Outside school, almost everyone has an implicit theory about how people learn. If you ask them how people know, they are likely to suggest that it involves the learner being taught or told something and then learning and understanding it.
Formal learning theories have their roots in psychology. They are interested in addressing the question, “How do people learn?” in the same way as informal theories are. The emergence of various systematic learning theories, some of which you will find here, has resulted from psychologists and others’ consideration of this question over time.
One of the most significant distinctions between formal and informal learning theories is that traditional learning theories are the product of careful consideration and, in many cases, analysis by psychologists. Formal ideas have been written down and made accessible for others to discuss, debate and propose alternatives if they disagree. As a result, traditional learning theories, unlike informal learning theories, are scientifically validated.
Most people outside of education, psychology, and related fields are unaware of most of these systematic theories. Still, as educators, we need them to have meaningful conversations about learning, how it occurs, and how best to facilitate it.
Since we are all learners, it is possible that we already have some sort of learning theory. We’ve spent a lot of time watching our teachers instruct us while we were in school.
Understanding the children’s preferred learning style is the best way to help them. This strategy can be accomplished by going through the following questions, which you may find helpful in this learning journey.
We’d like to leave you with some ideas. Consider and write about the helpful and unhelpful approaches to learning that you encountered during your education.
- What method did you use to learn?
- What was it that kept you from learning?
- What made you want to learn more?
- How did this change over time, location, and teacher?
- What were the beneficial aspects of those approaches?
- Did they express or represent something in particular?