Constructivism and Behaviorism

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Constructivism and behaviorism are similar because they are both philosophies of learning. They are psychological theories that try to define how a student learns. Both types of theorists study the nature of learning and the properties and nature of knowledge. The theorists propose separate views detailing how learning occurs and how knowledge can be defined. Thus, both have had an influence on the methods used to teach students in the traditional classroom setting and in Web-based instruction. These learning theories discuss the structuring and presentation of teaching materials. They also address the role of the learner in the educational system. Although they are fundamentally similar, they differ in important aspects. These differences have been the cornerstones of a debate centered around the very basis of teaching and learning. Leading educational psychologist, B.F. Skinner, popularized the behaviorist theory of learning, which is based on behavioral changes. Behaviorists believe that if a new behavioral pattern is repeated, it will eventually become automatic. This learning theory suggests that students are passive learners. They suggest that learning is a direct result of experience or practice that leads to a change in behavior. Behaviorists believe that behavior can be modified by consequences such as positive/negative feedback and rewards/punishments. They propose that the amount of learning that takes place can be measured by observing overt behavior. Behaviorists believe they can measure learning and knowledge by observing the amount of correct answers. Students are given information and asked to repeat what they have learned to the teacher. Therefore, behaviorists believe that behavior is determined by outcomes and consequences. Another leading educational psychologist, Jean Piaget, popularized the constructivist theory of learning. The constructivist theory is based on learning that is actively constructed and built from reflective thinking by each individual learner, used to construct new knowledge and understanding from authentic experience. This theory views students as active learners who process information and reflect on prior experiences based on their individual perceptions. Learners gain knowledge when they actively try to construct meaning from activities, issues, and concepts. Constructivism proposes self-directed learning that leads students to construct meaning. It encourages knowledge formation, exploration, and discovery. Constructivists believe that the learning process is different for each learner, and based upon their individual perspective and experience. In a constructivist learning environment the teacher's role differs because they become facilitators, observers, and coaches, rather than traditional lecturers. It provides various paths for students to independently investigate with teachers providing assistance. Constructivism is non-linear, and therefore, the World Wide Web is an amazing environment for learning. Students are confronted with problems that are reality based. The teacher as a facilitator inspires students to find solutions by exploring, inventing, collaborating, and experimenting. These types of activities lead to higher-level thinking as students analyze, summarize, predict, justify, and defend their solutions. Both behaviorist and constructivist theorists believe that their theories propose the best way for a student to learn. They are interested in the methods and strategies teachers use when they teach and how students learn. Both schools of thought are important in instructional systems and the debate between the two theories will not end anytime soon.

The two theories of learning discussed are Behaviorism and Constructivism. Skinner and Watson, the two major developers of the behaviorist school of thought sought to prove that behavior could be predicted and controlled (Skinner, 1974). They studied how learning is...
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