Reflection: Learning Theories and Instruction

When I started this course, Learning Theories and Instruction, I had several pre-conceived notions about how people learn. My knowledge of the subject has gone from a fairly generic understanding of instructional theories to gaining an appreciation of the breadth of different approaches available. Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler describe learning as “a multifaceted process that individuals typically take for granted until they experience difficulty with a complex task”. (2009) I am beginning my formal learning for Instructional Design and I am realizing how complex a subject it can be.

One thing that surprised me was the diversity of opinions related to the approaches towards instructional strategy. The discussion between Kapp, Downes, and Kerr (Kapp 2007) was particularly illuminating. Kapp suggested a layered approach to include strategies of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. (2007) Downes was completely against using behaviorism as an instructional tool. (2006)

While I did not have a name for some of the approaches introduced in this course, I had a basic understanding they existed when I started. For example, cognitive theory is about acquiring knowledge and internal structure and making small changes. (Ertmer & Newby 1993) When I was an undergrad, my minor was in anthropology and cognitive instructional theory is similar to cognitive anthropology, which includes learning and organization of knowledge and is described in part as examining private understanding by analyzing aspects of individual behavior, including speech. (Kottak, 1994) This shows me there is a connection between learning theories and possible connections between the sciences.

Instructional approaches are not a “one-stop shop”. Individuals learn by different methods and multiple strategies should be used when designing instruction, as suggested by Gilbert & Swainer. (2008) Also, technology is continually evolving and new tools, such as Smart Objects or Mobile technology, are always being developed as demonstrated in The Horizon Support. (Johnson, Levine, & Smith 2009) My intent is to explore and integrate these new technologies with existing learning theory and strategy.

 I am hoping to apply what I have learned in this course as I further my career in instructional design. I now have a better understanding that not all students learn the same way and would be wise to include multiple methods of instruction.

I know I am just starting my formal education in the field, but I am learning something every day. Whether it is a video, a brief article, or a blog post, there is so much to learn about learning and instruction.



Downes, Stephen (2006, December 19) Commentary by Stephen Downes. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from:

Johnson, L., Levine, A., & Smith, R. (2009). The Horizon Report (2009 ed.). Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Kapp, Karl (2007, January2). Out and About Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought Retrieved from

Kottak, Conrad Phillip (1994). Anthropology: The Exploration of Human Diversity. McGraw Hill, Inc.

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


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