FocusConsiderations when using different media to support learning
- Knowledge is … information
- Knowing is … using information
- Learner is … a computer
- Learning is … inputting (and associated computer-based notions, such as processing, storing, and retrieving)
- Teaching is … transmission (of information)
SynopsisSymbol Systems is a theory of media-based learning. Its perspectives on learning are based on Information Processing Theory, and so both the learner and the medium of learning are described in terms of symbol-based processing. (Hence the theory’s name.) Key assertions include that different media rely on different mental processes, how one engages with and learns from a specific medium is dependent on one’s established knowledge, and social context can matter.
CommentarySymbol Systems is a good example of the consequences when a new theory of learning is proposed in absence of any sort of critical consideration of grounding metaphors. The theory’s deepest insights have the ring of common sense – culminating in the realization that amounts to the commonplace understanding that “you can’t separate what you teach from how you teach.”
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesGavriol Salomon
Status as a Theory of LearningSymbol Systems is not a theory of learning.
Status as a Theory of TeachingSymbol Systems is a theory of formatting experiences to support learning – that is, it is a theory of teaching.
Status as a Scientific TheorySymbol Systems lacks a substantial empirical base. Couple to its inattentiveness to its grounding metaphors, it meets none of our criteria for a scientific theory.
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Symbol Systems” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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