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Learning Theories & Pedagogies...

Updated: Mar 21

What is a Learning Theory?

"In short, learning theories are abstract frameworks that describe how knowledge is received and processed during the learning experience"

- Alan J. Reid, PhD

What is a Pedagogy?

"The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept."

- Oxford Languages Dictionary


Learning is the big picture...


I find it helpful to think of the learning theories, and pedagogical approaches as puzzle pieces each focusing on a different layer or aspect of the larger picture of learning often working simultaneously. Sometimes elements from one may be more prevalent than another, however, if we only observe from one perspective, we might miss something important.


Pedagogical Approaches are organized into two main categories; Learner-Centered and Instructor Centered:

"Student-centered mindsets view the learner as primary and unique agents of learning, engagement, and connection, as opposed to teacher-centered mindsets which tend to view learners as passive and uniform vessels."

- Stanford Teaching Commons


Let's Compare the Instructional Design of These Two Categories

​Instructor-Centered

Learner-Centered

Instructor Role

  • ​Arbiter of Right and Wrong,

  • Dominates Learning Environment,

  • Transmission Model (Top-Down),

  • Compliance-Seeking

  • Controls Student Behavior Through Prompting, Interrupting, Extrinsic Motivators etc.,

  • Dictates The Process By Which Learning Should Occur

  • Imposes Meaning,

  • Wields and Leverages Power

  • Facilitates/ Mediates,/ Nurtures/ Guides,

  • Prepares & Customizes Learning Environment,

  • Constructs Environment to Purposefully Engage Various Thought Processes

  • Makes Space for Multiple Perspectives

  • Respects & Acknowledges Students’ Existing Knowledge, Experience & Individual Needs,

  • Conscious of and Sparingly Wields/Leverages Power

  • Recruits,

  • Able to Deliver Information in a Variety of Ways,

  • Cultivates inquiry & Curiosity,

Learner Role

  • Passive Participant

  • Recipient of Knowledge

​Active Participant,

  • Has Access to Choices,

  • Dictates The Process by Which Learning Should Occur

  • Can Communicate Needs and Preferences,

  • Has Control Over Learning Environment,

  • Agency

  • Self-Directed,

  • Self-Paced,

  • Seeks to Understand New Information in Relation to Cataloged Information in Memory.

  • Develops Independence,

  • Develops Self-Regulation

Instructional Design Elements

*Not an exhaustive list...

  • ​Instructor Led

  • One-Way Communication

  • Transactional

  • Procedural/Sequential

  • Fixed/Rigid

  • Repetitive (Drills, Loops, etc.)

  • Observable Behavior

  • Assigned Associations

  • Extrinsic Motivation

  • Imposed Consequences

  • Compartmentalized Knowledge

  • Discrete Skills

  • ​Learner Led

  • Two-Way Communication

  • Collaborative/Negotiation

  • Prepared Environment

  • Flexible

  • Multiple Perspectives

  • Scaffolding

  • Balance of Power

  • Exploration/Discovery

  • Embedded Learning

  • Cognitive Structuring

  • Intrinsic Motivation

  • Process-Based Evaluation

  • Schematic Knowledge

  • Adaptation/Accommodation


 

Learning Theories:


Behaviorism

Instructor-Centered


Learning occurs as a result of the production of expected observable behavior (outputs) through repetitive exposure to external stimuli and responses (inputs).


Key Contributors: Skinner, Pavlov,

Watson, Guthrie


Constructivism

Learner-Centered


Learning occurs as a result of students actively participating in the construction of their own knowledge and building off of existing knowledge and experiences.


Key Contributors: Vygotsky, Piaget, Brunner, Dewey


Cognitivism

Learner-Centered


Learning is a change in mental representations and associations through experience. Cognitive processes matter as much, if not more than observable behavior.


Key Contributors: Piaget, Shell, Winna



Andragogy

Learner-Centered


A framework of adult learning, in which it is recognized that the student possesses extensive knowledge and is seeking information immediately applicable or relevant to their situation.


Key Contributors: Knowles


Holistic

Learner-Centered


Learning is best facilitated when the physical, emotional, mental, and social needs of the individual are fulfilled.


Key Contributors: Maslow



There is a pedagogical evolution occurring in the training industry. Where we go next is up to us...

The animal training industry is decades behind human education as these learning theories have not only existed for a long time, but are at the forefront of teaching in other realms.


Even R+ / force-free training strategies tend to be overwhelmingly teacher-centered. How can we adapt our instructional design to be more learner-centered? Although this information is not new, adapting our strategies in the animal training industry to catch up is, and I believe that using human education as a model can help to propel the animal training industry into the future.


What do you think?

 

Sources Referenced:


Reid, A. J. (n.d.). Learning theory overview. Instructional Design Central. Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://www.instructionaldesigncentral.com/learning-theory


Teacher-centered vs. student-centered course design. Stanford Teaching Commons. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2023, from https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-guides/foundations-course-design/theory-practice/teacher-centered-vs-student-centered




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