Understanding different theories and principles of learning can help to ensure a variety of techniques, resources and activities will be considered and used within the learning environment. This way the teaching approach will be able to accommodate the different visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles and help remove any barriers to learning.
Reading about learning theories such as behaviourism, cognitivism, humanism should encourage the process of reflection and identification of which learning theories are best suited to both the teacher and the learner.
With regard to Behaviourism, I find Burrhus Skinner’s notion of positive reinforcement very important. Maintaining a positive approach within the learning environment and appearing happy to teach definitely encourages good learning outcomes for both student and teacher.
I also strongly believe in the cognitivist approach to learning, especially in relation to Jerome Bruner’s notion of discovery learning, because it places the teacher in the role of the facilitator rather than the feeder of information. By presenting pointers for learners to explore, the learners are likely to engage in their own discovery and remember the information they have obtained for themselves.
Two books I have found extremely useful for helping me to understand the basics of different learning theories:
Bates, B (2016) ‘Learning Theories Simplified.’ London: Sage Publications Ltd
Aubrey, K and Riley, A (2016) ‘Understanding and Using Educational Theories.’ London: Sage Publications Ltd
I see elements of both social constructivist theory and cognitivism within the constructive alignment framework. By constructing meaning through learning activities, the student is engaging in discovery learning (cognitivism). The teacher is facilitating within the learning environment and aligning the activities to assessment and learning outcomes. The key word for me is ‘clarity’ – related to both clearly defined intended learning outcomes (alignment to both course and module) and assessment methods which clearly link to the outcomes; all embedded and accessible via assignment briefs and module outlines.
I think constructive alignment is naturally embedded within good curriculum development – It’s not something that happens by chance (although it’s possible to already be doing it without knowing the theoretical term). Well considered planning from the start (within faculty – individual modules and whole course structure) and knowledge of the learners should help to ensure constructive alignment takes place.