How People Learn 2

For this quest, I will be evaluating two of my peers learning theory mash-ups using John Bransford’s “How People Learn” Theory  (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). According to Bransford, there are four main elements to how people learn: Learner, which is the characteristics of the learner, Community, which is how the learners interact and the social aspect of learning, Knowledge, or what can be known and is known, and Assessment, or how feedback plays a role in learning. Through these four characteristics, I evaluated the work of Linda Boveda and Jason Ward.

Linda Boveda’s infographic can be found here. Her mash-up theory combines Constructivism and Social-Connectedness and Cognitive Connectedness to suggest that “Through gaming experiences, learners construct meaning and make social connections” (Boveda). Jason Ward created a mash-up video that can be found here. His theory connects constructivism and connectivism to witness the overlap between the two. He suggests that the overlap between construction and connectivism is that learning is social and contextual, an active process, builds upon what we know and can know, and motivation is key.

Learner: Bransford emphasizes the importance of the instructor understanding his or her learners prior to instruction. In this way, instructors can better meet the needs of their learners and anticipate the misconceptions and additional instruction they might need. Boveda’s learning theory invites students to game and construct meaning through such, so the instructor does not necessarily have this role. Maybe if the instructor places students at a certain level or tailors which games students play based on their characteristics, this would fit nicely with her theory. Ward’s theory definitely hits on learner characteristics through the emphasis on learner motivation- in order to understand what motivates learners, the instructor must know and understand their learners.

Community: Bransford suggests that there is a strong social aspect within learning. Boveda’s learning theory definitely fits within this element. Learners work together in gaming to develop strategy and compete amongst and between one another, which creates an interactive element. Ward’s theory fits within this element through the emphasis on connectivism. This aspect of his mash-up highlights how important the interconnectedness among learners is to meaning-making.

Knowledge: Bransford’s theory emphasizes that understanding what people know and need to know is fundamental to understand how people learn. He also suggests it is important to have clear objectives and targets for what the learning is expected to learn. With gaming, I think it is especially important that instructors are clear and intentional about what they want their students to know. Boveda’s learning theory definitely incorporates this element of scaffolding and clear objectives as students make meaning through gaming. Ward’s theory suggests that “the more we know, the more we can learn” – constructivism paired with “capacity is more important than what is currently known” – connectivism. This combination of the theories suggests that the most important aspect of knowledge is what can be known. It is a hopeful approach to how people learn.

Assessment: Bransford highlights the importance of assessment and feedback in learning. Games are full of regular formative assessment. This instant feedback is a great way for students to self-assess and learn as they go. It also creates a great level of scaffolding and differentiation because it only let’s them go as far as they are able and provides lots of opportunities to try again or be re-taught. Linda’s theory fits into this element because her theory utilizes gameplay to help students construct their own understandings. As they learn and develop mastery, they can advance levels at a pace that is appropriate to their skill set. Ward’s mash-up explains that learning is a process to be nurtured and supported. One way to support this process is to provide feedback as learners acquire new understandings.

Both mash-ups were really well done and provided great understanding to how people learn. Through each, I was able to more deeply consider what I do in my own classroom and how to better support my own class of learners.


Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school.  Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.


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