Personal Theory of Learning

I agree with Driscoll’s (2002) perspective on how learning takes place. Learning takes place by using context. In other words, learners take what they see and combine it with what they already know in order to draw conclusions. Without the appropriate context, it is difficult for a learner to learn a new concept. For example, a student can begin to grasp the meaning of a new word when given a definition, but understanding really takes place when he or she sees how the word is actually used in context (e.g., in an actual sentence).  Learning also takes place by doing. Learners can read about how to tie a shoe and can be shown how to tie a shoe, but they won’t learn how to tie a shoe unless they actually try doing it. Learning takes place as a community. Knowledge cannot spread unless it is shared. Whether it’s through a teacher, a parent, a peer, or a book (written by an expert), we all learn together as a human race, by communicating and giving and receiving feedback. Finally, learning takes place through reflection. After all, information must be held in short-term memory in order for it to make it into long-term memory. Reflection allows a learner to take new information (e.g., in the form of feedback) and revise current perceptions of a new concept if needed.

Based on this knowledge of how learning takes place, the best way for someone to teach is to apply instructional design using “the tried-and-true five-component design model of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation” (Piskurich, 2006, p. xvii). The components do not have to be applied in that exact order and can be applied cyclically with different iterations as needed.  At some point (or certain points), however, a good teacher will analyze the situation (taking into account the student(s), the content, and the objectives), design and develop the instruction by selecting the appropriate instructional methods and tools based on the analysis, implement the instruction, and then evaluate the instruction to determine whether reanalysis, redesign, and reimplementation are necessary in order for successful learning to take place.

Because there are so many different types of learners and so many different things to learn, I cannot say that only one learning theory fits my world view. As Leidner and Jarvenpaa (1995) state, “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). Ertmer and Newby also agree. In their article on behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism, they state, “We believe that the critical question instructional designers must ask is not ‘Which is the best theory’ but ‘Which theory is the most effective in fostering mastery of specific tasks by specific learners?’” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 69). For example, behaviorism is useful when dealing with novice learners and content involving basic facts. Constructivism is best for advanced learners and tasks requiring exploratory problem-solving.


Driscoll, M. P. (2002). How people learn (and what technology might have to do with it). ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology Syracuse NY, September 7, 2014.

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

Leidner, D. E., & Jarvenpaa, S. L. (1995). The use of information technology to enhance management school education: A theoretical view. MIS Quarterly, 19(3), 265-291.

Piskurich, G. M. (2006). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.



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