied to behaviorism.

I also feel that there is much in my learning experiences that tie to the constructivist methodology. For one thing I tend to connect my learning to what I have experienced. Therefore, the idea of previous experience being pivotal in the learning experience ties in quiet nicely.  As I continue to write and think, I’ve concluded that my learning truly involves a mix of all three theories. If I look hard enough one may play a more significant role than the others, but I believe each has its place in learning depending on the objective.

Learning theory implications online

In Mohamed Ally’s Chapter 1 “Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning,” it explains that there ways learning theory practice might need to be adjust to account for the differences of instructional and learning practices that coincide with being online versus being in the classroom.


Behaviorist theory generalizes as being like a blank slate. It is looking for the learning to a achieve a specific set of goals, such as memorizing math facts. or learning expected the alphabet. 

Ally explains that there are multiple implications for online learning. One of these is that students need to know explicit expectations in order to determine if they have met the overall goal. They also need to be tested periodically throughout in order to systematically check in with the students progress. It is also critical that instruction is appropriately sequenced in order to promote learning and the learner must receive appropriate feedback in order to monitor their own progress. 

I feel that many of these are the same as in the classroom. The idea of clear expectations is similar to presenting the learning objective prior to a lesson in class.

We also routine assess students throughout a unit to ensure adequate progress and to reteach as needed. What I believe may differ from a instructor’s point of view is the validity of the assessment. As a kindergarten teacher I know that my student s would rely on an adult to assist them with any assessment (mostly because even if the assessment was read, many parent would probably provide more assistance than I would in class). Therefore, it would be challenging to know how accurate the results actually are. On that same note many of our assessments for final quarter grades are one on one and would have to be completed via Zoom or another videoconferencing platform. 

When creating any type of lesson it is typical that lessons are arranged in a manner in which they build off previously learned skills so this practice is also very similar. Feedback is critical no matter what the context learning takes place. The manner in which feedback would be provided would differ between the online platform and that which is provided in class. In class much of the feedback can be given instantaneously, whereas online, it is provided once the assignment is given back. Also the online platform denies the learner the ability to notice the body language and facial expressions of the instructor. There are many times that I use a quick thumbs up or smile to indict a positive action, students won’t be able to experience those subtle feedback method when engaging in online learning.


Cognitive learning theory is grounded in the idea that learning is a process that combines memory, thinking, reflection, motivation and metacognition. The idea is that learners use or work with information through that interaction it can be transferred into working memory for long term storage. 

Ally gave multiple examples of methods to apply this learning theory for the online learning experience. The formatting of information is critical. It is important to consider placement of material, text size, font, color, as well as the actually delivery method (audio, video or animation etc…). Non-essential visuals shouldn’t be included, this allows the learner to focus on the necessary information. Placement of information should allow the learner to read material from left to right and headings and other organizational strategies should be incorporated to assist the learner in navigating through the material.  It is also important to provide the learner with the reason for the lesson so they understand what types of information that should be looking of throughout the lesson. 

Since one of the grounding principles of cognitivist learning theory is the idea of transferring ideas from short to long term memory it is critical that strategies to facilitate are included within the context of the lesson. Some things include organizers, conceptual models, pre-instructional questions, or even pre-instructional test questions.

Chunking lessons into sections is important in order to prevent overloading the individuals working memory. According to Ally the suggested number of items to be presented on the screen at one time is between five and nine. Multiple items should be presented in the form of a information map. As the lesson each item from the information map is then broken down into smaller chunks, and then at the conclusion represented again as an information map, showing their relationship to one another. 

It is also suggested by Ally that material should be presented in multiple methods to meet individual learning styles. Regardless of a students learning style they need opportunities to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate promote higher-level learning. By providing real life situation should be included to allow learners opportunities for deep thinking. 

All learners need to be motivated to learn. One model discussed by Ally is the ARCS method. ARCS stands for Attention (grabbing the learners attention), Relevance (explaining the importance of the lesson and it’s impact on their lives) , Confidence (designing the lesson for success), and Satisfaction (provide feedback and allow for applications in real life situations). The thought is that this model makes learning more meaningful to the student.

Some of these items may be more relevant online than in the classroom. I don’t feel like I would use pre-instruction questions much in the classroom (at least not with kindergarten) because I am directing course of the lesson and I use strategic questions throughout the lesson the gauge and direct students’ attention during instruction. I do incorporate multiple methods of presenting materials daily in with nearly every lesson. I use some type of video or song (or both) to go along with what we are doing. I also incorporate as many hands on activities as appropriate.  

The section about deep thinking makes me think of Bloom Taxonomy. This is a methodology of questioning which allows for different levels of processing and thinking about information. It uses different levels of questioning to acquire different types of answers and to promote different types of mental processing of information. at its lowest level are your general questions that is retrieval of information. At it’s highest level it has learning taking what they have learned to create/ design and original project, analyze information by disassembling information and looking at relationships, or critiquing information. This is something we beginning exploring in Kindergarten.

The ARCS section is what I would consider to be in “good teaching” because you want to engage your student (Attention), ensure it is relevant to them (Relevant), designed to expand knowledge, challenge them yet doable (Confidence), and provide timely feedback (satisfy). This should be happening in all classrooms daily.

I also feel like presenting material and chunking it into appropriate sized pieces is relevant to the both online learning and classroom learning. Students can get overwhelmed if there is too much “extra” stuff being presented or if there is more material then they can process. 



The constructivist Learning theory is the idea that learning is an active process and the student must be actively involved with the process. It is centered around the learner, who is allowed to construct their knowledge versus having information taught directly to them.

Ally explains that when learning online students are directly involved in the learning process and be given control over the learning process. A variety of meaningful activities will keep them involved and promote higher level thinking and allow learners opportunities to select activities that a meaningful to them. Collaboration and cooperative learning should be encouraged. this give them real life experience with working in a groups and they learn from each other. Learners will need to have opportunities to reflect on their learning. Such things as questions and journaling can help this process. 

I believe that the expectation for online and classroom would be very similar. I firmly believe allowing students to explore topic and concepts of their choice and by providing guidance and opportunities to interact with others they learn different perspectives and thoughts. I feel that our public school are not necessarily set up for this type of in person (or online k-12 learning). I am of course basing this on the idea that we have to teach to standards and most schools have a designated curriculum. I believe this is more practical at a higher education level. Constructivism reminds me of the personalized learning that we talked about in ED650. It was at the k-12 level and seemed like a mess. 

Last thoughts

When we look at the different theories and what they entail they fundamentally have the same online expectations as they do for the classroom. The execution may look a little different because of the manner in which the interactions are occurring, but the objective is the same. For example, behaviorist theory talks about providing feedback, that is needed both online and in the classroom. Online it may be written feedback or through a video chat. In the classroom it is in the moment and can include body language and words. Cognitive Theory promotes using visual organizers to demonstrate information. This too can be implemented both online and in the classroom. While the method of delivery is different, the object can remain the same, it just needs to be adjust to fit the needs of it’s presentation.

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