Reflections on Learning Theories Course by WaldenU

Having worked in the corporate world as an adult trainer I knew about how learning occurred and what factors influenced learning for adults. I was also aware of Pavlov’s work in classical conditioning, and Skinner’s work on operant conditioning from previous courses in psychology. The Walden University course in Learning Theories and Instruction went well beyond my current understanding and added the role of memory, how transfer occurs and the type of learning explained by those theories. The course also added the theories of Cognitive, Constructivist, Social Learning and Connectivism to my knowledge of how people learn. By learning these theories this course will help in further my career in instructional design in two ways. First, understanding the theories behind why we design courses the way we do will help me improve my curriculum based on the students, the material, and how each theory works to improve student learning. “To teach effectively, you’ve got to know how students learn.” (Laureate Education) Second, understanding the theories behind design will help me answer those interview questions I get from every training manager about which learning theory I prefer. Now I can answer the question with detail about why I would use which theory and for what type of learner or material each theory or theories would be most appropriate.

As a learner I often prefer hands on, trial and error, lectures, demonstrations and reading reference materials. This course has helped me deepen my understanding of my personal learning process. My learning through success and failure is described by Behaviorist theory and is suited for task based learning. My enjoyment of lectures and demonstrations relates to Social learning theory which is suited to apprenticeships. Some of my learning style is due to my age and is based in Adult learning theory as I only want to know what is relevant to my needs.

One thing I did find rather surprising was the work of Lev Vygotsky, who came up with the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) that basically charts “a certain range of tasks, or a certain difficulty level of tasks that’s ideal for helping people grow cognitively in the maximum way” (Ormund, Shunk, Gredler, 2009) or the difference in learning something on one’s own and the greater amount that can be learned either socially or with a mentor.

I come away from this course with a greater appreciation of the connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology and motivation. Using what I have learned, I will be able to put together better training curriculum by asking the right questions about who the course will be designed for, what type of learning is expected (task based, reasoning, adult transfer, or social), how will the material be delivered (online, classroom, or blended) and what is the motivation for the students (job skill, required, or self-improvement). These questions will enable me to combine the various learning theories with the learning styles most appropriate for the audience, combined to maximize the technology used in delivery.

Laureate Education (producer). (n.d.) An Introduction to learning [Video file].
Retrieved from

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., Gredler, M. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York, NY: Pearson.