Learning Theories in Practice

The figure below summarises the key features of four types of pedagogical approaches, along with e-learning and mobile learning examples. Although these perspectives are presented separately on the diagram, the learning process can involve a blend of these approaches. Mayes & Freitas present this notion of a movement between approaches as learners develop mastery in the latter part of their article on Learning and E-learning: The Role of Theory (2007). Furthermore, each pedagogy has strengths and disadvantages as we will examine, thus promoting the idea of developing a pedagogy that blends and/or interchanges between them.



Instructional design fits in with this pedagogy of learning through association and reinforcement. Merrill’s Five First Principles describes a building of knowledge and skill through the following steps:

1.    Demonstration

2.    Application

3.    Task-centered principle

4.    Activation

5.    Integration


This notion of learning evolving around a progression of steps is identifiable in the way in which the face-to-face Practice teacher training sessions are structured. For these sessions, teachers select a specific skill they want to develop from the monthly training calendar, watch a demonstration Learn video like this one, Try their learning in a face-to-face session, then practice Applying what they practiced in the training in their classes.


  • Keeps learning bite-sized

  • Training can be easily tailored to the needs of the learner

  • Sequential structure enables trainees to easily track their progress

  • Opens opportunities for regular feedback at each stage


  • Repetitive and predictable approach. In recent years we have developed different training structures as a result to provide variety.

  • While this approach is well-suited for developing specific skills in teaching in the example given, it is limiting in the impact it has on building knowledge and attitude.

  • It’s not possible to offer all of the topics at once to suit all trainees



The idea of building on prior knowledge relates to a recent conversation I had with an ESL primary school teacher in Hong Kong. We discussed how Padlet.com provides a platform that lends itself well to this task-orientated learning. Students can be involved in the creation of material for the padlet.  


  • Engages learners in working together to create material that their peers also learn from
  • Learners can access the padlet out of class to refer to and review
  • Facilitates an autonomous learning environment whereby material and feedback comes from peers


  • ·Padlet requires a fast internet connection and up-to-date smart devices to support it
  • Setting projects for learners to create content is time-consuming
  • Learners (and their parents) may not initially buy-into the value of the student-led aspect of this approach



As part of induction tasks for distance courses, trainees need to join the Wechat group. For those outside of China, Wechat is a multi-functional social media platform that enables users to chat, micro blog, share files etc with their contacts. The current Wechat group for the Introduction to Management Course has proven useful in facilitating greater dialogue between trainees and trainers.


  • Provides greater opportunities for trainees to receive input and feedback

  • Maintains a regular dialogue that helps keep trainees motivated

  • Fast form of interaction that is easily accessible and  user-friendly


  • Challenging to manage this resource i.e. what trainees post and times they are posting in the group

  • You have to check the group chat regularly to keep up-to-date with the conversation and topic. 

  • Not all conversations are relevant to the group, but are more specific to the needs of an individual learner



For the current Introduction to Management distance course I have set up a LinkedIn discussion group in addition to the VLE. This is used to share resources and blog on topics related to the course.


  • Provides a platform that learners will be able to continue to access after the VLE closes at the end of the 10-week course
  • Offers a real-life platform for learners to discuss and share ideas
  • Enables trainees to explore ideas beyond the course. This offers additional challenge as well as enables trainees to differentiate material to a specific interest.


  • While uptake of the LinkedIn group has been positive, few trainees have posted blogs.

  • It is difficult to measure how much the group is viewed by trainees i.e. to measure how much lurking is going on.

  • As there are discussion forums on the VLE trainees seem demotivated to use LinkedIn discussion group. I think in future I’ll trial using LinkedIn as the core discussion forum.