Monthly Archives: August 2015

Learning Theories and Instruction Reflection

Effective instructional design begins with an understanding of the learning process. Understanding the learning process means understanding the connections between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation. Ertmer and Newby (1993) outlined three basic learning theories, behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.  All three instructional approaches are valuable. Each of the three theories results in different learner outcomes yet they all leads to “learning”.

Understanding the role of memory in the learning process is also important. Spenger(1999) speaks of learning and memory by discussing five different memory lanes by which we retrieve our learning.   Some of these lanes are easier to access than others, and therefore retrieval of information is easier. Dr. Ormrod (Laureate Education, n.d.) suggest that if we learn or encode information in two different ways it becomes more memorable.  She also discussed metacognition and how many adult learners are not astute in this skill, which would imply that adolescent learners are even less so. This skill must be modeled and taught during the phase of processing information so that it is stored and retrieved in an effective manner. As we design instruction for learners, we must keep in mind the way the information will need to be retrieved and how our learners will connect new knowledge with prior knowledge.

So what is the connection with learning styles? Gilbert and Swanier (2008) suggest that one person can have multiple learning styles. For this reason, instructional designers and teachers should not categorize students by a learning style. It is important to understand learning theories as well as learning styles to design effective instruction that allow multiple participants to be successful.  The learning objectives should be the focus of instructional design not learning styles of the participants.  Instructional design is more effective if it is based on learning theories and not learning styles. “Identifying each student’s learning style is an extremely difficult task. Furthermore, it becomes an impossible task to accommodate everyone’s learning style in a classroom or tutoring environment” (Gilbert & Han, 1999, p.4).

Technology has and will change the way we access information and will therefore have a huge impact on learning in general. Because of technology we see an increase in online or distance learning. Students have access to information on mobile devices which changes the dynamics in a traditional face to face classroom.  Teachers are no longer the “owners” of the knowledge. Students are now connected to information in so many ways that their learning is now hindered only by their motivation.  Realizing that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are factors, there are things that an instructional designer can do to minimize demotivation.  According to John Keller’s ARCS Motivational Process, there are some stable and predictable elements of motivation.  Studies show that motivation can be stimulated and sustained through Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. (Keller, 1999)

Effective instruction will be designed using strategies that address the appropriate learning theories of the desired learning outcomes. It will consider the available technology to deliver the lesson as well as consider the many learning styles and motivations to keep all participants engaged.


Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-71.

Gilbert, J.E., & Han, C.Y. (1999). Adapting instruction in search of a significant difference. Journal of Network and Computing Applications, 22(3), 149-160.

Gilbert, J., & Swanier, C. (2008). Learning styles: How do they fluctuate? Institute for Learning Styles Journal [Vol. l]. Retrieved from

Keller, J. M. (1999). Using the ARCS motivational process in computer-based instruction and distance education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (78).

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and the brain [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Information processing and problem-solving [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

Sprenger, M. (1999). Learning and memory the brain in action. Alexandria, Va., USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


Fitting The Pieces Together

When I began to explore learning theory, I immediately identified with behavioralism, cognitivism, and constructivism. I now realize that these theories are not they only way I learn. I would now include connectivism. I realize that my learning and understanding comes from everything around me. I am constantly taking in data and storing for later use. More often than not, this data comes from the multiple networks around me to include social networks and the unlimited access to information through mobile devices.

As an adult learner, I don’t feel I use behaviorist theories in my personal learning as much as the other theories. I am now at a point now where as I gain new knowledge I am making connections and relating it to things I already know. I am reframing my big ideas and constructing new understanding of concepts I thought I “knew”.  As I have taken on the challenges and endeavors that come with online learning, I have reinforced my learning preferences, but at the same time I have opened my eyes to new ways of designing instruction.  I have learned so much from the wealth of knowledge that comes from the diversity of the participants in an online classroom. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet and learn from people from all over the world. They bring their experiences and expertise to the learning environment. I say all of this with the realization that technology plays a huge role in my learning.

Through the use of technology, I have access to knowledge and information that I would not otherwise have. As an educator, I realize the importance of embracing what the use of technology can bring to the classroom. We can no longer close our doors and open the books and expect our students to be fully prepared for the life ahead of them.


Kerr, B. (2007, January 1). _isms as filter, not blinker. retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Behaviorism and instructional design [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson. Chapter 3-4, (pp. 48–145)

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism:A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved August 3, 2015, from


Instructional Design learning

Thoughts of a Novice Instructional Designer

A record of my thoughts as I explore the field of instructional design.