3.2.9 Further Reflection on the Usefulness of Learning Theories

In this section of Unit 3 you will consolidate your study of the learning theories covered in the unit and further consider those theories’ relevance in the context of your own life and experiences.

The next activity is the final required activity for Challenge 3: The Theory Challenge.

Activity 3.19: Learning Theories and Their Relevance

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes for this task.

This is a required activity for Challenge 3: The Theory Challenge.

You have encountered four main theories/sets of theory in this unit. These are:

  1. Learning theories developed by psychology (Sections 3.2.2 and 3.2.4).
  2. Ideas about the different contexts of learning, for example, the difference between informal and formal learning (Section 3.2.6).
  3. Communities of practice theory (Section 3.2.7).
  4. Entwistle’s theory of student approaches to learning (Section 3.2.8).

You also learned about the Johari Window, which is closely grounded in learning theory, in Section 3.1.4.

For this activity you are required to complete a quiz [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   where you identify the main features of the learning theories you have studied and to consider each theory’s possible relevance in the context of your own learning.

You should return to this section when you have completed this activity.


Well done! If you’ve returned to this page having completed the “learning theories and their relevance” activity, and have also completed the other Challenge 3 required activities, you have now completed the Theory Challenge! Your Activity Record should now show Challenge 3: The Theory Challenge as completed.

Activity 3.20: Reflecting on the Theory Challenge

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Whether or not you completed the Theory Challenge, now would be a good time to further reflect on your feelings about the challenges in Learning to Learn.

Make an entry in your Learning Journal with the title “Reflecting on the Theory Challenge.” Then, make some notes in response to some/all of the following questions:

  • If you completed the Theory Challenge, how did you feel before and after you completed it? For example, were you anxious about completing the challenge or did you feel you could take it in your stride?
  • If you did not complete the Theory Challenge, why was this? Do you think you will return to the challenge later?
  • Whether or not you completed the challenge, how do you now feel about the remaining Learning to Learn challenges?


Again, it would be difficult to guess your responses to the questions above. If you decided not to complete the Theory Challenge at the moment you will have your own reasons for this and may have recorded them in your Learning Journal. If you completed the challenge you may have said something about how you felt afterwards, or whether it was easier or more difficult than any other challenges you have already completed. Whether or not you completed the Theory Challenge it is a great achievement that you have reached this part of the course.

It is impossible to guess what you think about the theories and ideas you have met so far in Learning to Learn. It is possible to argue that the psychological learning theories are useful. This springs from the fact that they adopt a basic stance toward learning that suggests we all learn because we all interact with our environment. This means that learning is not just something that “smart” people do. This can help place our past learning in context. It can also highlight that some past learning may not have been very useful. So it could underline the need for our plans to include learning that supports our development rather than getting in the way of it.

With the ideas about different contexts of learning, we are getting much closer to the situations in which learning happens. Thinking about the detail of these contexts highlights some important issues. There is the issue of other people being involved in your learning. Sometimes who these other people are, and the role they have, help to establish whether the learning is formal or informal. An awareness of the range of learning contexts seems to be useful in similar ways to the psychological theories. It helps to emphasize that learning goes on in many different contexts and that we are able to respond to many of these contexts. This is really another reminder that we have a tendency to learn in whatever social situation we find ourselves. This raises an interesting question. If we are able to learn freely in some situations, what stops us from learning in others?

You have already begun considering the role of others in the learning process, for example in exploring the communities of practice theory. In Unit 4 you will have the opportunity to extend your learning on this topic to include the study of online learning communities. Social learning online will also be the focus of Challenge 4: The Social Learning Challenge.

In the final sections of Unit 3 you will extend your study of learning theories by exploring the ways in which studying these theories has developed your academic and “real world” skills. Approaches to Learning

3.3 Preparing to Move On—Connecting Theory with Skills