Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

EDUC 560: Theories Of Learning

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  Course Description

The study of major learning theories, including those proposed by Skinner, Pavlov, Bandura, Piaget, Bruner, Sternberg, and others. Current and historical research into the application of theoretical knowledge in education systems addressed.

Prerequisite: Graduate Standing

Proctored Exams: None



  • Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind.Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    • [ISBN-978-1-4166-0030-5]
  • Santrock, J. (2011). Educational psychology: Theories of learning EDUC 560 edition.New York: McGraw Hill.
    • [ISBN-978-1-121-18636-1]

MBS Information

Textbooks for the course may be ordered from MBS Direct. You can order

For additional information about the bookstore, visit http://www.mbsbooks.com.

  Course Overview

This course is designed to not only look in-depth at the major theories of learning and how they relate to instruction, but to help you determine your own theory of learning. We’ll discuss the traditional theories of behaviorism, motivation, resilience, information processing, development, and instruction, and will take an in-depth look at the newer field of brain-based learning.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Knows and identifies child/adolescent developmental stages and can apply them to students.
  2. Applies knowledge of learning theory in all aspects of instructional design.
  3. Recognizes diversity and the impact it has on education.
  4. Is able to plan lessons and learning activities to address a student’s prior experiences, multiple intelligences, strengths and needs in order to positively impact learning.
  5. Demonstrates an understanding that instruction should be connected to students’ prior experiences and family, culture, and community.
  6. Understands how to select appropriate strategies for addressing individual student needs in meeting curriculum objectives.
  7. Knows and understands the concept of differentiated instruction and short- and long-term instructional goal planning to address student needs in meeting curriculum objectives.
  8. Demonstrates knowledge of researched-based models of critical thinking and problem- solving, including various types of instructional strategies, to support student engagement in higher level thinking skills.
  9. Knows how classroom management, motivation, and engagement relate to one another and has knowledge of strategies and techniques for using this to promote student interest and learning.
  10. Recognizes and identifies the influence of classroom, school and community culture on student relationships and the impact on the classroom environment and learning.
  11. Demonstrates competence in the use of basic classroom management techniques that reduce the likelihood of student misbehavior and address any misbehavior that does occur with the least disruption of instruction.
  12. Understands the importance of and develops the ability to use effective verbal and nonverbal communication techniques.
  13. Develops sensitivity to differences in culture, gender, intellectual and physical ability in classroom communication and in responses to student communications.
  14. Has knowledge of the development, use, and analysis of formal and informal assessments.
  15. Develops a knowledge base of assessment strategies and tools, including how to collect information by observing classroom interactions and using higher order questioning.
  16. Uses analysis of data to determine the effect of class instruction on individual and whole class learning.
  17. Understands strategies for reflecting on teaching practices to refine their own instructional process in order to promote the growth and learning of students.
  18. Identifies and understands the use of an array of professional learning opportunities including those offered by educator preparation programs, school districts, professional associations, and/or other opportunities for improving student learning.
  19. Is knowledgeable of and demonstrates professional, ethical behavior and is aware of the influence of district policies and school procedures on classroom structure.
  20. Understands school-based systems designed to address the individual needs of students by working with the cooperating teacher/ supervisor to engage with the larger professional community across the system to identify and provide needed services to support individual learners.
  21. Recognizes the importance of developing relationships and cooperative partnerships with students, families and community members to support students’ learning and well-being.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 297-330 90-100%
B 264-296 80-89%
C 231-263 70-79%
F 0-230 0-69%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions 130 39%
Knowledge - Learning Beliefs 50 15%
Reflection Paper 50 15%
Personal Learning Theory Paper 100 30%
Total 330 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 1: Introductions 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 2: Education Paradigms 10
Beliefs about Knowledge and Learning 50 Saturday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3: Piaget at Work 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 4: Constructivism in the Classroom 10

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5: Behaviorism vs Social Learning 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 6: Social Skills and Social Learning 10

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7: Alternatives to Rewards 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 8: Resilience and Motivation 10

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9: Learning Styles 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Reflection Paper - Freedom Writers and Maslow 50 Saturday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 10: The Filing Cabinet 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion 11: Expert-Novice Differences 10

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 12: Brain-Based Teaching 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Personal Learning Theory 100 Saturday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 13: Considering Where you Stand 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Total Points: 330

  Assignment Overview


Class discussions are the heart and soul of this course. Therefore, you are expected to thoroughly answer discussion questions. You are expected to respond to at least one classmate in each discussion topic. Initial posts are due on Wednesdays before midnight. Responses to your classmates are due on Saturdays before midnight.

One of the skills graduate students often need to work on is “economy of expression” – learning how to express their viewpoint in a way that is both thorough and concise. In order to encourage you to work on this skill, your main posts need to be at least 300 words but must not exceed 700 words.

Beliefs about Knowledge and Learning

This assignment will require that you consider what you currently believe about knowledge and learning, an important first step in developing your personal theory of learning.

Reflection Paper

Midway through our course you will write a reflection on the movie Freedom Writers, applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and motivation theory to your understanding of the story.

Personal Learning Theory

This is your major assignment for this course. It will require that you consider not only what we discuss in this course but also your own experiences as a teacher and as a learner.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.


Theories of Learning, Chapter 1

Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Introduction and Chapters 1-3 (pp. 1-59)

Discussion 1: Introductions
Introduce yourself and be sure to include your current job position and any personal interests. We will interact with one another quite a bit in this course, and this is where we begin!
Discussion 2: Education Paradigms
We begin our course with a fairly provocative look at our current education system and its impact on thinking and learning. Watch the video of Ken Robinson about the changing paradigms in education on TED Talks (found in the course Content area) and post your reaction.
Beliefs about Knowledge and Learning

Your major assignment for this course will be to articulate your own theory of learning. The course is designed to lead you to that theory, such that by the time you write the paper you should have all the information you need. It is important to first consider from where you are coming.

After completing your reading for this week, consider what you believe about knowledge and learning. Specifically, respond to the following questions:

  1. What is your definition of learning?
  2. How do you know when something has been learned? For example, does the information or task need to be mastered in order to say that it has been learned? Provide two examples to support your stance.

This paper does not need to be written formally or in APA format. Please simply type the question, type your response, and then type the next question and response. Your paper should be 500-600 words, not including the questions.

Theories of Learning, pp. 28-57 and 148-161;
Teaching with the Brain in Mind skim Chapters 4-6
Discussion 3: Piaget at Work

For this discussion you will need to spend 15 minutes or so with a child. You choose the age (although you may find it easiest to work with a young child, 10 years or younger) and engage him or her in Piagetian tasks that relate to the stage the child ought to be in. For example, if you are working with a four-year old, you would choose tasks from the preoperational stage. Use the videos in the commentary for ideas (although don’t feel compelled to do the exact thing they did – feel free to be creative!).

Post the results of your “research” in this topic. Describe what you had the child do. Did he or she do anything that might have surprised Piaget? Or was he or she right on target with the theory?

Discussion 4: Constructivism in the Classroom
Select a unit of instruction that you have in some way experienced – perhaps a lesson plan you have used or have seen someone else use, or a topic from a course syllabus.Examine this instruction from the perspective of constructivism.What features would be considered examples of “good instruction” according to this theory, and what features would not?What effects did this instruction have on learners?
Theories of Learning, pp. 70-101
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Chapter 7
Discussion 5: Behaviorism vs Social Learning

Social learning theory claims that behaviorism is short-sighted, that there is simply no way all behavior can be learned through the rewards and punishments that are the hallmark of operant conditioning. Behaviorism also gets a bad rap from learning theorists and school professionals who claim it emphasizes extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation (you’ll learn more about this next week). Behaviorism is considered to be “passé,” an outdated way of conceptualizing how and why we learn.

However, some would argue that behaviorism is alive and well and used every day in the workplace, in parenting, in the classroom, and beyond. Where do you see behaviorism in everyday life? Provide three examples. Your examples may come from any aspect of life, but be sure at least one of them comes from the classroom.

Discussion 6: Social Skills and Social Learning

When Bandura uses the term “social” to describe “social learning,” he is simply saying that learning requires that we are in the presence of other people. However, we can learn from a model with whom we never actually interact, and therefore “social” does not necessarily imply friendliness, getting along with others, or even engaging with others.

When Jensen uses the word “social” in Chapter 7 he is speaking more directly about engagement and actual interaction of students with one another. Therefore, it could be argued that Jensen might define “social learning” differently than Bandura.

In what ways have you seen social skills impact student learning in the way Jensen describes? Provide at least one example, either from your classroom or some other experience.

Theories of Learning, pp. 176-209
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Chapter 8
Discussion 7: Alternatives to Rewards
Last week you were asked to defend behaviorism and discuss its use and relevance in our everyday lives. After reading what your texts have to say, what are your thoughts about the relationship between rewards and motivation? Describe something you do in your classroom that mirrors what Jensen argues, OR share an idea of how this approach could be used effectively in the classroom.
Discussion 8: Resilience and Motivation
What do you see as the relationship between resilience and motivation? How might a shift in our thinking from “at-risk” to “at-promise” influence our own motivation in working with challenging students? How might this impact our ability to be “resilient practitioners”?
Freedom Writers
Discussion 9: Learning Styles
There are several different theories of learning styles, using different dimensions. One that has become most popular in recent years is Fleming’s VAK/VARK model, which argues that we have a preference for visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning. Most teachers are not only aware of this theory, but buy into it, sometimes worrying whether their lessons are meeting the “styles” of each of their students. View the resources posted in the course Content for this week and provide your reaction in this week’s discussion.
Reflection Paper - Freedom Writers and Maslow

Last week’s readings discussed motivation in a traditional sense: goal setting, self-efficacy, and attributions. Last week you also read about resilience and how resilience impacts learning.
Maslow provided a perspective on motivation that is not often studied in the context of school, yet it has clear implications for learning, as much of schooling (learning to read and do math) is a “higher order” skill. It is difficult for students to focus on learning these skills when they are concerned for their own safety, or when they are living in poverty and are hungry.

For this informal paper, consider these three different approaches to student motivation - goal setting, self-efficacy, and attributions - and how they relate to the students featured in Freedom Writers. How might they have been affected by these more traditional factors related to motivation? Then consider Maslow. In what ways might these students have been affected by Maslow’s needs hierarchy? Finally, what do you believe were the most successful techniques used to turn around the attitudes of these students?

Again, this is an informal paper. Please write it as though you are talking to me! It is meant to be a discussion of your thoughts, not a regurgitation of what you’ve seen. It should be 900-1000 words.

Theories of Learning, pp. 108-137
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Chapter 10
Discussion 10: The Filing Cabinet

There are many metaphorical ways to look at information processing, as well as the capacity of our working memory. A popular one is the filing cabinet. The common understanding for the past 50 years is that our working memory can hold 5-9 “chunks” of information. More recent research suggests that it may be as little as 3 or 4. Imagine that each of these “chunks” is a folder in your mental filing cabinet.

Many things in your life may represent these folders, things that require your attention: work, school, family, etc. Right now, all folders are neat and tidy, and they fit nicely in the cabinet. But what if something happens in one or two aspects of your life that requires a greater amount of your attention? Those particular folders become larger. It becomes harder to keep the “papers” in them neat and tidy, and harder to keep track of what papers are even there. The other folders get so smashed you hardly remember them, or they come unhooked and end up buried on the bottom of the filing cabinet, completely forgotten.

For this discussion, think of students’ mental filing cabinets. First, what might their “folders” be? Then, what circumstances might cause any one of those folders to become too full? Finally, what are some strategies you could teach students to help them manage their folders more effectively?

Discussion 11: Expert-Novice Differences
At this point in our lives we all have something for which we have developed expertise. Consider the information on this topic provided in Theories of Learning and describe something for which you have developed expertise. Be sure to tie your discussion directly to the information laid out in your text. How do you know you have expertise in this area? What separates you from a novice? By the way, you cannot use teaching as your area of expertise for this discussion!
Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Chapters 11 and 12
Discussion 12: Brain-Based Teaching
This discussion topic is like the one you did earlier with constructivism. Select a unit of instruction that you have in some way experienced, perhaps a lesson plan you have used or have seen someone else use, or a topic from a course syllabus. Examine this instruction and its accompanying materials (textbook, lecture, handouts, activities, etc.) from the perspective of Jensen’s model for brain-based teaching. Refer to page 145 and write your response accordingly, e.g., list “Prepare” and then discuss preparation. In what ways did the instruction fit the model? What would need to be changed in order to make it fit?
Personal Learning Theory
This paper is your opportunity to seriously consider your own theory of learning. You will find a more detailed description of this assignment, a grading rubric, and a template for the paper in the Content area. You must use these documents in order to successfully complete this assignment.
Review criticisms of brain-based learning and Jensen’s response to them at the site listed in the course Content.
Discussion 13: Considering Where you Stand

Over the course of the last seven weeks we have considered both traditional learning theories as well as the more “modern” brain-based learning theory. Each of the traditional learning theories has its critics, and brain-based learning is certainly not immune to the same scrutiny; after reading through the commentaries on the Jensen Learning website, you will have a good sense of where the criticism is coming from.

Where do you stand? The answer to this question in many ways represents your personal learning theory. Share your position here.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Late Dropbox assignments will be accepted up to 1 week past the due date, but a 10% penalty will be imposed per day that the assignment is late.  After 1 week, no late assignments will be accepted.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Helpdesk, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.