Week 3: Theoretical Approaches to Distributed Learning and Teaching – Winter 2023


This week, we will think about theoretical approaches to teaching and learning. Some of the theories you will encounter (e.g., behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism) have been used to analyze both face-to-face and online education. Some, like connectivism, apply more completely to education delivered online.

Educational theory should really matter to teachers and to those who are designing and developing courses. Theory is like a map to the educational territory. It provides you with guidance, and it helps you to decide if the course you are planning and teaching is going in the right direction. It is an extremely practical tool.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the week, you will be able to:

  • Define your personal teaching philosophy
  • Describe several types of learning theory

Learning Activities

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

If you have ever applied for a teaching position, you may well have been asked about your theoretical approach to teaching and learning. This often involves preparing a statement of your teaching philosophy, either in a job interview or perhaps in written form as part of the application process. Besides this very prosaic value, what is the purpose of writing a teaching philosophy? What value can it give you? What good is it if you are not applying for a teaching job? At an even more basic level, what is it? Moreover, what is the connection between your teaching philosophy and a theory of teaching and learning?

Reflecting on Teaching and Learning

It can be overwhelming to articulate your thoughts on teaching and learning, particularly if you do not have a lot of experience in this area. Here is a step-by-step process that you can follow to reflect on teaching and learning. Following this process will help you complete the upcoming assignment.

Complete background activities for Assignment 1

  • Go to Learning Theories. This useful site summarizes common learning theories and models in categories, including behaviourist, cognitivist, and constructivist theories. It names major theorists, and it is a great place to start when you want to explore a theory in more depth.
  • Complete the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). The inventory itself along with analyzing your results with the guidance provided on this site will help you to understand your view of teaching and to draw connections between it and learning theories.
  • Read Lee Shulman’s “Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching” on Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Shulman’s classic article on pedagogical content knowledge is a useful introduction to the idea.
  • Read Section 1 and 2 from Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers. This provincially-developed guide to the indigenization of curriculum in British Columbia was developed specifically for the use of curriculum developers in post-secondary education. The first sections, though, provide an overview of understanding indigenization and the integration of indigenous worldviews that are valuable for those developing curriculum at any level.
  • Read Chapter 2 from Teaching in a Digital Age (Bates). Pay particular attention to the sections on objectivism/behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, and connectionism—four broad categories of educational theory.


What do you think? Let’s have a conversation about this issue. Remember to tag your post with your name so the Open Learning Faculty Member can assess your contribution.  You might find it helpful to refer to the instructor’s blog post as an example, EDDL 5111 Developer’s blog post #3

Blog Post #3: Teaching perspectives and technology

How is your use of technology reflected in your TPI results? Refer to the following:

Tondeur, J., van Braak, J., Ertmer, P., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2017). Understanding the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and technology use in education: A systematic review of qualitative evidence. Educational Technology Research and Development, 65(3), 555–575. doi: 10.1007/s11423-016-9481-2

The Tondeur, van Braak, Ertmer, and Ottenbreit-Leftwich article discusses the connection between a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs and their approach to using technology in the classroom. The article is written from the perspective that the use of computer technology is valuable, and should be encouraged, which is something you may well agree with since you have chosen to take this class.

To what extent do you think your perspective on teaching—reflected in your TPI results—is reflected in your approach to the use of technology in the classroom? Write a brief blog post considering this, and read the blog posts of your peers to get a sense of the various perspectives we represent as a group.

Assignment 1: Philosophy of Teaching (15%)

Assignment 1 docx

Based on the activities you completed this week, write a reflection on your own theory of teaching and learning in a specific educational setting. Your reflection should include:

  • A discussion of the way the TPI illuminates your reflection on teaching and learning;
  • A discussion of how your content knowledge informs your ideas of teaching;
  • A tentative identification of the theory of teaching and learning you feel is most relevant and meaningful for you;
  • A description of the impact this theory has on your approach to teaching and course design.

Please note, the idea of a theory informing teaching may be new to you. You are not required to pretend that the theory has informed your teaching in the past as you write your reflections. Rather, think about the way you think the theory will have an impact as you plan courses and teach in the future.

Assignment length

This assignment should be quite brief, between 500–750 words.

You may wish to include a table or diagram outlining the connection between the theory you identified and the way you organize your teaching, though this is not a requirement.

Submitting the assignment

The assignment should be:

  • Posted on your blog for comments by other participants in the course;
  • Submitted to the instructor for feedback.

Due: End of Week 3

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