Teaching and Learning in Practice/Theoretical Concepts

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"You want a theoretical perspective? Oh dear... much (probably most, on a purely quantitative basis) of the writing on the subject constitutes the largest body of self-serving, obscurantist, pretentious bovine excrement to sully academic discourse since the gnostics or the alchemists" (James Atherton, 2011) Humour aside, perhaps something can be learned from the theorists? Despite Atherton's irreverent words above, his website Learning and Teaching provides an extensive reference list on the topic. You may wish to use the links he provides to read his simple interpretations of some of the models and theories developed by academics over the past 30 or so years.

Four Orientations to Learning

There are four traditional categories of learning theories described by Merriam and Cafella (1991), later adapted by Smith (1999). As with any categorisation there is often debate over the boundaries and areas of overlap but generally these categories are a useful guide.

Here is a link to a useful table summarising aspects of the four theories. Can you see what role the educator may take in the process of learning and facilitation? Use the discussion board on 'Moodle' to share your ideas with others and seek differing perspectives on what you are learning.

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In your e-portfolio discuss how these theories or models connect to what you do and what you believe about teaching/facilitation.

If nothing connects easily move on until you find something that does.

Now Explore

NB: the signposts offered here for exploration will expand over the next two weeks and will be influenced by your input on the discussion board.

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Tip: Useful reminder: If you right click (or control click for Mac users) on the coloured words and open the links in a new tab it can be easier to move between the pages.

Deep and Surface Learning

Taking you back to a link from module one, where deep learning considers the connections and meaning in the learning where as surface learning focuses more on recalling specific data.


This page includes definitions of constructivism, and provides some background information and links.

Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Kolb’s Learning Cycle reflects an experiential way of learning identifying 4 main aspects of learning

Honey and Mumford’s Learning Cycle

Honey and Mumford’s Learning Cycle builds on Kolb's cycle and identifies 4 learning preferences or styles


Atherton J S (2011) Doceo; Theory of theory [On-line: UK] retrieved 26 March 2013 from http://www.doceo.co.uk/tools/theory.htm

contents for subtopic open and online learning NEW PAGE

Online Pedagogy

Traditionally teaching and learning occurred in a set ‘face-to-face’ environment but like everything else that has changed with technological progress so has the ways in which teaching and learning occur.

Supporting learning in an online environment doesn’t just mean taking what happened in a traditional classroom and put that information online. It actually involves a different approach to learning and teaching as there are whole new arrays of factors that affect the context in which the teaching or facilitation is occurring. This approach is known as online pedagogy.

So what is online or e-learning?

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Case Study
A case study of Mahara e-portfolio

  1. Look at this link: Mahara e-portfolio in use at a university to see how an e-portfolio works
  2. Find out about this example: About Mahara

What is online pedagogy?

Broken down into definitions from dictionary.com:

Online – adjective
  • available or operating on a computer or computer network

Pedagogy - –noun, plural -gies.

  • the function or work of a teacher; teaching.
  • the art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.
online. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved March 08, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/online

Effectively online pedagogy is the practice of facilitating learning online via computer networks using sound facilitation/teaching principles and practices.

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Is online learning happening in the areas in which you teach?

What are your initial thoughts around the advantages and disadvantages of this form of learning?

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Consider how this relates to your own area of practice as an educator and your own thoughts as a learner.

Formal learners log into the discussion board on Moodle and share your thoughts. Online Pedagogy'

NB: Online pedagogy is explored further and developed in depth in the GCTLT courses Flexible Learning and Constructing Courses to Enhance Learning.