Learning Theories and Instructional Technologies: Reflection of Learning

What did you find surprising or striking as you furthered your knowledge about how people learn?

I found it amazing that we live in a society that has serious debates within our political parties about education, and there are enormous amounts of data that show that the traditional methods in teaching do not work for everyone, yet we continue doing the same thing. At least in online distance learning courses, there is a positive change occurring where instructors are actually pursuing professional development and implementing best research based strategies to improve student success rates. I know that there is not a one-size-fits-all theory of pedagogy or andragogy, but I was happy to learn about several things to aid in helping my students be more successful. In putting things together, I learned that in online courses many students feel anxious or stressed for many different reasons and that brain based learning supports motivational strategies when it comes to dissipating student anxieties or stress within online course settings. In the brain, the amygdala processes emotions and can react so aggressively to stress that it will physically prevent information from reaching the centers of the brain necessary for absorbing new knowledge (Bernard 2010). With this in mind, it makes sense to create a learning environment where students feel safe to be themselves and take risks. This lends itself to the motivational strategies of making students feel welcome and maintain a high instructor-learner dialog from the very onset of the online course (Lewis & Schwer 2013).

How has this course deepened your understanding of your personal learning process?

I feel that this question also ties into what I found surprising or striking in my learning during this course. I knew that as an adult returning to college that I was more motivated and focused, but it never really set into my mind as to how to design a course that meets the needs of adults such as myself. I found it striking that courses need to be designed to meet the needs of a variety of students and that adult learners, such as myself, fit into a category of our own.

In this course I also realized some things about myself. For instance, I always knew that I was a perfectionist and that I would not complete work without making sure that I had read and understood every aspect of the material that I could. I began to realize that this may not be very effective for me due to time constraints and my difficulties with reading materials. Therefore, I began to make myself skim for important information (something I have always struggled with) in reading materials and use other resources such as YouTube and other websites that provided information on the topic. This helped me to not only get a better understanding of the topics, but to work a little faster. However, I had to make myself stop researching and just go with what I had learned. As a self-motivated adult learner, I also realized that I can get caught in the trap of fishing through the depths of the internet for more information on topics rather than focusing on getting enough information to satisfy the learning objectives for the unit. I began to copy and paste the discussion questions in a MS document and focus on answering them individually as I found relevant content. This proved to help keep me on task and to only research enough to satisfy the given requirements.

What have you learned regarding the connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation?

I learned that the different learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation all work together when considering instructional design in any course. Each topic has its importance in educating the individual student. It seems that best individual learning opportunities can be served when the instructor can gather individual preferences in each of these categories in order to facilitate learning resources and assignments that will cater to those specific needs. This can be done in the beginning of a course with student introductions and about me assignments. Instructors can also conduct other learning inventory surveys to gain more insight to the individual needs of the students that compose the class. However, the instructor also needs to provide a clear and concise layout of the course and how learning outcomes will be completed. Gardner’s importance of teaching to the individual rather than just those that have learning inventories that match traditional course instruction, “the law professor mind” as Gardner called it, helped me to realize how traditional educational strategies are actually unfair and hinder academic growth (Gardner 1997).

Not every lesson can be created to exactly meet individual learning strengths; therefore the instructor needs to be involved to guide and support learning through the course. It is important for the instructor to stretch every student’s ability to extract information in different ways and to allow them to see their growth in doing so. As instructors guide students in developing the skills to becoming self-sufficient learners, they will be creating successful lifelong learners in multiple atmospheres. This is especially true when instructional designers develop student centered courses with the adult learner in mind (Conland, Grabowski, & Smith 2003).

How will your learning in this course help you as you further your career in the field of instructional design?

I have learned to design my courses according to several of the learning modules in this course. Upon reading through the resources in Module 5, my interest was spiked and I saw adult education in a way that made sense because I could identify with the concepts in my own needs in education. “Professional development of facilitators of adults should promote dialogue, reflection, and quality. The integrative approach to professional development involves key elements” (Lawler, 2003, used by Conland, Grabowski, & Smith).

Professional development:

  • Is adult education
  • Is learner centered
  • Is transformative learning
  • Needs to address motivation
  • Needs to address technology learning

Adult learning theories made me more aware of what each individual student needs, because how can I expect only my needs to be met in an online course without consideration for my peers needs. I would expect the course facilitator or instructor to be cognizant of every student’s needs. This made me realize, as an instructional designer, that I will need to identify and structure my online courses to meet the needs of my diverse individual students with different learning structures, abilities, and needs. The reality of it is that online courses can be comprised of traditional students fresh out of high school, students with linguistic and cultural diversities, out of state and/or out of country students, learners with special needs or disabilities, adult learners with different goals and experiences, as well as adult learners with different time constraints that are not optional such as jobs, children, technology limitations, or other obligations. Knowing that each course will contain different diversities, I will design my courses to make each student feel welcome and successful in ways that align with their individual goals (Lewis & Schwer 2013).

References:

Bernard, S. (2010, Dec 1). To enable learning, put (emotional) safety first. Edutopia. Retrieved on May 6, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/neuroscience-brain-based-learning-emotional-safety

Lewis, J and Schwer, M. (2013, May 21).  Motivation and online students [Video File]. Retrieved on May 5, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVKEVXX32GQ

Gardner, H. (1997). Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Edutopia. [Video].  Retrieve from  http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-howard-gardner-video (Links to an external site.)

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning: review of adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology, University of Georgia. Retrieved from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

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