Monday, 28 May 2012

Activity Eight Adult learning theories for Flexible Learning.

Theoretical perspective appropriate to course and learners
I have chosen constructivism as it is based on the premise that the individual constructs and interprets their own reality based on their own experiences. The process of going for a standards review is an experiential reflection of the practice context. Social constructivist theories based on Vygotsky work have found that the development of cognition and understanding is facilitated by peers, adults and experts though dialogue, socialization and collaboration (Lockwood &Gooley, 2001). Midwifery as a profession heavily reliant on these constructs in everyday practice.
Lockwood, F., &Gooley, A.(Eds.). (2001). Innovation in open & distance learning. London: Kogan Page
“The Assumptions of Constructivism - Merrill
  • knowledge is constructed from experience
  • learning is a personal interpretation of the world
  • learning is an active process in which meaning is developed on the basis of experience
  • conceptual growth comes from the negotiation of meaning, the sharing of multiple perspectives and the changing of our internal representations through collaborative learning
  • learning should be situated in realistic settings; testing should be integrated with the task and not a separate activity”

    (Merrill, 1991, in Smorgansbord, 1997) Basics of Constructivism

Jonassen (Jonasson, [On-line]) lists the following implications of constructivism for instructional design:
"...purposeful knowledge construction may be facilitated by learning environments which:
  • Provide multiple representations of reality - avoid oversimplification of instruction by representing the natural complexity of the world
  • Present authentic tasks - contextualize
  • Provide real-world, case-based learning environments, rather than pre-determined instructional sequences
  • Foster reflective practice
  • Enable context- and content-dependent knowledge construction
  • Support collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation, not competition among learners for recognition
"Although we believe that constructivism is not a prescriptive theory of instruction, it should be possible to provide more explicit guidelines on how to design learning environments that foster constructivist learning" Basics of Constructivism
It is important that midwives are able to undertake standards review in a two yearly cycle with confidence and competence.  Midwives need to be able to draw on the skills they have developed from this course and apply this to their everyday practice and professional development ongoing and report on this accordingly. This is a very individualised task but a collective professional requirement.
“The constructivist teacher provides tools such as problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities with which students formulate and test their ideas, draw conclusions and inferences, and pool and convey their knowledge in a collaborative learning environment. Constructivism transforms the student from a passive recipient of information to an active participant in the learning process. Always guided by the teacher, students construct their knowledge actively rather than just mechanically ingesting knowledge from the teacher or the textbook.”
There are many benefits of constructivism. Learning is centered on thinking not just memorisation. Knowledge becomes transferable through creation of organizing principles. Constructivist students have more ownership of their work as they get to focus on their own explorations and often have input into the design of assessments and opportunity for creative expression of knowledge. Engagement is fostered by the real world context and students innate curiosity to apply knowledge into practice. Collaboration and exchange of ideas is promoted in a constructive learning environment. This negotiation is an important skill outside the class room as students will need to consider and co-operate with the ideas of others.

Midwifery gives strong emphasis to reflection and a constructivist approach I believe facilitates making connections to practice and innovation ongoing.
Regards Fee


  1. A great post Fee - constructivism in plain english! The collaboration aspect is an important component of social constructivist learning, and also the peer mentoring relationship that students develop. This is an ideal learning theory if you want to develop critically reflective practitioners. As you say if they have gotten used to learning in real world situations they are more likely to be able to transfer these skills to practice.

    How do you think the peer mentoring relationship supports individual student's Zone of Proximal Development or is this only something that the teacher can do for each student?

  2. Hi Bronwyn
    I'm confident that with peer support students will be increasingly independant. The uniquess of each practice setting means that connections will need to be made by the student not the lecturer who will just help with the tool kit e.g. reflection frameworks to get them up and running. Hopefully students will scaffold thier learning to a level where they can pay it forward and assist other midwives with their own standards review preparation. Regard Fiona

  3. Yes it could work really well Fee.