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Adult learning principles vary dramatically from pedagogic principles. The motivation for an adult to learn differs dramatically from that of a child. These differences were first highlighted by Malcolm Knowles who is also known as the father of adult learning. Adults’ learning motivation comes from an immediacy need directly linked to their everyday roles. An adult learner primarily looks at relevance in learning to improve on-job performance and behavior. The classic paradigm of pedagogic learning – learning by rote is not applicable in the case of adults. The predominant difference between and adult and a child learning is the fact that there is a pre-existing knowledge base of experiences in adult learners. Any learning plan that would ride on exploiting this particular knowledge base would be successful and all learning plans should aim to do so. Adult learners may be forced into a learning environment, but their motivation would soon fade out, if there is a lack of relevancy in the learning ecosystem.
In an adult learning ecosystem, there is not much of relevance for physical development per se of an individual unless this is directly related to on-job performance and/or affects the economic conditions of an individual. The primary motivation in adults for physical development seems to be more economic than anything else. This is further reinforced by the application off theory X and theory Y to adult learning principles. Contrary to physical development and enhancement in adult learning, the psychological dimension gets impacted far more due to learning, knowledge and skill acquisition in adults. The impact of learning in adults can be seen in improved self-concept, self-confidence, and dignity. This happens because of enhanced confidence to perform the task at hand better, due to knowledge and skill acquisition. The psychological spin-off has a larger impact on family and community settings also. Learning has larger spin-offs not limited just to the individual adult learner.
David Merrill describes four different principles of instructional learning for adult learners. According to Merrill, there are four distinct learning phases. They are as follows:
“Activation of prior experience,
Demonstration of skills,
Application of skills, and
Integration or these skills into real world activities.”
The prescriptions of instructional design which are predominantly based on the first principles of instruction stated above, at the top level are as follows:
Learning gets facilitated under the following different premises:
- When learners get engaged in real world problem-solving
- When the existing knowledge is activated as the basic premise to create new knowledge
- New knowledge gets demonstrated to the learner
- When the same new knowledge is practically applied, and finally
- When the same is integrated totally in to the world of the learner.
Active processing of information by student groups during the coherent critical input experiences will help the learners in gaining a better understanding of the chapter or lesson that has been taught. Despite this understanding being an extremely good one, it may not be of great help in the long-term retention of knowledge and the use of the same knowledge. For this kind of long-term retention and use of knowledge, plethora of opportunities are to be given to student for practicing new skills and eventually strengthen their understanding of the knowledge and skills learnt.
According to the Merrill, in the absence of an extended processing of the knowledge acquired by the learners in the class room, the knowledge, over time, may fade off and the learners might tend to forget the same. Metaphor activity is another aspect which the author stresses upon. Metaphors, as the author feels, help learners to associate two things which are necessarily not connected or associated with one another at a surface level but may seem associated with one another at an abstract level. This way, the activity will be commenced in the class by the learners and they will be completing it as a home work. When working on the homework, learners, with the help of metaphors, would examine the similarities and differences and simultaneously also identify errors in their thinking process. The four design and learning phases would help the learners in gaining a good understanding of new information, which the author terms as declarative knowledge and also would become capable of performing new skills and processes with some extent of fluency. This capability of performing new strategies, skills, and processes is termed as procedural knowledge. Getting the learners to this level is definitely a momentous accomplishment. This is accomplished with the help of making the learners involve in tasks entailing problem-solving, decision-making, and experimenting with new content and knowledge. In the dialect of the design question of this particular chapter, learners are required to generate and test hypotheses about the new knowledge they are seeking to gain through the variety of tasks that they are being given for accomplishment.
Learning to solve a problem comprises of four different levels of instruction, namely the problem, the tasks that are necessary t be done for solving the problem, the various sets of operations that constitute the tasks, the actions which constitute the operations. “Effective instruction must engage students in all four levels of performance: the action-level, the operation-level, the task-level, and the problem level. Too much instruction is limited to the action or operation level and does not involve learners in the more integrative task or problem levels.”
Expectations management is something that necessarily needs to be performed at every step and setting of teaching. Every time there is an interaction between the teacher and the student, it is very essential that expectations are necessarily clear and are set right at the beginning of the learning journey.
Unclear expectations will eventually result in dissatisfaction between both the stakeholders. Expectations need not essentially be about the learning goals but also possibly could be about the experiences that either the students or the teachers will go through during their engagement.
When taking into consideration the characteristics of the learner, teachers must necessarily have a look at individuality differences, eagerness to learn, and eagerness. The process of cognitive behavior evaluates the internal actions of learning, which encompass the transfer of learning, techniques used for teaching problem solving and in addition learning the process to acquire skills.
According to the Theory of evolution which was proposed by Charles Darwin, human beings have evolved just like other animals. Darwin believed that there are no fundamental differences in the mental processes of human beings and animals. Both of them have intelligence and memory which enable them to learn and solve problems. Thus, given the many similarities that human beings share with animals, Darwin did not consider human beings as a unique species. Various psychologists and researchers have revealed that intellectual development is a continuous process and that eh level of development depends mainly on the learning opportunities available. According to many researches, if the various stages of intellectual development are handled well independently, the person will obviously have a sense of proficiency and experience, which seldom is referred to as ego strength or ego quality by famous psychologists and researchers.
Many pioneering theorists in the field of cognitive psychology stated that cognitive learning constitutes of a relationship amid cognitive environmental cues and the expectations. This theory was also tested through a set of controlled experiments on white rats. The experiment resulted in a conclusion that cognitive maps of the environment are developed by rats and other animals used in the experiment. Hence, learning according to cognitive psychology is “development of a pattern of behavior from bits of knowledge about and cognition of the environment.”
Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism are the three basic theories of learning. Behaviorism is based upon the apparent changes that are inflicted by the individual’s behavior. This theory of learning focuses on new patterns of behavior that are repeated by the individual till the time they become a regular habit. Cognitivism is based on the thought process that lies behind the specific behavior of the individual. As part of this theory of learning, the behavior of the individual is observed and the same is used as indicators to assess what would be the thoughts of that particular individual based on the observed pattern of behavior. “Constructivism is based on the premise that every individual constructs their own individual perspective of the world, through their own personal experiences and schema. Constructivism focuses on preparing the learner to problem solve in ambiguous situations.”
Pavlov and B.F Skinner are the two famous theorists relating to behaviorism. The Classical Conditioning and Operant conditioning are the two works of the above theorists. Skinner’s operant conditioning is an advancement of what Pavlov proposed in Classical conditioning. Edward Tolman and Vygotskii are two famous cognitive psychologists. Jerome Bruner and Jean Piaget are two psychologists who have conducted extensive research pertaining to constructivism.
The fourth class of learning theories is another form of Constructivism which is specifically differentiated and explained in the form of developmental constructivism. Developmental constructivism, as proposed by Duffy and Jonassen highlights the need for collaboration among the group of learners. The notion of Vygotskii has got significant implications for peer collaboration, and the same ranges in the sector of proximal development. “Defined as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers, it differs from the fixed biological nature of Piaget's stages of development. Through a process of 'scaffolding' a learner can be extended beyond the limitations of physical maturation to the extent that the development process lags behind the learning process.
Using the most recent neural research, instructional design techniques that are brain friendly are believed to offer a pure structure for the creation of effective instructional design. “This theory also helps explain recurring learning behaviors, and is a meta-concept that includes an eclectic mix of techniques. Currently, related techniques stress allowing teachers to connect learning to students' real lives and emotional experiences, as well as their personal histories and experiences.”
Likewise, the social impact theory also holds very good significance in the above context. According to the social impact theory, an individual is likely to respond increasingly to social influence and this is likely to augment with aspects such as strength, immediacy and number.
Next in queue are the brain based learning theories. This theory is predominantly based on the functioning of the human brain. This theory believes that as long as the human brain fulfills all of its normal processes, learning will continue to happen. This theory of learning is an all-inclusive approach to instruction which utilizes research that is related to neuroscience. Brain-based education stresses upon how the human brain learns logically and is based on what is the current knowledge about the authentic structure and function of the individual’s brain at different stages of development.
In conclusion, it can be stated that those who want to put learning theories and novel approaches like knowledge management into practice, should not misconstrue and under assess the power of societal factors that have an impact on their target groups. Insurgence against novel approaches can be enormously caustic, and is not always discernible on the facade. Nevertheless, it is also possible to use the same set of social processes in order to win over strong associates and transform agents, and use them to speed up the development of organization-wide reception of novel approaches. Responsiveness and knowledge using these processes both for the individual and organization’s advantage are the fundamental success attributes.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Thoery. NY: General Learning Press.
Changing Minds.Org. (2010). Social Impact Theory. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from Changing Minds. Org: http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/social_impact.htm
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Donald, K. M. (1995). Evolution, The Five Factor Model, and levels of Personaity. Journal of Personality (special Issue: 63), 525-567.
Jonassen, T. D. (1992). Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale: NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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Merrill, M. D. (2002). First Principles of Instruction. Educational Technology Research & Development (vol: 50, No. 3), 43-59. Retrieved from Educational Technology Research & Development.
Vygotskii, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.