Learning Theory is not Pedagogy

Learning theories (ie: constructivism) are a set of ideas trying to explain how the process of learning happens. They have very little to say about what teachers should do.

For example, under constructivism, the learner either accommodates or assimilates new knowledge. That is, new knowledge is filtered through or compared against existing mental frameworks. *

This comparing/filtering happens whenever “learning” occurs. This comparing/filtering happens whether learners practice/drill, memorize, discuss, do labs, or any other activity that results in “learning”.

Importantly, if we accept that learners will compare/filter new information before it becomes new knowledge we can make some recommendations for how we should teach. For example, while drilling practice problems can result in learning, it doesn’t seem to encourage the comparing/filtering constructivism says is necessary. So, perhaps explicitly asking learners “how does this new strategy compare with your old strategy?” better encourages the filtering/comparing.

However, the difference in teaching strategy did not come from constructivism. Constructivism only has something to say about the learner.

*i fully acknowledge I’ve simplified constructivism here.

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6 Responses to Learning Theory is not Pedagogy

  1. Magan Crum says:

    My name is Magan Crum and I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Al. When I first read the title of this blog I had to look up the word pedagogy. It was not a familiar word in my vocabulary. Although, I do believe constructivism is a good theory, I do not think it fits today. Most of the youth have no desire, therefore letting them decide is not an option. Our youth are very intelligent but lazy so I believe we should help them without being aggressive. I will continue to read more about different teaching strategies.
    Thank you for the post. I look forward to reading and learning more from you.


    • Jerrid Kruse says:

      I think you’ve greatly misunderstood constructivism which has led you to underestimate it. To say there is no desire is not so much a constructivist thing, but a motivational one. Constructivism doesn’t have a lot to say about motivation – other than that it is necessary for learning, but all learning theories would say that.


  2. Joe Nutt says:

    The link you want on “Shift Happens” is to a research paper my previous employer, CfBT, commissioned me to do. You can download it here.
    I’ve done quite a few presentations in the UK based on this piece and I always get a very positive response…except from the techno-zealots!
    On “lazy” youth…you might find my recent leading article in the Times Educational Supplement interesting too.


  3. JoeN says:

    I read the paper you referred to and was very impressed. The statement below ought to be tatooed on the foreheads of some of the people I come across in my role!

    “the ability to think carefully about technological trade-offs is of utmost importance in today’s technocentric culture.”


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