Course: Postgraduate Certificate - Tertiary Level Teaching
Module: How Students Learn - A Review of Some of the Main Theories
Page: 1 - Contents

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How Students Learn

- A Review of Some of the Main Theories:


The primary aim of all teachers should be to help their students to learn. In order to do this effectively, it is obviously necessary to know something about the nature of the learning process, ie to have a basic grounding in the psychology of learning. This reader and linked exercises are designed to provide you with such basic knowledge, and also to serve as a starting point for more advanced study in those areas that you feel are of particular relevance or interest to you personally.

We begin by taking a brief look at what learning involves, and introducing some key concepts such as short-term memory, long-term memory and reinforcement. We then present a broad overview of the nature of psychology, the main approaches that have been taken to its study, and the relevance of each of these approaches to the theory of learning. Next, we describe the main features of some of the most important and influential psychological models of learning - Gagné's hierarchical learning model, Piaget's model of cognitive development and Kolb's experiential cycle - before examining one of the most recent - Race's 'ripples' model. We end by examining some of the different learning styles that students can adopt, and by stressing the importance of appreciating that students have their own individual needs, and bring their own individual knowledge and resources to the learning process.


1. What learning involves

2. Different Psychological approaches to learning

humanistic psychology
the neurobiological approach
conitive psychology

3. Models of the learning process

Gagne's hierarchy of learning
Piaget's model of cognitive development
Kolb's experiential cycle
Race's "ripples" model of learning

4. Styles of learning

surface & deep learning
serialists & holists
activists, reflectors, theorists, pragmatists

Further Reading

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