Learning Theories in Today’s Classrooms


Education is undergoing significant changes to ensure that every person has access to needed knowledge. Rapidly growing technologies and science, control of which is passed down to future generations, explain the need for accessible education. A fully inclusive educational process is one of the most important elements for reaching a successful outcome in personal development. Educators, on the other hand, must arrange the educational process responsibly, adhering to all inclusive education requirements. The application of multiple training ideas should diversify the educational process and ensure that all pupils have the essential prerequisites.

Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory focuses on the role of society in individual learning and cognitive development supported by contextual strategies applied to instruction. Language is viewed as an essential psychological tool for enhancing higher mental functions, as young children demonstrate elementary functions and acquire more complex characteristics and mnemonic devices through social interaction. The theory also includes the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), or the range of current and potential development mastered under instruction or problem-solving guidance (West, 2018). Notably, the differences between or within cultures are explored by sociocultural pedagogues because they provide distinct developmental routes.

The theory may be applied to instructional planning within the curriculum, as it can address the needs of young and adult learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. The sociocultural approach explains how learning occurs in an educational setting involving intersubjectivity and cultural diversity (West, 2018). Thus, the theory may provide a rationale for the decisions of curriculum planners and the application of collaborative activities for eliciting specific cognitive processes (memory, perception, reasoning, and language). Moreover, the theory demonstrates that scaffolding should be included in the design of activities because it increases learners’ motivation, while its gradual removal requires students to effectively use memory.

Considering the theory’s focus on auditory instruction and linguistic communication, activities relying on scaffolding techniques and cultural interaction might be recommended. A structured team-based problem-solving activity involving various cultural contexts will allow learners to gain knowledge through collective exploration, the generation of solutions, and learning from mistakes and failures (Timmo, 2020). Exercises exposing students to failure-driven scaffolding result in the development of constructive reasoning. Additionally, a game show/quiz activity requiring learners to write down and read aloud the answers to a set of culturally relevant questions encourages the use of language and helps develop active listening skills during group discussions.


The Connectivism theory proposed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes approaches learning as a collaborative process between individuals and groups and encourages the exchange of ideas to produce and spread knowledge. The theory addresses the use of digital technology and supports the diversity of opinions facilitated by online communities. The theorists value continuous learning over existing knowledge and suggest that new ideas are produced by connecting the sources of information (nodes) (Utecht & Keller, 2019). The benefits of online learning motivate instructors to implement gamification strategies to engage and retain students, especially in higher education settings (Costello, 2019). Connectivism also promotes adequate decision-making through accurate and current knowledge.

Connectivism applies to instructional planning within the curriculum and offers the tools to facilitate the planning process through technology use, interactive activities, and inclusive communication, enhancing learners’ motivation. Instructional planning should include learning goals and explore the ways learning occurs in a specific setting. The connectivism approach attaches importance to distinguishing relevant facts from irrelevant ones, which means that the instruction planner should be cautious in regulating the direction of discussions and activities, especially in online classrooms. Thus, instructional strategies and resources included in the curriculum should address the learners’ need to form meaningful connections and experience the diversity of viewpoints.

According to the characteristics of connectivism, instructional activities should involve auditory and visual learning and reading and writing exercises. For example, an appropriate activity may focus on watching a video on a controversial topic and discussing it in a classroom or online. The exercise will allow learners to engage in collaborative discussion and produce new knowledge by combining diverse opinions presented by the participants. Another instructional activity is based on gamification and assisting learners in connecting and maintaining the nodes of information (Costello, 2019). An interactive digital quest or a mission related to the current learning problem/topic may be employed by instructors to support collaboration or individual learning. The activity might motivate learners by rewarding them with points or badges for different achievements (creativity, accuracy, demonstration of certain skills).

Adult Learning Theory (Andragogy)

Adult learning theory, or andragogy, was developed by Malcolm Knowles, who noticed the differences between learning in children and adults. The theory opposes pedagogy and focuses on the self-directed learning process with minimal instruction. Adult learners may enjoy the benefits of results-driven instruction due to the considerable role of students’ motivation and hands-on experience (Western Governors University, 2020). New information should be understood and interpreted by learners rather than memorized because diminished neural connections in adults require them to establish pathways in the brain through practical activities.

Andragogy can be applied to instructional planning as it describes the strengths and weaknesses of adult learners. Moreover, the theory explores a broad range of learning types, and this consideration is vital for the success of diverse adult learners. The curriculum should be flexible and responsive to the needs of students, such as adequate length of classes or the selection of instructional materials. Task-oriented, self-directed, and professionally applicable instructional activities should be employed to align the curriculum with adult learners’ abilities, expectations, and motivation.

The theory does not limit the choice of activities used by the instructor and encourages individual preferences and abilities of adult learners who may be unresponsive to traditional reading/writing instruction. Role-play can be a proper activity for kinesthetic learners, as it involves the use of practical techniques, simulates real-life workplace situations, and allows the participants to comprehend new information. Alternatively, visual and auditory learners may improve their professional knowledge by performing a task-oriented activity consisting of a presentation and a brainstorming session. During the session, the learners can contribute their prior experiences to approach specific problems and present solutions visually (i.e., mind maps, and infographics).


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

Timmo. D. (2020). Structured problem-solving (classroom). The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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.

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ChalkyPapers. "Learning Theories in Today's Classrooms." April 13, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/learning-theories-in-todays-classrooms/.