Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love-Hate Theory, Learner Motivation, Connectivism and Other Such Thoughts...


I missed IDCI session yesterday but am thankful for the tweets from @gargamit100 and @sreyadutta. These followed by Sreya’s post gave me some idea of the discussion. You can read the post here: Business-driven Learning and LH Theory (Love-Hate Theory).

The post set me thinking about when do we use “Love vs. Hate” to design a training program. This triggered thoughts related to learner motivation and how even a “business driven” or “business centric” program benefit from motivated learners.

This further led me to mull over some of the fundamental theories all of us IDs start out our ID career armed with. In the initial years of being an ID (when we are still at the novice level as per Dreyfus Model…for discussion on this, please check here:, these learning theories become our guiding light. Subsequently, we internalize them and they inform our design decisions and instructional strategies almost at a subconscious level.

The Love-Hate discussion made me cull them out from the depths of my subconscious and pin them down for my own scrutiny and examine their application in what we do.

Below is the result of my self-reflection and soliloquy that I spent the better part of my Sunday morning engaged in.

Recently, while surfing the web, I came across the National Survey of Student Engagement Report (NSSE) for 2007.

The report begins with the following quotation:

More than anything else, being an educated person means being able to see connections that allow one to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways. Every one of the qualities I have described here—listening, reading, talking, writing, puzzle solving, and truth seeking, seeing through other people’s eyes, leading, working in a community — is finally about connecting (Cronon, 1998).

Point 1

Learners learn best when they are able to align the new knowledge with knowledge from the past. Motivation is intrinsically connected to this ability to make the connection; as soon as this connection happens, we feel that we are progressing, that the new knowledge/skill is not beyond our ability to master, and we feel confident. This confidence sustains motivation and engagement. Thus, while the learner has some initial motivation that prods him/her to take up the challenge of learning a new skill, chances are that de-motivation will set in unless s/he is able to “construct” associations between the existing knowledge and the new knowledge.

Conclusion #1: When designing with “love” and to have motivated learners, help learners to connect new knowledge to their pre-existing ones.

Supporting Theory: An understanding of the Constructivist Theory helps to conduct Learner Analysis keeping in mind the importance of capturing the existing knowledge level.

Point 2

Once this connection has been established, the learner will very likely exert himself/herself to acquire the new skill. All learners (I am not talking of compulsory schooling) come to any course with a “What’s In It For Me” approach. Constructivism plays a large role coupled with Cognitivsim in catering to this aspect. As soon as a learner is able to make the association, s/he is able to add to the existing schema for that area of knowledge. Thus, that specific schema expands, increases, instilling confidence and increasing engagement.

Once the learner is motivated to learn and attains the new skills/knowledge/understanding of a process, this brings about a change in his/her behavior. This is a definite requirement in most business driven training where the learners have to perform certain actions to meet the business objectives.

Conclusion #2: Motivated learners will make that extra effort to acquire and internalize the new skills required to meet the business objective.

Supporting Theory: An understanding of Constructivism and Behaviorism helps in designing training solutions using instructional strategies that leverage the existing knowledge, provide feedback at critical points to reinforce the correct “learning” and act as deterrent for the incorrect behavior.

Point 3

In today’s Digital Era, Connectivism adds another crucial dimension to the traditional learning theories. With the shelf life of knowledge rapidly decreasing and new “knowledge” increasing exponentially, the importance of the ability to synthesize and make connections has increased manifold.

Ongoing change is going to make current knowledge obsolescent. Thus, even the most current information is not going to be current by the time it goes through the design-development phase and reach the learner’s plate as a packaged training program. This is where, to quote Tony Karrer, we need a shift from the design of pure courseware solutions to reference hybrid solutions designed to be just-in-time supports.

These can be in the form of just-in-time aids, access to experts via social networking tools, podcasts, screencasts, and anything besides that address the need of the moment. Such aids are ephemeral in nature and thus suit today’s rapidly shifting “knowledgescape”. From a business perspective, they are cheaper and faster to create and deliver.

We moved from an oral tradition that was discourse based to the written medium with the invention of the printing press. The latter innovation began the process of codification or “capturing” of knowledge from individual sources in the form of text. With the advent of technology and the rise of web 2.0, we are going back to the discursive model of knowledge acquisition where how we make connections and network is more critical. Knowledge and understanding is being constantly reshaped and built through interactions across different platforms.

Conclusion #3: Today’s learners will benefit from being guided to make connections, be given access to information just in time and in just the right amount, and be exposed to technology that will help them in creating their own learning environments.

Supporting Theory: An understanding of Connectivism is important in such cases where the “knowledge is needed, but not known, and the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.”

This is my understanding and I am still grappling with the dilemma of applying these when creating programs under time constraint.



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