2,500 Years of Learning Theory in 40 Minutes

2,500 Years of Learning Theory in 40 Minutes

If you’re curious about what an award-winning e-Learning professional, blogger and TED speaker with 30 years’ experience in the learning game thinks is good, bad and ugly in the history of theory and practice, then grab a bucket of popcorn.

Filmed at the Online Educa Berlin (OEB) conference in December 2015, Donald Clark presents a “whistle-stop tour” of approximately 100 key players who have made contributions to how we approach teaching and training in school and at work.

Be warned, Clark is a man of strong opinions, some of which are guaranteed to surprise and possibly shock a few viewers. For example, Clark does not believe social constructivism is a valid premise for teaching, he considers Piaget “the worst scientist in the world”, thinks Bloom’s taxonomy is outdated, views learning styles as “an evil”, NLP is a “ponzi scheme” with no value, Myers-Briggs (also a ponzi scheme) has “no science at all” to support it, Kirkpatrick’s 4-level model of training evaluation is “a complete waste of time” — as is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he “doesn’t buy” the concept of flow, views Seligman as “the pied piper of happiness”, doesn’t believe it’s HR’s role to push happiness in the workplace or get involved in the “emotional side” of workers’ lives, hates online courses and manuals that list “learning objectives”, is confident that “hole in the wall” learning is BS, and not only is mindfulness “nonsense” but also it’s also a “stupid fad”. And don’t even get him started on teaching Latin in schools.

Now that he’s got your attention, you’ll no doubt feel the play button calling to you to find out the reasons why. And, of course, you’ll also want to know what has been identified as the best ideas to emerge in learning theory. This speed-history talk is approached by clustering individuals by category (there are a total of 19 categories, as shown below).



Greeks Plato (428-348 BC) Aristotle (384-322 BC) Euclid and Pythagoras Socrates (469-399 BC)

Religious Leaders Confucius Buddha Jesus Mohammed

Religious Educators St Augustine (354-430) Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) Ibn Tufayl (1106-1185) Ignatius (1401-1556) Luther (1483-1546) Calvin (1509-1564)

Enlightenment Locke (1632-1704) Rousseau (1712-1778) Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Edgeworth (1744-1817) Pillians

Marxists Marx (1818-1883) Gramsci (1891-1937) Althusser (1918-1990) Habermas Chomsky

Constructivists Piaget (1896-1980) Vygotsky Bruner

Psychoanalysts Freud (1856-1923) Erikson (1902-1994) Rogers (1902-1987) Bandler

Schoolers Montessori (1870-1952) Steiner (1861-1925) Freire (1921-1997) Colbert Burt

Pragmatists James (1842-1910) Dewey (1859-1952) Schank

Behaviourists Pavlov (1849-1936) Thorndike (1874-1949) Skinner (1904-1990) Bandura

Cognitivists Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) Miller (1920-2012) Atkinson & Shiffrin Baddeley Tulving Ericsson Kandel

Instructionalists Mager Gagne (1916-2002) Kolb Bloom (1913-1999)

Holists Fleming Honey & Mumford Cross Csikszentmihalyi Seligman

Moralists Maslow (1908-1970) Kohlberg (1927-1987) Martin McLuhan (1911-1980) Postman (1931-2003)

Assessors Eysenck (1916-1997) Gardner Schleicher Myers-Briggs Kirkpatrick

Educationalists White Hattie Black & William Dweck

Online Technologists Berners-Lee Gates Page & Brin Jobs (1955-2011) Chen & Hurley Bezos Zuckerberg

Online Educationalists Papert Sperling (1921-2014) Gee Prensky Wales Dougiamas Khan Ng & Koller

Outsiders Illich (1926-2002) Gatto Harris Mitra Robinson Thiel



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