Theories of Learning

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Over the years many names flourished in the area of psychology in the desire to learn about man and behaviour. This assignment deals with two names which have contributions of great importance in the field of psychology, Ivan Pavlov and Jean Piaget.

How do we learn? How do we grow? Each theory has its own differences and gives insight into the developing of human mind. Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist whose discovery of classical conditioning remains one of the most important in psychology and it formed the basis of behavioural psychology. While researching the digestive function of dogs, he noted his subjects would salivate before the delivery of food. In a series of well-known experiments, he presented a variety of stimuli before the presentation of food and he found that after repeated associations, a dog would salivate to the presence of a stimulus other than food. He named this response a conditional reflex .The food was an unconditioned stimulus, saliva an unconditioned response and the bell, a conditioned response. During the experiment was observed that if the pairing of bell and food would stop, the response would become weaker and then disappear but able to recover if the dog is presented with both. There are numerous real-world applications for classical conditioning such us: a pilot will make a life saving response to a given situation through practising the situation endlessly. A child’s visit to the dentist is another example. If the child experiences pain caused by doctor, the waiting room may act as a stimulus for the activation of fear. In my experience, learning to drive a car, would be one more example. I had to practice continuously before I felt confident t and gradually the respond of driving became automatic. According to behaviourists such as Skinner and Watson which maintained that since it is not possible to observe objectively what happens in the mind during learning, scientists should take into account only external changes and observable indicators such as stimulus-response sequences. Skinner argued that knowledge should not be used to guide our action because knowledge is action. (Arthur, J. and Cremin, T.(2010) Behaviourist teaching is a consistent repetition method which include : question, which is a stimulus and answer, which is a response. Questions are gradually increasing the difficulty, as well as guided practice and regular reviews, tests and exams are a very important part of it. Teachers can apply classical conditioning in the classroom by creating a pleasant environment where learners can experience positive emotions and in this way, overcome fear or anxiety. For example performing in front of the classroom is a fear provoking situation but in association with pleasant surroundings, will help students overcome anxiety and children will gradually become relaxed and calm. On the opposite, if a student experiences bullying at school then it is more likely that the student will associate school with fear. In my own experience, attending school and being praised for asking a question, i felt more confident to ask questions again, which eventually gave me the possibility to build my learning and understanding more effectively.

A dissatisfaction with behaviourism’s strict focus on single events, stimuli, and behaviour, led other psychologists like Jean Piaget to find another approach to learning theory which paid attention on what is inside the learner’s head. Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who saw knowledge as actively constructed by children in response to interactions with environment and believed that all children are curious and make sense of the world through direct experiences with objects, people and ideas. He theorized that children use schemes, which are constructs that children categorize events with. Examples of schemes would be “play things”, “things I eat” and “things I don’t like”. The schema developed as the child grew. The focus of Piaget’s study was...
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