Informal mentoring

A Critical Friends Group is a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning. For more information see
This seems like a great way to introduce new and innovative teaching methods to the College of Medicine

Five theories about learning

How we teach is mediated by our own preferences and experiences of learning. Those experiences were often influenced by theories of learning popular in the educational institutions at the time we attended. Becoming a medical educator means thinking about these theories and how they could change the way we teach.

The aspects of learning obscured by one theory are illuminated in another -M. Driscoll

  1. Behaviorism (1890’s)
    • a direct result of industrial age’s need for workers
    • theorists Watson, Thorndike, Skinner
    • people are motivated to learn by a stimulus system of rewards and punishments
    • goal is behavioural change (shape the student to requirements of labour)
    • hierarchal/regimental in structure
    • instructor is the transmitter of knowledge

  2. Cognitivism (1950’s)
    • a direct result of early research about rapid learning in military environments combined with research into cognitive processing
    • theorists Piaget, Wilson, Ryder, Gagne
    • based on a process of systematic chunks of information, process, encode, product (information processing model)
    • focus is a change in thinking (Gagne’s Events of Instruction)
    • people are motivated to learn by attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction
    • programmed learning modules
    • instructor involves learners to increase memory storage

  3. Constructivism (1970’s)
    • a direct result of increasing levels of education and research in early child development
    • theorists Vygotsky, von Glasersfeld, Bruner, Jonassen
    • people are motivated to learn by the context in which they interact (subculture, discipline, hobby)
    • problem-based learning, inquiry learning
    • the instructor should try and encourage students to discover principles for themselves
    • the instructor and student should engage in an active dialog (i.e., Socratic learning).

  4. Constructionism (1990’s)
    • people learn through making things with other people
    • theorists Papert, Shank
    • creation leads to deeper level of understanding than instruction
    • technology should actively engage students in creating
    • people are motivated to learn by a desire to complete project-based learning
    • instructor is a co-learner

  5. Connectivism (2000)
    • a direct result of exponentially increasing complex technological communications
    • theorists Siemens, Downes
    • students exist in multiple networks/communities of learning (ex. Blogs)
    • people are motivated by their need to make sense of multiple, frequently contradictory, nonlinear resources
    • learning is the rapid bringing together of dispersed information through neural activity
    • instructor is a network facilitator