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Wednesday, June 18 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
CON3.11 – Educational Developers and Their Uses of Learning Theories: Conceptions and Practices (Room A313)

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This presentation reports on a study designed to understand how learning theories fit in the practice of educational developers; specifically, developers’ conceptions of learning theories, their use of theories, and, finally, factors that influence the way learning theories shape developers’ practice. To investigate these questions, a qualitative study was undertaken with eleven Canadian university educational developers. By taking an exploratory approach, while drawing upon learning theories and educational development literature, aspects of educational developers’ understanding and use of learning theories were highlighted.

The findings showed that educational developers in this study: (i) conceptualize learning theories as lowercase ‘lt’ as opposed to uppercase ‘LT’, and (ii) define learning theories based on their prior disciplines. These practitioners didn’t associate learning theories with formal academic theories aimed at understanding a situation; instead, they had formed their own synthesis of theories to help them perceive the characteristics of a particular situation. Also, the way the participants defined and conceptualized learning theories seemed to correspond to their prior disciplines and areas of study. Five definitions of learning theories were identified among educational developers: philosophy, language, educational-psychology, holistic, and neuroscience-based. In terms of how theories shape developers’ work, developers were categorized in three groups: (1) those who had a tendency to implicitly use learning theories –focusing more on practical explorations for achieving a desired outcome (seven in total); (2) developers who had a tendency to consciously use learning theories – taking more of a comprehensive approach by examining their assumptions and focusing on causes and effects that influence their practice (three in total); and, (3) one developer who had characteristics of both groups. Factors such as educational background, professional identities, and perceived audience readiness appeared to influence participants’ uses of learning theories. Seeing their work as part of a collective, and attending to the emotional needs of their audience also seemed to impact these practitioners’ work. Considering the limited research examining how educational developers conceptualize learning theories and the way theories inform their practice, this research contributes in generating discussions and future research in a community that continues to grow and situate itself within the higher education landscape.

By sharing highlights of my research, I intend to engage developers in critical thinking and help them articulate what they are trying to accomplish, how they will go about accomplishing this, and based on which learning theories. Through this process, educational developers will be able to subject their own theoretical claims and practices to analysis and thoughtfully revisit the views they hold regarding learning, knowledge, and teaching. I am hoping that the insights and recommendations discussed in this presentation will represent a vehicle for the ‘development of the developers’ and help them reflect on the relevance and effectiveness of their learning theories.

Wednesday June 18, 2014 3:30pm - 4:00pm EDT
A313 McArthur Hall

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