Learning theories

I continue to share brief lessons from the modules in Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching, a free massive open online course (MOOC) designed for new teachers, those who wish to enhance student learning or teaching practice and emerging leaders in higher education.The MOOC is currently open for enrolment. Sign up at https://canvas.instructure.com/register and use the following join code: 64BHPE.

Learning theories is Module 6. It is part of the ‘New to teaching’ pathway through the course.

Developed by Kuki Singh (Edith Cowan University) and Susan Bolt (University of Liverpool) this module introduces theories of learning. It outlines conceptual knowledge about learning and learners from a range of theoretical paradigms, highlighting key implications for contemporary university teaching.  

Is there a connection between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches learning?

Of course! This question frames your theoretical exploration of learning and teaching. Take a look at the evidencebased links between teachers’ conceptions of teaching and learning and students’ learning outcomes in this figure:

Adapted from Trigwell et al. (1999, p. 60).

If you are relatively new to theories of learning, the videos, resources and questions offer plenty of guidance. You might know more than you think! Most academics start teaching with tacit understandings of the nature of knowledge, what constitutes valid knowledge in their disciplinary field or sub-field, and the boundaries between academic and everyday knowledges. These value systems shape teachers’ beliefs and assumptions about learning and learners, and influence choices about teaching approaches and methods.

Let’s take one example: learning as collaborative meaning-making.

Advocating a social constructivist view of learning, Vygotsky (1978) theorised that knowing/ being is embedded in a social context, which is enabled through communication, language use, and scaffolding. Vygotsky surmised knowledge is socially constructed through interaction with others and the content. Learners engage in their ‘zone of proximal development’ with support provided by a ‘more knowledgeable other’ (i.e., peer / teacher).

In practice, Vygotskian thinking has influenced real-world, simulated, active, and collaborative approaches in university teaching and learning, including group and peer assessment.

Does collaborative meaning-making align with your values as a teacher?

Image source: Image by dschap from Pixabay

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