Learning Theory – What are the established learning theories?

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This Concept Map, created with IHMC CmapTools, has information related to: Learning Theory, zone of proximal development The area of capabilities that learners can exhibit with support from a teacher., Montessori constructivism, Lave & Wenger…

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Designing online learning environment – Interactivity

Cognitive Tutor and Problem-based (simulation) learning environments

There are links between the Cognitive Tutors learning environment and the simulation-based learning environment from the van der Meij & de Jong study, as both provide learners with guidance and prompts. Suebnukarn & Haddawy (2006)’s Bayesian networks suggests, in problem based learning, learners start with a problem (hypothesis), and the cognitive tutor’s role is to facilitate and encourage the learners to explore their own knowledge and determine their own learning needs – “what they don’t and do know, gather information. and identify the needs for constant improvement. Cognitive tutoring system would provide guidance with respect to student’s meta-cognitive abilities can help them to become better learners. As Koedinger and Corbertt (2006) described cognitive tutor that is not merely help learners to obtain the required skills, but also develop general help seeking facilities. For example, the tutoring classes of  Khan’s academy, lecturer starts with clarifying discussion, and suggesting different possibilities to investigate the question further, then putting the question in context and present what’s happening to the learners. In this process, cognitive tutor usually would clash with the learner’s expectations, which evokes learners to actively involving with the learning sequences. Learners will have greater control over their learning as they tend to move from dependent learners to independent and collaborative.

However. the main problem with these cognitive tutoring courses such as Khan Academy or OpenCourseWare is interactivity. Learners generally cannot speak to or ask questions directly to the tutor.  Another problems are grading and evaluation. Because the learners are so many, the grading process usually automate. Learners cannot use essay writing to evaluate their comprehension of the subject.

Acquisitive learning with Technology

Acquisitive learning starts from a focus on the observable behaviour of the learner and on the idea that this can be changed by feedback from the learning environment. It is associated with the idea that learning has to do with reproducing some desirable behaviours or measurable outcomes. The learning process is seen as a process of accretion. Learners add to their store of knowledge those items that are required for them to achieve their current goal. Teaching, therefore, starts with the analysis of what is to be learned, so that it can be broken down into component parts which can be taught stage by stage. Each part is taught in a predetermined order and tested before the next part is learned so that the desired behaviour builds up incrementally.

Learning and Feedback

The overwhelming importance of Vygotsky’s theories (especially ZPD) in today’s education can be understood by simply listing the authors (from this topic cycle itself) who have made it the framework to their work: it was used in the two training programs created by Hundhausen et al. (for improving engineering students’ problem solving skills), Olov Engwall (computer-based pronunciation training), and Koedinger and Corbett (using technology provide and monitor trainings). Indeed this link was to be found to quite a few readings from earlier topic cycles even.

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development

All these articles bring to my mind the importance of feedback in any training/teaching programs. They also serve as a reminder that task characteristics have a huge influence on the nature of the feedback. For Hundhausen et al. the focus was on providing constant feedbacks which relate students’ actions to the learning context. On the other hand for Engwall’s training programs where the context was to teach pronunciations, the focus was to provide audio feedback along with the visuals. For Koedinger and Corbett it was to estimate the learner’s competency level.

The entire educational design paradigm is made complicated due to its emphasis on context. Everything needs to be considered on the basis of background or prior experiences as the existence of such connections give new information nuggets a better chance of making their way from short-term to long-term memory. In such circumstance how is an educator (especially of adult learners) or a training designer to determine the appropriate balance between complex or simple visuals/text as mentioned by Mayer and Moreno and bring about deep learning.

All these technologies represent convenience in terms of material and temporal accessibility. However, with technology turning into the intermediary between teacher and student and student and other students I wonder how is it impacting the students behaviour, especially in the context of mastery goals and learning goals.

Also, thinking about the human computer communication interface what are the qualities we seek from it: visual and cognitive coherence, focus, simplicity. What amount of control do we desire?



Designing online learning environment: Web 2.0 Connected Learning

We’ve looked at interests power the drive and influencing learners to develop their motivation. Hamilton & Jago highlighted interests connected learning does not just rely on the innate interests of the individual learner, but views interests and passions as something to be actively developed in the context of personalised learning pathways that allow for specialized and diverse identities and interests. Moreover, Waterman proposes that an individual can influence and develop what motivates them make by making better choices. He would argue that when an individual is aware of what choices are a choice motivated by personal expressiveness and what is an instrumentally expressed choice they can make a better choice. Where a students is aware that they are more motivated by a kind of learning activity that is triggering and enriching their interests.

Learning in the context of peer interaction is engaging and participatory, which would enhance learners to develop motivation. Hamilton & Jago also place a value on intrinsic motivation but delivered through meaningful feedback eg, children included – need to experience feedback-rich contexts where they see intrinsically important consequences to their actions. Dwerk et. al. doesn’t seem to support the idea that intrinsic motivation can be developed and influenced. Their model asserts that an individual has implicit and quite fixed theories of self and will follow one of two patterns of behaviour. A different approach to learning and motivation is to teach students about the intrinsic value of the content/process/skill they are learning. Shifting focus from intrinsic motivation to motivation to learn is an important point made by Brophy. In other words, peers and experts gives feedback to one another and can contribute and share their knowledge and views.

What is in common between Kaplan and Brophy’s main ideas are that motivation is focused around the individual and that it resides in people. Brophy focuses on the individual where Kaplan views motivation as part of a system involving cultural, social, and individual processes. Kaplan and Brophy both agreed on that learning involves meaningful work and it is worth learning. This is explained by Brophy in terms of the affordances that the work provides. This concept links back to the work of Gibson and the Ecological Psychology perspective of affordances and effectiveness.  The concept of affordances also links to Vygotsky’s ZDP concept where learning should activate schema networks for valued purposes, and connecting with students’ current interests and agendas.

Furthermore, interest suggest that educator can help students sustain attention for tasks even when tasks are challenging, this could mean either providing support so that students can experience a triggered situational interest or feedback that allows them to sustain attention so that they can generate their own curiosity questions; select or create resources that promote problem solving and strategy generation. The process of engaging content is likely to continue as long as there is support, other people may facilitate such support, and support may be provided by the affordances of the tasks or domain in which a person works.

Connected learning environments are populated with connected educators who share interests and are contributing to a common purpose. Today’s social media and web-based communities provide exceptional opportunities for learners, parents, caring adults, teachers, and peers in diverse and specialised areas of interest to engage in shared projects and inquiry. Cross-generational learning and connection thrives when centered on common interests and goals.

I’ve created a mind map using Mindmeister and shared with the public -THAT’S YOU, YOU AND YOU. It presents an exemplar showing that as “connected educators”, how can we create a meaningful learning environment to connect, motivate and engaging learners. I tried to embed the mind map on my blog, since I didn’t upgrade with premium – no pay no HTML codes embed service, therefore, we cannot have a cool, synchronised interactive mind map place within this blog. Never mind, nothing can stop my sharing spirit – please feel free to comment or add any ideas you may have by clicking on this link – Connected Learning


  • Brophy, J. (2008). Developing students’ appreciation of what is taught in schools. Educational Psychologist, 43(3), 132-141.
  • Dweck, C. S., & Legget, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256-273.
  • Kaplan, A., & Flum, H. (2010). Achievement goal orientations and identity formation styles. Educational Research Review, 5(1), 50-67.
  • Hamilton, E., & Jago, M. (2010). Toward a theory of personalized learning communities. In M. J. Jacobson & P. Reimann (Eds.), Designs for learning environments of the future (pp. 263-282). New York: Springer.
  • Smith, C (2010). Surviving Web 2.0 Professional Educator; v.9 n.1 p38-41 March 2010

Motivational Strategies


I think every educator knows the challenge of stimulating and sustaining leaner motivation and the difficulty of finding reliable and valid methods for motivating learners. In digital world, technology is making rapid progress reslising the personalised learning dream with adaptive learning technology. Such as Codecademy and Khan Academy as “the future of learning”, these learning platforms primarily offer learners with most up- -to-date content and problems, learning experiences has been placed more emphasis on problem-based adaptive learning rather than top-down content orientated structure.

Last year, I started to try to learn to code, since coding is the 21st century literacy and I am working in the digital field, I should learn some basic coding, so I started my learning with Codecademy. Since I’ve never taken a class or never read a “How To” book for coding, I found the learning program with Codecademy was quite an interesting one. I first started with an intention of learning codes, and ended up with the pursuit of knowledge about programming, as well as with the pursuit of those creative learning badges.  I actually think that the badges are a fantastic idea. Yes, the “love of learning” should be enough of a motivator, but the sad truth is that it isn’t. Social badges integrating into learning totally fits the gamification trend. People tend to compete for badges, whether they be sports trophies, post counts or website hits we all want to be able to show that we were able to do something.

That functionality taps into the some of the basest parts of the human mind, we love to acquire anything that is shiny and new, and for those that never gained a love of learning when they were young using something that we as a species find addicting can actually begin the process of instilling that love.

Keller (1987) breaks each of the four ARCS components down into three strategy sub-components. The strategy sub-components and instructionally relevant examples are shown below.

The design process includes these:

  • Knowing and identifying the elements of human motivation,
  • Analyzing audience characteristics to determine motivational requirements,
  • Identifying characteristics of instructional materials and processes that stimulate motivation,
  • Selecting appropriate motivational tactics, and
  • Applying and evaluating appropriate tactics.

I do not think that many developers of the Codecademy would know much about the Keller’s ARCS components, but I reckon a lot of learners whom have tried to learn coding were sharing the same problems – we wanted to learn but have no engagement or incentives to retain ourselves with the dry knowledge. I wouldn’t say the Codecademy learning is effective, since I almost forgot all of the codes I have learnt from the HTML5 course, but I really like the experiences I had for those couple of months, I was starting my class with similar enthusiasts like me and we’ve encountered the same problems, and discussed then solved them to gain our points. Some enthusiast determine to mastering what they’ve learnt, and me just for fun and the taste of community learning. But the skills of communcation, teamwork, project management and engagement were the instrinsic values of the course.


Keller, J. M. 1987b). “The Systematic Process of Motivational Design.” Performance &
Instruction, 26(9), 1-8.