Please note: This blog post is a course related assessment for the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University.
After reading through the theoretical positions described by Ertmer and Newby (2013) and Merrill (2002), I struggled on selecting one position. The principles outlined by Merrill (2002, p. 43) of “(a) Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems. (b) Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge. (c) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. (d) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. (e) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.” related to me, as I feel these instructional design principles are used in the training sessions I facilitate for faculty and used in many of the software and program-related courses I teach at Durham College. Several aspects of the principles listed have a constructivist approach, as the principles highlight real-world problems and building new knowledge upon past experiences from the learner. With that in mind, I decided to focus on constructivism, which is highlighted in Ertmer & Newby’s (2013) article title Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective.
I became aware of the term constructivism five years ago while completing my undergraduate degree in the Adult Education and Digital Technology program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The AEDT2150U – Digital Technologies and Advanced Teaching Methods course highlighted several contemporary models of teaching, including constructivist and social constructivist teaching (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, n.d.). Past experiences, interactions, and a real-world setting are believed to be critical factors that influence learning in a constructivist approach (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55). A constructivist approach to learning was significant in my undergraduate courses and can also be seen in the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University. This specific assignment is asking us to relate a particular theoretical position to our day-to-day work, which requires us to build our learning upon past experiences, that occur in a real-world setting. Additional constructivist approaches have happened throughout other assignments in the MALAT program, where we are encouraged to relate the assignments to our real-world employment. After being introduced to constructivism, I made tweaks to my approach to teaching and training. Rather than giving generic scenarios for the learner to complete specific tasks or assessments, I started making the scenarios more open, allowing the learner to relate it to their personal needs. For example, when completing training exercises on creating a grade book in our Learning Management System (LMS), I ask them to relate it to a course they will be teaching. I believe this keeps the learner more engaged in the learning, as they see the benefits to the learning exercise and how it will impact them individually.
While I chose constructivism for my theoretical position, I must acknowledge that I do believe that each learning theory covered by Ertmer and Newby (2013) has a purpose when creating a course. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism each have specific strengths and weaknesses, and it is the role of the person designing the learning experience to use the appropriate learning style(s) throughout the design and delivery of the course (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 69).
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. doi: 10.1002/piq
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59. doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1007/BF02505024
University of Ontario Institute of Technology. (n.d.). AEDT specialization courses. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from https://education.uoit.ca/undergraduate/bachelor-of-arts-in-educational-studies-and-digital-technology/adult-education-and-digital-technology-specialization/courses.php