Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reflection on Learning Theories and Instruction

I chose to enroll in the Instructional Design degree program with Walden University because I was promoted to a training position within my company. I liked presenting to my coworkers and thought that developing new modules for classroom instruction was interesting. I had no idea that when I started learning more about educational theories and curriculum development, that I would fall in love with Instructional Design. As I reflect on the past eight weeks of my Learning Theories and Instruction course, I realize what surprises me is how much I love learning about learning.
Over the course of this class, my knowledge of and experience with learning theories and design has grown. We have studied how the brain processes information and various learning theories that influence how we design curriculum. I was very excited to learn more about cognition and the various brain processes associated with learning. My understanding of memory and how information proceeds from experience into long term, usable memory has grown tremendously. Now, when I teach students, I love that I understand the various strategies they are using to process information (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2009). I was struck by the amount of learning theories used to explain how individuals learn. While working on my bachelor’s degree in Sociology, I frequently used theories to help guide research on different topics. However, in Instructional Design we use theories to help us create the different types of curriculum used to teach our students. For example, Social Learning theories stress the importance of using contextual based, social interaction as the medium for learning (Kim, 2001). A better understanding of social learning has already helped me at work. I will be training a group of individuals in a new course starting next month, previously we were going to have them individually go through the course. However, a social environment will be more effective with the type of class and material.
I enjoyed learning more about the learning process because I now understand more about how I learn.  I see that individuals may have different learning styles (like visual, auditory or kinesthetic)  (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008). I also now have several learning strategies that I can use (and teach to my students) to help me learn more effectively. For example, Dr. Jean Ormrod suggests elaboration to help remember an idea. This means I take information and do something with it mentally. For example, I could make a model or apply the information to a real-world scenario. I have already started working elaboration techniques into my personal learning style and my curriculum design (Ormrod, accessed 2011).
Another aspect of this course that was very helpful was the focus on how to use technology in the classroom. I believe that online learning is the future of education. While it will not replace all classroom education the resources, connections and innovative tools available online create a rich learning environment. For example, instructors without a lot of experience in certain areas can use social networking sites and other media resources to connect students with experts around the world. This is useful to me, as my training team has started developing a set of professional development courses. We may not have experts on things like stress management or networking, but we can connect with various resources online (Walsh, 2011).
While I enjoyed learning everything in this course, the focus of our last week resonated with me the most. Motivating students is a topic heavy on my mind. At the moment, I work for an organizational training team. We design operations training (training to teach people how to do their job) and professional development courses. Our classes on conflict management, resume creation, performance management, goal setting, professional email, effective meetings, etc. are wonderful opportunities for our coworkers to expand their professional knowledge. However, it is hard to get them to leave their work to attend training. They are not motivated to attend the course, participate or complete the class. Therefore, the deeper understanding I have of student motivation is very helpful. I hope to use the ARCS model of Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction to structure marketing and training activities to gather attendees and keep them coming back. One idea already is to create several real life scenarios and practice situations that are relevant to my student’s current positions (Kaller, 1999).
If I learned one thing from the various learning theories we studied, it is that no, one tool is the answer to a learning situation. Educators must have a training tool belt full of ideas. By using their own internal resources, those available online and our connections to other individuals, instructors today can educate and motivate their students. If we take a look at our curriculum through multiple different theoretical lenses, consider the learning styles and abilities of our students, integrate technology when possible and remember to be personable with our students, we will succeed as Instructional Designers.
Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from
Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).
Ormrod, J. (Accessed 2008). Learning Styles and Strategies. [Video Program]. Walden University Resources
Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson

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