Complex Learning Theories

Here is my first post in 2013.  Happy New Year.

There is an interesting post followed with a conversation on the Guide to 4 complex learning theories on FB, referred by Grainne Conole.

My comments:

Interesting guide. I have difficulties in interpreting some of the content of the infographic though:

1. Is the learning theorists for George Siemens with a basis include Vygotsky, Papert Clark and Social Constructivism? I found some similarities and differences between Connectivism and Social Constructivism, as I shared in my blog posts here and here.

2. On How learning occurs -distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns. My interpretation is: Network formations and connections – neural, conceptual, and external (people, information sources). This actually embraces all of the behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and social constructivism, situated learning, and COP as the levels of networks is not only socially situated and appropriated, but also conceptually (cognitively) recognised, interpreted, but also neurologically connected (formed, and reformed). I have summarised it here

3. Influencing factors – diversity of network. How about the strengths, types (openness), technological impact, and uniqueness (autonomy) of networks?

4. How transfer occurs – connecting to (adding nodes). There are many ways of connecting, and disconnecting (including filtering unwanted noise or distractions), and re-connecting, and the concept of connection could be at a micro and macro level.

5. Type of learning best explained – complex learning, rapid changing core, diverse knowledge sources. Upon closer examination, the type of learning would be based on the assumptions of learning. What is “best” explained? What sort of assumptions are made in classifying certain scenarios as complex learning? Here we might have to note whether we are referring to open or closed learning environment. Even in the case of closed learning environment, there could be complex learning when learners and agents interact and form connections in complex manners.


Hi Martyn Cooper, I think the Laurillard Conversational model is very useful in the case of “formal learning scenario”, especially under a “closed educational learning environment” where a teacher-student transactional model is defined. I have quoted that in my blog post too.


What would happen if the student becomes a teacher, and interacts with different sources (i.e. agents, information sources, and networks) and posts and shares his/her knowledge with others in the public and open space. He or she may be playing the role of both a teacher and student (a dual role), and could be internalizing the knowledge (the tacit knowledge) in particular, when reflecting on certain experiences.

So, the Conversational model could be both socially oriented (with an external agent, a teacher or peer), and also internally initiated (with oneself, or with an artifact, such as writings or pictures, etc.).

There are again certain assumptions here on learning, where I have briefly summarised under the Assumptions Theory. In summary, I am not sure if Laurillard Conversational model could be extended to include the internal conversation, as it seems to relate mainly to the social constructivist model of learning. What do you think Grainne Conole and Martyn Cooper?