Learning Theory in the Knowledge Age
Albert Einstein “theory provides the framework or lens for our observations”
Two polar opposites: what we call ‘scientific’ (hypothesis-driven or experimental) theory and
‘social’ or critical theory.
Other related theoretical terms:
„hard‟ science vs. „soft‟ social science theories, pure science vs. Applied science, quantitative vs.
Qualitative scientific research.
Theory and Epistemology:
Theories of learning are based on epistemologies, scientific methods and the views of knowledge
communities of the time.
Epistemology: Greek word „episteme‟ meaning knowledge.
Two major epistemologies of the 20 and 21 centuries
Objectivist epistemology (teacher to student/passed down and memorized knowledge)
(reflected in behaviourist and cognitivist theories of learning)
Objectivist view holds that knowledge is a kind of substance contained in and given form by the
vessel we call the mind. Professor‟s mental vessels are full. Students‟ mental vessels are less
full. The purpose of teaching is t transfer knowledge from the fuller vessels to the less full
In North America:
Objectivist believes that there exists an objective and reliable set of facts, principles, and theories
that either have been or will be discovered and delineated over the course of time. This is linked
to the belief that truth exists outside the human mind, or independently of what an individual
may or may not believe.
Constructivist epistemology (knowledge is constructed from our perceptions/interpretations)
(reflected in constructivist and the online collaborative learning theories)
Knowledge about the world is constructed through our perceptions and interaction and
discussion with various communities of knowledgeable peers. The nonfoundational social
constructionist understanding of knowledge denies that it lodges in any of the places mentioned:
the mind of God, genius, or the grounds of thoughts, the human mind and reality. If it lodges
anywhere, it is in the conversation that goes on among the members of a community of
knowledge peers and in the “conversation of mankind”.
In North America:
Constructivist epistemologies hold that knowledge is essentially subjective in nature, constructed
from our perceptions and usually agreed upon conventions. We construct new knowledge rather than simply acquire it via memorization or through transmission of those who know to those who
Our perceptions are shaped through interactions with others, in particular with more knowledge
peers/ or knowledge community.
Theory and Scientific Method: theory and scientific methods emerged in the 19 century th
influence of Positivism (1847) a term coined by French philosopher- August Comte
-first intellectual to systematically articulate Positivism
-to present empirical method as a replacement for metaphysics or theism in the history of thought
-metaphysics was the dominant view: emphasized that a divine world lies beyond
experience and transcends the physical or natural world.
-theism refers to the belief in the existence of on or several gods who intervene in the
lives of men
-he rejected both concepts arguing that rational assertion should be scientifically vertifiable:
demonstrated by empirical evidence or mathematical proof.
Positivism holds that theology and metaphysics are imperfect modes of knowledge, whereas
positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena with properties and relation verified by
empirical science. Theory must therefore be verifable by empirical sceience.
Theory and Knowledge communities:
Knowledge communities refer to scholarly groups associated with a particular field of related to
-are scientist or leading thinkers gathered around a theory and represent the state of the art in that
discipline. A particular knowledge community represents the theory of the discipline, how it is
defined and articulated in practice and how it is substantiated.
Other terms to describe this term:
-school of thought
Theory building is typically conducted by and