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What are the Theories of Learning?

Theories of Learning

Learning theory defines how pupils absorb, process, and remember knowledge during learning. Understanding, or a world perspective, is gained or altered, and information and skills are kept, all of which are influenced by cognitive, emotional, and contextual factors and past experience.

Learning is viewed as a form of conditioning by behaviourists, who argue for a reward and target system in education. Educators who believe in cognitive theory argue that learning as a change in behaviour is too restrictive and instead focuses on the learner rather than the environment, especially when it comes to the complexity of human memory.

Constructivists think that a learner’s capacity to learn is primarily dependent on what they already know and understand and that knowledge acquisition should be a personalised process of creation. The transformative learning theory focuses on the often-required shift in a learner’s assumptions and worldview.

Current and future instructors must be trained to be prepared to teach kids daily, and recognising different learning styles is a vital component of that education. Teachers can benefit from a variety of well-established learning theories as they prepare to assist students in the classroom. (Theories of Learning)

Teachers that are familiar with learning theories can employ a variety of approaches in their classes to accommodate various types of learning. This can assist all pupils in achieving academic achievement.

Although education theories did not begin in earnest until the early twentieth century, the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were interested in how people learn. They investigated whether knowledge and truth might be discovered internally (rationalism) or outside (observation) (empiricism).

Psychologists began to answer this topic with scientific investigations in the 19th century. The idea was to investigate how people learn objectively and then build teaching methods to match.

The argument between educational theorists in the twentieth century was concentrated on behaviourist theory vs cognitive psychology. Or, to put it another way, do humans learn by reacting to external stimuli or by constructing knowledge from external facts using their brains?

What are the 4 Theories of Learning?

The 4 Theories of learning are Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, Cognitive Theory, and Social Learning Theory.

Learning is defined as a person’s personal development resulting from cooperative engagement with others. Understanding allows learners to operate better in their environment, develop and adjust their behaviour, form and sustain healthy relationships, and achieve personal achievement. (Theories of Learning)

4 theories of learning diagram
4 Theories of Learning diagram

If an individual behaves, interacts, and responds differently from others due to experiences, that individual has learned something. Some of these theories are:

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is conditioning in which a person reacts to stimuli that would not usually elicit such a reaction. It is the process of learning to link a specific object in our surroundings to a prediction of what will occur next.

Classical conditioning, or the connection of one experience with another desired occurrence that results in behaviour, is one of the most straightforward learning processes. When we think of classical conditioning, the first person who comes to mind is Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov.

The flavour of food is a common stimulation for saliva flow. However, the sheer sight of juicy peach, hearing it described, or even thinking about it may make the mouth water. To induce action, one set is swapped with another.

A conditioned stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus are used in classical conditioning. The meat served as an unconditioned stimulus, causing the dog to behave predictably.

theories of learning
Theories of Learning

The unconditioned response was the reaction that happened anytime an unconditioned stimulus occurred. The bell served as a conditioned stimulus in this case. When the bell was delivered alone, it finally elicited a reaction combined with the meat. This is a learned behaviour.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning is the second form of conditioning.

We learn that a reward or punishment frequently follows specific conduct in this section. B.F. Skinner, a Harvard psychologist, did for operant conditioning what Pavlov achieved for classical conditioning.

According to operant conditioning, one’s conduct will change depending on the situation. People will continuously act in a certain way to reap the rewards.

On the other hand, they will endeavour to avoid any activity that may result in their receiving nothing. Skinner suggested that by associating pleasant consequences with certain types of conduct, the frequency of that activity will grow. B.F. Skinner, a psychologist, trained rats to press a lever to acquire food in one famous operant learning experiment. In this experiment, a hungry rat was placed in a box with a lever linked to some hidden food.

At first, the rat scurried about aimlessly in the box. The lever was accidentally pressed during this operation, and the food fell into the box. The falling of food reinforced the act of pressing the lever. The rat learnt to push the lever for food after several repetitions of pressing the lever and falling food.

If desired actions are favourably rewarded, people are more inclined to engage in them. When rewards are given right after the intended reaction, they are most effective. In addition, non-rewarding or punishing conduct is less likely to be repeated.

Consider the following scenario: you work for ‘X’ Bank Limited. Your Branch Manager mentioned in a meeting that if you can deliver the bank a $100,000,000 deposit, you will receive a bonus. You put forth a lot of effort and discovered that you were successful.

Cognitive Theory

Cognition is a term that describes a person’s thoughts, knowledge of interpretations, understandings, or ideas about himself and his surroundings. This is a method of learning that entails engaging in active and productive mental processes, such as practising or recalling information.

You may have been taught to tell time by gazing at a clock as an example. You may have had to practise telling the time when you first learned the significance of the large and little hands.

There were no physical movements or actions involved in this learning process. It was completely cognitive in the sense that it was all based on internal thought. The hypothesis has been used to describe mental processes as they are impacted by intrinsic and external variables, resulting in individual learning. (Theories of Learning)

Social Learning Theory

The social learning hypothesis, often known as observational learning, emphasises an individual’s ability to learn by witnessing what others do rather than just being informed about something. Models, parents, professors, classmates, motion pictures, T.V. artists, bosses, and others may teach you something.

theories of learning complete learning
Theories of Learning complete learning

Many behavioural patterns are learned by witnessing others’ actions and seeing their consequences. The primary difficulty in this theory is claimed to be the effect of models. The 4 processes in Social Learning Theory are:

Attention process

People can only learn from a model if they notice and pay attention to its key characteristics. The student will not be able to learn anything if they are not paying attention. We are most influenced by beautiful models who are frequently available and whom we believe are significant or similar to us.

Retention process

The impact of a model is determined by how well people recall the model’s behaviours after the model is no longer available.

Motor reproduction process

After viewing the model and witnessing a new behaviour, the watching must be turned to doing. It entails recalling the model’s behaviours and conducting one’s own actions, and comparing them to the model’s. (Theories of Learning)

Reinforcement process

If positive incentives or prizes are offered, people are more likely to mimic the modelled behaviour. Positively rewarded behaviour receives greater attention, is better learnt, and is repeated more frequently.

Finally, social learning theory may be defined as a function of outcomes. It also recognises the relevance of perception in learning and the presence of observational learning.

The learner must first identify the desired behaviour and then choose the proper model and modelling medium in this situation. Then they should set up a positive learning atmosphere and watch the model. (Theories of Learning)

If positive reinforcement is associated with this activity, the learners will strive to remember and apply it in practice.

How to apply Theories of Learning in Teaching?

Teachers can use these learning theories in their classrooms by developing particular tactics and procedures. Teachers must initially focus on obtaining a well-rounded education to learn about a variety of teaching and classroom management strategies. Teachers must be familiar with learning theories to implement them in their classrooms.

Understanding learning theories allow teachers to interact with a wide range of pupils. Teachers can target multiple learning styles to reach different students, resulting in instruction that is tailored to the specific needs and abilities of each student.

Why are Theories of Learning Important to Understand?

The need for knowledge is a natural aspect of human existence. As a result, many scientists, psychologists, and thought leaders have made a profession out of researching learning theories. Understanding how individuals learn is an essential first step toward improving learning.

This is why teacher colleges and educator preparation programmes devote so much time to human development and diverse learning theories for teacher candidates. For all educators to be their most successful teachers in the classroom, they must have a foundational understanding of how people learn, especially how a kid learns and grows intellectually.

Educational theories have a range of effects on learning. Learning theory examples might influence teachers’ approaches to education and classroom management. Finding the correct technique (even if it involves merging two or more learning theories) might be the difference between a successful and inspirational classroom experience and one that is not.

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