Reflection on Learning Theories and Instructional Design


As this course draws to a close, my professor asked that I reflect upon what I have learned and how you will apply my learning in future courses and in my career in the field of instructional design. Here are the questions he asked:

  • What did you find surprising or striking as you furthered your knowledge about how people learn?

I learned the difference between pedagogy, or teaching with the teacher having all the knowledge and students being sponges, and andragogy whereby the instructor teaches students the skills they need to seek information and to solve problems for themselves (Pew, 2007). This inquiry-based form of learning is not new to me; it is how I learn. I do as much of my teaching this way as I can. Language learning involves far more support than my business and liberal arts classes. What is new to me is Benton’s take on teaching becoming “employer” and students the “employees”, with a subsequent watering down of the curriculum and less and less real demands made on students (Benton, 2006). If, as a student, you don’t learn the skills you or someone else paid a large amount of money to learn, that is an enormous disservice to you. This is disturbing because of competition for jobs, and also that students need to learn the skills to survive in a world with the advent of jobs and careers that require the ability to mine the massive amount of knowledge available online for useful and accurate information.

  • How has this course deepened your understanding of your personal learning process?

I am now able to articulate my learning process, something I learned seven years ago while obtaining my first master’s degree in business administration. I learned I am a lifelong, intrinsically-motivated, inquiry-based learner. I love to learn. I start my day watching a short Crash Course video on YouTube. I listened to a podcast about space at the same time I wrote this blog, and spent half the day listening to TED Talks, interspersed with working on assignments.

When inquiring about something, I read a peer-reviewed journal to get the latest data, watch a video, read a blog, and talk to others about the new ideas. Most of my friends are teachers. We bounce ideas off of each other and share links and tips and tricks. Just this week one of my teacher friends shared a TED Talk with me.

I teach inquiry-based learning to my students–how to think critically, how to find out new information (especially how to develop a search using the right keywords), how to attribute what they learn in a paper or presentation or blog, and how to learn from each other using free collaborative software such as Google Docs. I’m not trying to impose my learning style on them, but to teach them how to adapt to functioning in an information-based society. I am using my new abilities to communicate what and how and why I do what I do for lifelong learning. This is a necessity when the jobs people will be working in five or ten years from now may not currently exist, and finding out new information and being able to use it very quickly is critical for almost any job (Kaku, 2011).

Typing on Netbook

  • What have you learned regarding the connection between learning theories, learning styles, educational technology, and motivation?

Lev Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist (1896-1934) who invented a learning theory; Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a social learning method (Vygotsky, 1978, as cited in Lim, 2004; Sternberg & Williams, 2010). The ZPD involves problem-solving of the learner occurring with guidance from teachers and peers. According to Galloway (2001), Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development says that learners need support to learn, and that they need MKOs, More Knowledgeable Others, for this support. Online environments provide that support.

According to Sternberg and Williams (2010), students that believe in their ability to succeed and attribute success to hard work have cognitive motivation. They understand that one must put in the effort to do well in school. This is intrinsic, or internal, motivation. Intrinsic reinforcers include warm and supportive teachers, seeing students as capable, and create rules for real reasons, not rules just to have rules. Andragogy and inquiry-based learning use intrinsic motivation–the urge to learn new things, to solve problems, and the like–to motivate students.

I learned how pedagogy steals intrinsic motivation from students.  Extrinsic, or external, reinforcements are those such as praise, criticism, free time and detention, and awards. External rewards may prevent the development of intrinsic rewards (Pew, 2007).  If students learn to do hard work for motivations such as good grades and doing well on tests, they enjoy tasks and are willing to do the work.  Rewarding students externally for what they enjoy anyway may actually cause students to lose interest. To understand this, think of a person who is hired as a chef at a restaurant, and then loses the urge to cook at home. If the person had simply cooked at home for pleasure and gotten a different type of job, the person may have continued cooking in the home. Intrinsically motivated learners do the hard work to learn new things for the love of learning and self-improvement, not for some ephemeral reward that may never materialize. I went to a university to get a second master’s degree to be able to work anywhere in the world; I love to travel and learn about new cultures. This degree fits in with my goal of lifelong learning. I have learned both teaching and learning skills. I have learned how to learn better, something that will help me my entire life. Grades are a poor reason to enter or complete graduate school; lifelong learning is a much better reason.

Computer Photo

  • How will your learning in this course help you as you further your career in the field of instructional design?

We live in a wired world. All my students in South Korea have smartphones in their pockets; this computing power and networking ability allows students to use an amazing number of tools to learn instantaneously. Why aren’t more instructors using cell phones to help their students learn? My students take out their phones and look up things I say or write that they don’t understand, and show what they have learned with their friends. They also take pictures of things on the whiteboard they want to remember, and quiz me about them. They also use their cellphones to access all of my lessons I uploaded to the school’s web site. I make changes and re-upload them; my students then access them and query me about the changes. My students use their phones to talk about whatever vocabulary words are being studied that day. Other professors have helped to develop online quizzes and vocabulary study cards accessible from cell phones I can use in my classes.


I may choose to switch to flipped teaching over time. Flipped learning is when educators record 5-10-minute lessons which students watch outside of class, then take take class time for activities using the knowledge (Engin, 2014). Many instructors take this farther and have students further research the material online and do projects together, using collaborative software such as Google Docs. This is a more andragogical approach. It will take me a great deal of time to “switch” all my lessons this way, but it is the future of teaching (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition, 2015). I can spend far more time in class doing activities and more research on the information rather than using the time speaking in class. I do have to speak in class; I am a native speaker and all of my students are language learners. I do want to give the students more opportunities to apply what they have learned.

I want to bring andragogy into more and more of what I do. I now have the resources to continue riding the wave of technology, to bring new tools into instructional designs, and to learn how to bring inquiry-based learning into language learning. Students in South Korea already have smartphones in their pockets; they should be using them as tools for learning. I want students to enjoy learning, to learn deeply and broadly, and to learn the skills the need and how to use new tools in order to become lifelong learners.


Benton, T.H. (2006, June 9). A tough love manifesto for professors [Electronic version]. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(40).

Engin, M. (2014), Extending the Flipped Classroom Model: Developing Second Language Writing Skills through Student-Created Digital Videos, Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(5), 12-26. doi: 10.14434/josotlv14i5.12829

Kaku, M. (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. Kindle DX version. Retrieved from

Galloway, C. M. (2001). Vygotsky’s Constructionism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Lim, C. P. (2004). Engaging learners in online learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 48(4), 16–23.

NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Division (2015). Retrieved from HorizonReport_2015HigherEd.pdf

Pew, S. (2007). Andragogy and pedagogy as foundational theory for student motivation in higher education. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 2, 14–25.

Sternberg, R. & Williams, W. (2010) Educational Psychology. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.


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