Advanced Learning Theories and Processes



The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky created a sociocultural theory in response to the conflicting ideas in psychology. From 1924-1934, The theorist produced a set of ideas establishing the framework of the theory, as he aimed to understand complex mental processes in children (West, 2018).


  1. Views social, historical, and cultural interactions as essential for the learning and cognitive development of humans and require the consideration of contextual instructional strategies and pedagogical solutions.
  2. Psychological tools, such as language, are seen as significant for the development of higher mental functions.
  3. Learning occurs within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), or the distance between the current and potential developmental levels, defined through problem-solving guidance and collaboration with a more knowledgeable other (MKO) (adult/peer).
  4. Acknowledges the differences between cultures and within the same culture, which result in varied developmental and learning routes (West, 2018).

The Role of Memory

Vygotsky maintained that children are born with elementary mental functions, such as associative memory, allowing them to remember the link between unrelated items. Through continuous social interaction, humans develop complex cognitive functions and adopt mnemonic devices used in their culture. The removal of scaffolding (visuals/supporting documents) requires learners to rely on their memory to reach the higher development level (West, 2018).

How Learning Occurs

The sociocultural approach suggests that learning occurs during social interactions between individuals and involves intersubjectivity (common understanding of an activity/task) (West, 2018). Instructional scaffolding provides support and motivation for learners, while collaborative activities promote critical thinking and knowledge application.

Types of Learning

The theory considers language and social interactions essential for the development of higher mental functions (independent thinking and learning). Diverse learners develop skills by hearing the information from the teacher/peer and verbally expressing ideas (West, 2018). The auditory learning type described in the VARK model is primarily used in sociocultural instruction because cognitive development depends on language/communication.



The theory first appeared in the 2004 article Connectivism: Learning as a Network Creation by George Siemens, focusing on social aspects of connections. In 2005, Stephen Downes published An Introduction to Connective Knowledge introducing the concept of connective knowledge and its non-human appliances (Western Governors University, 2021).


  1. Diversity of opinions promotes knowledge and learning, which is facilitated by online forums and Internet communities.
  2. Learning involves the connection of nodes and available information sources, allowing to production of new ideas (Utecht & Keller, 2019).
  3. Learning can reside in non-human appliances.
  4. Learning is more important than existing knowledge.
  5. Continual learning requires nurturing and maintenance of connections ensuring collaboration “across time and space” (Western Governors University, 2021).
  6. The core skill is to see connections between ideas, fields, and concepts.
  7. The aim of collectivist learning is accurate and up-to-date knowledge.
  8. Decision-making is a learning process because the changing reality alters the information that should be updated.

The Role of Memory

Sensory information (visual/auditory) from digital learning sources is processed and encoded by the brain, which forms symbolic constructs. Short-term memory is involved in connective learning because complete knowledge is non-existent, and personal knowledge should be regularly maintained.

How Learning Occurs

Learning occurs when diverse learners are connected and allowed to share ideas or opinions via a collaborative process within nebulous environments consisting of core fluctuating elements. The combination of different thoughts and ideas produces new knowledge and competence (West, 2018). Connectivism supports the spread of knowledge and allows individuals/groups to learn more regardless of their existing state of knowledge, but it requires the ability to distinguish important information from unimportant.

The Types of Learning

Considering the critical role of digital technology and the increased speed of accessing information, the main types of learning in connectivism are reading/writing, auditory, and visual. Gamification trends in technology-assisted education combine the learning types and guide students through the cycle of autonomy, mastery, and purpose (Costello, 2019).

Adult Learning Theories

Major Theorists

Malcolm Knowles developed the concept of andragogy, or the “art and science of helping adults learn” in 1980 and emphasized its contrast with pedagogy (Western Governors University, 2020). Jack Mezirow offered the theory of transformative adult learning, which involves dilemmas/challenging situations aiming to change learners’ perceptions of themselves and question their understanding of the world (Western Governors University, 2020). Alan Tough compiled the existing knowledge of adult learning to create a self-directed learning theory in the 1970s (Western Governors University, 2020). David Kolb combined the works of other psychologists and proposed the theory of experiential learning. Project-based learning theory was established in 1900 by John Dewey, promoting learning through action and practice.


Andragogy underlines the learner’s motivation, practical experience, and minimal instruction. The transformative theory assumes that learning experience changes individual thoughts and beliefs. Self-directed learning encourages an individual’s initiative in goal-setting, planning, evaluation, and improvement of the learning process without others’ assistance. The experiential theory supports the idea that past experience can improve learning. Project-based learning includes real-life scenarios to create realistic job-related projects and provides freedom to pursue individual interests.

The Role of Memory

Learners use past experiences and current understanding instead of memorizing new information. Adults experience trouble memorizing concepts due to weakened neural connections, but neuroplasticity allows to creation of new pathways for information/memories if proper activities (role-play) are utilized (Western Governors University, 2020).

How Learning Occurs

Adult learning depends on individual interests/beliefs and occurs from hands-on experiences, role-play, problem-solving, and reflection rather than hearing/reading to memorize facts. High internal motivation, past experiences, and the goal of self-improvement compensate for the weakened neuroplasticity. The learners are self-directed and actively participate in the planning, instruction, and assessment of their education (Western Governors University, 2020).

The Types of Learning

The theories involve a variety of learning types based on individual preferences of adult learners and unique applications. Hands-on activities are appropriate for kinesthetic learning, while presentations/videos support visual and auditory types. Reading/writing instruction might be employed for specific purposes, as adults find it difficult to attend traditional classes (Western Governors University, 2020).


Costello, R. (Ed.). (2019). Gamification strategies for retention, motivation, and engagement in online education: Emerging research and opportunities. Information Science Reference.

Utecht, J., & Keller, D. (2019). Becoming relevant again: Applying connectivism learning theory to today’s classrooms. Critical Questions in Education, 10(2), 107–119.

West, R. E. (Ed.) (2018). Foundations of learning and instructional design technology: The past, present, and future of learning and instructional design technology. EdTech Books.

Western Governors University. (2020). Adult learning theories and principles. WGU. Web.

Western Governors University. (2021). Connectivism learning theory. WGU. Web.

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ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Advanced Learning Theories and Processes." October 27, 2023.

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ChalkyPapers. "Advanced Learning Theories and Processes." October 27, 2023.