In today’s elluminate session, Stephen continued his Twitter rant about
“why we have so many learning / educational theories. Shouldn’t we have just one, that works? And the rest rejected?”.
See the recording at 33 – 44 mins. My “theory” about the proliferation of learning theories is as follows.
Many educators won’t admit to themselves that their own cognitive style is not the only best one that leads to the most effective learning. So naturally, there are problems to reconcile some students’ real learning processes with the predicted progress. And therefore, ever new theories are needed to describe the apparent discrepancies.
Even worse: When studies are conducted to reject a particular theory of underlying principles, the bias underlying the study setting and the bias of the experimentators, is likely to skew the results or yield the notorious “no significant evidence” (thanks to Glen for the bias video link!) One striking bias is already the measuring of short-term outcomes of a limited study period, which clearly favors a certain type of knowledge that is not typical for the gradually growing understanding of real-world relations.
Stephen observed that the “underlying principles” sort of theories are less frequent than the theories of taxonomies that merely describe the surface, and that the latter are the easier way. Given the pressure of young researchers to publish much and publish scientific evidence for their theories, it is understandable that this type of theories proliferates.
(Admitted, my above “theory” is very simplistic, and I won’t be able to provide statistical evidence for it!)