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INSDSG 602: The Adult as Learner -- Bellnier

VIDEO: What is a Theory? [~6 min]

In education and educational research, the word “theory” has a specific meaning. This video presents a strong general argument for what something needs to be able to do to be considered a theory in the context of our course. Critically, it needs to explain and predict.

Sprightly Pedagogue. (2018). What is a Theory? [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

How to read an academic article (Optional)

We will be reading several theoretical and academic articles – if you are new to reading published research, this guide might help.

Teesside University. (2014). How to read an academic article. 

Foundational Learning Theories

Now we are on the same page about what a theory is. Theories related to education and learning began by focusing on children. While this is a class on adult learners, much of the underlying theories are built off of or in response to these foundational theories.


  • Stages of Cognitive Development - Jean Piaget

Piaget looked at specific changes on how we think about the world around us and make sense of it as we grow. More relevant to our conversation, Piaget spoke to the idea that learners are an active participant in their learning, that they construct their own learning based on prior experience and knowledge and new information.


  • Sociocultural Development - Lev Vygotsky

Vygotsky examined the role of interaction on learning, with a focus on the relationship between the learner and the teacher. How might this position the instructor in an adult learning environment?


  • Bioecological Model - Uri Bronfenbrenner

Bronfenbrenner looked at the growth and development of children within their immediate, social, and historical contexts. Consider how that concept might apply to adult learners.

VIDEO: Learning Sciences Theories [~10 min]

This video briefly introduces the main points of consideration for the foundational theories of learning. If learning theories is new information or it has been a while, I recommend watching this before reading the two chapters.

LET ETH Zurich. (2020). Learning Sciences Theories - Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism [Video]. YouTube.

READING: Ways of Learning

These two chapters present accessible descriptions of the primary learning theories that underlie the discussions going forward.

Ways of Learning, Chapters 2 and 3.

Pritchard, A. (2009). Ways of learning: Learning theories for the classroom. 2nd Edition, Routledge.

click on PDFs below!



BOOK REVIEW: Ways of Learning

Lee Jerome’s review of the book that the above two chapters came from provide a critical lens on what you just read. As a learning community we are supporting each other’s development of our own understanding. This review provides an approach to reading from a professional and critical eye. will help shape how that conversation could proceed.

Lee Jerome (2010) Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom, European Journal of Teacher Education, 33:2, 219-224, DOI: 10.1080/02619760903499646

VIDEO: Ecological Systems Theory [~7 mins]

Bronfenbrenner is not mentioned in the above video or chapter. Watch the video and skim the article for the key components of this theory.

Odyssey Institute. (2020). Ecological systems theory [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.


The Bioecological Model of Human Development (PDF)

Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The Bioecological Model Of Human Development. In R. M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 793–827). John Wiley & Sons Inc.  [PDF]

Read the PDF linked below:

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