Reflections on Learning Theories and Instruction (EDUC 6115)

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The introduction to Learning Theories and Instruction (EDUC 6115), gives us a basis for the purpose and intent of the course.  As a result of rapidly changing and developing technologies, the implementation of learning theories is also changing as instructional designers are challenged to incorporate “educational technology into instructional practice (n.d.).”  I do not know if this is an advantageous or disadvantageous time to be a new learner in the field of instructional design.  What I can say is that the time is an exciting one!  George Siemens acknowledged this technology boon when he said, “…we’re seeing a significant explosion in how we start to connect with other people but also how we connect with data sources (2005, April 5).”  Instructional design is not my present occupation, nor my prior training. While I have had some exposure to learning theories and styles through college psychology and nutrition counseling classes, and minimally through my department’s inservice presentations, my knowledge was largely incomplete and outdated.  Through this course I have faced the challenges of recognizing and understanding theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, social learning, adult learning, and connectivism, in addition to learning styles and strategies, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, as well exploring how emerging technologies can be incorporated into effective instruction.  I was also asked to blog and tried to make sense of mindmapping techniques.  Finally, I was tasked with attempting to explain how motivational strategies could be utilized in an online education environment using Keller’s ARCS model.  And all of this has taken place in only eight short weeks.

In these eight short weeks, I found a few things to be quite striking.  First and foremost was that while I anticipated that understanding the various learning theories would be simple, I actually had no idea just how confusing and confounding they would be to me.  For example, just when I thought that I had a good grasp on the concepts, suddenly I would be hard-pressed to differentiate clearly between cognitvism and constructivism.  Of course, now I understand that the learning theories are not mutually exclusive and bleed over into each other in various ways. As stated by Braungart and Braungart (n.d.), “…learning theories should not be considered to be mutually exclusive but rather to operate together to change attitudes and behavior.”  Braungart and Braungart seem to be in agreement with Bill Kerr who said, “…each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand-alone in their own right.”  Secondly, I was surprised by Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.  I had limited exposure to these ideas once or twice in the past, but I did not realize their real value until this class.  I am especially excited that Gardner indicates that the learner can work to improve upon deficiencies of any of the intelligences should he or she desire to do so (Gardner, 2003, April 21).

My understanding of my personal learning process has changed to the extent that I can see more clearly the aspects of the learning theories and learning styles and strategies at play. I recall that in the first week of the semester I posted in the discussion group that I had always found it difficult to determine my primary learning style because it appeared to vary according to what I was learning.  I was presented with terms, definitions, and a learning theory matrix which describe my personal learning processes, and which work together to create a framework which when I apply to my personal learning processes, indicates that I utilize a combination of theories, learning styles and strategies.  My experience was confirmed later in the course by the suggested practice of including exposure to activities in instructional designs addressing a variety of learning styles to reflect the fact that people learn differently depending on the content (Armstrong, 2009). I see just how complex and complicated learning is and how challenging it will be to create fantastic instructional designs.

Because people do learn differently depending upon the content it is critical to have a good understanding of the differences and connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation.  Learning is a complex phenomenon that is not yet entirely understood.  Brain-based research and the lively discourse about learning theories gives us a glimpse but there must be so much more to discover and know.  After applying the Five Definitive Questions, I can see that while learning theories have major differences, they also have similarities and factors that connect them all (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).  Learning styles, such as visual, aural, and kinesthetic are pretty distinct, however this is an instance in which a learner’s preferred or chosen style of learning will often vary depending on material to be learned or the task at hand.  When we combine this knowledge with competence in educational technology and incorporate motivational strategies the learner will benefit from a tremendous learning environment that is designed with his or her needs in mind.

This knowledge and experience I obtained from this course will be of great value as I continue through the program to graduation, as well as in the workplace.  Having this basic understanding will allow me to create instructional designs that successfully meet the needs of learners and facilitators alike. This will benefit my current department in the event they wish to utilize the skills I am working to acquire.  A revelation I had during this class was that I discovered that my real-world experience seems insufficient in activities related to instructional design leaving me with a small, but real fear that I have little from which to draw upon as I move forward in classes.  Hanson states that, “Many technological education teachers have a life and work experience base from which to draw when designing learning activities (2000).”  Fortunately, though my future classes look daunting, my experience so far in my Walden classes has boosted my general confidence in my ability to perform at an acceptable, or better, level in my future classes.  Through this course I have not only had the pleasure of exploring the learning theories, styles, strategies, and many other facets of learning already mentioned in the introduction to this reflection paper, I have also gained a useful and applicable understanding of them and their use in instructional design.  More importantly, I became excited.

Learning about motivation theory and Keller’s ARCS model for incorporating motivational activities into instructional design ignited some sparks for me.  Because adult learners are self-directed and relatively autonomous, our job will not be to fill them with information.  Our task will be, through our designs or by being the actual facilitator, to inspire motivation and then to help keep our learners motivated.  On a web page of his, Keller has posted a few quotes, including one by the poet Robert Frost about the “the road less travelled”, and one for the Star Trek mission statement.  Keller asks the reader to consider what it is that the quotes have in common.  Keller says, “They evoke fundamental qualities of human motivation and persistence: the desires for adventure, for explorations into the unknown, for expanding our boundaries of knowledge, feeling and understanding, and for having the persistence and courage to conquer personal and world obstacles that might otherwise impede these quests (Keller, 2006).”  My favorite mission statement is the one used by the United States’ National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) from 2002-2006.  NASA’s mission statement read, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers…as only NASA can (Revkin, 2006).”  The wording, tone and spirit of NASA’s mission statement is not lost on me in its relevance and similarity to Keller’s statement.  After all, what is education and learning about, if not knowledge, feeling, desire, adventure, exploring, expanding, courage, quest, conquering, understanding, seeking, motivation and inspiration?  As NASA’s mission statement suggests, people who live these words will inspire the next generation to do the same.  It is not just our learners who will be impacted by the influence of our instructional designs. The potential exists for our impact and influence to be carried forward to our learners’ children, families, friends, and colleagues.  How exciting is that?!  That will be my, indeed our, legacy.


Armstrong, T.  (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom. [3rd edition]. Association for

            Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved March 2, 2013 from

Braungart, M. M., and Braungart, R. G. (n.d.). Applying learning theories to healthcare practice. Retrived

March 2, 2013 from

Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features

from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.

Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple intelligences after twenty years. Nettuno. Retrieved March 2, 2013


Hansen, R. (2000, Spring). The role of experience in learning: Giving meaning and authenticity to the

learning process in schools. Journal of Technology Education, 11(2), 22-32. Retrieved March 2, 2013


Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2013 from



Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance

education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. (78), 39.

Keller, J. M. (2006). What do these passages have in common? Retrieved March 2, 2013 from


Siemens, G. (2005, April 5). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. [Blog post]. Elearnspace.

Retrieved March 2, 2013 from


  1. Ken Dietiker says:

    I really like this reflection, Lorena. It actually says a lot of the same things I have been thinking myself, but says it much better than I did in my own reflection on the course. Now, after comparing, I feel my is somewhat simple and lacking. Great job in expressing these past 8 weeks!

    Ken Dietiker

  2. 1fadwa says:

    Reblogged this on 1fadwa.

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