To truly teach a learner, the teacher must understand how the learner learns. There are learning theories that attempt to explain how learners learn. Some learning theories, such as behaviorism, seem to take a broad approach in explaining how learner learn. Others learning theories may attempt a more narrow or more detailed approach at describing the learning process. While we are unable to internally experience how the learner learns, we cannot assume that there is only one true learning theory that attempts to explain how all learners learn (Spector, Merrill, Elen, & Bishop, 2014). Pedagogy in post-secondary environments allows for the implementation and experimentation of many learning theories. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are three dominant learning theories in the field of pedagogy. These three theories have evolved from the foundational frameworks of empiricism and rationalism (Ertmer & Newby, 2013) and have been used in the development and delivery of academic material, and learning environments.
My day-to-day work involves pedagogy. I am a teacher at a post-secondary college. I am experienced is the design, development and delivery of educational material, lessons and environments to the adult learner. Over my teaching career, I have been exposed to a many different learning theories, what Merrill (2003) refers to “instructional design theories” (p. 43), and teaching models. Some of the theories I have experienced are listed in Merrill’s (2003) article First Principles of Design, which include Constructivist Learning Environments by Jonassen, Nelson’s Collaborative Problem Solving theory, and Multiple Approaches to Understanding by Gardner. I have dismissed all three, and other theories, as they were too complex or could not fit within the learners academic environment. Since the mid 2000s, when it comes to development and delivery of educational material, lessons and learning environments, I have relied upon the basic principles found in behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.
I have come to understand and envelope the earlier learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. If I had to align myself with a single theory, albeit difficult to choose, I would have to select behaviorism. This goes against my better judgement as I believe that learning requires, as corroborated by Ertmer & Newby (2013), “numerous interpretations and theories of how it is effectively accomplished” (p. 44). Behaviorism is a learning theory from the field of psychology. The learner learns by responding in a specific way to a pedagogical stimulus (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). As an example, a demonstration of a procedure is presented to the learners, and the learners in turn replicate that procedure . Consequences or rewards are used in the learning process to reinforce or correct the behaviour (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). This is one of the most basic theories of learning that can be applied in the most broadest of my pedagogical methods of teaching. Reproduce the process and be rewarded with a grade.
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
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43–59. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505024
Spector, J. M., Merrill, M. D., Elen, J., & Bishop, M. J. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. New York, NY: Springer New York. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5