My personal theory of learning

Prompt: How do you think learning takes place? What is the best way for someone to teach? Who makes the best teacher? Which learning theory that you read about would you say best fits your current world view? Why?

As I cannot locate a previous personal theory of learning from my CECS 5030 class, I am constructing one now for my CECS 5210 class. It will also use bits and pieces of my thoughts from my CECS 5110 class that I took in fall 2014. I took CECS 5030 when I first began the learning technologies program in spring of 2014. If I had constructed a personal theory of learning in that course, I like to think that my original thoughts would maintain the same overall foundation but that my ideas would have expanded as I have expanded my knowledge after being exposed to additional classes in this program.

I think that learning takes place anywhere and everywhere. I really like John Dewey’s quote, “education is not preparation for life; it is life itself” (Dewey as cited in Duffy & Cunningham, 1996, p. 4). To me, it, in a nutshell, explains how I think about learning. Learning occurs in both formal and informal situations and can be a combination of both (Hill, Wiley, Nelson, & Han, 2004). Learning also takes place among individuals, within groups, or some combination of the two.

As an example, I am taking structured classes in the learning technologies program, i.e., formal learning. Within my classes, I am responsible for reading the required texts and submitting the assignments, i.e., individual learning; however, each week part of my assignments consist of posted discussions. When I interact with my fellow students, I participate in group learning. Our group discussions are not only formal learning as we all have the same prompt to consider but also include informal learning as many of the discussion posts provide related links to external content or reference additional materials that I can use to further my learning outside of the “classroom” setting.

I do not believe there is a “best” way to teach. In fact, according to Leidner and Jarvenpaa (1995), “No particular model is the best approach;  indeed, different learning approaches will be appropriate depending on the circumstances – course content, student experience, maturity, intelligence, and instructor goals, skills, and preferences, among others” (p. 271). A great teacher is one that takes the time to learn about their learners. Someone who instead of assuming they already know everything there is to know about the subject(s) at hand is open to the possibility of learning from their students. Great teachers let students discover knowledge on their own, which also includes the possibility of mistakes being made. Many great discoveries have occurred due to mistakes (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995), e.g., penicillin.

As a teacher, I want to encourage my learners to use educational technologies; however, it must always have a purpose. Technology needs to be directly aligned with the chosen learning goals and objectives. Those learning goals and objectives must have as their foundation a learning theory. “We too often act as if we believe that each new delivery technology requires a new theory of learning and performance. Thus we ‘reinvent the wheel’ constantly but inadequately” (Clark, 1994, p. 8). We should not pick the media first and make the learning theory fit our choice of media. We must first choose a sound learning theory based upon existing research (Clark, 1994) that exemplifies the preferred learning approach. Only then, can we decide upon the educational technologies to assist in the learning process. Learning should always be the focus and educational technology a tool that enhances and influences both the learner and the learning process (Kozma, 1991).

Although, I disagree with one “best” method, I do believe that learning should be an active process in which learners take responsibility for their own learning and use technology to create content that enhances the learning process (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Ertmer & Newby, 1993; Hill, Wiley, Nelson, & Han, 2004; Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995). I want to provide my learners with choices. Choices in what they learn; choices in how they learn; and choices in how they accomplish that learning, including which educational technologies they choose to assist them on their journey.

In that sense, constructivism is the learning theory that most aligns with my preferences as it is based upon a learner-centered approach that employs active learning situations where the instructor becomes more of a facilitator than the disseminator of knowledge (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995). That being said, I think that each of the learning theories has a place in the classroom or whatever type of learning situation. Learning should not be restricted to one method alone as that indicates the instructor/facilitator is not taking into account the learner’s needs, preferences or styles, which is the antithesis of a learning theory.


Clark, R. E. (1994). Media and method. Educational Technology Research & Development42(3), 7-10.

Duffy, T., & Cunningham D. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of
instruction. In D. H. Jonassen, (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 170-198). New York: Simon and Schuster.

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. doi:10.1111/j.19378327.1993.tb00605.x

Hill, J. R., Wiley, D., Nelson, L. M., & Han, S. (2004). Exploring research on internet-based learning: From infrastructure to interactions. In. D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 949-978). Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61, 179-211.

Leidner, D. E., & Jarvenpaa, S. L. (1995). The use of information technology to enhance management school education: A theoretical view. MIS Quarterly, 19, 265-291.

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