Concepts of Teaching and Learning


On PGCAP700 today, there was a lengthy discussion about the concepts of teaching and learning. In this part of the module we covered the psychological theory which underpins educational design and the 3 key perspectives: associationist/empiricist, constructive and situative. As the psychology of learning is all about how people learn, neither psychological theory can be discouraged as people learn in different ways/methods.

How People Learn

The associationist/empiricist perspective looks at building on the learners previous experience by taking what is known and providing further detail that the learner can relate to. The example we used was teaching the subject of a hurricane. Learners will have no doubt experienced wind and the effects of strong wind (i.e. tree blowing in the wind), the teacher can then take this knowledge and describe a hurricane in this context. This perspective is seen as step-by-step learning, the learner will need to know about X to understand Y.

The constructive perspective is understanding by active discovery. People learn by actively exploring receiving feedback and making conclusions. The constructive perspective also works in social settings allowing understanding to take place through dialogue and collaboration with other learners. Problem Based Learning is a good example of where this may take place, people can gain a shared understanding, work collaboratively to draw up conclusions and receive feedback.

The situative perspective takes place when knowledge is situated in the practice of a community. People will learn by taking part in communities of practice, progressing there understanding through observation, reflection, mentorship and participation in community activities. It is common to see this in work-based learning scenarios where the learner is likely to be close to their practice.

Concepts of Teaching

We chatted about 3 concepts of teaching, these being: transmission, acquisition, and engagement. Transmission which is teacher focused is an outdated delivery mood and is less likely to be effective. Acquisition is more used in today’s teaching as it is student focused through demonstrations, dialogue, case studies, etc. Engagement is ideally where we want to be as the teaching has become ‘learning focused’, this concept of teaching is being used increasingly to encourage active learning where students share knowledge and exchange dialogue giving them ownership of there learning.


We want to encourage deep learning as opposed to surface learning. Surface learning means memorising, remembering facts, and is passive. Deep learning is when students actively search for meaning, make links and try to understand. Deep learning is encouraged by: learning by doing, using problem based learning (much like the real world), encouraging student reflection, allowing independent thinking, providing authentic real world tasks, issuing assignments that require more than just memory.

It is always a good idea to keep interacting with your students to make sure they are understanding the content, give them time to ask questions and engage with the material. This will make sure they are not getting lost in the subject and will encourage deep learning. This can be classed as the conversational approach, delivering the material in cycles; delivery, engagement.

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