Philosophies of Learning Theory

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INTRODUCTION

What is theory? A theory is a way of thinking and a model of how things work, how principles are related, and what causes things to work together. Learning theories address key questions, for example, how does learning happen? How does motivation occur? What influences students’ development? A theory is not just an idea. It’s an idea that is a coherent explanation of a set of relationships that has been tested with lots of research. If the idea survives rigorous testing, that theory is said to have empirical grounding. A theory is developed from practical experience as well as research. Any given theory is usually about one aspect of the learning process. Learning theories are conceptual frameworks that describe how information is absorbed, processed, and retained during learning. Learning brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences for acquiring, enhancing, or making changes in one's knowledge, skills, values, and world views. There are three main categories of learning theory: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Behaviorism focuses only on the objectively observable aspects of learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. And constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts. Philosophies of teaching and learning, numerous philosophers have studied what the meaning of to teach and learn, and have come up with various explanations of the process of becoming educated.  Their begin to refine their own beliefs and understandings of what it means to know through examining numerous theories of knowledge and making sense of the processes of teaching and learning in their own minds.  An few philosophies and examples of individuals who exemplify the concepts are worth exploring: Existentialism (Maxine Greene, Jean-Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard, Simone de Beauvoir), Critical Theory (Karl Marx, Henry Geroux, Michael Apple, Paulo Friere), Behaviorism (B.F. Skinner), Cognitivism / Developmentalism (Maria Montessori, A.S. Neill, John Dewey, Knowles, Waldorf Schools, Reggio Emilia Schools), Social Constructivism (John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf Schools).

1.0 LEARNING THEORIES

In psychology and education, learning theories are attempts to describe how people and animals learn, thereby helping us understand the inherently complex process of learning. There are three main categories (philosophical frameworks) under which learning theories fall: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.

1.1 Behaviorism
Behaviorism focuses only on the objectively observable aspects of learning and discounts the internal processing that might be associated with the activity. Learning is the acquisition of new behavior through conditioning. There are two types of possible conditioning:

1) Classical conditioning, where the behavior becomes a reflex response to stimulus as in the case of Pavlov's Dogs. 2) Operant conditioning where there is reinforcement of the behavior by a reward or a punishment. The theory of operant conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner and is known as Radical Behaviorism. The word ‘operant’ refers to the way in which behavior ‘operates on the environment’. Briefly, a behavior may result either in reinforcement, which increases the likelihood of the behavior recurring, or punishment, which decreases the likelihood of the behavior recurring. It is important to note that, a punisher is not considered to be punishment if it does not result in the reduction of the behavior, and so the terms punishment and reinforcement are determined as a result of the actions. Within this framework, behaviorists are particularly interested in measurable changes in behavior. 1.2. Cognitivism

Since the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great deal of change. Much of the empirical...
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