If I had…

…any way at all to communicate with my fellow students on my course then I would have shared links to the excellent work on learning theories being created by Thomas Doyle on his myBRAINisOpen website. I would have enjoyed hearing if they had come across this, if they found it useful or was the timeline a bit too overwhelming for us?

Looking at the timeline of learning theories has made me think about how this kind of course (MEd, PgCert etc) skirts around the edges of educational psychology and I’m not clear on how or where the frontiers are drawn up. I think that’s something else I’d have liked covered at the start. I feel the need to state things really simply, in words of one syllable, to give myself a foundation for everything that follows: if we think that people learn like this, then we need to do this to help them do it…that seems to be what’s going on? But there is no agreed answer for ‘how people learn’ so we have competing theories, and try to satisfy the most popular ones with our teaching in the hope that we’re making the best choices that the evidence allows?

On the periphery of my vision this week was the news story “Influential literacy expert Lucy Calkins is changing her views” about how children are taught to read, based on reviewing the evidence. This seemed like a good example of how everything is built on what feels like shifting sands and that drastic changes can happen, and we have to be ready for that. Also in my mind is that Psychology is leading the way in challenging its own research for reproducibility and rigour…so does that mean I should be sceptical of findings? I’m not sure. We haven’t talked about that either.

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

I’d also ask why the uni’s student support materials reference learning styles, FFS. But that’s a whole other frustration!


2 thoughts on “If I had…

  1. Thanks for your nice write-up of my learning theories timeline Sam, much appreciated.

    Good question, re the level of detail. I grappled with that a lot. One thing that might help a little is that the timeline has a filter, so you can just look at one specific theoretical area such as behaviourism. Part of the idea also was to show the historical context and how theoretical areas evolved.

    I also think you make a great point about the breadth of educational psychology and where the frontiers and boundaries are. I also received interesting feedback on Twitter even re what constitutes a learning theory and questions about gender, diversity and inclusivity. See this thread for more on that:

    Finally, re the competing theories see the section ‘How can we assess how useful a learning theory might be to inform our pedagogic thinking and learning designs?’ which cites a series of useful questions by Entwistle et al. (2010):



    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I definitely didn’t mean to imply the level of detail was a negative so I hope it didn’t sound like that. The course I’m on we have only done the real basics so not the whole key 9 which you discuss. I am appreciating your site as it feels like a step into a deeper understanding, but it will take me a while to process it all. Your second link is critical – timely – reading for me and I have to revisit it in more depth.

      I’ve been following some of the comments on the Alt-C mailing list and on Twitter: it’s great to see what a good response you are getting!


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