Learning Theories and Learning Domains

In this section, we considered four learning theories (Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and Connectivism) which could explain the learning process in an individual as well as in a collaborative networked situation. In this section we will learn about different ‘domains of learning' and see the contribution of the four learning theories to these domains.
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Read the following article. You may like to take short notes while you read the article.

George Siemens (2005) Learning Development Cycle: Bridging Learning Design and Modern Knowledge Needs.

Source:http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/ldc.htm (Accessed on 4 March 2012)

Learning domains

(Note: Paragraphs from George Siemens (2005) Learning Development Cycle: Bridging Learning Design and Modern Knowledge Needs.CC license-has been as such used here with minor changes.)

Learning can be classified according to various domains. Figure 2.1 depicts learning as consisting of:

  • Accretion
  • Transmission
  • Acquisition
  • Emergence domains

These terms do not appear to have a clear origin, though they have been used by Wilson (1997) and Calhoun (undated) without clear attribution to the originating source. Classifying learning in these domains assists designers in evaluating the object of each design task by first determining the nature of learning required.


Learning is continuous

  • Function of environment
  • At the point of need
  • Variety of sources "learning foraging"

Benefits: Tight link to need, high relevance, broad range of learning (tacit, explicit). Continuous, modelled after "real life"

Drawbacks: Learners often unaware of learning (devalue process), at odds with how learners have learned in the past (unfamiliar with process)


Traditional view of learning

  • Courses
  • Lectures
  • Instructor-in-control

Benefits: Good for structured information, building core knowledge, compliance training

Drawbacks: Instructor-based, learner viewed as "container to be filled", long development time, at odds with how much learning happens


Learning choose to learn

  • Exploratory
  • Inquiry-based
  • Learner-in-control

Benefits: Learner highly motivated, relevance, related to personal interests

Drawbacks: Learners may not be learning "right" skills, feedback from experts many be lacking


Learning reflection and reasoning

  • Metacognition
  • Reflection on life experiences
  • Cognition

Benefits: Tacit learning, deep learning, relevance, higher order thinking skills, fosters creativity and innovation

Drawbacks: Time consuming, hard to do, requires high competence of subject matter

Figure 2.1 Domains of learning
Source: George Siemens (2005)

Each unique learning domain serves a different purpose, and carries a different combination of benefits and drawbacks. A designer's first task is to evaluate the nature of the learning required. Different knowledge needs require different models or approaches. For example, someone new to a particular field or in need of compliance training will benefit most from courses. Short-term knowledge needs (requirements which are not a part of a particular field, but needed for cross-over understanding when dealing with other professionals or a particular project) can often be provided by more information sources like magazines, websites, journals, and newsletters. More developed knowledge need (but with less structure than a course) can be met through apprentice-models like communities of practice.

More advanced and continual learning can best be provided through a networked or ecological view of learning. Capable, self-aware learners are able to identify and meet their own knowledge needs. This level of learning often occurs as a result of "living life". The process of living is in itself a learning experience that can result in the creation of a dynamic knowledge network, allowing learners to integrate new information with existing knowledge, enabling more effective decisions in work and personal affairs.

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The four domains of learning are as follows: 1. Accretion; 2. Transmission; 3. Acquisition; 4. Emergence. Please match them to the following:

Nature of learning

Indicate your answer by giving the number 1, 2, 3 or 4 corresponding to the 4 domains

Learner in control


Learning is continuous


Reflection on life experiences


Instructor in control


Learning by enquiry


Learning from variety of sources


Cognitive process


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