As my Learning Theory and Technology course comes to a close, my final assignment is to post my learning philosophy. I feel a little ill-equipped to do so however. Articulating a philosophy is tantamount to developing a magnum opus, which is usually the result of years of research and work that develops across a lifetime of practice. Still, I suppose I can at least summarize my current perspective in the hopes that it catalyzes my future thinking.
I believe that learning is about the construction of meaning in a social context. It’s as much about transforming the self as it is about possessing knowledge. The goal of instruction should not be to impart knowledge but to provide the skills necessary to connect within a community of practice, be it a professional community or a social one. I also believe that we all find meaning and purpose in different ways and without those drivers in our lives, we fail to meet our potential. When individuals have meaning and purpose, however, they make connections with the world and the people within it, forever altering both themselves and the world around them.
Learning theories are characteristic of the social conditions in which they arise and thrive. Behaviorism is situated within a historical period marked by industrialism; Cognitivism softened the rigid edges of behaviorism and applied an information processing metaphor, a product of the era of emerging technological advancement; Constructivism was born of a post-modern perspective in which society began to question its fundamental assumptions regarding the nature of reality and knowledge; and connectivism seeks to blend biological explanations for learning with a social phenomenon marked by interactive web technologies and social communication and collaboration. One might, based on this observation, suggest that we actually know very little about learning and that all of our theories are biased and subjective perspectives on the world. Yet, if we accept that these learning theories are socially constructed devices for making meaning, then we begin to understand that they are useful, both in guiding our practice and in helping us understand ourselves.