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Appendix 1 Some Learning Theory Background
In a behaviorist view, "Learning" can be defined as something that occurs
when a learner acquires the capacity to do something. The LE designer must
provide the conditions for this process. For each type of learning, some
conditions work best and some don't. Let's look at 2 classifications:
Types of Learning
(according to Kearsley 1993):
Note that learning types can be strongly related to different kinds of
cognitive task behaviors (that are being used while learning or that are
targets for learning). As an example, Kearsley (93) lists the following
types of task behaviors:
Attitudes: "....Disposition or tendency to respond positively or negatively
towards a certain thing (idea, object, person, situation)." Also: Choose
to behave this or that way according to opinions and beliefs.
Factual Information (Memorization): Processing of factual information and
remembering is tied to previous knowledge. Memory research has also a lot
to say about processing constraints.
Concepts (Discrimination): Concept learning encompasses learning how to
discriminate and categorize things (with critical attributes). It also
involves recall of instances, integration of new examples and sub-categorization.
Concept formation is not related to simple recall, it must be constructed.
Reasoning (Inference, Deduction): "Reasoning encompasses all thinking activities
that involve making or testing inferences. This includes inductive reasoning
(i.e., concept formation) and deductive reasoning (i.e., logical argument).
Reasoning is also closely related to problem-solving and creative behaviors".
Procedure Learning: Procedures refer to being able to solve a certain task
by applying a procedure. Once a procedure is mastered its excused usually
does not take much effort (e.g. ftp a file). Cognitive theories like Act
or Soar are interested in this, because procedures are important in diminishing
Problem-Solving: A good example is Newell & Simons information processing
paradigm for the study of problem-solving and the concepts of "means-ends-analysis"
and "problem space". According to their GPS framework, problem-solving
involves the identification of subgoals and the use of methods (especially
heuristics) to satisfy the subgoals. And important contribution was also
the methodology of protocol analysis (of "thinking aloud methods" which
has been extensively used by Anderson (87) to implement intelligent tutoring
systems according to his Act* theory (Anderson 83).
Learning Strategies: can be learned too to some extent. Very much dependant
on what you want to learn
By combining those two kinds of typologies one can imagine the "haystack"
Instructional Design theory is faced with when trying to operationlize
how to learn what.
Searching for/receiving information (detects, observes, inspects, identifies,
Processing information (categorizes, calculates, codes, itemizes, tabulates,
Problem-solving (analyzes, formulates, estimates, plans)
Decision-making (examines, chooses, compares, evaluates)
Communication (advises, answers, directs, informs, instructs, requests,
Sensory-motor processes (activates, adjusts, connects, regulates, tracks)
Other categories of learning types has been proposed such as the
ones by Gagné (Aronson 83:81, Gagné 87: 64), i.e. (1) Intellectual
Skill, (2) Verbal Information, (3) Cognitive Strategy (problem solving),
(4) Attitude, (5) Motor Skill. In any case, it think it is useful in this
context to distinguish at the least the following basic categories:
Factual Information & Concepts (Verbal Information): Remember and discriminate
Problem Solving & Reasoning (Cognitive Strategy): Apply general or
domain-specific heuristics to problem situations
Procedural skills: Learn how to do simple or complex tasks more or less
Learning/Teaching Strategies &Principles
How can we have the learner use an appropriate learning strategy? In some
learning environments (specially the fully computer-based ones) learning
and teaching strategies are integrated into its design. In others they
are delivered apart. Principles and Strategies vary according to the type
of learning and different theoretical orientations.
Bruner (66), inspired by Piaget, focussed on how people construct
new knowledge. His constructivist approach (discovery methods and intellectual
stages) still inspires current theories.
An other early contribution was Ausubel's (63) subsumption theory concerned
with how individuals learn large amounts of meaningful material from verbal/textual
presentations in a school setting (as opposed to rote or discovery learning).
He initiated that instructional sequences should make content more meaningful
for the learner. He postulates (cf. Kearsley 93, Reigeluth 83:339) that:
Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make
the student willing and able to learn (readiness).
Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the
student (spiral organization of the curriculum).
Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill
in the gaps (going beyond the information given).
Both Reigluth's (83) "Elaboration Theory" and Merrill's (83) "Component
Display Theory" are based on work by Bruner and Ausubel.
Instruction (of verbal information) should start with general knowledge
that subsumes content presented by successive differentiation, i.e.the
most general and ideas of a subject should be presented first and then
progressively differentiated in terms of detail and specificity.
More generally, instructional materials should attempt to integrate new
material with previously presented information through comparisons and
cross-referencing of new and old ideas.
Other more recent lines of research combine cognitivist information
theory with results from more traditional experimental memory research.
An example is the Act* Theory using Intelligent Tutors as a test
bed (cf. Anderson 87). "According to ACT*, all knowledge begins as declarative
information; procedural knowledge is learned by making inferences from
already existing factual knowledge. ACT* involves three types of learning:
generalization, in which productions become broader in their range of application,
discrimination, in which productions become narrower in their range of
application, and strengthening, in which some productions are applied more
often. New productions are formed by the conjunction or disjunction of
existing productions. It is interesting to compare these three types of
learning with the three modes of learning (accretion, restructuring, tuning)
proposed by Rumelhart & Norman (.)" (Kearsley: 93).
With partially automatized environments such as Hypertext course on the
Web, the student should be told how to use the material, how to read it
and what to do beside.
Identify the goal structure of the problem space to the learner.
Provide instruction in the context of the problem-solving task.
Provide immediate feedback on errors.
Minimize the working memory load.
Adjust the "grain size" of instruction to account for the knowledge compilation
Enable the student to approach the target skill by successive approximation.
"A typical study skill program is SQ3R [applicable to concept
learning/D.S] which suggests 5 steps: (1) survey the material to be learned,
(2) develop questions about the material, (3) read the material, (4) recall
the key ideas, and (5) review the material." (Kearsley: 93).
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