A Comparison

How does connectivism compare to other learning theories? How does it differ from established paradigms? The chart below illustrates both the similarities and differences between connectivism and three major philosophical perspectives on learning. To view this table.

  • CHAPTER 1: Learning: From Speculation to Science

In this first chapter, you will explore three key findings summarized from the learning research in the 20th century and their implications for teaching and designing professional development workshops for teachers. The first key finding suggests the importance of engaging students’ preconceptions as they learn the new concept. The second key finding informs the critical aspects for developing students’ competency in an area of inquiry. The last key finding stresses the critical role of developing students’ metacognitive abilities.

Piaget: Cognitive development is a complex process comprising three principal concepts affecting the development process: assimilation, accommodation and equilibration. All three are associated with the formation of schemata and their modification in order to attain a balanced sense of understanding of the external world.

  • CHAPTER 2: How Experts Differ From Novices

The second chapter illustrates six key scientific findings about the characteristics of experts and how to apply the strategies to support students’ development of expertise. The chapter also provides the educational implications based on the study of expertise.

  • Behaviorism

This ebook chapter provides a short overview of behaviorism, advocates of behavioristic perspective, the educational implications of behaviorism, and techniques to apply the behavioristic perspective to support students’ learning.

Unit 2: Overview

Congratulations on completing unit 1! Unit 2 continues the three general themes of the course featured in the previous unit: broad insights into how people learn; specific perspectives on instructional design, and connections between these insights and perspectives with instructional design approaches and tools. In particular, broad insights in unit 2 build on the three key findings of learning research by recognizing another major goal of education: to prepare learners for new problems and settings, or transfer. Drawing on this foundation, unit 2 also considers the following seven specific theoretical perspectives and applications:

  • Resource-based learning
  • Case-Based Learning
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Six C’s of Motivation
  • Teaching and Learning in Affective Domain

Case-based learning provides opportunities for richer, deeper exploration of concepts and ideas. Students gain experience with analyzing ideas and applying concepts to solve problems or achieve goals as opposed to acquiring abstract knowledge. Case-based learning requires careful preparation and skilled facilitation on the part of teachers. It also requires students to become engaged with one another and their environment and improve a wide range of social and cognitive skills. Assessing student learning and evaluating performance requires much more than the traditional multiple-choice or short-answer tests, but clear learning objectives, performance standards and relevant criteria can enable teachers to use a more holistic approach and to better tailor activities to students’ needs.

Problem-based inquiry approaches to learning provide students with strategies and experiences that empower them to become critical consumers of information and tackle authentic problems through group problem-solving. While these attributes help students prepare for active citizenship in a rapidly changing world, the structure of most schools often hinders the implementation of problem-based inquiry models. Pragmatic factors such as class period length, access to resources, standardized testing issues, and the activities in a typical school day affect what is learned. Cultural factors, such as the student-teacher relationship, the teacher and text as expert sources, and student responsibility affect how learning occurs. Thus, several implications arise concerning the need to restructure education in order to fully adopt and obtain the learning benefits associated with problem-based inquiry.

The school day should provide students with opportunities to explore ideas in greater depth. Students in many middle and high schools take five to eight courses that last from forty to sixty minutes each. This class structure encourages learning content in segmented blocks through information processing approaches. As a consequence, the curriculum is faced with emphasizing breadth of content whereby new ideas are taught each day in a linear fashion based on the concept introduced the previous day. On the other hand, real-world problems such as those addressed in a problem-based inquiry model, incorporate concepts that do not necessarily lie along a predetermined pathway of knowledge and skills. Greater attention is given to fewer concepts that have direct relevance to students’ lives. More time is needed to allow opportunities to explore complex situations in depth. Even though real-world problems are not resolved in a single day, a school day with larger blocks of time better supports approaches to problem-based inquiry. Implementing problem-based inquiry in a system with short class periods ultimately derails the momentum of learning because students must continually start, stop, and recall information and procedures more frequently.

Standardized tests should also incorporate complex real-world problems in order to be more comprehensive as assessment instruments. If one of the goals of education is to prepare students for a productive workforce, and modern business engages employees in complex projects that require higher-ordered thinking, then the educational system is obligated to make provisions that embody these skills in ubiquitous assessment instruments. Because the scores of standardized tests are sometimes, unfortunately, used to measure learning and the success of a school, test content and question types send a message to teachers and students about what type of learning is valued. The majority of questions on most standardized tests target lower-ordered thinking skills and can be answered in less than one minute. While these questions assess what students understand and what they can recall, the tests often do not allow students to express their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities in novel situations. Test creators are discouraged from creating questions that require higher-ordered thinking questions for many reasons. Such problems take longer to answer and grade; they potentially reduce reliability due to partially subjective grading in essay responses; and they affect the validity of test scores when fewer questions are asked. In light of these challenges, unfortunately, few instructional practices will change toward addressing societal goals until they are reinforced on nation wide standardized tests.

Finally, teachers must rethink their roles from instructor to facilitator and collaborator. Generally, teachers determine what and how students learn from their subject-area knowledge and from primary sources such as textbooks. An advantage to this situation is that students receive similar learning experiences that can be accurately and consistently measured according to a series of objectives; however, learning in these situations is based on the teachers’, and textbook authors’, values regarding which topics are important. Furthermore, the learning environment in this situation is bounded by these sources, neglecting opportunities for continued exploration or deeper analysis using other sources, such as technological tools, Internet references, students, and teachers. When solving real-world problems, additional resources expand opportunities for students to present varying perspectives that are not necessarily tied to the views of the instructor. Hence, in inquiry-based environments, teachers should relinquish some control over content. Teachers need to recognize that students may not naturally develop, believe, or accept their particular arguments or points of view. Also, in a problem-based inquiry approach, students must be given greater control over the direction and content of their learning. If teachers accept students as equal contributors to the learning community, then less emphasis will be placed on teacher- presented information. Instead, teachers can then take responsibility for facilitating learning so that analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and extension of information by students assumes its proper role.

Constructionism in the Classroom: What does it involve?

A classroom based on constructionism has many elements that promote a learner-oriented learning environment. In this learning environment, the instructor acts as a facilitator and guides the learners along their paths of learning. Learners are assigned tasks in which they must implement particular instructional goals. They investigate, create, and solve problems. Some of the elements in a learning environment guided by constructionism are:

  • Presentation of rubrics which define expectations
  • Dialogue on interpretation of the assignment
  • Exploration of multiple strategies for tackling the assignment
  • Inquiry/learning discussion
  • Presentation of work
  • Projects which include revision and development of an idea
  • Learner collaboration
  • Learners working with professionals in the outside world
  • Learners engaging in “genuine,” authentic real-world tasks

In a learning environment guided by constructionism, it is important to set lesson/unit goals and expectations at the outset, so that learners understand what they are trying to achieve and the level of that achievement. Explaining multiple strategies allows the learners various ways of solving the problems that they encounter. Obtaining feedback through presentation and discussion allows the learners to revise their projects/artifacts. Lastly, an involvement with application in the real world allows the learning process to take place in a more meaningful context.

Unit 3: Overview

With two units completed, we are beginning to hit our stride as teams, pods, and a course community. We are all now familiar with the three general themes of the course: broad insights into how people learn; specific perspectives on instructional design, and connections these insights and perspectives with instructional design approaches and tools. We also have completed the first application and case analysis assignments as well as general proposals for the course final project (i.e., stage 1 theoretical application project). These themes and assignments provide a common set of independent resources and a repeating set of social activities. Both will serve you complete the course, expand mastery across the program, and impact individuals and organizations beyond ASU.  Building on the ideas in units 1 and 2, unit 3provides insights into how children learn and how the brain works, building on prior readings about expertise and learning transfer. It also features seven additional specific theoretical perspectives and applications:

Piaget’s Constructivism

  • Cognitive Apprenticeship (+ 3 subsection)
  • Cognitive Tools
  • Situated Cognition
  • Reciprocal Teaching
  • Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles
  • Information-processing

Unit 4: Overview

Unit 4 begins to capitalize on the work we’re doing together with our teams and pods. We are beginning to see how “thinking with authority” as we develop each new application scenario and analyze each new case also creates opportunities for our teams and pods to hold everyone accountable to the ideas that the readings “equip” us with  as well as the authentic real-world settings in which these ideas operate. Again these ideas are emerging within each unit and in relation to previous units. They include broad insights into how people learn featured in How People Learn as well as the specific perspectives on instructional design and the connections these insights and perspectives make to instructional design approaches and tools featured in Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology.  

Unit 4 concentrates on a chapter concerning the design of learning environments in How People Learn, which begins to explicitly relate prior chapters about expertise, learning transfer, how children learn, and the brain and the mind to the ways we might design for learning based on these broad insights. Unit 4 also features two additional chapters from Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: 

  • connectivism
  • Learning communities as an instructional model

Unit 5: Overview

In the previous units, we have focused primarily on how individuals learn and how to support an individual’s learning. Learning events involve a number of agents, including learners, learning environments, and teachers. In this unit, we shift our focus to explore how teachers can support individuals’ learning and to facilitate learners’ understanding by highlighting the importance of pedagogical content knowledge. Chapter 7 in How People Learn identifies exemplars for effective teaching in history, mathematics, and science. These exemplars illustrate ways to support and develop teachers’ use of pedagogical content knowledge as they facilitate learners’ conceptual change and support their learning experience. Additionally, to expand your repertoire of instructional strategies, which will further develop your pedagogical content knowledge, we will explore the following specific perspectives:

  • Conceptual Change
  • Experiential Learning
  • I-Search
  • Reading Recovery

Unit 5

  • Conceptual Change
  • in Business & Industry: Companies often restructure, changing their business strategies and processes to remain competitive and responsive to the needs of their customers. The advancement of technology has also initiated a trend in the restructuring of industrialization. Lansky states that technological innovation, globalization, and industrial relocation are leaving only two general types of paid work in advanced industrialized countries: technical jobs, which center on problem-solving, and interpersonal jobs, which require a “human touch” (p. 213).
    • Teaching for Conceptual Change As mentioned above, learner preconceptions are resistant to change. Because learners have relied on these existing notions to understand and function in their world, they may not easily discard their ideas and adopt a new way of thinking. Thus, simply presenting a new concept or telling the learners that their views are inaccurate will not result in conceptual change. Teaching for conceptual change requires a constructivist approach in which learners take an active role in reorganizing their knowledge. Cognitive conflict strategies, derived from a Piagetian constructivist view of learning, are effective tools in teaching for conceptual change (Duit, 1999). These strategies involve creating situations where learners’ existing conceptions about particular phenomena or topics are made explicit and then directly challenged in order to create a state of cognitive conflict or disequilibrium. Cognitive conflict strategies are aligned with Posner et al.’s theory of conceptual change in that their common goal is to create the four conditions necessary for conceptual change. That is, learners must become dissatisfied with their current conceptions and accept an alternative notion as intelligible, plausible, and fruitful.
    • Conceptual Change Instructional Model Cognitive conflict has been used as the basis for developing a number of models and strategies for teaching for conceptual change. Among these are the Generative Learning Model (Cosgrove & Osborne, 1985), the Ideational Confrontation Model (Champagne, Gunstone, & Klopfer, 1985), and an instructional strategy using anomalous data (Chinn & Brewer, 1993). Although these models suggest different methods and techniques, they share a structure similar to the conceptual change teaching strategy proposed by Nussbaum and Novick (1982):
  1. Reveal student preconceptions
  2. Discuss and evaluate preconceptions
  3. Create conceptual conflict with those preconceptions
  4. Encourage and guide conceptual restructuring
  • I-Search assists undergraduate students to develop the traditional research paper with a model follows 6 C’s of motivation, from Unit 2, uses searching for answers to the questions that have personal meaning to the student/writer.
  • Reading Recovery: To help the young learner learn to read, knowing what students already know and what they need to know before the beginning of the tutoring sessions. Reading Recovery strategy and delineate the process of observing, roaming, and scaffolding as the tutor support learners’ development of reading skills.
  • Experiential Learning Model was developed to support adult learners. It engages learners in the experience to acquire and construct knowledge using their own unique interpretations. Four stages to engage learners in the experiential learning cycle.
  • Chapter 7- Effective Teaching: Examples in History, Mathematics, and Science
    • Outstanding teachers not only have a deep understanding of the subject matter and the structure of the subject matter, but also possess comprehensive understanding of teaching activities that support students’ development of knowledge and skills in the subject matter. In this chapter, the authors argue the importance for teachers to possess both general teaching skills as well as pedagogical content knowledge. The authors also provide examples of outstanding teaching practice in history, mathematics, and science to illustrate the employment of pedagogical content knowledge and the importance of understanding students’ preconceptions before the instruction begins.
  • Need 3 or 4 learning objectives to add to Theoretical Stage 3

Unit 6: Overview

The previous unit highlights the importance for teachers to possess pedagogical content knowledge and showcases some exemplars for teaching history, mathematics, and science. Since not all teachers were born with natural talent to teach, it is critical to provide effective trainings to support teachers’ professional development. In this unit, we will discuss learning opportunities for both in-service and pre-service teachers. We will also explore the constraints and issues that should be considered when developing professional development programs for teachers. Moreover, many discussions about teachers’ professional developments argues the importance of building learning communities to assist teachers. Thus, we will also explore six specific perspectives that are associated with teacher learning and adult learning:

  • Vygotsky’s Constructivism
  • Social Constructivism
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Adult Learning
  • Transformative Learning
  • Creativity


  • Vygotsky’s Constructivism: The work of Lev Vygotsky and other developmental psychologists has become the foundation of much research and theory in developmental cognition over the past several decades, particularly of what has become known as social development theory. Vygotsky’s theories stress the fundamental role of social interaction in the development of cognition (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1985), as he believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of “making meaning.” Unlike Piaget’s notion that children’s development must necessarily precede their learning, Vygotsky argued, “learning is a necessary and universal aspect of the process of developing culturally organized, specifically human psychological function” (1978, p. 90). In other words, social learning tends to precede development.
  • Social Constructivism: Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding (Derry, 1999; McMahon, 1997). This perspective is closely associated with many contemporary theories, most notably the developmental theories of Vygotsky and Bruner, and Bandura’s social cognitive theory (Shunk, 2000).
  • Cooperative Learning: students working together to “attain group goals that cannot be obtained by working alone or competitively” (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1986). The main purpose of cooperative learning is to actively involve students in the learning process; a level of student empowerment which is not possible in a lecture format. The underlying premise is founded in constructivist epistemology. It is a process which requires knowledge to be discovered by students and transformed into concepts to which the students can relate. The knowledge is then reconstructed and expanded through new learning experiences. Learning takes place through dialog among students in a social setting.
    • Cooperative learning is a methodology that employs a variety of learning activities to improve students’ understanding of a subject by using a structured approach which involves a series of steps, requiring students to create, analyze and apply concepts (Kagan, 1990). Cooperative learning utilizes ideas of Vygotsky, Piaget, and Kohlberg in that both the individual and the social setting are active dynamics in the learning process as students attempt to imitate real-life learning. By combining teamwork and individual accountability, students work toward acquiring both knowledge and social skills. It is a teaching strategy which allows students to work together in small groups with individuals of various talents, abilities and backgrounds to accomplish a common goal. Each individual team member is responsible for learning the material and also for helping the other members of the team learn. Students work until each group member successfully understands and completes the assignment, thus creating an “atmosphere of achievement” (Panitz, 1996). As a result, they frame new concepts by basing their conclusions on prior knowledge. This process results in a deeper understanding of the material and more potential to retain the material.
  • Adult Learning:
  • Andragogy: is the art and science of helping adults learn. Malcolm Knowles is the father of andragogy as he proposed five factors involved in adult learning.

The five assumptions underlying andragogy describe the adult learner as someone who:

  • Has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning
  • Has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning
  • Has learning needs closely related to changing social roles
  • Is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge
  • Is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (Merriam, 2001, p.5)

Knowles used these principles to propose a program for the design, implementation and evaluation of adult learning. Since the development of his theory, Knowles has acknowledged that the principles he outlined did not apply solely to adult education. The development of the theory simply illustrates that the designer “should involve learners in as many aspects of their education as possible and in the creation of a climate in which they can most fruitfully learn” (Merriam, 2001, p.7). Knowles’ main focus with the development of andragogy was the notion of the material being very learner centered and the learner being very self-directed.


  • Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction
  • Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities
  • Adults are most interested in learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented
  • Variables Affecting Adult Learning
  • Toolkit for Facilitators of Adult Learning
  • Learning Theories Related to Adult Learning:
  1. Action Learning
  2. Experiential Learning
  3. Project Based Learning
  4. Self-Directed Learning
  • Transformative Learning:

Transformative learning is learning to purposively question one’s own assumptions, beliefs, feelings, and perspectives in order to grow or mature personally and intellectually (Herod, 2002). Taylor (1998) suggests that the process of transformation occurs according to the following phases, as suggested by Mezirow:

  1. a disorienting dilemma;
  2. self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame;
  3. a critical assessment of assumption;
  4. recognition that one’s discontent and process of transformation are shared and that others have negotiated a similar change;
  5. exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions;
  6. planning of a course of action;
  7. acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans;
  8. provisionally trying out new roles;
  9. building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships; and
  10. a reintegration of new assumption into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspective.
  • Creativity:  a magical talent, a sign of intelligence, or a skill to learn? The difficulty in approaching this field is that the topic is still relatively new but already rich with many theories, as well as a certain mystique (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996).
    • There is consensus among researchers that creativity should be defined as the production of both novel and appropriate work (Sternberg & Lubart, 1996; Lubart, 2000). Novel refers to original work, work that could not be predicted. Appropriate simply concerns the usefulness of the product towards a certain need. Lubart (1999) points out that this is a product-oriented, “western” definition of creativity. Furthermore, the assessment of creative work can only be done in the social and historical context of its making (Lubart, 1999; Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995 in Sternberg, 2001, p.361).
    • 2 approaches predominate the research literature (Lubart, 2000): process-oriented models of creativity (e.g. Finke, Ward, Smith, 1992; Mumford, Mobley, Reiter-Palmon, Uhlman, Doares, 1991); and systems-oriented models (Amabile, 1983; Sternberg & Lubart, 1995; Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). The two approaches focus on different facets of creativity. Yet, they can be seen as complementing each other (Sternberg & Lubart, 1995; Finke, Ward & Smith, 1992).
    • Process-oriented models concentrate on cognition aspects of creativity. What and how do creative people think? What are the thought structures during the creative process? Lubart (2000) summarizes the research efforts on cognitive sub-processes that are seen as crucial to creativity potential:
  • Problem finding, formulation and redefinition
  • Divergent thinking
  • Synthesis and combination of information (bisociation, Janusian thinking, homospatial thinking, articulation, analogy and metaphor, remote association, emotional resonance, and feature mapping)
  • Idea combinations through random or chance-based processes
  • Geneplore model (Finke, Ward & Smith, 1992). It distinguishes between generative processes and explorative processes during creative cognition. Generative processes consist of retrieval, association, synthesis, transformation, analogical transfer and categorical reduction. These processes result in mental representations called “preinventive” structures of a potential final product. In the explorative phase, these initial representations are interpreted through attribute finding, conceptual interpretation, functional inference, contextual shifting, hypothesis testing, and searching for limitations. Finke, Ward & Smith (1992) do not insist that all of these processes and “preinventive” structures are necessary during creative cognition. However, the likelihood of a creative product is interdependent to the extent to which these processes and structures occur. The difference between creative cognition and problem-solving is thus gradual.
    • “The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it.” – Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person.

Unit 7: Chapter 9- Technology to Support Learning

In chapter 9, you will explore how technology has become an important tool in education. Technology can increase access to knowledge and promote learning. The chapter highlights five ways that technology can contribute to effective learning environments:

  • “Bringing real-world problems into classrooms through the use of videos, demonstrations, simulations, and Internet connections to concrete data and working scientists.
  • Providing “scaffolding” support to augment what learners can do and reason about on their path to understanding. Scaffolding allows learners to participate in complex cognitive performances, such as scientific visualization and model-based learning, that is more difficult or impossible without technical support.
  • Increasing opportunities for learners to receive feedback from software tutors, teachers, and peers; to engage in reflection on their own learning processes; and to receive guidance toward progressive revisions that improve their learning and reasoning.
  • Building local and global communities of teachers, administrators, students, parents, and other interested learners.
  • Expanding opportunities for teachers’ learning.”

Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology

  • Computer-mediated instruction

This chapter distinguishes two key processes for organizing computer-mediated instruction—synchronous and asynchronous communication—and a variety tools for implementing it.