Meaningful Connectivism

2 Oct

Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, social learning, connectivism…I am not going to lie, I signed out of the zoom room after last Tuesday’s EC&I 833 class feeling overwhelmed. Although these learning theories underpin my teaching philosophy and classroom practices, until I am challenged by these pedagogical conversations, they are not necessarily at the forefront of my every day life. This is one of the main reasons I enjoy being a graduate student though, and it is these conversations that have caused me to become more aware, shift, and often change my beliefs that have thus far shaped, and continue to shape, my teaching journey.

I found this comparison of learning theories chart, as I was trying to make sense of exactly what goes on in my classroom each day, and how I lead the learners in front of me.

Comparison of Learning Theories Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

I definitely see myself in these three approaches, but like Channing described, I consider myself “fluid” (or more so I aim to be fluid), in adapting to the needs of the learners in front of me. When I teach Phys.Ed 9, for example, I start off with a very behaviorist approach as I introduce students who are new to our building to the routines necessary for both safety and organization in a space that can be chaotic, but a lot of fun.

I could also relate to Kyle’s post, as he spoke about teaching the way he was taught, and also his specific practices related to Math courses. Students have come to think of this way of doing math – very based in behaviorism and cognitivism – as how one learns numbers. Notes, examples, practice questions, assignment/test. Done, concept mastered… right?


I have found that when I try and push students toward a more constructivist approach where they are defining real world math problems themselves, or really anything in which they become the guides of their own learning in math, they struggle. As a teacher, it is also difficult to see them struggle, so I have a hard time not jumping in and giving them the answers or guiding them. The way we have always done math – or done school in general, defaults to behavorism, congnitivism, and we strive for constructivism. As I am going to grow and learn myself, I think connectivism is an approach to learning that will be emerging at the forefront of our era.

In this class (and all my EC&I courses with Alec), there is a connectivist approach to learning, as the knowledge I am gaining is spread out through a network of resources including my Twitter, my classmates, their blogs, Alec, and essentially the entire wealth of information I have access to online. What I read, who I connect with, and how I “construct and traverse” that network according to one map of learning theories, essentially determines and drives my learning. I have found this way of learning to be completely different from anything I did in my high school, undergraduate, and other graduate course, and also my favorite way to learn. I am a relationships person through and through, and I find so much value in connecting with others. Having the opportunity to connect with others on Twitter especially, has given me a whole new lease on learning, and has made me more self-motivated than I am in courses with a different approach.

“Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).” – Karen Stephenson

I wonder how we can set up our classrooms, and schools in general, to take a more connectivist approach, when we still focus so much on grades for post-secondary (although many students aren’t going…), route memorization (which has it’s place – times tables people!), other cognitive tasks, and the fear of letting go of control of what our students are out there discovering on their own. I think we need to make digital citizenship a priority in our schools, in order to set up our students to make meaningful connections with the online (and offline) world around them, and thus become life long learners of the vast information and knowledge at their fingertips.


One Response to “Meaningful Connectivism”

  1. jana_wlock October 4, 2018 at 7:46 pm #

    I completely relate to you when you say that learning theories and practice are not always at the forefront of our awareness in day to day life. I also find myself resorting back to behaviourist and cognitivist approaches because it’s hard to see kids struggle, particularly the kids I support as an LRT. In my experience, these approaches provide structure and direction for struggling learners and allow them to experience success at school. However, I’d really like to look at ways that I can use more of a constructivist approach with the students I support. I’m definitely grateful for this Master’s experience because it pushes me to reflect, gain new perspectives, and ultimately alter my teaching practices for the better. Great post!

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