All Learning Theories are severely limited (“crap”)!

The following is a copy of my post in an interesting Facebook thread on Learning Theories

What Learning Theories try to model is nigh on impossible given the current state of our knowledge. We don’t understand how memory in the human brain works – from a cybernetics background I favour Neural Network models of memory and learning but our artificial Neural Networks are incredibly simple compared with the human brain. Philosophically learning raises the whole Mind and Body question. Some argue this does not exist or is solved but I maintain we have little idea of how the mind is really embodied. Further learning is much more than just memory – it sits within social and cultural contexts and is dependent on those. Then there is the whole issue of how we receive and perceive learning. We do this through our senses but Descartes et. al. taught us that we can not trust our senses – yet we still manage to learn through them. This raises the issue of Learning Styles already mentioned by Mark Childs. To my view Learning Styles are belief systems – memes if you like – and have little grounding in empirical science; yet there is a grain of truth in what they try to set forward. We learn differently through our different senses and individuals may have a preference for learning through one sense over another. In summary the brain is the most complex thing in the universe known to man – we kid ourselves if we think we understand how it works. Learning Theories are thus gross over-simplifications but if we accept that they can have their uses; but don’t ever think they come close to modelling what really goes on in the human mind when we learn. That all being said I have a soft spot for Diana Laurillard‘s conversational model – I give a brief account of this in the following blog post:

2 thoughts on “All Learning Theories are severely limited (“crap”)!

  1. I’m on the edge of learning theories, and only know some of the work, but my impression is that any given learning theory exists in a particular context and has been developed for a particular purpose. Does it help if they’re seen as partial attempts to study some aspects of learning, useful in some situations but not others?

    On a different point, doesn’t Diana Laurillard’s model also have a cybernetic base? My understanding is that it rests on Pask’s work.

    1. Magnus – I use Learning Theories in my work but regard them as very partial models. They can be useful constructs that aid further thinking but to my view none of them well represents the complexity of what goes on in the embodied mind when we learn. They are all overly simplistic. The danger of that is people come to believe in one theory or another and think it is a good representation of learning in the round. This leads, in my view, to flawed conclusions.

      Yes Diana Laurillard did build on Pask’s work in creating her Conversational Model. Perhaps this cybernetic basis is why it appeals to me and why it is the model of learning I reference most in my own thinking and writing. I have heard it said that she took Pask’s work out of context but I cannot comment on that because I don’t know Pask’s work well enough. That is something else I must get round to reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s