this page is rather messy but contains links to much of this site - is a messy page bad if learning theory is messy? (February 2009 - Bill)


One possible categorisation: from never mind, to structured mind, to messy mind

never mind = behaviourism
structured mind = hard edged representation and computation model (think of the mind as a concept map)
messy mind = the modern synthesis which includes some messy partly contradictory ideas such as distributed mind (the mind is distributed from the brain to the environment eg. enactivism), multi modal (kinesthenic, visual are important as well as abstractions, Bruner "doing with images makes symbols"), parallel processing / connectionism / pattern recognition (Churchland's eliminative materialism), neuroscience (the details do matter), behavioural AI (Brooks, behaviourism is not dead), serial processing virtual machine built on top of parallel processing (Dennett), evolutionary mind (Pinker, Dennett), anthropological mind (Alan Kay's non universals)

I need to go through the other learning theories on this page to see if this approach works for all

Later steps in this evolution do not preclude earlier steps, that is part of the mess - behaviourism is still very valid (responses that are reward tend to be repeated) but limited; cognitive science remains valid (the mind has structure but its hard to define clearly and a literal serial computing model is a gross oversimplification)

There is no clear cut modern synthesis of mind. It is messy. Appreciating the messiness is important in a practical sense because if you just focus on one learning approach then that will not work for everyone (eg. the idea of controlling the transactions of meanings through the use of concept maps is good but may not work for learners who are twitchy, kinesthenic)

There is a problem with the traditional categories (cognitivism, instructionism / behaviourism, constructivism, connectionist / connectivism, neuroscience) because some learning theorists (possibly the better ones) bridge more than one category
eg. on this page Bruner is categorised as a cognitivist but moving toward cognitive constructivism - reacting against the mind as "information processor", which obscures the mind as a creator of meanings (Acts of Meaning). This one example of Bruner shows how difficult it is to classify the better learning theorists

Other examples of overlap, this time of behaviourist with connectionist outlooks:
"Much contemporary work in cognitive science on the set of models known as connectionist or parallel distributed processing (PDP) models seems to share behaviorism's anti-nativism about learning. PDP takes an approach to learning which is response oriented rather than rule-governed and this is because, like behaviorism, it has roots in associationism" (standford uni behaviourist page)

( nativism is the view that certain skills or abilities are 'native' or hard wired into the brain at birth. This is in contrast to Empiricism, the 'blank slate' or tabula rasa view which states that the brain has inborn capabilities for learning from the environment - from wikipedia: psychological nativism )

( associationism is based on the concept of an association of numerous individual ideas with each other, and transforms this into a general and systematic account of mind and memory - as with behaviourist, connectionist theories; Henri Bergson (1988) pointed out that all mental elements are related to each other if you only generalise enough, rendering associationism trivial and beside the point - see this page for a good discussion of the conflict)

Overlap b/w behaviourist and cognitivist approaches:
Daniel Dennett argues that the law of effect (stimuli which are rewarded tend to be repeated) is fundamental and can be extended to the inner environment, eg. Popperian creatures can preselect from possible behaviours / actions weeding out the truly stupid options before risking them in the harsh world. Dennett calls them Popperian because Popper said this design enhancement "permits our hypotheses to die in our stead". This is Dennett's enhancement of behaviourism. Popperian creatures have an inner environment that can preview and select amongst possible actions. For this to work the inner environment must contain lots of information about the outer environment and its regularities. Not only humans can do this. Mammals, birds, reptiles and fish can all presort behavioural options before acting. (link)

Response to challenges to cog science - "Thagard (2005) argues that all these challenges can best be met by expanding and supplementing the computational-representational approach, not by abandoning it." (critique of cog science - stanford philosophy page)

This overlap strengthens my belief in the need for a pyramid analysis, which integrates the strengths of different approaches

Other possible ways to categorise (wkipedia cog science approaches):
Symbolic - computational, analogous to the workings of a digital computer
Connectionist - neural networks
Hybrid - of the above two
Dynamic or distributed - cf Watt Governor

(should be integrated into the other categories of learning)
artificial intelligence
good old fashioned AI (GOFAI), connectionism, behaviour-based AI

COGNITIVISM: the mind is a bit like a computer, it has meaningful structures (schemas, representations, symbols) which receives inputs that are processed and produce outputs. Cognitivism displaced behaviourism but is now out of favour amongst some, the computer model is now questioned, eg. by Rodney Brooks: human information processing is not like computer processing

The central hypothesis of cognitive science is that thinking can best be understood in terms of representational structures in the mind and computational procedures that operate on those structures (stanford encyclopaedia of philosophy: cog science)

"The cognitivist version of the human mind is an input / output model of information or symbol processing"
cognitive load theory
"...learning happens best under conditions that are aligned with human cognitive architecture" - Sweller
"... a clear-eyed analysis shows that "genius" is really a set of exceptional skills cultivated through disciplined study" - New Scientist
Schank, Roger
memory is in the form of meaningful 'stories' (not merely inert decontextualized information)
there is no nature vs. nurture. There is only there is only n N u A r T t U u R r E e , a tangled fusion of the two, inextricably intertwined, catalyzing one another
learning in science project (LISP)
systematically and interactively explores the ideas that children bring to their study of science - how to make the transition from children's science to scientists science
Noam Chomsky
Stephen Pinker
views the mind as a kind of Swiss-army knife equipped with a set of specialized tools (or modules) to deal with problems faced by our Pleistocene ancestors
Tim van Gelder
What might cognition be if not computation? Answer: the Watt Governor
James Gee (semiotic domains, game related learning theory)
Dan Willingham "learning styles don't exist, the important thing is meaning"
Dan Willingham book: Why Don't Students Like School?

INSTRUCTIONISM: educational outcomes can be identified: fact recall, skills and attitudes. Education can be optimised to achieve measurable changes in these desired outcomes
"Learning can be viewed as self design. There doesn't appear to be a more powerful way to think about design than thinking of it as an evolution wrought by generate and test!" - Daniel Dennett
instructional design
"Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation"
Skinner (Dennett's critique)
Explicit Instruction Teaching focused on producing specific learning outcomes
Direct Instruction
"I didn't realise how radical the single interpretation principle was ..." Engelmann

CONSTRUCTIVISM: children build or construct their own intellectual structures
alan kay
"Point of view is worth 80 IQ points"
alan kay combines Seymour Papert (who was influenced by Piaget), Montessori, Dewey, Vygotsky, and Jerome Bruner into Etoys approach
"structure, readiness, intuition, motivation"
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited." - Plutarch
marvin minsky "the emotion machine"
"flow: the psychology of optimal experience ..."
"To learn French, go and live in France"
"a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting"
Piaget and Vygotsky compared
Piaget was an individualist constructivist, Vygotsky was a social constructivist
"to create a real community of learners who interact with meaningful semantic relationships takes two years"
Situated Learning & Cognitive Apprenticeship
"learning ... is a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs"
"Ninety percent of life is just being there"
learning about learning
Design based research
the central goals of designing learning environments and developing theories or “prototheories” of learning are intertwined

connectionism (aka neural networks, parallel distributed processing)
"the pipe is more important than the contents" - George Siemens
connective knowledge - Stephen Downes
network theory
Surowiecki (the wisdom of crowds)

Bill Kerr critique of the connectivism theory (February 2007)

Bloom's taxonomy
"a system of categories of learning behaviour to assist in the design and assessment of educational learning"

PHILOSOPHERS (move to separate page perhaps?)
Descarte (mind/body separation)
Keith Devlin
Paul Churchland( eliminative materialism - argues that certain classes of mental entities that commonsense takes for granted, such as beliefs, desires and the subjective sensation of pain, do not exist - just as phlogiston of chemistry and the luminiferous ether of physics were found not to exist )
Gilbert Ryle

emergence (what is it? how do different learning theories explain it?)
"you can't have a process for something you've never done"
Marc Prensky
"digital natives, digital immigrants"
"We see things not as they are but as WE are"

LEARNING (move to learning page? but some of these are controversial)
difference b/w knowledge and information

add these:
activity theory
arti's knowledge building wiki
Carl Bereiter

blended learning
distributed cognition
eck (move his paper here?)
Habits of the mind
Douglas Hofstadter
improvement ravine
Dawna Markova (How your child is smart)

multiple intelligences (Howard Gardiner)
narrative and discourse theory
Katherine Nelson
pedagogical patterns
structural cognitive modifiability
studio learning
truth seeking environments
conversation theory

Carl Wieman "optimising learning"

John Hattie - the difference between expert teachers and experienced teachers
Andy diSessa