Section summary: How do we learn?

Pedagogies in use

In this section an overview of our assumptions and beliefs that underpin how learning happens is presented. The development of our understanding of how learning best occurs has influenced the development of contemporary learning theories, frameworks and models. It is evident in the literature that there is a progressive move away from the ‘knowledge and skill’ model to approaches aimed at the overall development of the learner, with an increasing emphasis on the context where learning occurs.

Table 2:6 attempts to provide an overview of the learning theories, probable learner growth of the three learning domains outlined by Bloom et al (1956, 1973) and the learning perspectives that give consideration to context where learning is more conducive.
The development of the learning models and theories as outlined in the literature above also indicates a gradual move away from the ‘individual’ (learner) to social (learning together) to participatory (learning together in an authentic environment closer to the learner’s area of study, for example communities of practice, apprenticeships and work based learning). There is also a growing awareness of where learning happens and how learners engage with the environment (‘context’). In associative perspectives the emphasis is on instructional design that leads to linearity and a series of activities that build upon the other for learner development. Cognitive perspectives advocate active learning where the learner is either involved in creating meaning for him/herself or together in a group, in an environment that promotes engagement, collaboration and communication (social cognitive). The context within which this happens is determined by the learning outcomes to be achieved by the learner and is carefully crafted by the teacher, for example problem-based learning. Situated learning on the other hand builds on social cognitive perspective by creating/providing authentic context for the learner to learn from, for example a community of practice. This enables the learner to not only construct meaning and understanding but also form an identity by understanding his/her role in the community through engagement, co-creation, collaboration and communication.