Learning Theories: Fitting the Pieces Together

At the beginning of the current course I am taking on learning theories, we considered what theories explained our learning style. Now at the end of the course after studying behaviorist, cognitive, constructivist, social learning, connectivism, and adult learning theories, we are looking back and re-examining our initial thoughts.

My original assessment on how I learn included behaviorism during the early years as my parents and teachers used modeling, consequences, reinforcement, and cues to assist with learning simple facts and appropriate behaviors (Standridge, 2001). As my education continued and knowledge base grew, instructors used cognitive information processing theory and employed various learning strategies to assist me with organizing ideas and concepts into long-term memory (LTM) and creating associations for later recall (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009, p. 84). Finally, as an adult learner, the tenants of andragogy applied to my sense of responsibility for my informal and formal learning. I am intrinsically motivated to pursue learning opportunities, especially when I can apply the knowledge or skills immediately in my career or personal life (Ozuah, 2005, p. 84). At the completion of studying learning theories, my thoughts about which ones I benefited from throughout the years needs to expand to include social learning theory and connectivism.

Social learning theory and connectivism share several characteristics when it comes to explaining how a person learns. Both emphasize the importance of interactions with social networks in shaping our thoughts and perspectives about the world around us. The often-quoted phrase, “No man is an island” comes to mind when I think about the truth of how people have influenced my learning. Vygotsky suggests in the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) that people bring an understanding of a subject to every social interaction and because of the interaction, they incorporate new ideas and perspectives to create new meanings (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009, p. 192). In addition, “any personal meanings shaped through these experiences are affected by the intersubjectivity of the community to which the people belong” (Kim, 2001). Another aspect of ZPD is how experts in a subject matter or skill help bring someone along the ZPD scale from an introductory to advanced knowledge (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.2.). Both of these concepts have played a part in my education. Through brainstorming with others, whether with colleagues at work, classmates or with family and friends, I gain new perspectives and add to what I already know on a topic. I also learn from the expertise of others, whether an instructor throughout my formal education or from the talents of others in a more informal setting.

Additionally, connectivism expands the idea of learning from our social networks to include technology and information networks. The concepts of connectivism not only address our ability to network effectively to gain knowledge, it recognizes the importance of knowing what information to hold onto and what to off-load and retrieve when necessary as crucial in being able to keep current with the abundant and ever-changing flow of knowledge (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008; Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.1.). In keeping with the ideas of adult learning theory, I tend to be motivated to learn something when I can apply it right away. In today’s world, I can find information just in time by conducting an internet search for a YouTube video to show me how to do something or an article on a subject I need to know. I am no longer limited to my memory or need to hold all knowledge within myself, as I can recall the information through my network of resources (social and technological) whenever I need it. Connectivism is a living and breathing theory with how quickly the world and information is changing. I believe it will continue to be essential for me to network with others and use technology as a way to stay informed, learn new skills, and access information going forward.


Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. (In M. Orey, Editor) Retrieved from Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Connectivism

Jobling, C. (2010, October 10). PLE/PLN and learning theories. [Photo]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/cpjobling/5067090661/in/photolist-8HLaw6-o3AbUS-p1gheJ-kGimj-2s1oN-fMLELr-9777xs-9777AJ-8dc25q-C23PV-5MfmzX-ci5BKj-jR9gc-CepDL-cPvNh-e8hXaw-mDXgFT-8uHtG2-Bf1yg-qEjnf2-DeAXXx-5wrz1p-FHEhG9-dnf1dp-8vKtZy-4RwRas-CUpjFF-EdBVLh-DU

Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism. (In M. Orey, Editor) Retrieved September21 2016, from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Social_Constructivism

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.1.). Connectivism with Dr. George Siemens. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.2.). Theory of Social Cognitive Development with Dr. Jeanne Ormrod. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Vol. Laureate custom edition). New York, NY: Pearson.

Ozuah, P. O. (2005). First, there was pedagogy and then came andragogy. The Einstein Journal of Biology and Medicine, 21, 83-87.

Standridge, M. (2001). Behaviorism. Retrieved from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Behaviorism


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