Learning theories are conceptual frameworks describing how information is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning. Cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences, as well as prior experience, all play a part in how understanding, or a world view, is acquired or changed and knowledge and skills retained.
Behaviorists look at learning as an aspect of conditioning and will advocate a system of rewards and targets in education. Educators who embrace cognitive theory believe that the definition of learning as a change in behavior is too narrow and prefer to study the learner rather than their environment and in particular the complexities of human memory. Those who advocate constructivism believe that a learner’s ability to learn relies to a large extent on what he already knows and understands, and the acquisition of knowledge should be an individually tailored process of construction. Transformative learning theory focuses upon the often-necessary change that is required in a learner’s preconceptions and world view.
Outside the realm of educational psychology, techniques to directly observe the functioning of the brain during the
learning process, such as event-related potential and functional magnetic resonance imaging, are used in educational neuroscience. As of 2012, such studies are beginning to support a theory of multiple intelligences, where learning is seen as the interaction between dozens of different functional areas in the brain each with their own individual strengths and weaknesses in any particular human learner
What is Learning Theory?
In short, learning theories are abstract frameworks that describe how knowledge is received and processed during the learning experience. Learning theory informs the application of instructional design through models. Although there are multiple theories of learning, there are three principle foundations that influence most instructional design models today. These learning strategies include: behaviorist learning theory, cognitive learning theory, and constructivist learning theory.
Educational philosophy Classical theorists Plato (428?–347 BC) proposed the question(Learning Theories): How does an individual learn something new when the topic is brand new to that person? This question may seem trivial; however, think of a human like a computer. The question would then become:
How does a computer take in any factual information without previous programming? Plato answered his own question by stating that knowledge is present at birth and all information learned by a person is merely a recollection of something the soul has already learned previously, which is called the Theory of Recollection or Platonic epistemology. This answer could be further justified by the paradox of if a person knows something, then they will not need to question it and if a person does not know something, then they will not know to question it at all. Plato says that if one did not previously know something, then they cannot learn it. He describes learning as a passive process, where information and knowledge are ironed into the soul over time. However, Plato’s theory elicits even more questions about knowledge: If we can only learn something when we already had the knowledge impressed onto our souls, then how did our souls gain that knowledge in the first place? Plato’s theory can seem convoluted; however, his classical theory can help us understand knowledge today still
John Locke (1632–1704) offered an answer to Plato’s question as well. John Locke offered the “blank slate” theory where humans are born into the world with no innate knowledge. He recognized that something had to be present, however. This something, to John Locke, seemed to be “mental powers”. Locke viewed these powers as a biological ability the baby is born with, similar to how a baby knows how to biologically function when born. So as soon as the baby enters the world, it immediately has experiences with its surroundings and all of those experiences are being transcribed to the baby’s “slate”. All of the experiences then eventually culminate into complex and abstract ideas. This theory can still help teachers understand their students’ learning today
The term “behaviorism” was coined by John Watson (1878–1959). Watson believed the behaviorist view is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science with a goal to predict and control behavior.In an article in the
Psychological Review, he stated that “its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection
forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which
they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness.”Behaviorism has since become one of three domains of behavior analysis, the other two being the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and Applied Behavior Analysis.
Methodological behaviorism is based on the theory of only treating public events, or observable behavior. B.F. Skinner introduced another type of behaviorism called radical behaviorism, or the Conceptual Analysis of Behavior, which is based on the theory of also treating private events; for example, thinking and feeling. Radical behaviorism forms the conceptual piece of behavior analysis.
Learning and conditioning
There are three types of conditioning and learning:
Classical conditioning, where the behavior becomes a reflex response to an antecedent stimulus.
Operant conditioning, where an antecedent stimuli is followed by a consequence of the behavior through a reward
(reinforcement) or a punishment.
Social learning theory, where an observation of behavior is followed by modeling.
Classical conditioning was discovered by Ivan Pavlov. He observed that if dogs come to associate the delivery of
food with a white lab coat or with the ringing of a bell, they will produce saliva, even when there is no sight or smell
of food. Classical conditioning regards this form of learning to be the same whether in dogs or in humans. Operant
conditioning reinforces this behavior with a reward or a punishment. A reward increases the likelihood of the behavior recurring, a punishment decreases its likelihood.Social learning theory observes behavior and is followed with modeling.
These three learning theories form the basis of applied behavior analysis, the application of behavior analysis, which uses analyzed antecedents, functional analysis, replacement behavior strategies, and often data collection and reinforcement to change behavior.
The old practice was called behavior modification, which only used assumed antecedents and consequences to change behavior without acknowledging the conceptual analysis; analyzing the function of behavior and teaching new behaviors that would serve the same function was never relevant in behavior modification.
In behavior analysis, learning is the acquisition of a new behavior through conditioning and social learning.
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