Adult Learning

According to Moore and Kearsley (1996), “most distance education students are adults between the ages of 25 and 50. Consequently the more one understands the nature of adult learning, the better one can understand the nature of distance learning” (p. 153).

I agree on the “understanding part”, but I think this information is dated.

In the last 18 years, there has been a growing shift in that age range, and more older adults are able to continue formal and informal education, in a self directed and internet related environment.  Also, many mature adults need to retrain in today’s technology and I think more research needs to be done on how to help them learn in a way that relies less on memory and reading, and more to a system that provides organized information so that it can be processed at any speed, and available for reference, along with modeling and testing. Of course, different theories lend themselves better to different subject matter instructional material. Learning to use a computer, with a computer certainly seems the best approach.

It has been documented that memory may decline with age. I would like to point out that while it may be so for some, it is not so for all. Many scholars, designers, craftspeople, etc. brilliantly sail into their 80’s purposefully learning and growing and they demonstrate that memory can successfully function much later in life with good health, continued use and stretching of the intellect. Personally, I think the factor of imagination has a lot to do with it, but I haven’t seen that quantified yet. Instructional designers will need to look at the fact that we are adults for a much longer percentage of our life time, and change, potentially grown for 50-70 or more years as adults.

Assumptions on how Adult Learners differ from traditional college students?

  • Many adult learners have responsibilities (e.g., families and jobs) and situations (e.g., transportation, childcare, personal relationship issues and the need to earn an income)that can interfere with the learning process.
  • Most adults enter educational programs voluntarily and manage their classes around work and familyresponsibilities.
  • Most adult learners are highly motivated and task-oriented (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999).
  • Adults have many challenges today, such as multiple careers, fewer stable social structures to rely on, living longer, and dealing with aging parents. In other words “Adult” refers to a person whose life may be complicated by career, family, and other personal choices. However, there are many teen agers who have acquired deficits to learning that they will continue to carry. The good side of it is, that it may mature and inspire the individual.
  • Biological changes take place as individuals age, and it has been shown that memory decreases with age and memory helps to form links between new and old information (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999). Short-term memory or working memory is limited to approximately five to nine bits of new information

Connectivist Influence in Educational Theory


Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the technical tools now used in society. It suggests a new model where where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. New technical tools and educational theory models change how people work and function. Postulating how the field of education has been slow to recognize the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era. (December 12, 2004-)

Those observations, made by /George Siemens as late as 2004 have proven to be prophetic in terms of the direction that instructional design is going. We as teachers and designers are using more types of social networking, project organization, and doing more design work based on computer and internet connections than we have ever even thought of in the past. As part of this exercise, I have been rying to study my own learning system. Studying the process of my own brain processing information and comparing that to the apparently more functional computer model filing system made it seem like the computer had the edge in long term memory, even short term processing speed.

Design of learning environments now is so heavily impacted by personal use of computer and internet technology that Connectivism has become the basis of learning that most civilized people are using. In a sense, we all have access to the information, and we are connected by the information.


The basic observation of chaos theory is that small changes can have large consequences. An instructional designer not only has to deal with what is measured and known, but also observe, guide, and keep the path open when changes are needed. Part of the problem with Connectivist theory is the structure. Which has to be in sync with human nature. Human nature is dynamic and time sensitive.

Chaos theory seems to provide a means of addressing two of Connectiveist Theory’s “structural” process.

Chaos as part of connectivity,  is inherently dynamic and time-sensitive and it permits a definition of social structural entities in such a way that if real, living, unique human beings vanished then the structures of society would also vanish.

This also provides, by means of its formal inclusion of human cognition, an analytic paradigm which might allow us to see how providing a set of democratic laws to a totalitarian culture does not necessarily transform it into a democratic society. Things can change and individual people can make a difference at the ‘macro’ level.

Smith, R. D. (1998) ‘Social Structures and Chaos Theory’

Sociological Research Online, vol. 3, no.

Constructivist and Social Learning Theory Discussion

This week in as our class project we have been looking two of the learning theory’s called Constuctivism an Social Learning Theory.

Constructivist theory considers the interaction of people and situations in the acquisition and refinement of skills and knowledge (Cobb&Bowers1999)

“Constructivism is a theory that equtes learning with creating meaning from experience. (Ertmer & Newby, 1993)

Constructivism seems to start with the debate about nature of knowledge and how much of it is related to social relations versus pure science. Different perspectives on that subject lead to an extreme called Radical Social Constructivism which held that knowledge is entirely constructed out of social relations.  Now in the study of learning styles the focus is less on how knowledge is acquired, but instead, how it is “constructed” by virtue of the learners personal experiences and interpretations.

Our text book “Learning Theories and Instruction”, refutes the idea of Constructivism as a “Theory” because theories allow for a hypothesis to be generated and tested. While Constructivists argue that no statement can be assumed as true, but rather should be viewed with reasonable doubt. Can I get an Amen here?

As I understand it, constructivism is about how learners create their own learning? While not meeting the rigors of testing, the hypothesis has persisted and generated many other interesting lines of study.

As to the difference between Constructivist Theory and Social Learning Theory the only debate is in the degree of understanding the learning process and seems more of a development along the same lines of research instead of a difference in the assumption.

One of the giants in research on Learning Theory was Lev Vygotsky. He was born in 1896, in Russia. He studied psychology, medicine, law, and history at Moscow University before becoming a teacher in his hometown of Gomel. He believed that the influence of one’s social surroundings was imperative to learning and the development of thought. According to Vygotsky, an individual’s community played a major role in making meaning out of one’s life.

A significant contribution of Vygotsky’s to the study of leaning was his concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD, simply put, is the difference between what an individual can do on his or her own, and what he or she can do with assistance or guidance from a more knowledgeable other. Vygotsky believed that any task given to a student that lies outside of his or her ZPD would not result in optimal learning. Tasks that could be accomplished alone (that are too easy) are not optimal because the student is not being stretched to reach farther to gain new knowledge or skills. Tasks that are too difficult are not optimal because a student needs to experience some success in order to learn. This quote was taken from our class resources in a timeline that honors the leaders in Academic study on the subject of how people learn.

Vygotsky argued that all tasks given to students should fall within the ZPD. In other words, they should be sufficiently challenging so that, with the guidance of an instructor, the student will be propelled to greater levels of achievement.

Although Vygotsky was primarily doing his research in the area of childrens psycology, the ZPD theory makes a great deal of sense in the Adult Learning process as well. I will be doing more research this week in that area and will add it to my blog later this week.

Behaviorist Learning and Cognitive Learning Theories

This 3D week in Instructional Design class we have been looking at the two of the “isms”, Behaviorism and Cognitivism. The point is that as designers we need to be familiar with the theories and review the research on how humans learn. That doesn’t mean we actually know which theory is right, or will work, it just gives us different perspectives. What does work it that this research gives us a frame of reference and a definition of the terms that are generally used to analyze learning theories?

Behaviorist Learning Theory

One of the pioneers in the research of learning theory was Mr. B.F.Skinner. (1904-1990,) He earned his PhD at Harvard in 1931 and became a tenured Harvard faculty member in 1948.  He was still interested in and participating in the field of study into his mid 80’s. One important factor in Mr. Skinner’s study, in my opinion was identifying the key element of reinforcement. That would be anything that strengthened the desired response from the learner. It could be positive or negative, so long as it affected the desired behavior. Another big factor was applying the same behavioral approach to “unlearning” In Psychology and in dealing with unhealthy behaviors that is very significant.

Reinforcement is not unique to behaviorism, but it is certainly a relevent issue when considering how you would go about changing a learner’s behavior.  The other key element, which works well in training with behavioral conditioning, is that it produces a result that can be tested. Because behavior changes can be observed and documented, the results and efficacy of the training is measurable. When you get to the bottom line of assessment, the intentional and professional results of achieving what you, as a  designer, intended, says it all about the professional quality of the design work. 

If you are an instructor who is one to one with the learner, like when potty training a small child, or teaching a mature adult how to use a computer, you can easily get feedback on whether their behavior has changed as it happens, and see in their eyes how important or effective the reinforcements are. When you have eye contact with the learner you can see the process of that individual is learning then you can access skill level and provide instant and personal redirection and/or reinforcement. How does this apply to the responsibilities of a designer creating a program for on line learning? Is it something useful to be applied to a training program for someone the designer will never meet. Then how will you know if your design or theory is working?

Here are two really good sources of information on Learning Theories.

Cognitive Learning Theory

Robert Mills Gagné, born in North Andover, Massachusetts in 1916-2002, was a well-known educator who had a profound influence on American education, as well as military and industrial training. 

Gagné earned an AB degree from Yale University in 1937, followed by his PhD. in 1940 from Brown University. He served as a Professor of Psychology at various universities throughout his tenure

Mr. Gagne’ had a profound influence on Instructional Design. His theory states that there are several different types or levels of learning. The importance of these classifications is that each different type requires different types of instruction. Gagne categorized five major categories of learning

  • verbal information
  • intellectual skills
  • cognitive strategies
  • motor skills
  • attitudes.

He points out that variables in  internal and external conditions are important for each type of learning. For example, for cognitive strategies to be learned, it involves a chance to practice developing new solutions to problems; and to learn and possibly change attitudes, also the learner must be exposed to a believable role model or otherwise mentally absorb persuasive arguments.

Gagne suggests that learning intellectual skills can be designated to a hierarchy defined by its complexity. He listed: stimulus recognition, response generation, procedure following, use of terminology, discriminations, concept formation, rule application, and problem solving. The primary significance of the hierarchy is to identify prerequisites that should be completed to facilitate learning at each level. Prerequisites are identified by doing a task analysis of a learning/training task. Learning hierarchies provide a basis for the sequencing of instruction.

In addition, the theory outlines nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive processes:

(1) gaining attention (reception)
(2) informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
(3) stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
(4) presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
(5) providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
(6) eliciting performance (responding)
(7) providing feedback (reinforcement)
(8) assessing performance (retrieval)
(9) enhancing retention and transfer (generalization).

 However, for purpose of investigation, Cognitive learning is based on brain studies, and is focused on understanding how the brain works. Then another individual capability is affected in the equation is how the brain learns to sort, categorize, and “file” information is addressed.

This then shows how a designer who could address the individual limits of the learner by helping them get the information sorted and categorized can be affected. The “change” in this case is a cognitive one. The learner can be “encouraged” to use appropriate learning strategies.”(Ertmer & Newby, 1993)


What is common with Behaviorism and Constructivism is that they are both based on the idea of having an outcome of a change, based on applied stimulus. Success is still measured by equating the changes, but this time it is between degrees of knowledge instead of in the statistics of response. What is different is that Cognitive theory’s place more emphasis on the conceptualization and of the learners process and addresses how information is received, organized and stored and then retrieved by the subconscious mind made available to the consciousness mind, when needed.

A significant difference between Behaviorism and Cognitivism is that in Cognitivism the learner is considered a more active participant in knowledge acquisition.

According to our text book, Learning Theories and Instruction, (Ormrod, Schunk, & Gredler, p. 99), a problem with cognitive information processing theories is that they don’t “explain“ l earning they just “describe” it.  So, as you can see, this all gets very sophisticated, and clearly it would take more than a week to comprehend all the nuances of this line of research.  Now I have to figure out what the difference between “explain” and “describe” are?

And now here is a little Easter egg for anyone who is in this class. I have set up the Learning theories and Instructions matrix Word document file that instructor gave us. I figured out how to get the bookmarks and links set up in a Word document. If anyone needs help with that let me know and I will send them a copy of my matrix document and simple instructions on how to do links and bookmarks and build the document you will need to complete this term.  Write to me at if you want a copy.

Painting in progress-Working Woman

For those of my friends who have responded to my invite to see my blog, this is the painting I have been telling you I was working on. I call it “Working Woman”.  It is oil on canvas and one of the few photo realistic paintings I have done. Those of you who know my work know that usually, when I’m painting, for fun, I work rather quickly. The brush or pastel strokes are loose and juicy. It has been quite a while since I did an oil painting and this one had to be done in a confined area, and sitting down.  So, it is just tighter than I usually work. However, if you zoom in you can see the juicy brushwork  and it’s still ragged in many areas. It is not “finished” as I am not happy with one of the roses and I need to add Brianna’s graduation tassel.  After that, one of the hardest things about painting is to know when to quit.

Do I need one more oil painting?  When I told my granddaughter I was working on a new painting she laughed and said “ oh grandma, you are crazy”.  Those among you who are also artists can relate to the question of why put myself through the agony of never being satisfied with what I do paint because so much more is possible, but at the same time, really being satisfied at knowing  how much I have worked in my lifetime, and how it is still getting better.  I don’t call it a hobby.

Also, it has been a really long time since I have painted a still life.  Usually I paint and draw people and natural places when it is painting “for myself”.  This time I had an idea stuck in my head for six months and finally had the time to work on it this winter.  For those of you who don’t already know the story behind this painting., it was my way of dealing with a very hurtful event, and turning it into something positive, and I hope beautiful.  I’d really appreciate hearing from some of you as to what kind of impression you get from this work.

Last spring I had one of two hip surgeries and I had promised the students in my Game Design capstone class that I would be at their graduation. When graduation was scheduled one of the students suggested that she and the other students in the class would each like to hand me a white rose when they received their diplomas. We knew I would not be part of the ceremony because I was still out on medical leave officially, but I had an invitation and was really looking forward to getting back to my job as a teacher and administrator.  However, the director of the school, came out to my car in the parking lot and told me I could not attend the ceremony because it would pose some sort of risk to the corporation that owns the school.  The students were upset because it was clear that I was not endangering the corporation by attending a graduation, but I did not want to spoil their event, and waited out the graduation in my car.  One of the students named Brianna brought me the bouquet of roses and I took them home with me.

Later when I got home I didn’t have a vase to put them in but my Stanley thermos was sitting on the counter and I filled it with water and put the roses in it. My car keys were there, so was the invite I didn’t get to use, my CD and scarf were also there and in one of those moments I was feeling all bummed out, and the next I was inspired to do a painting called “Working Woman”.  Painting white roses is a bit tricky, but a challenge that got me started on planning the piece.

The objects in the painting were collected from Brianna’s keepsakes and mine and they represent people in our lives who have worked to support their family as we do. The odd box was built by my grandfather by hand and other than his “engineering genes” is all I have of him. The pillow slip on the left background was a gift from my great aunt. The candlestick, ring and doily were from Brianna’s mother and grandmother.  The books were what both Brianna and I studied at school.  I found a canvas and frame and it was 24 x 36 so I worked quite a while with my daughter Marshelle on the composition and lighting. At one point when I left the room she picked up and inserted the small oil painted self portrait I had done when I was first going back to school .  At first I thought it looked like something  “commerative” of my life. My life isn’t done, so it was a little eerie.

Getting married at 15, being a single parent of 3 by 29 meant that I had to delay my own education, but I always intended to resume it.  So, I went back to school a little late in life, in fact after becoming a grandmother. I decided to do that because I had  my job of raising my daughters finally done, and I wanted to continue my own growth as a designer and artist.  I sold my house and went after a BA in Illustration at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Californa.

Most of my painting instructors at the time were very disappointed that I was such a “representational” painter and tried to teach me about abstract art.  I don’t know how many of them ever noted that I did understand abstract art and everything important in impressionist or abstract art was also considered in my painting, but I wanted to make art that normal people could relate to, and if the observer is also very sophisticated, they might take a second look.  That didn’t happen often, though I have been commended on my drawing skills.

Well, here we are. I am still working on academic and professional development. I am still a Working Woman  and apparently  knowing when to quit is still an issue?

Research: Neuroscience and Information Processing

When researching for homework, I try to look at the subject from different prospectives: Of course, I am going right to the internet to do that.  When I entered “Neuroscience, information processing” into Walden library research guide, and later in Google Reader, there was such a lot of reference material. I needed a “sorting and processing process to process it? The first blog that caught my eye was strongly grounded in religion? So I looked at that one and later tried to find input from other perspectives. I sorted them into three categories, the philosophical perspective of the brain and physiological perspective and a psychological perspective on the subject of Neuroscience and Information Processing.

Among what I thought were the most interesting sources of information among those perspectives, were these:

Philosophy: Making mind out of meat? 

By Dr. Nancy Murphy: Presented at the ‘Ethics, Values and Personhood in the 21st Century’ Conference held in January 2000 at Seattle Pacific University

“So the mental, as information processing at least, is clearly a biological function. It depends on the organization of certain kinds of cells, the neurons that got great pictures of this morning–capable of transmitting electrical impulses to a central processing organ, for us, the brain. And from that central processing organism to the muscles, etcetera.

Now, consciousness–I won’t say very much about this–but recall the title of my talk: Getting Mind Out of Meat. That comes from a line I read in one of Patricia Churchland‘s books. She says a lot of the arguments against physicalism are of the–I can’t see how you could get ever get mind out of meat kind of arguments.”

Physiology: Under the microscope

There is a wealth of information on the physical aspects that science has identified. The engineering process of how the brain works is absolutely incredible, but it seems to be beyond the ability of my brain to absorb it in any meaningful way. Neurons, synapses, and the subconscious process by which we remember things just do not help me find my car keys. However, here is a link I have found to further explore that. The link to the Neuroscientist online publication contains many scholarly papers on the subject and invites others who are interested to contribute. There is a subscription at Walden Library Resources to Sage Publications. So as students, we have access to all the research that is located there. Check this one out: Unconscious High-Level Information Processing: Implication for Neurobiological Theories of Consciousness o Simon van Gaal and o Victor A. F. Lamme The Neuroscientist, 1073858411404079, first published on May 31, 2011 …Unconscious High-Level Information Processing: Implication for Neurobiological…Victor A. F. Lamme Cognitive Neuroscience Group, Department of Psychology…Unconscious High-Level Psychology:

Psychology: Brain and behavior?

This site is related to Psychology study and how different conditions in the brain can affect physical and psychological behavior. This site also has some very good video presentations and I find it helps not to have to do so much reading to get the meaning. I think this site is a good example of instructional design. This  is located online at

Picture and resume are now online under: About.

Have spent a lot of time today wrestling with WordPress to figure out how to get an image and resume insturted. However, I think I have been successful. A little trouble with the editing capacity of the WordPress template. Have only used the free level of the program, and I can’t say it is real intuitive for me, but it’s further than I have ever gone before.