What do you really believe about learning?

Basic Approach:

* Conceptions of learning and human nature matter
* We tend to adopt one or more of three common sets of conceptions
* There are basic tensions and questions raised by these sets
* It’s worth struggling with these questions

Conceptions of Learning:

* Behaviorist
* Selection of behavior by educator
* Pursuit of individual satisfaction
* Cognitivist
* Mental representations mediate
* Active learning toward genuine understanding, like a scientist
* Sociocultural
* Tools & systems beyond the lone thinker
* Humans embedded in social applications

I’ll forego much of the discussion of Behaviorism and Cognitivism because they’re pretty well-known. Learning isn’t something that an individual does — it’s something that a whole system does. Reading uses a number of different tools. There are heuristics attached — teaching kids to read isn’t about putting something in the kid’s head that wasn’t there before — it’s about filling in the gap in the system that enables them to do something they weren’t able to do before.

People are essentially social, where others fill-in the gaps. People only function in environments where they have the tools to function — maps, communication tools, etc.

Does it matter if people “genuinely understand” as long as they get the behavior right? One answer belies a cognitive slant — that given the right information and the right environmental variables, it’s still up to the individual to be able to make the right decisions. The other answer is hard-nosed, “the result is all that matters” model of performance.

At a meta-level, we need to treat people as cognitivists… but as an organization, we need to be behaviorists. Over a long enough timespan, behaviorists believe that a dumb, rigid process selects and reinforces things naturally. In the case of intrinsic motivations, though, behaviorism can subvert the things that cognitivists nurture and take away the performance unless there is the motivation to follow it.

Can others choose the direction of learning, or should people explore? There’s no solid answer one way or the other on this. Which is why sociocultural approaches may make more sense in a corporate environment.

Do individuals learn, or does learning involve others, objects and tools? Instead of formal assessments, use authentic assessments where the assessment is built into the activity, like a simulation. We think of individuals as units that can be moved around an organization (or outside of it).