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Theories of learning and curriculum design
Key positionalities and their relationships

Author - Tony Cunningham, Julie Gannon, Mary Kavanagh, John Greene, Louise Reddy, Laurence Whitson


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Information processing model

Epistemology

Meaningful information is easier to learn and remember. If a learner links relatively meaningless information with prior schema it will be easier to retain. Knowledge of the world is organised and reorganised until some level of understanding is acquired. The structure of knowledge is linked to the gradual level of development of the learner.

Origin of learning goals


The subject matter and stage of development determine goals. The process of learning remains continuous in the organisation and reorganisation of knowledge until the learner achieves insight through addressing a problem. The context and stage of problem-solving will indicate what the purpose of learning is.

Motivation

This model requires internal processing of information. Motivation comes from the learner, i.e. it is intrinsic. There is a need to acquire, store, retrieve and reorganise knowledge so that a better understanding may be acquired. This arises from inherent curiosity.


Learning theory


The information processing model has its roots in cognitivist theory, although characteristics of constructivist theory are also considered. Cognitivism is based on the principle that learning develops through exposure of information that is logically presented, and that new information can be more easily understood when it is linked to something that is already learned.

Theorists

Major contributors to the information processing model include the following.

Kurt Lewin (1890–1947)

Lewin was interested in understanding group dynamics, particularly the behaviour of individuals in a group. He believed that democracy was an important aspect of group dynamics but that the process could not be enforced.

Jean Piaget (1896–1980)

Piaget conducted considerable research in the area of child development. He was predominantly interested in how humans develop their concept of knowledge. He formulated his theory of 'genetic epistemology' and believed that levels of intelligence or thought processes developed gradually. He argued that teaching methods that challenge and involve students promotes cognitive development.

Jerome Bruner (1915–present)

Bruner developed the theory of instructional learning strongly linked to a constructivist perspective with a focus on cognitive development. He argues that learning is an active process where the learner constructs knowledge based on current and past knowledge. He believes that instruction should take cognisance of student experience in order to ensure a state of readiness towards learning. The learner should be able to understand and should then be able to go beyond the information given.

David Ausubel (1918–present)

Ausubel is best known for his development of advance organisers to assist student learning. Ausubel describes organisers as a bridge between new learning and existing ideas or knowledge. Advanced organisers are said to allow learners to organise and reorganise information in a meaningful way.

Learning and teaching approach

The approach is holist. Learning occurs as a whole or in patterns. The individual interprets then tries to establish meaning. When all information is processed or considered, the learner reorganises it in an attempt to reach an understanding. Learning occurs when insight is gained from due consideration and internal processing of thoughts. The learner influences the learning.

Importance of environment

The environment and the heredity of the individual are both relevant. The environment needs to support the learning process and cognitive development. At the same time the person's traits and experience contribute to their ability and stage of development and will therefore also impact on their learning.

 


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