E-learning Curve Blog at Edublogs

E-learning Curve Blog is Michael Hanley's elearning blog about skills, knowledge, and organizational development using web-based training and technology in education

Entries Tagged as 'principles of constructivism'

Teaching organizations how to learn. Part 2 – Conditions for learning

December 4, 2008 by Michael Hanley · 1 Comment · Bruner, conditions of learning, Constructivism, Driscoll, Duffy and Cunningham, learning styles, learning theory, principles of constructivism, Schank

As discussed in a previous post, Driscoll (1994) outlines five conditions for learning (p.382-3). Very much like the multiple approaches and interpretations that exist in constructivism, a number of conditions must be met for the approach to be implemented. The conditions are:

  1. Providing complex learning environments that incorporate authentic activity. Constructivists argue that learners should learn to solve the types of complex problem they will face in real life. Learning how to do this is difficult unless complex and authentic learning environments are available to the learners.
  2. Providing for social negotiation as an integral part of learning. Bruner (1986) explains that learning is a cultural interchange between group members. Collaboration creates an opportunity for learners to share their understandings with others and to have others do the same with them. This provides multiple perspectives to each learner, and this negotiation process between peers should lead to enhanced understanding.
  3. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation. Because learning skills, behaviors and knowledge can be diverse and complex, constructivists believe that to achieve complete understanding the learner must examine the material from multiple perspectives. If they are not supported in this endeavor, the learner will achieve only a partial understanding of the material. Multiple modes of representation allow the learner to view the same content through different sensory modes.
  4. Nurture reflexivity. Duffy and Cunningham (1996) characterize reflexivity as “the ability of students to be aware of their own role in the knowledge construction process.” (p.172). It could also be described as the learner taking ownership of their own thinking and learning processes. Driscoll (1994) assets that reflexivity and by extension critical thinking are central attributes in the constructivist methodology, as it enables learners to understand how and why cognition creates meaning. This enables learners to attain goals such as reasoning, understanding multiple perspectives, and expressing and defending their own beliefs.
  5. The last condition Driscoll describes is to “emphasize student-centred instruction.” Bruner (1966) calls this “discovery learning”. By obtaining knowledge by themselves, learners select and transform information, construct knowledge, and make decisions in the context of a cognitive structure that provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to “go beyond the information given”. Students are actively engaged in determining what and how they will study or gain understanding.

These principles and conditions position the constructivist approach to learning as an appropriate orientation for learning sans frontiers; using technologies like the Internet, websites and virtual learning environments, applying collaborative learning, problem-based learning and goal-based mechanisms, making Open Source Software and Course- and Content Management Systems accessible to learners, and using e-learning applications like online conferencing and collaboration tools could be the foundation for these multiple constructivist conditions for learning. (Duffy & Cunningham 1996, Driscoll 1994, Schank 1994)

These characteristics provide an appropriate framework for knowledge workers to learn (and for the learning intervention), given that their ongoing development is based in the context of already-established cognitive schemata (from the learners’ perspective), the knowledge and skills are applied to solve real-world problems, and their expertise (behaviors) are typically used in collaboration with their peers to enhance the performance of organizations.

___________

References:

Bruner, J. S. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Driscoll, M. P. (1994). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.

Duffy, T. M. & Cunningham, D. J. (1996) Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. IN: Jonassen D. H. (Ed) Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp.170- 198). New York: Simon & Shuster Macmillan.

Schank, R. (1994) Active Learning Through Multimedia, IEEE Multimedia, 1(1), pp.69-78.

[Read more →]

Outlining the Course Specification. E-Learning Course Development in an Open Environment: Project Lifecycle 5

May 13, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · course specification, definition of e-learning, learning objects, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism

Courseware Content Specification

After yesterday’s discussion of a learning object-based approach, we can begin to develop a specification for on Open Environment e-learning course. At a high level, the specification for such a course could include:

  • Content to be based upon previously-agreed curriculum of content
  • The content be developed according to a Reusable Learning Object approach
  • Short development cycle -– three weeks proposed

Content Format
The content would be delivered in adherence to the following criteria:

  • A multimedia mix of audio, video, graphics, on-screen text.
  • Content to be stored and delivered on a Learning Management System. Content to be delivered via Flash-based a streaming media solution.
  • Content may also be delivered via download.
  • A DVD-based modular self-paced learning solution also be made available for learners with bandwidth issues.
  • Supplementary learning resources: starter kits, exercises, workshops, “how to’s”, case studies, email links to instructors, Web links to relevant resources associated with the courseware.

[Read more →]

Outlining the Course Specification. E-Learning Course Development in an Open Environment: Project Lifecycle 5

May 13, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · course specification, definition of e-learning, learning objects, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism

Courseware Content Specification

After yesterday’s discussion of a learning object-based approach, we can begin to develop a specification for on Open Environment e-learning course. At a high level, the specification for such a course could include:

  • Content to be based upon previously-agreed curriculum of content
  • The content be developed according to a Reusable Learning Object approach
  • Short development cycle -– three weeks proposed

Content Format
The content would be delivered in adherence to the following criteria:

  • A multimedia mix of audio, video, graphics, on-screen text.
  • Content to be stored and delivered on a Learning Management System. Content to be delivered via Flash-based a streaming media solution.
  • Content may also be delivered via download.
  • A DVD-based modular self-paced learning solution also be made available for learners with bandwidth issues.
  • Supplementary learning resources: starter kits, exercises, workshops, “how to’s”, case studies, email links to instructors, Web links to relevant resources associated with the courseware.

[Read more →]

Defining Learning Objects. E-Learning Course Development in an Open Environment: Project Lifecycle 4

May 12, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · AICC, definition of e-learning, learning objects, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism, SCORM

In reaching a satisfactory definition of learning objects, a search through the literature revealed three broad characterisations:

The main idea of ‘learning objects’ is to break educational content down into small chunks that can be reused in various learning environments, in the spirit of object-oriented programming.

(Wiley 2000)

[A]ny entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for training, education or technology supported learning.

(LTSC 2002)

…modular digital resources, uniquely identified and metatagged, that can be used to support learning.

(NLII 2002)

From these descriptions, we can develop a working definition of a learning object:

A Learning Object is any digital resource that can be reused to support learning.

This definition contains the following attributes:

  • Learning objects are digital – can be stored and delivered electronically
  • Learning objects are a resource – they contain the total means available to deliver training and learning objects are reusable – a single learning object may be used in multiple contexts for multiple purposes.
  • Learning objects must contribute to the transfer of knowledge.

Further characteristics of learning objects include that they are self-contained – each learning object can be taken independently, they can be aggregated – learning objects can be grouped into larger collections of content, including traditional course structures, that they are interoperable – that learning objects have the ability to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged (usually through a specification like AICC or SCORM), and finally that they are tagged with metadata – every learning object has descriptive information allowing it to be easily found by a search.

References:


Wiley, D.A. (2000). Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The Instructional Use of Learning Objects: Online Version. [Internet] Available from: http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc Accessed 17 April 2008

McGreal, R. (2002). Learning Objects: a Practical Definition International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance learning [Internet] Available from: http://itdl.org/Journal/Sep_04/article02.htm Accessed 16 April 2008

Duval, E. (ed) (2002). IEEE 1484.12.1-2002, 15 July 2002, Draft Standard for Learning Object Metadata IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) [Internet] Available from: http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/files/LOM_1484_12_1_v1_Final_Draft.pdf Accessed 16 April 2008

[Read more →]

Defining Learning Objects. E-Learning Course Development in an Open Environment: Project Lifecycle 4

May 12, 2008 by Michael Hanley · 1 Comment · AICC, definition of e-learning, learning objects, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism, SCORM

In reaching a satisfactory definition of learning objects, a search through the literature revealed three broad characterisations:

The main idea of ‘learning objects’ is to break educational content down into small chunks that can be reused in various learning environments, in the spirit of object-oriented programming.

(Wiley 2000)

[A]ny entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for training, education or technology supported learning.

(LTSC 2002)

…modular digital resources, uniquely identified and metatagged, that can be used to support learning.

(NLII 2002)

From these descriptions, we can develop a working definition of a learning object:

A Learning Object is any digital resource that can be reused to support learning.

This definition contains the following attributes:

  • Learning objects are digital – can be stored and delivered electronically
  • Learning objects are a resource – they contain the total means available to deliver training and learning objects are reusable – a single learning object may be used in multiple contexts for multiple purposes.
  • Learning objects must contribute to the transfer of knowledge.

Further characteristics of learning objects include that they are self-contained – each learning object can be taken independently, they can be aggregated – learning objects can be grouped into larger collections of content, including traditional course structures, that they are interoperable – that learning objects have the ability to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged (usually through a specification like AICC or SCORM), and finally that they are tagged with metadata – every learning object has descriptive information allowing it to be easily found by a search.

References:


Wiley, D.A. (2000). Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, and a taxonomy. In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The Instructional Use of Learning Objects: Online Version. [Internet] Available from: http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc Accessed 17 April 2008

McGreal, R. (2002). Learning Objects: a Practical Definition International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance learning [Internet] Available from: http://itdl.org/Journal/Sep_04/article02.htm Accessed 16 April 2008

Duval, E. (ed) (2002). IEEE 1484.12.1-2002, 15 July 2002, Draft Standard for Learning Object Metadata IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) [Internet] Available from: http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/files/LOM_1484_12_1_v1_Final_Draft.pdf Accessed 16 April 2008

[Read more →]

A theoretical approach to e-learning content delivery in an Open Environment. E-Learning Course Development: Project Lifecycle 3

May 9, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · cogitive load theory, cognitive theory of multimedia, Constructivism, learning theory, Mayer, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism

Theoretical approach – content delivery

Today’s post discusses an approach to the delivery of multimedia content in an open (or indeed any) e-learning environment.

As Richard Mayer observes:

Multimedia messages that are designed in light of how the human mind works are more likely to lead to meaningful learning that those that are not. A cognitive theory of multimedia learning assumes that the human information processing system includes dual channels for visual/pictorial and auditory/verbal processing, that each channel has limited capacity for processing, and that active learning entails carrying out a coordinated set of cognitive processes during learning.

(2003, p.41)

Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning is based on three basic assumptions:

  1. Dual Channel Assumption: Humans have separate information processing channels for visually- and auditorily represented material. Information processing occurs in three stages (see Figure 1).
    Information enters our information processing system via either the visual or auditory processing channel. This is the input stage. The information is then processed separately but concurrently in working memory. Working memory can be thought of as RAM, where relevant sounds and pictures are selected and organized. Eventually the information from both channels are integrated and connected to other information already held in long term memory.
  2. Limited Capacity Assumption: People are limited in the amount of information that can be processed by each channel at any given time.
    Learners participating in any presentation can only hold a few images and a few sounds in working memory at one time. Psychologists have researched this concept of cognitive load extensively: while allowing for individual variability, memory span tests have demonstrated that on average, working memory typically allows the processing of from 5 to 7 chunks of information at a given time. Because of this restricted cognitive processing capability, people continually make decisions about the allocation of sensory information processing based upon the available stimuli.
  3. Active Processing Assumption: People actively engage in cognitive processing to construct coherent mental representations of their experiences.
    Rather than being passive ‘information collectors, people are constantly selecting, organising and integrating information with past knowledge. Active learning occurs when we apply cognitive processes to the incoming material. The result of this processing is the creation of a mental model of the information presented. The three processes that are essential for active learning are: selecting relevant material, organizing the selected material and then integrating that material into existing knowledge structures. These processes take place within our fairly limited working memory.

Figure 1 Cognitive Theory of Multimedia
[Click to enlarge image]

From these, Mayer extrapolates a cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Mayer’s theory asserts that in multimedia environments, learners are engaged in five cognitive processes:

  1. Selecting relevant words for processing in verbal working memory
  2. Selecting relevant images for processing in visual working memory
  3. Organising selected words into a verbal mental model
  4. Organising selected images into a visual mental model
  5. Integrating verbal and visual models and connecting them to prior knowledge

As such, I would assert that a substantial proportion of the the initial design stage of the instructional development process is devoted to ensuring that the Split-Attention Principle (Mayer, Moreno 1998) – that students learn better when the instructional material does not require them to split their attention between multiple sources of mutually referring information, the Modality Principle – students learn better when the verbal information is presented auditorily as narration rather than visually as on-screen text, both for concurrent and sequential presentations and the Redundancy Principle – students learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration, and text if the visual information is presented simultaneously to the verbal information were adhered to.


Mayer, R.E. (2003). Multimedia Learning New York, Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R.E. Moreno, R. (1998). A Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: Implications for Design Principles University of California, Santa Barbara [Internet] Available from: http://www.unm.edu/~moreno/PDFS/chi.pdf Accessed 12th April 2008

[Read more →]

A theoretical approach to e-learning content delivery in an Open Environment. E-Learning Course Development: Project Lifecycle 3

May 9, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · cogitive load theory, cognitive theory of multimedia, Constructivism, learning theory, Mayer, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism

Theoretical approach – content delivery

Today’s post discusses an approach to the delivery of multimedia content in an open (or indeed any) e-learning environment.

As Richard Mayer observes:

Multimedia messages that are designed in light of how the human mind works are more likely to lead to meaningful learning that those that are not. A cognitive theory of multimedia learning assumes that the human information processing system includes dual channels for visual/pictorial and auditory/verbal processing, that each channel has limited capacity for processing, and that active learning entails carrying out a coordinated set of cognitive processes during learning.

(2003, p.41)

Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning is based on three basic assumptions:

  1. Dual Channel Assumption: Humans have separate information processing channels for visually- and auditorily represented material. Information processing occurs in three stages (see Figure 1).
    Information enters our information processing system via either the visual or auditory processing channel. This is the input stage. The information is then processed separately but concurrently in working memory. Working memory can be thought of as RAM, where relevant sounds and pictures are selected and organized. Eventually the information from both channels are integrated and connected to other information already held in long term memory.
  2. Limited Capacity Assumption: People are limited in the amount of information that can be processed by each channel at any given time.
    Learners participating in any presentation can only hold a few images and a few sounds in working memory at one time. Psychologists have researched this concept of cognitive load extensively: while allowing for individual variability, memory span tests have demonstrated that on average, working memory typically allows the processing of from 5 to 7 chunks of information at a given time. Because of this restricted cognitive processing capability, people continually make decisions about the allocation of sensory information processing based upon the available stimuli.
  3. Active Processing Assumption: People actively engage in cognitive processing to construct coherent mental representations of their experiences.
    Rather than being passive ‘information collectors, people are constantly selecting, organising and integrating information with past knowledge. Active learning occurs when we apply cognitive processes to the incoming material. The result of this processing is the creation of a mental model of the information presented. The three processes that are essential for active learning are: selecting relevant material, organizing the selected material and then integrating that material into existing knowledge structures. These processes take place within our fairly limited working memory.

Figure 1 Cognitive Theory of Multimedia
[Click to enlarge image]

From these, Mayer extrapolates a cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Mayer’s theory asserts that in multimedia environments, learners are engaged in five cognitive processes:

  1. Selecting relevant words for processing in verbal working memory
  2. Selecting relevant images for processing in visual working memory
  3. Organising selected words into a verbal mental model
  4. Organising selected images into a visual mental model
  5. Integrating verbal and visual models and connecting them to prior knowledge

As such, I would assert that a substantial proportion of the the initial design stage of the instructional development process is devoted to ensuring that the Split-Attention Principle (Mayer, Moreno 1998) – that students learn better when the instructional material does not require them to split their attention between multiple sources of mutually referring information, the Modality Principle – students learn better when the verbal information is presented auditorily as narration rather than visually as on-screen text, both for concurrent and sequential presentations and the Redundancy Principle – students learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration, and text if the visual information is presented simultaneously to the verbal information were adhered to.


Mayer, R.E. (2003). Multimedia Learning New York, Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R.E. Moreno, R. (1998). A Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: Implications for Design Principles University of California, Santa Barbara [Internet] Available from: http://www.unm.edu/~moreno/PDFS/chi.pdf Accessed 12th April 2008

[Read more →]

An Open Environment for E-Learning Course Development: Project Lifecycle 2

May 8, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · Bruner, conditions of learning, Constructivism, learning styles, learning theory, open e-learning environment, principles of constructivism

Phase One: Using a Constructivist Theoretical Approach

Bruner’s 1966 text Toward a Theory of Instruction described the key principles of constructivism (p.225):

Table 1 Principles of constructivism

Principle

Definition

Readiness

Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn

Spiral organisation

Structure.

The content must be structured so that it can be grasped by the learner.

Sequence.

Material must be presented in the most effective sequences.

Generation

“Going beyond the information given” – Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps

Extending from these basic constructivist principles as well as from the work of other key figures in the constructivist school, Driscoll (1994) outlines five conditions for learning (p.382-3). Very much like the multiple approaches and interpretations that exist in constructivism, a number of conditions must be met for the approach to be implemented. It is useful to elaborate briefly on these conditions, as they are relevant to the learning approach discussed in the rest of this part of the blog.

  1. Providing complex learning environments that incorporate authentic activity. Constructivists argue that learners should learn to solve the types of complex problem they will face in real life. Learning how to do this is difficult unless complex and authentic learning environments are available to the learners.
  2. Providing for social negotiation as an integral part of learning. Bruner (1986) explains that learning is a cultural interchange between group members. Collaboration creates an opportunity for learners to share their understandings with others and to have others do the same with them. This provides multiple perspectives to each learner, and this negotiation process between peers should lead to enhanced understanding.
  3. Support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation. Because learning skills, behaviours and knowledge can be diverse and complex, constructivists believe that to achieve complete understanding the learner must examine the material from multiple perspectives. If they are not supported in this endeavour, the learner will achieve only a partial understanding of the material. Multiple modes of representation allow the learner to view the same content through different sensory modes.
  4. Nurture reflexivity. Duffy and Cunningham (1996) characterise reflexivity as “the ability of students to be aware of their own role in the knowledge construction process.” (p.172). It could also be described as the learner taking ownership of their own thinking and learning processes. Driscoll (1994) assets that reflexivity and by extension critical thinking are central attributes in the constructivist methodology, as it enables learners to understand how and why cognition creates meaning. This enables learners to attain goals such as reasoning, understanding multiple perspectives, and expressing and defending their own beliefs.
  5. The last condition Driscoll describes is to “emphasise student-centred instruction.” Bruner (1966) calls this “discovery learning”. By obtaining knowledge by themselves, learners select and transform information, construct knowledge, and make decisions in the context of a cognitive structure that provides meaning and organisation to experiences and allows the individual to “go beyond the information given”. Students are actively engaged in determining what and how they will study or gain understanding.

These principles and conditions position the constructivist approach to learning as an appropriate orientation for learning sans frontiers; using technologies like the Internet, websites and virtual learning environments, applying collaborative learning, problem-based learning and goal-based mechanisms, making Open Source Software and Course- and Content Management Systems accessible to learners, and using e-learning applications like online conferencing and collaboration tools could be the foundation for these multiple constructivist conditions for learning. (Duffy & Jonassen 1992, Driscoll 1994; Schank 1994)

These characteristics provide an appropriate framework for knowledge workers to learn (and for the learning intervention), given that their ongoing development is based in the context of already-established cognitive schemata (from the learners’ perspective), the knowledge and skills are applied to solve real-world problems, and their expertise (behaviours) are typically used in collaboration with their peers to enhance the performance of organisations.

___________________

References:

Bruner, J. S. (1966) Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Driscoll, M. P. (1994). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.

Duffy, T. M. & Cunningham, D. J. (1996) Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. IN: Jonassen D. H. (Ed) Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp.170- 198). New York: Simon & Shuster Macmillan.

Schank, R. (1994) Active Learning Through Multimedia, IEEE Multimedia, 1(1), pp.69-78.

[Read more →]

Constructivism Pt.13: More Organizational Learning

January 17, 2008 by Michael Hanley · Comments Off · Argyris, learning theory, non-formal learning, organizational learning, principles of constructivism, Schon, situated cognition

It could be argued that components of Argyris’s and Schön’s position do not conform to the constructionist tradition, and it is possible to discern a positivist aspect to their thesis, particularly in the exposition of their notion of theory-in-use, which in my opinion exhibits characteristics of behaviourist patterns – for example B.F. Skinner’s ideas on operant conditioning in the strategies employed in single-loop learning. Similarly, it has been argued elsewhere (Easterby-Smith & Araujo, 1999) that Argyris’s and Schön’s work on Model I and Model II organisations relies too heavily on assumptions of what “good learning” (p.13) consists of, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this paper. Nonetheless, as Finger and Asún point out in Adult Education at the Crossroads. Learning our way out:

Unlike …Kolb’s learning cycle, where one had, so to speak, to make a mistake and reflect upon it – that is, learn by trial and error – it is now possible thanks to Argyris and Schön’s conceptualization, to learn by simply reflecting critically upon the theory-in-action. In other words, it is no longer necessary to go through the entire learning circle in order to develop the theory further. It is sufficient to readjust the theory through double-loop learning.

(pp.45-46)

References:

Argyris, C. and Schön, D. (1974). Theory in practice: Increasing professional effectiveness, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Asún, M. and Finger, M. (2000) Adult Education at the Crossroads. Learning our way out, London: Zed Books.

Easterby-Smith, M. & Araujo, L. (1999) Current debates and opportunities. IN: Easterby-Smith, M. Araujo, L. & Burgoyne, J. (eds.) Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization: Developments in Theory and Practice, London: Sage

[Read more →]