Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning environment

I have been looking at learning theory again as part of the requirements of the course I am taking Learner Centered Learning. I have been looking at Constructivism because of my interest in reflective practice. And there's my continuing desire to get my head around Connectivism.

But it's really been my latest teaching experiences that have got me thinking about these two different theoretical approaches to teaching and learning.

Constructivism….. Structured learning?
My current short term contract is to work with the Charles Darwin University to write learning guidelines and design a BlackBoard template for online courses being developed by the School of Business. The school is taking a constructivist approach to online learning using structured learning outcomes, scaffolded formal and summative assessment, and learning activities that are based on case studies and students' work experience.

I understand why a structured approach is taken to online delivery. Educators who are new to eLearning feel safer when they have a detailed template to follow and students appreciate consistency and being shown the way to go. But I am concerned that this reduces teacher's ability to be innovative and 'experiment' with different approaches to delivery of content (Bogle, 2009). And that is reduces students' ability to 'connect' with learning communities and resources that exist beyond the walls of BlackBoard (Blackall, 2005).

The other teaching activity I am currently engaged with is facilitating the online course Facilitating Online. This course is delivered via wiki and blog, and uses a 'connectivist' approach to learning. Students are expected to connect with each other and wider online learning communities with blogs and online communication tools. Whilst there is structure and scaffolding of assessment the students have felt overwhelmed by the use of technology. They have found this approach to teaching and learning to be very time consuming and have felt that they require high levels of motivation to keep reading and commenting on each other's blogs.

I would say that I am not there as teacher or facilitator to hold students' hands, feed them information and 'make' them learn. At the same time I cannot ignore feedback from students that indicate they are struggling to make sense of what's going on because ultimately, that can impede their learning.

What is learning
I don't think we can categorize learning into one or two set theories...learning styles...learning management systems...personal learning environments....etc

Learning is individual, depending on context and needs. It ebbs and flows...changes over time with the person who is learning. Downes (2008) says in a blog post:

- learning it is not structured, controlled or processed. Learning is not produced (solely or reliably) through some set of pedagogical, behavioral, or cognitive processes.

- learners are not managed through some sort of motivating process, and the amount of learning is not (solely or reliably) influenced by motivating behaviours (such as reward and punishment, say, or social engagement)

- learners do not form memories through the storage of ‘facts’ or other propositional entities, and learning is not (solely or reliably) composed of mechanisms of ‘remembering’ or storing such facts

- learners do not ‘acquire’ of ‘receive’ knowledge; learning is not a process of ‘transfer’ at all, much less a transfer than can be caused or created by a single identifiable donor

- learning is not the acquisition of simple and durable ‘truths’; learners are they are expected to be able to manage complex and rapidly changing environment.

So the challenge for me as teacher is to recognize the complexity of learning and design learning environments that meet as many of the needs of learners as I can in any given time - an environment that supports learners, yet challenges students to keep learning even when the course is ended.

Blackall, L. (2005). Die LMS die! You too PLE! Retrieved 29 September, 2009, from

Bogle, M. (2009). Reflections on the LMS. Retrieved 29 September, 2009, from

Downes, S. (2008). Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not. Retrieved 29 September, 2009, from

1 comment:

classroommng said...

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