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By kharki Jan 19, 2014 1997 Words

To complete this assignment it must explorer the different theories and models that relate to adult learning. The intention is to firstly explore the three main theories of human learning by describing, discussing and analysing each one. They are Behaviourism, Constructivism (cognitive) and Humanism.

Behaviourists believe the environment controls behaviour, and that humans adapt to the environment and life experiences they encounter. How individuals learn is said to be through experience, developing skills and abilities are as a direct result of the learning experiences encountered. Skinner (1974) argued that learning is caused by the consequences of our actions. This means that people learn to associate actions with the pleasure or discomfort that follows. Skinner believed that learning could be explained using the idea of reinforcement which is referred to as ‘operant conditioning’. This is anything that can make behaviour stronger. Skinners work is used still today in many classroom settings. Students are motivated to complete a task by being promised a reward of some kind. Many times the reward takes the form of praise or a grade. Sometimes it is a token that can be traded in for some desired object; and at other times the reward may be the privilege of engaging in a self-selected activity. However, there are some limitations of using this approach as the overuse and misuse of techniques have been argued by Kohn (1993). Most of the criticisms of the use of reinforcement as a motivational incentive stem from the fact that it represents ‘extrinsic motivation’. That is a learner decides to engage in an activity to earn a reward that is not inherently related to the activity. Kohn suggest that this approach has potentially three dangers: changes in behaviour may be temporary

students may develop a materialistic attitude toward learning giving students extrinsic rewards for completing a task may lesson whatever intrinsic motivation they may have for the activity”

The last point that Khon suggest has been significantly investigated by researcher. The results show that giving students rewards may decrease their intrinsic motivation for a task, but only when 1) initial interest in the activity is very high

2) the rewards used are not rein forcers
3) the rewards are held out in advance as incentive, and, most important 4) the rewards are given simply for engaging in activity (Cameron & Pierce, 1994;Chance, 1992)

These results strongly suggest that teachers should avoid the indiscriminative use of rewards for influencing classroom behaviour, particularly when an activity seems to be naturally interesting to students. Instead as Morgan suggest: “rewards should be used to provide students with information about their level of competence on tasks they have not yet mastered” (Morgan, 1984)

Until the 1950s, behaviorism was the dominant school of thought in psychology. This changed between 1950 and 1970 as there was a shift against behavioral psychology to what is known as cognitive psychology, this focuses on topics such as attention, memory, and problem solving. “Behaviourism… has found the door, but it still lacks the key to what is beyond. ‘We’ do not just sit within the skin and observe. ‘We’ also infer and interpret what ‘we’ observe. And if ‘we’ are naught but representational processes, then ‘we’ exist because those processes think.” (Wyers, 1988)

A popular analogy is that of information processing and the input-output capacity of the computer. An example of this within the field of health and care can bee seen. A learner is seen very much like an information processor. They will listen to the information that they are given in class through their sense organs. They will start to process this information alongside the knowledge that they already possess and use this to answer questions in class. Absubel (b.1918) has carried out much research in this field and suggests through his work that a condition for optimal learning is the placing of newly learned facts within a context for meaning. Following such learning, the student’s capacity to transform facts and integrate them into previously acquired experience will be increased. Bruner (1960) suggests that students should be trained to develop their capacities to the full. Students should be taught how to analyse problems. Bruner’s cognitive theory is concerned with how what one wishes to teach can be best learned; it takes into account both learning and development. Skinner in particular, sought to rebut the arguments of the cognitivists. Skinner stated: I like Marr’s statement that ‘modern cognitive psychology largely views the behaviour of organs as symptomatic of internal information processing – activities comfortably expressed in computer metaphor’. The important word is ‘comfortably’. The computer is a model of one kind of human behaviour, anticipated thousands of years ago with clay tiles in which information is ‘stored and retrieved’ for computational purposes. But it is not a useful model of the organism that engages in that behaviour and the comfort will, I am sure, be short lived. (Skinner, 1989)

Humanistic principles of learning

The humanistic principles of learning focus on the role of noncognitive variables in learning. It assumes that students will be highly motivated to learn when the learning material is personally meaningful, when they understand the reasons for their own behaviour, and when they believe that the classroom environment supports their efforts to learn, even when they struggle.

“Learning is as much influenced by how students feel about themselves as by the cognitive skills they possess. When students conclude that the demands of a task are beyond their current level of knowledge and skill… they are likely to experience such debilitating emotions as anxiety and fear. Once these negative self-perceptions and emotions are created, the student has to divert time and energy from the task at and to figuring out how to deal with them. And solutions that students formulate are not always appropriate” (Boekarts, 1993, p149-167)

An example of this within the field of health and care is apparent. Students at present study a unit which relies upon them analysing their own concepts and beliefs. Many of the students find this very difficult and struggle with this concept. To the point that they reduce their efforts and settle for whatever passing grade they can get. Others in the class have given up entirely and this has become quite evident as they have cut class, and have shown to not complete set homework. A considerable amount of research from the health field has shown that people are more likely to use positive methods of coping with the stress of illness and disease when they perceive their environment to be socially supportive. The small amount of comparable research that exists on classroom learning suggests a similar outcome (Boekarts, 1993, p 149-167). Theorists whom pioneered the humanistic approach are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Maslow’s work developed a model of human development in which he proposes a five level hierarchy of needs. Physiological needs are at the bottom of the hierarchy, followed in ascending order by safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Maslow does explain that we all start from a basic need (lower level) and once that need has been satisfied we would then focus on the next higher level need and so on till we have reached the very highest level of self – actualization, Maslow suggests that once we have reached this point that people will naturally turn to learning for self-actualisation. Carl Rogers was a psychotherapist and his main area of work was to help his patients cope more effectively with their problems this was referred to as ‘client-centred (or nondirective) therapy. This meant that the patient instigates coping strategies and the therapist role is merely to facilitate. Upon analyzing his experiences as a therapist, he proposed that this person-centred approach to therapy could be applied successfully to teaching (learner-centred education). Roger argues (1980, pp.273-278) “that the results of learner-centred teaching are similar to those of person-centred therapy: students become capable of educating themselves without the aid of direct instruction from teachers.” Most theories to learning were based on psychology that is until the early 1970s. At this time work by Houles (1972) and Knowles (1973) described that the way that adults learn was different. This model which was outlined by Knowles is referred to as ‘Andragogy’. Merriam and Caffarella (1991: 249) have pointed out, “Knowles' conception of andragogy is an attempt to build a comprehensive theory (or model) of adult learning that is anchored in the characteristics of adult learners.” Andragogy is the way adults learn. Malcolm Knowles (1983) states there are five assumptions that can be made regarding adult learners which are different to the way children are perceived to learn (pedagogy) these are related to: 1. Self-concept: As a person matures his self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being 2. Experience: As a person matures he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning. 3. Readiness to learn. As a person matures his readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles. 4. Orientation to learning. As a person matures his time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centredness. 5. Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12). Although there have been claims of the differences found between andragogy and pedagogy there has been much criticism. The model has been questioned whether to be ‘prescriptive’ rather than a ‘descriptive’ (Brookfield, 1994). It has been questioned whether the model is describing situations that learners are in however it does not describe the characteristics of the adult learner. For example the need to go back to education as the employment that they are in necessitates its. From personal experience this reflects the reasoning why I have embarked onto the degree. It was more for the need to possess a higher qualification. A further criticism challenges the need for a separate theory of adult learning. (Hanson 1996) argues that there is little evidence to suggest that adults learn differently to the way children learn. She states “there are differences, but they are not based on the difference between children and adults, of pedagogy and andragogy. They are differences of context, culture and power.” (Hanson 1998: 107) This has also been backed by the empirical studies completed by Merriam and Caffarella (1998) in which the results obtained where inconclusive.

A comparison of the assumptions of pedagogy and andragogy following Knowles (Jarvis 1985: 51)  
The learner
Dependent. Teacher directs what, when, how a subject is learned and tests that it has been learned Moves towards independence.
Self-directing. Teacher encourages and nurtures this movement The learner's experience
Of little worth. Hence teaching methods are didactic
A rich resource for learning. Hence teaching methods include discussion, problem-solving etc. Readiness to learn
People learn what society expects them to. So that the curriculum is standardized. People learn what they need to know, so that learning programmes organised around life application. Orientation to learning

Acquisition of subject matter. Curriculum organized by subjects. Learning experiences should be based around experiences, since people are performance centred in their learning


Boekarts M (1993) being concerned with well-being and with learning Educational Psychologist 28 (2) Maslow ???????????????????????????????????????????????????
Rogers CR (1980) A way of being Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Kohn A (1993) Rewards versus learning: a response to Paul Chance Phil Delta Kappan 76 (4), pp272-283 Morgan M (1984) Reward-induced decrements and increments in instinsic motivation’ review of Educational Research 54 (1), pp5-30 Cameron J & Pierce WD (1994) Reinforcement, reward and intrinsic motivation: a meta-analysis’ Review of Educational Research 64 (3), pp363-423 Ausubel, D. (1963). The psychology of meaningful Verbal Learning. New York: Grune & Stratton. Buner, J. and M. Reynolds (1997). Management Learning: Integrating Perspectives in Theory and Practice. London: Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage.

Chance P (1992) the rewards of learning Phi Delta Kappan 74 (3), pp200-207 Skinner (1989) The selection of Behaviour
Jarvis, P. (1985) The Sociology of Adult and Continuing Education, Beckenham: Croom Helm. Merriam, S. B. and Caffarella, R. S. (1991) Learning in Adulthood. A comprehensive guide, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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