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David Jonassens proposed learning environments octogon

Can this be done online? Do I even understand all the terms? Does it all have to happen in the same class?

Constructive : a workshop like activity, or 'group think' in Google Breakout.

Collaborative : they work together in small groups to come to an answer.

Conversational : in the Chat and with each other.

Reflective : with more time at the end, or part way through, they reflect on what they are doing and if they are getting anywhere.

Contextualized : as in the online learning environment and/or the individual context for each person?

Complex : or challenging? Online learning is a fail for some, for reasons of their own making, or not. For technical, persona circumstances and other reasons. Some people don't like bringing the class into the home. It is a cultural shift.

Intentional : (I'm going to have to look this up).

Active/Manipulative : sounds like 'constructive' ?

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How people learn and the implications for design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 22 Dec 2020, 20:15

Had this been the title of a post-graduate diploma in e–learning it would have been precisely what I was looking for a decade ago – the application of theory, based on research and case studies, to the design and production of interactive learning – whether DVD or online.

A few excellent, practical guides did this, but as a statement of fact, like a recipe in a cook book: do this and it’ll work, rather than suggesting actions based on research, evidence-based understanding and case studies.

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) are featured in detail in Appendix 1 of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (2007) Beetham and Sharpe.

Four types of learning are featured:

  • 1. associative
  • 2. constructive (individual)
  • 3. constructive (social)
  • 4. and situative.

Of these I see associative used in corporate training online – with some constructive (individual), while constructive (social) is surely the OU's approach?

Situative learning may be the most powerful – through application in a collaborative, working environment I can see that this is perhaps describes what goes on in any case, with the wiser and experienced passing on knowledge and know how to juniors, formally as trainees or apprentices, or informally by 'being there' and taking part.

Each if these approaches have their champions:

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985).

Constructive (individual) – Piaget (1970), Papert (1993), Kolb (1984), Biggs (1999).

Constructive (social) – Vygotsky (1978).

Situative – Wenger (1998), Cole (1993), Wertsch. (Also Cox, Seely Brown). Wertsch (1981), Engestrom (), Cole and Engeström (1993)

Beetham and Sharpe (2007:L5987) – the ‘L’ refers to the location in a Kindle Edition. I can’t figure out how to translate this into a page reference.

How people learn and the implications for design

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985) (in Mayes and de Frietas, 2004)

Building concepts or competences step by step.

The Theory

People learn by association through:

  • basic stimulus–response conditioning,
  • later association concepts in a chain of reasoning,
  • or associating steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill.

Associativity leads to accuracy of reproduction. (Mnemonics are associative devices).

  • Routines of organized activity.
  • Progression through component concepts or skills.
  • Clear goals and feedback.
  • Individualized pathways matched to performance.
  • Analysis into component units.
  • Progressive sequences of component–to–composite skills or concepts.
  • Clear instructional approach for each unit.
  • Highly focused objectives.

For Assessment

  • Accurate reproduction of knowledge.
  • Component performance.
  • Clear criteria: rapid, reliable feedback.
  • Guided instruction.
  • Drill and practice.
  • Instructional design.
  • Socratic dialogue.

FURTHER READING (and viewing)

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Brown, J.S. (2007) October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

+My notes on this:


+The transcript of that session:



Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: The Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.  (Constructive alignment)

Cole, M. and Engestrom, Y. (1993) ‘A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition’, in G. Salomon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New Work: Cambridge University Press.

Conole, G. (2004) Report on the Effectiveness of Tools for e-Learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities)

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eraut, M (2000) ‘Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70:113-36

Gagné, R. (1985) The Conditions of Learning, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R.M., Briggs, L.J. and Wagner, W.W. (1992) Principles of Instructional Design, New Work: Hoplt, Reihhart & Winston Inc.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2004) Effective Resources for E-learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-learning Activities).

Mayes, T. and de Frietas, S. (2004) 'Review of e–learning theories, frameworks and models. Stage 2 of the e–learning models disk study', Bristol. JISC. Online.

Piaget, J. (1970) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (Constructivist Theory of Knowledge), New Work: Orion Press.

Papert, S. (1993) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New Work: Perseus.

Piaget, J. (2001) The Language and Thought of the Child, London: Routledge Modern Classics.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professional Think in Action, New York: Basic Books.

Sharpe, R (2004) ‘How do professionals learn and develop? In D.Baume and P.Kahn (eds) Enhancing Staff and Educational Development, London: Routledge-Flamer, pp. 132-53.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J.V. (1981) (ed.) The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, N

Appendix and references largely from Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy in a digital age.

See also Appendix 4: Learning activity design: a checklist

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H800: 44 Week 8 Activity 2. An approach to learning activity design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Feb 2012, 06:08

Notes on Beetham Chapter 2 An approach to learning activity design.


I've found this the chapter on ‘an approach to learning activity design’ from Helen Beetham profound and invaluable.

Helen Beetham is a Research Consultant to the JISC e-Learning Programme. Previously she was a Research Fellow in e-learning at the Open University.

The profound revelations I feel I have had concern three projects to 'reinvent learning' with interactive then web-based learning in the 1990s and 2000s that I am familiar with (I was in the production company or agency doing something else, or know the person and the project's history).

And the sense I wanted from MAODE of the history of education which I sum up as:

1 to 1 the governess and/or then tutor of the aristocracy. 17th century (and earlier, and well into the 20th)


Samuel Daniel was a court poet and amongst others tutored Lady Anne Clifford. A copy of his miniature was inserted in Lady Annes 1646 'Great Picture' that told her life story/struggle.

1 to many in schools (both private and state maintained). (For wealthy families who couldn't afford the tutors ... the 'public' schools of Britain from the 16th century, followed by the Victorian & Edwardian schools for all).


1 to 1 or many to many (depending on how you look at it) which brings back a good deal of the 1 to 1 that the likes of Princess Elizabeth might have had in the 16th century, through peer-support you have your time with a subject matter expert (if they will indulge you) ... and time with people with very different experiences and insights that can be better at giving your thinking a jolt ... or if we will indulge each other through 'social educational networking'.

I appreciate the history of education goes back further to Greece, Mesopotamia and even hunter gatherer societies on the plains of Africa.From Marketing to the Social Web. Larry Webber.

My feeling is that technology isn't as novel as we think; in fact it is enabling what used to occur in closer nit learning groups embedded in society.

I wonder if I should be looking at learning patterns from the Bantu in the Congo and apply that to teenagers wishing to learn using mobile devices in the 21st century, the urban jungle and chase replacing the forests, bore hunts and multiple relationships.

There is a lot to think about. I see learning design as akin to designing and growing a maize maze. One this is in place you have choices regarding whether guide an individual around your labyrinth by calling out ‘left!’, ‘right!’ or just ‘hot!’ or ‘cold!’ while others you leave to figure out their own way through. There will be graded outcomes that require exiting the maze, others where they never leave and yet others where they exit where right they came in – all depending on the activities, the learners and the desired outcomes.

The emphasis, from Beetham’s point of view, is that with learning design should be on learners, the activities they do (not tasks) and the outcomes. Beetham (2007).

Activities, not the tools used or the supporting materials, matter the most.

Whatever way you plan, develop and scaffold learners will do the activities their own way - in different contexts people learn in different ways which raises issues for activity design Beetham (2007).

I ask myself:

· How prescriptive should you be?

· How confining should the parameters be?

· What degree of latitude is offered?


The learning activities may be any combination of associative, constructive or situative. Learners will develop their understanding as a result of consolidation and practice, drawing on their strengths and preferences and a repertoire of approaches. Beetham (2007) e.g. an apprentice learns in an associative way be rehearsing skills and concepts.


Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for the digital age.


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