Learning Theories and Brain Development

While searching for sites that discuss information processing theory, I came across Instructional Design.org. Here was a section on learning theories which had a page describing George Miller’s well known information processing theory known as “Chunking” (1956) and another concept proposed by Miller, Galanter & Pribram (1960) known as TOTE or (Test-Operate-Test-Exit).

The article stated that these were, “two theoretical ideas that are fundamental to cognitive psychology and the information processing framework”. I was familiar with chunking, or the concept that, “short-term memory could only hold 5-9 chunks of information (seven plus or minus two) where a chunk is any meaningful unit.” However, the TOTE concept was new to me and I spent some time reviewing this theory but not sure if it is as “fundamental” a concept as chunking.

As for the value of this website to Instructional Designers, at first I was a bit skeptical. For one the site had advertisements and a job board with the most current listing dated September 2011 so it may have been a while since the content was updated. Also, I could not ascertain who was hosting the site at first but later found that Richard Culleta, who is described as an educational innovator, was behind this site. I also found that he has another site of interest to “IDers” called Innovative Learning which is probably a younger sister site to Instructional Design.org.

The content on Innovative Learning was clearly newer and was well stocked and organized by Mr. Culleta in terms of  content useful for those in the ID field. Still, Instructional Design  had much to offer in the way of information and resources presented in a well-organized fashion. It might be a place where one could spend some focused time and leave with a broad if not deep understanding of many aspects and facets of Instructional Design, so I will give this one thumbs up though I would start first with Innovative Learning since the content is “fresher”.

My next search objective was to locate a site addressing the brain and learning and it was no surprise where this hunt led. Most of us are already familiar with the American Psychological Association (APA) if only because it provides the “go to” citation and style guide for scholarly papers, but the APA is obviously much more than a reference source. According to its homepage banner:

“The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA is the world’s largest association of psychologists, with more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members.”APA-logo

The APA’s website is a vast resource trove for a wide range of topics relating to the psychological field, and of note for Instructional Design is its section on Education and Psychology.

An informative article about learning and the brain was posted here titled, Research in Brain Function and Learning by Margaret Semrud-Clikeman, PhD. This article provides a solid overview of brain physiology and development from prenatal to late adolescence in an easy to digest format. She also describes some general and practical approaches to optimizing instructional delivery during the different stages of brain development and learner maturity levels.

These recommendations are of great benefit for anyone in the instructional or curriculum development craft. Her article also touches on many aspects of learning theory, models, and functions and addresses differences in development by gender as well as instructional considerations for children with learning issues such as ADHD, dyslexia and autism.

Given the gravitas of the APA in the scientific, medical and academic domains, its section on Education and Psychology is a good candidate for favorite bookmarks for anyone in the Instructional Design field.


One thought on “Learning Theories and Brain Development

  1. Your writing is very engaging and your mind map was well constructed. I must say that I too get lost in the endless depths of the virtual world. I can lie to myself and say, “Oh, it is important research.” But, when I find myself lost in the endless landslide of links I realize (4 hours later) that I am way off topic and utterly lost in websites, blogs, wikis, and tweets (oh my!). So much for self-regulation! It would appear, I am not alone. So, as IDers we must take this into account. I think it will be important to consider how to support ourselves and our learners to understand this potential pitfall in learning using online resources especially as the virtual gets more and more complex with web 3.0 innovations. Thoughts?

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