Learning Theory

Learning Theory

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Attempts to describe how people learn, by helping to understand the inherently complex process of learning. [1] There are three main perspectives in learning theories:
Theories Content
Behaviorism Theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning and that all the things that organisms do, including acting, thinking and feeling can and should be regarded as behaviors that can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental state. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment, and there are two major types of conditioning:
  • Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a stimulus is paired with a response.
  • Operant conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence.

According to the notions of operant conditioning an effective way of teaching would be to make the learners practice and to give them a reward for the correct responses. This reward could be represented by the knowledge of results. Whether the learners understand why the answer is correct or not is not considered to be a relevant aspect of learning.

Cognitivism The theory of cognitivism incorporates mental structure and processes into learning theories. According to this theory learning occurs when learners are able to add concepts and ideas to their knowledge by recognizing a relationship between something they already know and what they are learning. The focus of cognitivism emphasizes the internal processes and structures inferred through the observation of behavior. knowledge can be transferred from the outside of the mind to its inside, and is related to the mental processes concerning how the integration and retrieval of information is operated. Learning is seen as a willful activity, requiring attention and energy. As a result, issues of perception, techniques of gathering learner attention, and motivating learners are central.
Constructivism Theory of learning suggesting that, people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When a person encounters something new, he reconciles it with previous ideas and experience, maybe changing believes, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, the learner is an active creator of his own knowledge. To do this, he must ask questions, explore, and assess what is already known. Learners and trainers should work together to construct meanings, rather than having these meanings pre-determined or prescribed in advance for the learner by the instructor. The basic assumptions of constructivism are the followings:
  • Constructivism believes that knowledge is constructed, not transmitted.
  • Knowledge is embedded in activity.
  • Knowledge is anchored in and indexed by the context in which the learning activity occurs.
  • Meaning is in the mind of the knower.

Meaning making is prompted by a problem, question, confusion, disagreement, or dissonance and so involves personal ownership of that problem.

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Link Content
A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories This helpful infographic does a solid job of breaking down the basics of learning theories in a visual and understandable format.
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  1. Designing Successful E-Learning, Allen’s M, 2007. The operational analysis of psychological terms, Skinner B.F. 1984. www.learningcircuits.org (29 July 2008), www.13.org (29 July 2008), www.answers.com/topic/learning-theory (29 July 2008), www.psu.edu (29 July 2008) , www.learningguru.com (29 July 2008), olt.ubc.ca/distance_learning (29 July 2008), www.learning-theories.com (29 July 2008)