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Learning theories

This Key Concept Exercise asks you to consider how learning theory can be used practically to help
organisations design effective learning interventions.

For this Key Concept Exercise, you begin to analyse a number of definitions of learning and evaluate and
critique theories of learning.
To prepare for this Key Concept Exercise:

�Consider the specific examples of theories and definitions of learning.

�Consider the andragogical perspective in this discussion (as opposed to a child-focussed, pedagogical
approach) and the emphasis on learning that makes employees and their organisations more effective.

To complete this Key Concept Exercise:

In an approximately 550-word response, address the following issues/questions:

�Analyse at least two learning theories.

�Use specific examples of theories and definitions of learning and how they can be applied in an
organisational context.

Learning theories

Cognitive apprenticeship theorizes a process in which a skilled master teaches an apprentice to
acquire the skill in question. The theory was developed upon recognition that most skill masters


often overlook the implicit process necessary for learners to carry out the skills taught
(Rosenheck, 2010, p. 18). Cognitive apprenticeships thereby aim at opening up the tacit
processes by allowing students to observe, perform and practice as guided by the teacher in order
for them to reproduce the skill accurately. To promote this, the learner is required to have access
to skills, maintain attention and have learning motivation (Chan, Miller and Monroe, 2009, p.

In a work environment, cognitive apprenticeship is likely to yield positive income in terms of
skill execution. This is more so where learning is done in the work setting to allow learners to
exercise the skills acquired practically. Rosenheck (2010, p. 18) notes that on-job training yields
better results because best practices can be taught and exercised, while poor practices can be
corrected real time. The practical experience ensures that individuals can repeat the tasks easily
and thus creates better outcome.

The theory of transformative learning is highly popular in matters related to adult education, with
users emphasizing the need to make frames of reference more inclusive, reflective and open in
order to promote learning-induced change. Transformational learning involves expansion of the
learners’ frame of mind from basic world view to more critical assessment of issues and
underlying premises (Hodge, 2014, p. 165-166)

Transformational learning has great potential in improving productivity at the work place. In
order for this theory to be effective in the work place, Sammut (2014, p. 39-40) suggests the use
of work integrated learning; which creates social cultural experiences that trigger interpretation,
knowledge formation and meanings. Transformation based on teams is further considered more
effective, due to their ability to transform frames of reference.

In my view, the theory that closely connects to how I view learning is cognitive apprenticeship. I
believe that learning is a process and that knowledge acquired can only be translated into
practical outcomes once it has been assimilated. This theory is realistic in that it recognizes that
practical learning is more effective than theoretical learning because it helps an individual learn
in the work settings (Rosenheck, 2010, p. 20).

In my organization, learning is considered as highly individualized; in that each person has a
different learning capability. Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of individuals,
measures are taken to ensure that each individual acquires the required skills. Connecting this to
the learning theory, cognitive apprenticeship has constantly been used to ensure that staff learn
from the leader through observation, ratification and practice.


In order to make learning and development more effective, it is important for the management to
identify the perspective of learning adopted in order to determine the possible impact. Various
perspectives including the behaviorist, social learning, cognitive and human perspectives yield
different results and based on the need of the organization, the management should choose a
perspective that best suits the situation (Sammut, 2014, p. 51). Behaviorist perspectives for
example focus on individual response to environmental stimuli and would be most relevant for
reward-based motivational settings. Cognitive perspectives on the other hand are more applicable
where skill development is the focus of the organization.

Choosing the right mode of learning determines the outcome of the organization’s learning goals,
hence the need to choose a method that assures effective transfer and internalization of skills.
This is best achieved through practical and on-job training as in cognitive apprenticeship. It is
argued that where learners are taught away from the real work context, cognitive apprenticeship
would not be as effective; hence the need to create real situational learning to promote outcome
(Chan, Miller and Monroe, 2009, p. 36).


Chan, P, Miller, R, & Monroe, E 2009, ‘Cognitive Apprenticeship as an Instructional Strategy for
Solving Corporate Training Challenges’, Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve
Learning, 53, 6, pp. 35-41, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 September 2015.

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