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Theories of Adult Learning

Autor:   •  September 4, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,466 Words (6 Pages)  •  2,142 Views

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Theories of Adult Learning


A theory can be described as a way of thinking and a model of how things work, how principles are related, and what causes things to work together. Learning theories address key questions, for example, how does learning happen, how does motivation occur, and what influences student's development (Hammond, Austin, Orcutt, Rosso, 2001).

There are three main philosophical learning theories associated with education; behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. The most dominant of the three according to Ng & Nguyen (2006) is constructivism. This essay will analyse and evaluate constructivism learning theory and will examine two theorists' theories and reflect on my own teaching environment.

Constructivism Learning Theory:

Constructivism is used for teaching in adult and vocational education and according to (Doolittle & Camp, 1999) is based on influences of Jean Piaget, John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky. Ng & Nguyen (2006) explains that constructivism learning theory is the belief that the learner is active in shaping how new knowledge is taken in and shaped and new understandings emerge progressively as learners shape their understandings on the basis of experiences. From these learning theories teaching methods are developed to tap into the learning process.

Learning Environments Make a Difference:

Constructivism associates itself to particular learning environments. According to Sherman & Kurshan (2005) these environments are learner centered, interesting, real life, social, active, and supportive environments. Piaget's view on constructivism is associated with the individual and how the individual constructs knowledge. In Piaget's theory of neurology maturation Patsula (1999) tells us of Piaget's four stages of development which corresponds to two factors including the interaction with the environment.

Learning is based on Associations:

According to Griffiths & Morse (2009) Learning is a process of drawing connections between what is already known or understood and new information. Prior knowledge is important to the learning process as the learner makes connections and draws conclusions based on what they already know and have experienced. Bush (2006) agrees with this when he states that the constructivism learning theory is constructed by the learner and developed through experience.

Learning Occurs in Cultural and Social Settings:

Social learning is an important part of constructivism because the learner has an opportunity to hear the opinions of others and allows the learner to defend their opinions. Vygotsky theory placed more emphasis on the social


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