Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Week 2 (February 8 - 14, 2011) -- Part 1

This week we got our first taste of learning theories (e.g., Behaviorist, Cognitivist, and Constructivist) which I was really excited about because of the huge role I know they play in the field.

We were asked to post on our blog space in Blackboard addressing the following question:

What concept or idea intrigued you most in this week's readings? Why?

The following is the response I prepared:

This is a rather difficult question because all of what we read this week was quite intriguing. If I had to pick one though, I would have to say the discussion surrounding Cognitivism caught my attention the most (with Constructivism not far behind).

With respect to my teaching scenario in Second Language Learning (SLL), I feel like I can relate most to the principles surrounding Cognitivism. Some of these principles include the following:

Memory: this plays a central role in SLL as learners are constantly confronted with tons of new vocabulary as well as grammar rules. Finding effective ways to organize this information combined with opportunities for practice (or repetition) are both highly necessary for retention to occur.

Comprehension: this is also an extremely important aspect in SLL. I can recall countless instances of student s saying they comprehend a certain word or grammar point but, when asked to use it in a practical scenario, blank stares are drawn. Again, providing students with multiple opportunities to practice in various contexts is important here so that they are ‘able to apply what is learned outside of the instructional setting’ (Allesi &Trollip, 2001, p. 23).

Motivation: as stressed in the reading, this is such a critical factor being it’s what really drives us as learners. The debate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation was also a bit of an eye-opener for me. I’ve been quick to use extrinsic motivators in the past, but I think I will focus on more intrinsic ones in the future as this obviously is a bigger asset to have in the learning process. The motivational theories discussed were also quite helpful in contextualizing this principle in terms of instructional design (ID). I think I favor Malone’s though as it seems to make more sense. I’m especially fond of the ‘Fantasy’ factor as I’ve always had success with this in grabbing student attention (e.g. Imagine you are traveling to the US/UK and you need to do such and such…).

Constructivism entails many ideas and principles which I think are generally very important in today’s educational settings, and what most Web 2.0 tools available today seem to be geared towards. However, I don’t feel I can relate to them as much with respect to my personal teaching scenario. Unfortunately, the students I tend to deal with generally need to be ‘spoon-fed’ information and aren’t very good at thinking for themselves. Part of this problem has to do with the educational system the students are brought up in where they basically depend upon rote memorization in order to succeed. That being said, there are some Constructivist principles I do try to employ including focusing on learning (as opposed to teaching), and collaborative work.

With respect to Behaviorism, as discussed in the readings, approaches like drills and tutorials are still widely used in SLL today (and will probably continue to be for a long time). However, the feeling I came away with was that the principles discussed seem to deal more with classroom management techniques rather than instructional design. Again though, not to take anything away from this theory as it’s evident it helped pave the way for the other learning theories to come after (i.e. Cognitivism, Constructionism, Objectivism, etc.)

In reality though, as suggested in the readings, teaching/ID methodologies should definitely incorporate a mix of all three learning theories as no particular one is complete from A to Z.


Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (2nd Ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Constructivism as a paradigm for teaching and learning.

Standridge, M.. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology.

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