Reflection on Learning Styles


Education is undergoing a shift from the traditional lecture classroom to a multifaceted, technology rich learning environment.  Previous learning environments required learners to practice metacognition on their own.  Current educational models require the instructor to incorporate numerous learning theories, current brain research, innovative technology and a variety of learning styles.  This shift has allowed me to explore my personal learning process in depth and apply that knowledge to the creation of innovative instructional design.

Exploring my personal learning process has been an enlightening challenge.  My metacognition has always focused on moving relevant information from my short term memory to my long term memory with minimal effort.  I have incorporated several memory tools such as rehearsal, mnemonic devices, creating a story and visual representations (Curtis, 2008).  Recently, I shifted my metacognitive focus from simple memorization to understanding the connections I form with the material.  While memorization requires maintenance rehearsal and visual cues, true comprehension of new information comes from connections to previous schemata and nodes of information (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).  This desire to connect new information by building new synapses to old information demonstrates my proclivities for cognitive learning theory (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2008).  I am also predisposed toward constructing my own meaning from experiences.  I often utilize constructivist principles in my classroom because I enjoy learning this way (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2008).

While I have identified learning theories that describe my nature, I was surprised to find two learning theories that do not.  I recently realized that I am not a social learner (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2008).  I have an extensive network of informative sources, but I require statistical or empirical information to accept divergent information as more than an anomaly.  Connectivism also relies heavily on social interaction to create meaning.  These interactions rarely create content specific meaning without additional research.

I was also surprised to learn that not all learning theorist ascribe to one learning theory.  There was a very lively debate between S. Downes, K. Kapp and B. Kerr in which they agreed that the learning theories were incomplete, evolving and could be utilized in conjunction (Kerr, 2007).  Kapp (2007) noted, “We need to take pieces from each school of thought and apply it effectively because… Cognitivism doesn’t explain 100% how humans process information and neither does Constructivism or Behaviorism. What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners”.  Oregon State University has incorporated a tutorial that combines Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory and Dunn’s Learning Styles to create a more effective learning tool (Chau, 2006).

I have learned that innovation in education is a communal process.  Most of us articulate what we know, reflect on what we have learned, and construct personal meaning.  We work together to negotiate the internal meaning we are still in the process of constructing (Huang, 2002).  This social learning does not have to be a preference in order for learning to occur.  Every student has a preferred learning style for a specific task.  However, these learning styles can change relative to the task, material being presented or the motivation of the learner at that particular time (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008).  Utilizing only one theory of learning or one learning style as the predominant method of teaching would be a travesty.  These theories and styles can work in harmony during a fully interactive technology rich lesson.  Integrating various technological tools and incorporating several learning styles throughout the presentation can increase motivation as well as learning.  “It is up to the student to make sense of the body of knowledge associated with the course being delivered. The instructor supports this process through the use of collaborative assignments, facilitation of active discussion, and promotion of the development of critical thinking and research skills” (Palloff & Pratt, 1999, p. 1).

As an instructional designer, I plan to incorporate metacognition and the ARCS model into my design.  Students  are encouraged to reflect on their learning and choose strategies that increase their comprehension.  When students are not successful, I will offer alternate methods of acquiring the material that could be more effective for the situation (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009).   Learners create multimedia presentations and debate controversial subjects related to the course material.  Discussion forums provide a true social learning environment and I offer ongoing relevant feedback throughout the course (ChanLin, 2009).  I am moving towards a personalized web experience in which students utilize tools like Scoop It, group Diigo, group Wikis and Blogs in addition to forums to create a personalized content specific web experience.

Online learning environments must provide engagement for the learners (Lim, 2004).  Incorporating technology specific to learning outcomes increases engagement.  Personalizing the instruction via forums, blogs and e-mails can increase learning, motivation and student satisfaction.  Finally, studying one’s personal learning style and comparing it to current learning theories provides an opportunity for instructional design specialists to evaluate teaching methods in a much more informed manner.  Hopefully, this will result in the creation of numerous highly effective courses.

 

References

Chau, M. (2006). Connecting learning styles and multiple intelligences theories through learning strategies: an online tutorial for library instruction. Collections.

ChanLin, L. (2009). Applying motivational analysis in a Web-based course. Innovations In Education & Teaching International, 46(1), 91-103. doi:10.1080/14703290802646123

Curtis, Patricia. (March, 2008).  20 Memory Tricks You’ll Never Forget.  Reader’s Digest.  Digital Version.  Retrieved from http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/20-memory-tricks-youll-never-forget/.  Retrieved November 9, 2012

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

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.auburn.edu/~witteje/ilsrj/Journal%20Volumes/Fall%202008%20Volume%201%20PDFs/Learning%20Styles%20How%20do%20They%20Fluctuate.pdf

Huang, H. M. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(1), 27-37.

Kapp, K. (2007, January 2). Out and About: Discussion on educational schools of thought [Blog post]. Retrieved fromhttp://www.uleduneering.com/kappnotes/index.php/2007/01/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational/

Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html

Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 16–23.

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

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Retrieved from

http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:e9jM-wLb1UcJ:scholar.google.com/+Online+learning+and+critical+thinking&hl=en&as_sdt=0,4

 

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Fitting the Pieces Together

As my comprehension of learning theories has increased, I have spent more time on metacognition.  I still believe that a lot of my learning is Behaviorist in nature.  When rewarded with good grades, I repeat the procedure.  When unsatisfied with my grade or instructor feedback, I evaluate my feedback, reread the expectations and produce something different (Ormrod, Schunk & Gredler, 2008).  Although this is my primary focus, I am also a connectivist.  I connect nodes of information as most adult learners do (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).  When reviewing my previous mind map, the reliance on internet based media becomes immediately apparent.  I utilize this technology to connect me with learning resources.  I then cross reference these nodes to produce an appropriate synthesis of information.  As an adult learner, I am intrinsically motivated and spend time setting goals and reviewing my progress (Conlan, Grabowski & Smith, 2003).   My epistemological beliefs have subtly colored my metacognition (Smith & Pourchot, 1998).  While I believe that engaging in learning is a choice available to everyone, I understand that educational institutions focus on the behaviors that demonstrate knowledge, not the actual knowledge for obvious measurable accountability reasons.  With this ingrained knowledge, I find myself drawn to Pavlov’s work when analyzing my own learning experiences.  I don’t look at how much more information my brain is storing, I simply analyze the products of my knowledge.  This subtle application of my epistemological belief creates a behaviorist predisposition.  Although I find myself constructing knowledge and communicating with others about the information, I remain fixated on behaviorism because it provides a method of measurement not inherent in other learning theories.  My overall learning style is a combination of connectivism, constructivism, social learning, cognitive principles and behaviorist adjustments, but my metacognition focuses on the behavioral responses to stimuli.

Throughout this metacognitive journey, I utilized technology for every facet of my education.  I research topics utilizing Google Scholar and record information in my One Note.  I then create projects via Microsoft Office programs.  This complete integration of technology is not limited in application to the laptop.  I replay videos and reread information via my cellular phone and highlight text on my nook.  Higher education has become a mobile endeavor.

References

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.  Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

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

Ormrod, J. E., Schunk, D. H., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction. 2009: Pearson Custom Publishing.

Reflection on Connectivism: My Mind Map Reflection

My network has drastically changed the way I learn.  I used to learn by reading as many scholarly sources as I could find about a particular topic.  Then I would form an opinion and move to the next topic.  Sometimes I would connect topics and sometimes I would not.  Since becoming a part of the digital world, I learn much differently.  I actually read posts from experts and other educators and ask them directly for assistance.  This has changed the way I work tremendously.  Now I utilize livebinder and blogs more frequently than scholarly journals and books.  When I read about a new topic, I ask questions directly of the experts in the field and solicit scholarly recommendations.  Often I purchase materials recommended by experts rather than navigate the bookstore or library individually.  I have not visited the scholarly libraries in many years.  The works housed in the Law Library and Library of Congress can be found digitally.  However, my scholarly interest is often superseded by the availability and diversity of twitter.  This is perhaps my favorite learning tool.  I follow experts and educational leaders to stay abreast of current research and trends.  I have found that following experts and conferences on twitter combined with weekly Diigo and DEN updates provides access more technology than I can utilize in one school year.  This connectivist approach to learning has opened possibilities that were previously unknown.

My current learning practices are a perfect example of connectivism.  I currently utilize technology as my primary source of information (Laureate, 2009).  When researching a topic, I immediately log on to my computer and search utilizing Google Scholar.  I connect with others and we share our resources and learning (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).  During most of the conferences we tweet information from the sessions and follow the conference wiki.  In this manner, I connect different nodes of information and focus on my ability to know more (Davis, Edmunds & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).  Most of my information sources are open, diverse, interactive and people contribute autonomously (Siemens, 2006).  For example, many of the experts that I follow on twitter also post regular blog entries.  When I am confused about a topic, I comment and wait for an answer.  If I do not like or understand the blog response, I ask the question on twitter and am immediately inundated with responses.  This interconnected approach to learning is the very definition of connectivism.

References

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

Laureate Education, Inc. (2009). “ Connectivism”. [Video Podcast]. [With George Siemens].

Siemens, G. (2006). Knowing Knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/KnowingKnowledge_LowRes.pdf .