M1-Week 2-Class

The following is a reflection on Week 2 (Class) of the Learning Theories module using Gibbs Reflective Cycle.


Today’s class represented the second class of five classes that will constitute the core teaching section of Module 1 (Learning Theories).  The lecturer for today was Ms Orla Hanratty.

Today’s class dealt with the two major learning theories:  Constructivism and Connectivism.  However, to add more detail, Orla dealt with the following ideas:

(1) Social Constructivism…..scaffolding, Vygotsky (zone of proximal development or ZPD)
(2) Critical Constructivism
(3) Constructionism
(4) Connectivism…..underpins MOOCs

…..and examined the following types of learning:

(1) Experiential learning (associated with constructivism)
(2) Discovery learning
(3) Problem based learning
(4) Social learning
(5) Situated learning
(6) Collaborative learning (associated with connectivism)

…..and the following educational researchers/psychologists/philosophers/social anthropologists/authors:

(1) Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980)
(2) Jerome Bruner (1915 – 2016)
(3) Albert Bandura (1925 – present)
(4) Seymour Papert (1928 – 2016)…..associated with constructionism
(5) Malcolm Knowles (1913 – 1997)…..associated with adult learning/andragogy
(6) Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984)
(7) Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997)
(8) Jürgen Havermas (1929 – present)
(9) David Kolb (1984 – present)…..associated with experiential learning
(10) Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934)
(11) Jean Lave (1939 – present)…..associated with situated learning and communities of practice
(12) Étienne Wenger (1952 – present)…..associated with situated learning and communities of practice
(13) Siemens (1964 – present)
(14) Stephen Downes (1959 – present)

My link:  Learning Theorists


Learners make mental models or ‘constructs” from their personal understandings based on knowledge not experience.  (See Jordan, Carlile & Stack, 2008, p.55).

This is a a learning theory stemming from the constructivist model, noting that students learn best when they are able to construct a tangible object or product which they can share with others.

Social Constructivism
This is the philosophical and scientific position that learning is the result of social interaction and the use of knowledge.

My link:  http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism

Critical Constructivism
This is also known as ‘critical pedagogy’.  It emphasises the importance of learners being self-reflective and able to challenge dominant social views.  It emphasies the idea that knowledge is linked to power.  Critical constructivism maintains that historical, social, cultural, economic, and political contexts construct our perspectives on the world, self, and other.  It encourages the establishment of dialogue orientated towards achieving mutual understanding. Critical constructivist thought encourages the questioning of dominant systems of knowledge production and the opening-up of a dialogue concerned with critical awareness.

The principal individuals who contributed to this field of study were Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984), Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997) and Jürgen Havermas (1929 – present).


Experiential learning
This is the process of learning through experience, and is more specifically defined as “learning through reflection on doing”.  Beginning in the 1970s, David A. Kolb helped to develop the modern theory of experiential learning, drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget.

Situated Learning
This involves contextual or situated learning resulting from co-participation with others.  It is often associated with how we learn professional skills.  Situated learning is an instructional approach developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s, and follows the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, and others (Clancey, 1995) who claim that students are more inclined to learn by actively participating in the learning experience. Situated learning essentially is a matter of creating meaning from the real activities of daily living (Stein, 1998, para. 2) where learning occurs relative to the teaching environment.
e.g. Communities of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

Communities of Practice (CoPs)
Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour.  Their characteristics are:  Domain, Practice, Community (Etienne Wenger) and include
Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Domain => a community of practice
Community => help each other and share information.

Communities of Practice versus Formal Work Group versus Project Work.


Jean Piaget
Theory of Cognitive Development – ages and stages
Play – children explore their world
Discovery learning movement in the 1960s
Bridging gap between cognitivism and constructivism

Jerome Bruner
Learning is goal-directed and driven by curiosity
There are three processes
(i) knowledge acquisition – learner asks ‘Does this confirm or challenge my previous knowledge’
(ii) knowledge transformation – learner asks ‘What other things can this knowledge do’
(iii) knowledge review – learners asks ‘Is the knowledge relevant’
Application of his work – ‘The Spiral Curriculum’

In a much later work, The Culture of Education (1996), Bruner postulated that culture provides a framework and an environment for learning.

Albert Bandura
He worked in the area of social learning / cognitive theory.  He is from a behaviourist tradition and is interested in imitation.  In 2008, he contributed to work on self-regulating efficacy in relation to the overload of information available through technology.

Seymour Papert
He was a pioneer of the constructionist movement in education which built upon the work of Jean Piaget in constructivist learning theories.  He was author of the important book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (1980) as well as the co-inventor, with Wally Feurzeig and Cynthia Solomon, of the Logo programming language.

Malcolm Knowles
He said that as a person matures the motivation to learn is internal.

Michel Foucault
His theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions.    Power is used to control and define knowledge.  What authorities claim as ‘scientific knowledge’ are really just means of social control. Foucault shows how, for instance, in the eighteenth century ‘madness’ was used to categorise and stigmatise not just the mentally ill but the poor, the sick, the homeless and, indeed, anyone whose expressions of individuality were unwelcome.

Paulo Freire
Dewey often described education as a mechanism for social change, explaining that “education is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstruction”.  Freire’s work, however, updated the concept and placed it in context with current theories and practices of education, laying the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy.  His most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was first published in Portuguese in 1968.  In this book, Freire champions that education should allow the oppressed to regain their sense of humanity, in turn overcoming their condition.

Jürgen Havermas
He considers his major contribution to be the development of the concept and theory of communicative reason or communicative rationality, which distinguishes itself from the rationalist tradition, by locating rationality in structures of interpersonal linguistic communication rather than in the structure of the cosmos.

David Kolb
Beginning in the 1970s, David A. Kolb developed a model of learning through experience and created the modern theory of experiential learning, drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget.  The Kolb experiential learning cycle basically involves four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualism and active experimentation.

Lev Vygotsky
Language an important tool.
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).
Guided learning and scaffolding.
ZPD is the area between what the student can learn unaided and what the student can learn with help.

IMPLICATIONS FOR YOUR PRACTICE – learner-centred teaching and learning strategies

Approach materials from learners perspective
Acknowledge and accommodate student diversity
Encourage reflection
Present an overview of topic including purpose and objectives
Build on what is already known
Encourage active learning
Provide timely feedback

(Adapted from Carlile et al, 2008).




Today’s class was the final stage three of the journey that took us from  behaviourism (remember, understand) to cognitivism (apply, analyse – see the big picture) to constructivism (evaluate, create – see if something works).  These are essentially the three learning theories that underpin Bloom’s taxonomy of the cognitive domain.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains


Personal Action Plans