Unit 4 Theories and Principles for Planning and Enabling Learning

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  • Topic: Classical conditioning, Learning, Educational psychology
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Unit 4 Theories and Principles for Planning and Enabling Learning Level 4 Theory Assessment

The purpose of this assignment is for me to demonstrate that I can identify and discuss the significance of relevant theories and principles of learning and communication; select and critically analyse the impact of two theories of learning on the planning and delivery of teaching in my own setting; and reflect on the impact that these insights have had on my own practice and professional development. What is a theory? To me a theory is an idea of how something works. It is a way of explaining to others the concept of the how and why of something. What is a principle? To me principles are my beliefs about something. It is my feelings on a given subject. Geoff Petty (2004 pg 486) states that, ‘every teacher and every learner has a theory about learning.’ To be able to develop my own theories and principles on planning and enabling learning I need to learn what they mean to others. Through research and reading I know that there are many different theories relating to teaching and learning. Those that I have looked at are Behaviourist, Cognitivist, Humanist, Gestalt and Motivation/Communication. They are not new concepts. Some Theorists have been dead many years but their theories still prevail. The two theories of learning that I am going to use for this assignment are Behaviourist and Humanist. Behaviourist Theory

Behaviourists believe that individuals respond to stimuli found in their environment and from things that they have seen. Pavlov (1849-1936) dealt with conditioned learning (classical conditioning) using experiments on dogs for his hypothesis. We have all read about how he linked a specific sound e.g. a bell to feeding which made the dogs salivate. Over time just the sound of the bell caused the dogs to salivate. Thus the stimulus response conditioning had taken place. Pavlov like many other theorists worked with animals and not humans. Watson (1878-1958) believed that we are not born with instincts but react through reflex actions. His work developed the concept of ‘trial and error.’ He felt that stimulus occurred in one part of the brain and the response came as a result of that stimulus in another part of the brain. Watson firmly believed that habit forming was a fundamental part of the learning process. He took Pavlov’s ideas and applied them to humans. He suggests that the way a human learned could be related to the ‘formula’ used e.g. (UCS) unconditioned stimulus (food) plus a neutral stimulus (bell) caused an (UCR) unconditioned response (salivation). Over time the neutral stimulus became a (CS) conditioned stimulus causing a (CR) conditioned response i.e. that the presenting of the bell caused the dog to salivate. Watson demonstrated this when he experimented on ‘little Albert’ an 18 month old boy. Noise was the UCS which caused anxiety (UCR). He then introduced the rat which was the NS. This developed into UCS + NS = UCR and further into the experiments the rat became a CS and the anxiety a CR. Everyone has an experience they can recall where a song or smell makes them remember an incident, be it a good memory or a bad memory, the stimulus response conditioning we had remains with us. I personally have a learner who when you ask about legislation and requirements shouts ‘VASCR’ because she has studied it until she can tell you verbatim what it means. Thorndike (1874-1990) demonstrated in his research that good experiences seemed to reinforce the stimulus-response bonds, whereas negative experiences tended to reduce these bonds. He felt that ‘there was a need to maximise the strength of a bond’ (Reece and Walker 2000 pg 105). The way this could be done was by increasing the number of times people were exposed to the stimulus and to increase the intensity of that exposure. This can be seen as ‘rote learning’. Most of us have been taught in this way at some time or another. For me personally, it...
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