Introduction of the higher learning stage of the spiral model of learning.

Through researching my blogs, I believe that there are two main areas where teaching is flawed. Firstly the focus of the class is more on goals than learning. Secondly the idea every class can use the same model to fit all situations in learning.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously said, “life is a journey, not a destination” (Emerson, n.d.). I feel that this quote has great precedence in education. Due to the extrinsic motivation, the current educational system  is fixated upon the destination but does not focus on the learning experience.

I have come up with two models, which observe higher learning and teaching.  Teaching follows a cyclic model, while learning is an upward spiral. The model of higher education uses an upward spiral because education is continuous, and every level increases understanding. Each level of the spiral represents a level of knowledge based on Wheeler’s (n.d.) pyramid (figure 1). The part of the spiral, which I am presenting in this blog, will only observe the transformation stage of learning. It seems the transformation stage is more representative of higher learning. This is because transformation refers to “knowing why” thought analysis and evaluation (Wheeler, n.d.). According to Knight & Yorke (2013) analysis and evaluation are forms of higher learning.


Fig 1. The different stages of understanding.

According to Barr & Tagg (1995) in the current education system there is a fundamental difference between teaching and learning. These new models will look at how the cycle of teaching and the higher learning stage of the spiral model of learning (higher learning stage) occurs. As well as how the higher learning stage is a more effective way of educating university students as shown on my previous blogs.

Another theme, which has been concurrent, throughout my blogs is technology. This blog will observe how technology  can help implement the higher learning spiral segment.


Fig 2. The cycle of teaching.

The cycle of teaching (figure 2.) starts when students are given goals, which will lead to reward or punishments.  Rewards cause students to learn the information (psuf10, 2013; Barr & Tagg, 1995). When the students reach the end of their goal, they gain feedback. Based on this feedback they are punished or rewarded. After receiving their rewards the information which they have learned is perceived as useless (psuf10, 2013; Cooke et al., 2011). Thus after the reward is gained, students will discard information they gain (psuf10, 2013; Huizenga et al., 2009). This procedure will occur again for a new goal. Motivation from the rewards occurs throughout this cycle. New goals and rewards renew this motivation.

According my blog (psuf10, 2013; Glover, 2013) current learning is based on rewards, goals and feedback. In many blogs in science of education there has been emphasis to the negative effects of extrinsic learning. These negative effects are decreased implicit motivation and creativity (psuf10; Eisenberger & Shanock, 2003). Students are motivated by extrinsic rewards, thus when not given a reward they tend to not complete tasks (psuf10, 2013, Barr & Tagg, 1995).


Fig 3. The higher learning stage of the model of spiral of learning.

When students have enough understanding from the pervious stage they progress to the higher learning stage (figure 3.). The higher learning stage starts when students are given a broad interpretation goal (BIG). A BIG is a non-specific goal given by teachers, which doesn’t have strict guidelines on how students approach the goal. This allows for integration of the BIG into students own personal goals. BIG is based on research by Deci and Ryan (2004) on Organismic Integration Theory (OIT) I have mentioned in my previous blog (psuf10, 2013). The idea behind using a BIG comes from the part MUSIC model (psuf10, 2013; Jones, 2009) called empowerment. Empowerment allows students to learn independently while the OIT allows for teachers to give some structure to learning.

After receiving a BIG, students will have to learn the topic. How students can learn such information is through cognitive skills, which is mentioned in a blog of a fellow classmate (Wilkins, 2013); Yang et al., 2011). All of these skills can be observed in figure 4.


Fig 4. List of cognitive skills (Yang et al., 2011).

Examples of these skills have been mentioned in my blogs: investigation (psuf10, 2013; Garrison, 2011), creating (psuf10, 2013; Leland & Kasten, 2002) etc.

Many of these cognitive skills (figure 1.) are based around intrinsic learning, which according to (psuf10, 2013; Eisenberger & Shanock, 2003) is better for learning information.

Throughout the higher learning stage, students are kept engaged by aspects of the music model (psuf10, 2013; Jones, 2009). In the model the main aspect is interest. If a student is interested in the topic, they are motivated to do work (psuf10, 2013; Jones, 2009). Thus they will be willing to complete another BIG, starting the cycle all over again. This occurs until the students understanding reaches a point, where there is no need for a BIG, the learning is all internalised. I believe this should be one of the aims of learning, giving a student an interest in learning.

Another aspect of my blogs have been that how technology has affected the classroom environment. Technology has two main impacts on a classroom, change in organisation and change in mentality. As I have mentioned in my blogs, technology allows for a more student centred approach. A is key for cognitive skills in the higher learning stage. Examples of this are the use of smartboards for student presentations (psuf10, 2013; Preston & Mowbray, 2008), the internet as medium for student based learning (psuf10, 2013; Simpson, 2013), etc.

Secondly technology has caused a shift in mentality towards technology enhanced learning environments (TELE) (Lim & Chai, 2008). TELE is mentioned in my blog about learning environment (psuf10, 2013). I mentioned a paper by Campbell et al., (2013) who clearly stated that the introduction of technology is changing shape of a classroom. This shift will hopefully improve the shape and layout of classrooms to be more appropriate for group and implicit learning (psuf10, 2013).

I have observed throughout my blogs that technology is allowing for such ideas to be introduced. However it cannot solely fix the current education system. There is a requirement for a complete change in the mind-set by personnel in education in the way students should be taught (psuf10, 2013).

Overall the main point which I have drawn from blogs and reading, is there needs to be a drastic shift towards a dynamic model of student education. Technology can help for this shift to become a reality.


Emerson, R. (n.d.). Ralph Waldo Emerson > Quotes. In Goodreads. Retrieved November 29, 2013, from

Psuf10. (2013, November 22). Boulevard of broken theories: User-centred gamification [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Wheeler, S. (n.d.). Learning Theories for the Digital Age [Online Slideshow]. Retrieved from

Knight, P., & Yorke, M. (2013). Learning, curriculum and employability in higher education. Routledge.

Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning—A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change: The magazine of higher learning27(6), 12-26.

Cooke, L. J., Chambers, L. C., Añez, E. V., & Wardle, J. (2011). Facilitating or undermining? The effect of reward on food acceptance. A narrative review.Appetite57(2), 493-497.

Huizenga, J., Admiraal, W., Akkerman, S., & Dam, G. T. (2009). Mobile game‐based learning in secondary education: engagement, motivation and learning in a mobile city game. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning25(4), 332-344.

Glover, I. (2013). Play as you learn: gamification as a technique for motivating learners.

Jones, B. D. (2009). Motivating students to engage in learning: The MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education21(2), 272-285.

Wilkins, C. (2013, November 1). Are current assessment methods beneficial to the student? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Yang, D., Richardson, J. C., French, B. F., & Lehman, J. D. (2011). The development of a content analysis model for assessing student’s cognitive learning in asynchronous online discussion. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(1), 43-70. DOI:

Eisenberger, R., & Shanock, L. (2003). Rewards, intrinsic motivation, and creativity: A case study of conceptual and methodological isolation. Creativity Research Journal15(2-3), 121-130.

Leland, C. H., & Kasten, W. C. (2002). Literacy education for the 21st century: It’s time to close the factory. Reading &Writing Quarterly18(1), 5-15.

Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. Taylor & Francis.

Preston, C., & Mowbray, L. (2008). Use of SMART Boards for teaching, learning and assessment in kindergarten science. Teaching Science, 54(2), 50-53.

Simpson, O. (2013). Supporting students in online, open & distance learning. Routledge.

Lim, C. P., & Chai, C. S. (2008). Rethinking classroom-oriented instructional development models to mediate instructional planning in technology-enhanced learning environments. Teaching and Teacher Education24(8), 2002-2013.

Campbell, M., Saltmarsh, S., Chapman, A., & Drew, C. (2013). Issues of teacher professional learning within ‘non-traditional’classroom environments.Improving Schools16(3), 209-222.

Psuf10. (2013, October 4). Handwritting vs. Typing when taking notes [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Psuf10. (2013, October 11). How technology has changed teh face of education [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Psuf10. (2013, October 25). Boulevard of Broken theories: MUSIC model of academic motivation [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Psuf10. (2013, November 1). Boulevard of broken theories: An introduction to teh inquiry model. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Psuf10. (2013, November 15). Boulevard of broken theories: Moos’ Model of Learning Environments. [Web log post]. Retrieved from


8 thoughts on “Introduction of the higher learning stage of the spiral model of learning.

  1. zzeiger says:

    Within your blog, figure 2 shows the cycle of teaching. However, arguably the learning process could be in the centre of the circle also. Learning is a constant process throughout the education system and doesn’t just occur at a single static point. In this way, I would imagine that there is knowledge, application of knowledge, and acquisition of critical thinking in terms of a traditional learning model. Learning is fundamentally different from these stages because it is much broader. Learning can be gained from feedback and from gaining rewards. People can adapt their initial ideas through feedback and then gain an idea of their achievements through the rewards they obtain. If students get effective feedback and rewards for work done, this may allow for them to learn how to set their own goals for the future in order to gain the rewards. Reward may also be in the achievement aspect via the dopaminergic system and does not need to come from the teacher*1. Effective feedback could be enough of a reward for the student to know that they have done well, which could boost subsequent performance *2.
    I like that you have tried to construct your own models of learning within the educational setting. I think that this is an interesting idea and many people have come up with distinct notions and ideas about how to harness effective learning in the classroom. I think one of the main issues within the educational paradigm is the lack of research-based evidence to support the ideas for learning models and theories. This means that fundamentally, it is down to personal choice as opposed to empiricism when teachers decide to adopt a certain method for teaching. This makes it difficult to confirm or deny the effectiveness of the majority of logically reasoned theories within the teaching method.


  2. psuf10 says:

    I totally agree with you that learning is a constant process thought education however my blog that learning is not the main focus of education (Barr & Tagg, 1995). Thus I don’t think that learning should be in the centre of the model, if the current educational system is based around teaching. The evidence is many areas of education are designed to make teaching easier or more efficient however these implementations really do not always help learning. An example would be lectures, where there is no evidence at all for them being effective for leaning, however they make it easier to teach students in bulk (Redmond, 2013).

    Are the stages you are referring to the ones mentioned in Fig 1. (Wheeler, n.d.)? Maybe I didn’t construe what the pyramid shows clearly enough. The pyramid is showing the different stages of understanding information, not different stages of learning. The difference is; each stage can be learned in different ways, but for maximum understanding you need to follow each stage in order. If you look at slideshow by Wheeler (n.d.), it gives a more in-depth insight into the pyramid. As you state the current education system through the use of rewards and other methods can be used to gain each stage of learning. I also agree, the current system works for “some” people, but it does not work for everyone. According to Watrous (2013) the current educational system’s heavy use on out-dated factory techniques is the reason for the increasing number of high school dropouts. Throughout my blogs, I have found evidence that extrinsic motivation has negative impacts on learning (psuf10, 2013)
    However my blogs have observed a lot of research that states that the current education system is broken (Psuf10, 2013). This model does not have much evidence to back it up, but that is why I am putting it forward. There is so much research on why the current educational system is broken there needs to be more research on how it can be fixed.

    Psuf10. (2013, November 1). Boulevard of broken theories: An introduction to teh inquiry model. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
    Wheeler, S. (n.d.). Learning Theories for the Digital Age [Online Slideshow]. Retrieved from
    Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning—A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change: The magazine of higher learning, 27(6), 12-26.
    Redmond, J. (2013, October 11). Sit Down and Shut Up – The Restrictive Nature of Classrooms and Lectures [Web log post]. Retrieved from
    Psuf10. (2013, November 1). Boulevard of broken theories: An introduction to teh inquiry model. [Web log post]. Retrieved from
    Watrous, M. (2013). Transcending Creative Boundaries in Higher Education.

  3. Tristan says:

    One of the most useful and interesting areas others and I have investigated in this course is the research around achievement goal theory. What you wrote in the second paragraph on education being about the learning experience instead of being “fixated upon the destination” reminded me of the distinction between mastery and performance goals and the associated outcomes. It is important to include the approach-avoidance dimension as well and to consider the role of social goal in academic motivation (Cheng & Lam, 2013). I think this is one of the major issues in the education system.

    I very much agree with you that education should give students “an interest in learning”. In my synthesis blog I identified active student engagement and autonomy support as essential factors shared by several effective models of learning. Mazur (2009) says that a discipline such as physics can become boring when it is reduced to applying recipes to problem solving without any other mental exercise involved. Peer Instruction counteracts the negative effects of performance goals by focusing on increasing students’ conceptual understanding rather then requiring students to apply recipes to problem solving and regurgitate information (Mazur, 2009). In this way, according to Mazur (2009), interest for the subject can be produced.

    Cheng, R. W. Y. and Lam, S. (2013). The interaction between social goals and self-construal on achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38 (2), 136–148.

    Mazur, E. (2009): Confessions of a Converted Lecturer

  4. psuf10 says:

    Thank you for the interest in my blog. What I find fascinating about this topic is there are so many different studies, which have very similar themes but come under different names. I feel both types of goals can be fit in to the spiral model of learning. Mastery goals seem to be very much the transformation (Wheeler, n.d.) of understanding (Kristof-Brown & Stevens, 2001). The inquiry model, which I have mentioned in my previous blog (Psuf10, 2013), has very similar ideas in teaching. Both mastery goals and the inquiry model allowing the students to learn intrinsically learning (Psuf10, 2013; Leland & Kasten, 2002; Tristan, 2013).

    While Performance Goals are more related to the earlier areas of understanding, such as information and wisdom (Wheeler, n.d.). The models of these I haven’t yet put much thought to because these focus more on lower levels of education, such as high school and primary. However a really good program, which has been used for such goals, is the khan academy (which you have mentioned in your blogs (Tristan, 2013).

    Kristof-Brown, A. L., & Stevens, C. K. (2001). Goal congruence in project teams: does the fit between members’ personal mastery and performance goals matter?. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(6), 1083.
    Tristan. (2013, November 22). Active Student Engagement and Autonomy Support in Education [Web log post]. Retrieved from
    Leland, C. H., & Kasten, W. C. (2002). Literacy education for the 21st century: It’s time to close the factory. Reading &Writing Quarterly, 18(1), 5-15.

    Wheeler, S. (n.d.). Learning Theories for the Digital Age [Online Slideshow]. Retrieved from

  5. Jesse says:

    Testing for embedding LOL THIS this not the comment your looking for

  6. […] Psuf10. (2013, November 29). Introduction of the higher learning stage of the spiral model of learning. [Web log post]. Retrieved from… […]

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