Training a puppy begins the moment he/she enters your home, so it helps to have a good idea of what your long term expectations for your dog includes beforehand. For me, these include:

  • Human is boss – dog is bottom of the pack
  • Human enters and exits the house first
  • Dog does not jump on people, furniture, or doors (unless invited!)
  • Dog does not beg for food
  • Dog does not relieve himself in the house
  • Dog chews only his own toys
  • Dog walks nicely on leash (no dragging human down the road)
  • Dog does not mouth human (we are not food)
  • Dog obeys all basic obedience commands (sit, stay, come, down, off, no) and hopefully a lot more fun ones

And so the question is, how to I get my puppy to meet these expectations? How do I teach him?

Well, it begins by understanding how a puppy learns….how he/she acquires behaviours and knowledge. Understanding the principles behind reinforcement and guiding behaviours will help you teach your puppy the skills he needs to become a wonderful long-term companion.

When it comes to teaching my online college students, understanding how they learn helps me to guide their learning in effective and meaningful ways. In ETEC 512 (Applications of Learning Theories to Instruction) I went back to the basics to look at learning theories. We began by writing our personal theory of learning, which was followed by weeks of looking at different approaches to learning (behaviourist, cognitive, developmental, constructivism, and technology & learning). Throughout the course we were to create a concept map of these theories and to find connections between them, as well as implications for teaching.

At first I was frustrated by the process of creating a cMap using VUE (Visual Understanding Environment) software. I restarted mine a few times. Being a highly linear and chronological thinker, creating a cMap was a challenge. But as I went, I began to reflect and see connections in new ways.

Making this cMap really helped me to reflect on learning theories and how I see the different theories integrated in my approach to teaching. Thinking about how my online students learn, and how different learning theories apply to online learning within the vocational program in which I teach, was an important step in my increasing understanding of  eLearning.

In my Personal Learning Theory – Revisited (2011) I stated:

No single theory can account for all aspects of learning in all settings.  I am a college instructor in a vocational field. In this context, I see the way my students learn as emerging primarily developmental and cognitive ideologies within a nurturing and apprenticeship perspective .

Developmental approaches to learning incorporate a balance between heredity and environment.  Creating authentic learning situations, incorporating both individual and collaborative activities, and utilizing active learning methods help to facilitate learning. Vygotsky emphasizes the social and cultural context of learning, and teaching within the zone of proximal learning. By using prompts, clues, modelling, explanations, leading questions, discussions, joint participation, and encouragement instructors guide and scaffold student learning. Ausbel’s “Theory of Meaningful Learning” includes student choice in the learning process, and affirms the need for students to relate new information to what they already know in an organized manner. Opportunities to engage in receptive and discovery learning make learning meaningful. 

Pratt (2002) discusses different perspectives on teaching, including transmission, developmental, apprenticeship, and nurturing. Looking at learning theories through these perspectives affirmed what I value in my role as an instructor of a vocational college program. My cMap was highly instrumental in helping me to identify and articulate my personal theory of learning. Perhaps I should create a concept map to look at how to teach our Australian Shepherd a few things about food stealing now!