Learning Theories are frameworks that are extensively used by Instructional Designers to meet the requirements of the target audience and the situation. To do justice to this mandate, an Instructional Designer must first understand Learning Theories in order to apply them. Once they understand the strengths and weaknesses of each Learning Theory, they can optimise their use.
What is the significance of Learning Theories?
Learning Theories are essentially are established frameworks that describe how learners acquire, process and retain information during learning. Where the same information can be presented in multiple ways, Learning Theories help guide Instructional Designers in crafting effective learning solutions by:
- Identifying the appropriate format and methodology of learning
- Making the learning process meaningful and engaging for learners with varying learning styles
What are the key New-Age or modern Learning Theories relevant to online training or eLearning?
There are several modern Learning Theories that are used extensively to design eLearning courses. I outline 4 modern Learning Theories, as follows:
Adult Learning: The concept of adult learning was developed by Malcolm Knowles. According to him, andragogy is the art and science of how adults learn. Andragogy outlines six main assumptions about adult learners:
- Adult learners need to know why they are taking up a course.
- They have a strong desire to be considered self-directing and would therefore resist any form of forced instruction.
- They have varied and extensive prior experience that could both help or hinder their learning.
- They are ready to learn only when the learning aligns with the developmental goals they have set for themselves.
- They are oriented to learning that is relevant to them, in order to solve problems or handle real-life situations.
- Adults are motivated learners, provided they feel that the instruction is useful to them.
Action Learning: Reg Revans is the ‘father’ of action learning.
The approach links the world of learning with the world of action through a reflective process.
- ‘Action learning sets’ are small, cooperative learning groups within which the reflective process takes place.
- The ‘sets’ meet regularly to work on real-life issues of individuals with the aim of learning with and from each other.
Experiential Learning: Kolb proposed this four-stage learning process. This theory states that without reflection, we would simply continue to repeat our mistakes. The experiential learning cycle involves:
- Concrete Experience: Putting into practice
- Reflective Observation: Objectively analysing the outcome
- Abstract Conceptualisation: Reviewing your conceptual understanding
- Active Experimentation: Experimenting to find solutions
Facilitation theory: Carl Rogers and others have developed the theory of facilitative learning. The basis of this theory is that the educator acts as a facilitator and creates a comfortable atmosphere for the learner to consider new ideas.
As we have noted so far, Learning Theories:
- Focus on different points of a continuum and cognitive processes
- Check the learner’s level of task knowledge
- Allow the designer to decide on the best suitable Learning Theory and associated strategies
- Help make the best use of practical applications of different Learning Theories
- Facilitate a large number of strategies to meet a variety of learning situations
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