Learning Theories Applied to Teaching

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“learning is commonly defined as a process that brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences for acquiring , enhancing, or making changes in one’s knowledge, skills, values and world views” ( llleris,2000; Ormord,1995). This process could be explained through several theories, some of which include ; behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social cognitive learning theories. Presently teachers make use of these theories in their classrooms in order to maximize the learning potential of students and also to create a better learning environment inside the classrooms. This report includes a summary of these different learning theories used in Maldivian classrooms, a survey conducted to determine the extent of application of these theories in classrooms by a sample of teachers and the result of this survey. Behavioral learning theory is a much talked of leaning theory which is evidently utilized in many Maldivian classrooms as well. Behaviorism, founded by John B.Watson , mainly focuses on the aspects of human behavior which can be observed and measured. Also it explains our behavior as being shaped by our responses to environmental stimuli (Cherry) “give me a dozen healthy infants, well-informed and my own specified world to bring them up in and I will guarantee to take anyone at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might say---doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and yes, even beggar-man and thief regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.” (John Watson, behaviourism, 1930) According to Watson, human behavior is a result of specific stimuli which brings about a certain response. B.F. Skinner expanded on this and came up with a view called operant conditioning, concluding that favorable outcomes are conditioned, while unsatisfying ones are not. (Melissa Standridge, 2002) The other major type of conditioning is classical conditioning, proposed by Ivan Pavlov. It is defined as “a process of learning by temporal association in which two events that repeatedly occur close together in time become fused in a person’s mind and produce the same response” (Corner,2004) An example of the use of behavioural learning theory in classrooms, could be, regularly checking the work of students and giving them appropriate feedback, together with encouragement ( such as “im sure you could do better next time” ). Also , giving tutorials and using simulations and games while teaching are more ways to apply this theory in classrooms. Another of the learning theories mentioned above is cognitive learning theory, which mainly looks at the mental processes and does not only consider behavior, but roots deeper, to explain brain-based learning. These mental processes include attention, perception, memory, reasoning, judgment, imagining, thinking and speech. (M.Walsh, 2008) According to this theory, knowledge could be seen as a scheme and learning could be described as a change in a learner’s schemata. Cognitive theory is very much against behaviorist learning theory, on the grounds that behaviorism simplifies human behavior to just cause and effect. For example, in a secondary classroom, a teacher could ask the students to analyze data provided and present it in the from graphs, charts, tables, etc.. Social cognitive theory, founded by Albert Bandura is a subset of the pure cognitive theory mentioned above and focuses on the ways in which humans learn to model other individuals’ behavior. This theory explains that learning learning is a an interrelation between, behavioral, environmental, and personal factors; describing that learners’ learn when their environment coincides with their personal characteristics and personal experiences....
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