Pedagogy, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary (2017) involves the act of teaching of an “academic subject or theoretical concept” (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). To be effective in the act of teaching, one must understand the learner and how the transfer of knowledge is acquired. Different theories have come to fruition to help explain this transfer and how the learner learns.
Three foundational theories or pedagogy and instructional design include behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. These theories have evolved and have become central tools to aid teachers in the design and delivery of instruction to the learner. Ertmer and Newby (2013) outline that each of these theories can “be treated as separate approaches to understanding and describing learning” (p. 46). However, can instructional designers be effective in the creation of pedagogical curriculum using only one of these learning theories?
Behaviourism, as summarized by Ertmer and Newby (2013), asserts that the learner acquires the transfer of knowledge through the exposure to external environmental stimuli. Success is measured when a determined level of behavior is elicited by the learner. Cognitivism, like behaviorism, also relies on “environmental conditions” that “play in facilitating learning” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 48). The difference between behaviorism and cognitivism is that cognitivists are more interest in how the learner “attends to, code, transform, rehearse, store and retrieve information” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 52). The most recent of these learning theories, constructivism, revolves around the existing experiences of the learner and how they create meaning from their surrounding environmental factors (Ertmer & Newby, 2013).
As a teacher and instructional designer, I have come to acquire a comfortable understanding of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I also find myself, at times, torn between designing instruction and curriculum through the lens of a constructivist, behaviorist or cognitivist.
The majority of my pedagogy is based on experiential-based learning. Experiential learning can easily be explained through the lens of behaviorism, cognitivism. However, theories that deal with the understanding of human-centred design are also interwoven with the curriculum I deliver to the learner. Constructivism then becomes the central lens used to develop instruction for the delivery of these theories.
The more I move forward through the MALAT program, the more I am finding that instructional design is a fluid endeavour, and no one set lens can be used for all pedagogical environments or curriculum. Ertmer and Newby (2013) pronounced that “learning is a complex process that has generated numerous interpretations and theories of how it is effectively accomplished” (p. 44). As an instructional designer and teacher, I truly believe that we cannot afford to put all our efforts into a single learning theory. We must continue to learn and adapt to the pedagogical world around us.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43–71. https://doi.org/10.1002/piq.21143
Meinel, C., Leifer, L., & Plattner, H. (Eds.). (2011). Design Thinking. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-13757-0
Pedagogy. (2017). In Oxford Dictionary online. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pedagogy