Introduction: Higher animals especially humans learn through observing and imitating others.Monkey reared in captivity with wild parents. Neuroscientists have discovered (mirror)neurons in the brain of animals and humans that activate during learning. Learning theory: Learning theories make general statements about how people learn (at least for a given class of learning types). Therefore learning theories are mostly descriptive. In order to learn a concept in a useful way it must be learned in the culture in which is has been developed and is used. Activity and perception are prior to conceptualization. The teaching and learning situation is characterized as cognitive apprenticeship. From that follows that the activity of learning must take place in an authentic situation. Learning theories also can be prescriptive (tell how people should learn), but prescription is rather the role of pedagogical theory. DSchneider believes that it mostly a bad idea to blend learning and teaching theory. E.g. If one believes that knowledge is constructed one does not necessarily have to adopt a "constructivist" instructional design model. Different teaching strategies may have to combine. In any case, learning theories play explicitly or implicitly a major role in instructional design models and the educational technology field. Conversely, we may argue that no instructional model and no technology is "innocent". They all view learning in certain way, i.e. from a very practical point of view they put constraints on what kinds of learning they support. Major schools of thought:
In the literature related to education (in particular in educational technology, it is not always easy to separate learning theory from educational theory. Most introductory texts distinguish between three large families of thought. 1. Behaviorism is interested in looking at behavior and observable changes. Therefore behaviorism in instruction focuses on generating new behavior patterns. 2. Cognitivism is interested in looking at the thought processes behind the behavior. Therefore cognitivist learning theory stresses acquisition of (including reorganization) of cognitive structures. 3. Constructivism claims that knowledge is constructed through the interplay of existing knowledge and individual (or social) experience. There are several variants, e.g. * Constructionism
* Situated cognition
The difference between behaviorist views and cognitivist views is that Cognitivism makes explicit assumptions on how we store and manipulate information and that education should be concerned by analyzing and influencing thought processes. The difference between Cognitivism and constructivism is that cognitivist like behaviorists are "objectivists", knowledge and tasks to be learned can be identified and performance can be measured. Constructivists, on the other hand believe that both learning and teaching is a more open-ended process. History:
Learning theory and instructional design:
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DSchneider argues that many components (or rather sub-theories) of learning theory are relevant: * One can not truly understand various instructional design models without understand its underlying assumptions on learning. * Insights about types of learning and levels of learning leads to different views of what learning is and to adapt pedagogic strategy accordingly. * Studies on metacognition...