Learning Theory and Reflections

Learning theories help explain how researchers believe that humans acquire new knowledge and skills. One of the earliest learning theories is behaviorism. This theory suggests that learning occurs primarily through observation and response to environmental stimuli in the form of reward and punishment. The theory is based on observations and outcomes from research done by Pavlov and Skinner. In both cases the subjects (Pavlov’s dog and Skinner’s rat) learned new behaviors through conditioning. A good example of behaviorism in education is the use of positive and negative consequences when students are able to duplicate a task at the teacher’s direction.

In a classroom where behaviorism is practiced, a teacher may reward students who perform well with better grades and with praise. The parents of these students carry the reinforcement further by providing additional praise and possible monetary or other types of rewards. For students who perform poorly, the teacher provide corrective feedback and lower grades. With the expectation that students will work harder to avoid the negative consequence next time. Parents contribute to the negative reinforcement ideal by taking away privileges, providing criticism, and in some cases implementing other forms of punishment.

In reflecting on my own early childhood education, I did not experience anything other than behaviorism until the seventh grade. I attended private schools that utilized behaviorism strategies to accomplish the educational goals. Al of my teachers were directive and were quick to deliver punishment and praise based on my ability to carry out their instruction.

This I learned that even though there is lots of discussion about alternatives to behaviorism, when I look at the way my company evaluates training outcomes, it still seems to be rooted in behaviorism. We push training to learners, we force them to complete all of the activities in the lesson (even if the learner has prior knowledge), and we force then to take an exam and get a minimum passing score. This shows me that we have an opportunity to move beyond what has always been done in a standard educational setting and start looking for ways to help learners develop skills while maintaining a sense of agency and by interacting with each other.

Reflecting on past learning in this course, I was intrigued by the possibilities of the blended courses we read about in week four. At our company, we are starting to create more blended courses that use online content to supplement shorter instructor-led courses. We do this to reduce the amount of time learners have to spend away from the job and we also do it so that classroom activities can focus on practice and feedback rather than teaching the basics. I discovered trough week four’s assignment that discussing a blended approach is best done during the client needs assessment stage.

In week five, my biggest take-away is the importance of providing enough detail in the documentation you provide to the client. While you don’t want to overwhelm the client with the needs assessment or the project analysis worksheet, it is important to provide enough information for the client to fully understand the expected outcomes, and the time it will take to meet the client’s request. I spent a lot of time over the past few weeks updating project timelines, so I know first hand how important this information is not only for the client, but to keep myself on track as the developer. Especially since I am managing multiple development projects with close deadlines at the same time.

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