Tag Archives: Learning Theory

Lipstick on a pig? Learning Theory and Instructional Design

Tonight I have learning theory on my mind.  In particular this involves learning theory as it is applied to instructional design.  I have just read  from Carr-Chellman (2010) that instructional design, “does work on the whole within a behavioral framework, meaning that the underlying notions of learning are those of information transmission rather than learner construction” (p.8).

This quote sits uneasily with me as I wrestle with unpacking its implications. I personally believe in the need to design learning experiences and opportunities for students that allow for co-construction of knowledge through constructivist and connectivist principles.  In this approach knowledge is co-created by students and teachers through a community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000).  The implication is that teachers are not only content experts but, more importantly, they must help students to understand that the “capacity to know more is more critical than what is already known” (Siemens, 2005, p.4).  Knowledge is created by making connections through personal learning networks. This social constructivist or connectivist approach is somewhat counter to behaviorist learning theory that works on knowledge as directional transmission from teacher to student.


My question is, how do we or even yet should we marry these approaches to learning?  Carr-Chellman stresses that instructional design can be used to, “alter the model and work a constructivist solution within the behavioral model” (p. 9).  In my current work I find teachers who are tied to behavioral learning theory find it difficult to move into constructivist and even further into social constructivist or connectivist approaches to teaching and learning.  Is this altering of behaviourism, as suggested by Carr-Chellman, the best approach or do we need to approach instructional design from a more emergent and contingent model that leaves behaviourism in the past?  I worry that this altering approach may be as Bates (2015) describes, “old wine in new bottles” (p. 145).  This is just one of many questions that I lose sleep over and have yet to find the answer to.  I cannot wait to hear your thoughts!


Bates, A.W. (2015). Chapter 5: Chapter 4.2: Old wine in new bottles: classroom-type online learning, in Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Teaching and Learning (pp. 145-182), Contact North.

Carr-Chellman, A. (2010). Instructional design for teachers: Improving classroom practice. Florence, KY: Routledge. eISBN: 9780203847275

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Elearnspace. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm.


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