Over the course of the past several weeks I have furthered my knowledge and challenged my perspectives on learning theories and learning styles. I have developed a greater understanding of how individuals learn and process information. I have also had the opportunity to reflect on my own learning which will ultimately affect the way I instruct or design a meaningful learning experience that seeks to meet the needs of the individual learners. I have also gained a better understanding of how the different learning theories and learning styles influence the use of technology and motivation in a learning experience. Having the opportunity to increase my knowledge on learning theories, strategies, and technology that we have explored in this course will overall help me to be more successful as I continue my career pursuits in instructional design.
During the course I further developed my understanding of how individuals process information and had the opportunity to challenge my perspectives on learning styles and learning strategies. Information that is processed by the learner affects how knowledge is stored and retrieved from the memory. The different learning theories provide an explanation of how memory is activated and how transfer occurs (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, 2009). It was interesting to compare the differences in how the learning styles influence learning, memory, and transfer through the creation of our learning matrixes. While working on the learning theory matrix throughout the course and reflecting on the information on learning styles I found my previous held perspectives on learning styles challenged and further developed. Learning styles not only vary from person to person, but also differ depending on content and context (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008). The style or method in which content is delivered to the learner may need to be modified depending on the content and the context in which the individual is learning. Although there may be a tendency to focus on the specific learning style that meets the learner’s needs it can also be beneficial to incorporate different learning styles or multiple intelligences to help the learner develop skills and challenge them to think and solve problems in different ways (Gilbert & Swanier, 2008). I also learned learning strategies that might be a more effective approach when addressing the variances that exist from learner to learner rather than just focusing on differing learning styles (Laureate, 2009b). Learners may benefit from the use of elaboration, comprehension monitoring, and mnemonics which can be incorporated into the learning by instructor or designer (Laureate, 2009b).
Reflecting on how others learn allowed me the opportunity to further examine my own learning styles or preferences. Through the use of the mind map to map our learning connections during week five of the course I was able to clearly see the connections and networks that exist that influence my learning. Technology plays a significant role as it is often times the starting point for accessing people or data to enhance my learning (Laureate, 2009a). Having an understanding of the role technology plays in my learning will help me to be more aware of the role it plays in learning for others. I also was able to further develop my knowledge on how I learn by examining adult learning theories. Adult learners are self-directed, draw from experience to serve as resource for learning, seek immediate application of knowledge, are motivated intrinsically, and need an understanding of the relevancy of the information or learning (Cercone, 2008). As an adult learner I take an active role in my learning and need to be mindful of employing different strategies that can enhance my learning when perhaps a learning experience may not be meeting all of my needs. Additionally through metacognition I can monitor my comprehension and assess my progress as I am learning (Laureate, 2009b).
There are many factors that influence the learning process. Learning theories, learning styles, technology, and motivation come together to inform a more comprehensive approach to creating a meaningful learning experience (Muniandy, Mohammad, & Fong, 2007). Each learning theory may be fundamentally different, but they all provide foundational information that can guide instruction. Kapp (2006) suggests a more blended approach to the use of learning theories. Different learning theories and learning styles may not always or necessarily be utilized simultaneously, but a particular lesson may incorporate the use of different learning theories and learning styles to motivate the learner depending on the activities taking place or the learning goal. Additionally the different learning theories and learning styles can also help to inform on how to successfully incorporate technology in a lesson or activity that will aid in maintaining the motivation of the learner.
Creating a meaningful learning experience requires a thorough analysis of the characteristics of the learner, the content to be delivered, the context in which the learning is taking place, the educational goals, and the methods or technologies that will be used to deliver the knowledge (Culatta, 2011). Having a strong understanding of the different learning theories and learning styles will help me make sound decisions when creating a learning experience that is engaging and meets the needs of all of the learners in a course. I also will be able to use the knowledge that I have gained from this course to effectively incorporate technology in order to make the content more enriching an interactive so that the learner can feel connected to the learning and motivated by the content.
Theories on learning and technology will continue to advance and evolve. As new technologies emerge and ideas on best practice for learning theories evolve it will be important continually reflect on the knowledge and skills I have gained from this course. Additionally I will need to stay connected with other practitioners in the field of instructional design by accessing the professional networks available through blogs or wikis so that I can stay well-informed of new ideas and new technologies.
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