Learning Theories Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Social Constructivism

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  • Learning TheoriesBehaviourism, cognitivism, social constructivism.

  • *Relevance of Learning TheoriesExploring these topics has relevance for:

    A) Youyour personal learning style and study

    B) Your workproblem solving and design solutions

  • *LearningPsychologists refer to learning as: a relatively permanent change in behaviour as a result of experienceLearning - not just for the classroomFundamental process in all animalsthe higher up the evolutionary scale, the more important is the ability to learnAnimals adapt their behaviour to fit in with their environment and to changing circumstances Why? In order to survive!

  • *Theories on how people learn:BehaviorismCognitivismSocial ConstructivismPiagets Developmental TheoryNeuroscienceBrain-Based LearningLearning StylesMultiple IntelligencesRight Brain/Left Brain ThinkingCommunities of PracticeControl TheoryObservational Learning


  • *We are concerned with:Behaviourismactions based on stimuli

    Cognitivismlearner processes & strategies

    Social Constructivismknowledge is constructed through social interaction

  • BehaviourismCarrot & stick

  • *BehaviourismOverviewBehaviourism a school of thought that assumes a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli.The learner starts off as a clean slate (i.e. tabula rasa)Much of our behaviour consists of learned responses to simple signalsbehaviour is the sum of many simple stimulus-response connections

    Basis of the theoryReinforcement shapes behaviourPositive - increases the probability the behavior will happen againNegative - decreases the likelihood the behavior will happen again

    Positive - indicates the application of a stimulusNegative - indicates the withholding of a stimulus


  • *Focus - scientific & objectiveBehaviourists try to explain the causes of behaviour by studying only those behaviours that can be observed and measured

    Prior to behaviourism unscientific techniques such as introspection, dealing with unmeasurable aspects of behaviour such as the role of the unconscious mind

    Behaviourists focus their efforts on two types of learning processes: Classical conditioningOperant conditioning

  • *BehaviouristsPsychologists who focus on stimulus-response connections

    Notable behaviourists:Ivan Pavlov(18491936) a Russian physiologist, psychologist, and physicianJohn Broadus Watson(18781958) an American psychologist, established the psychological school of behaviorism, after doing research on animal behavior B. F. Skinner(19041990) an American psychologist, author, inventor, advocate for social reform, and poet

  • *Classical Conditioning(Pavlov)Learning by association. Salivation in dogs as part of research programmedogs had started to salivate when they saw the people that usually fed them (also responded to the sound of the dishes being used for their meals)Pavlov set up an experiment to find out if the dogs could be trained to salivate at other stimuli, e.g. a bell or a lightAt feeding times, Pavlov would ring a bell and the amount of saliva produced by the dog was measured. After several 'trials' Pavlov rang the bell without presenting the food and found that the dogs salivated in the same way as if food was being presented.

    Note:conditional response is the same as unconditioned responsedifference = response was evoked by a different stimulus

  • *Pavlovs Dog

  • *Operant Conditioning (Skinner)Operant conditioning reinforces the response to a stimulus making the response more probable in the future.

    Positive reinforcement is when a particular behavior is strengthened by the consequence of experiencing a positive condition. For example: A hungry rat presses a bar in its cage and receives food. The food is a positive condition for the hungry rat. The rat presses the bar again, and again receives food. The rat's behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of receiving food.

    Negative reinforcement is when a particular behavior is strengthened by the consequence of stopping or avoiding a negative condition. For example: A rat is placed in a cage and immediately receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses a bar and the shock stops. The rat receives another shock, presses the bar again, and again the shock stops. The rat's behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of stopping the shock.

    Punishment a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of experiencing a negative condition.A rat presses a bar in its cage and receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses the bar again and again receives a shock. The rat's behavior of pressing the bar is weakened by the consequence of receiving a shock.

    Extinction a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of not experiencing a positive condition or stopping a negative condition. For example:A rat presses a bar in its cage and nothing happens. Neither a positive or a negative condition exists for the rat. The rat presses the bar again and again nothing happens. The rat's behavior of pressing the bar is weakened by the consequence of not experiencing anything positive or stopping anything negative.

  • *Operant Conditioninghttp://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/behaviorism/Reinforce_Punish.jpg

  • *Behaviorism & LearningLearning for behaviourism is defined as a permanent change in behavior in the learner.

    This theory is relatively simple to understand because it relies only on observable behavior and describes several universal laws of behavior.

    Behaviorism often is used by teachers, who reward or punish student behaviours.

    Not all students respond to this type of motivation...

  • *Criticisms of BehaviorismToo simplistic:Even simple responses to stimuli require the processing of a vast amount of information

    Gaps in scienceDoes not explain some learning for for which there is no reinforcement mechanism, e.g. recognition of new language patterns by young children

    Moral implicationsIf behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness, what about responsibility?

  • Cognativism

  • *CognitivismThe cognitivist paradigm essentially argues that the black box of the mind should be opened and understood. The learner is viewed as an information processor (like a computer).Originators and important contributors: Merrill -Component Display Theory (CDT), Reigeluth (Elaboration Theory), Gagne, Briggs, Wager, Bruner (moving toward cognitive constructivism), Schank (scripts), Scandura (structural learning)http://www.learning-theories.com/cognitivism.html

  • *Cognitivism - Origins1960s - cognitivist revolution replaced behaviorism in as the dominant paradigm.

    Mental processes such as thinking, memory, knowing, and problem-solving need to be explored (Snelbecker, 1983).

    Knowledge can be seen as schema or symbolic mental constructions.

    Learning is defined as change in a learners schemata.

    http://www.learning-theories.com/cognitivism.htmlA response to behaviorism, people are not programmed animals that merely respond to environmental stimuli; people are rational beings that require active participation in order to learn, and whose actions are a consequence of thinking. Changes in behavior are observed, but only as an indication of what is occurring in the learners head. Cognitivism uses the metaphor of the mind as computer: information comes in, is being processed, and leads to certain outcomes.

  • *Focus - inner mental activities Ulric Neisser coined the term 'cognitive psychology' in his book, Cognitive Psychology, published in 1967The term cognition refers to all processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. It is concerned with these processes even when they operate in the absence of relevant stimulation, as in images and hallucinations...

    The main issues that interest cognitive psychologists are the inner mechanisms of human thought and the processes of knowing. Cognitive psychologists have attempted to throw light on the alleged mental structures that stand in a causal relationship to our physical actions.

    Cognitivism investigates the internal mental processes of thought, such as:Visual processingMemoryProblem solvingLanguage

    Opening the black box of the human mind is valuable and necessary for understanding how people learn.

  • *How does learning occur?Learning is equated with discrete changes between states of knowledge, rather than with changes in the probability of response

    Cognitive theories stress the acquisition of knowledge and mental structures

    Focus on students conceptualization of learning processes

    Address the issues of how information is received, organized stored and is retrieved by the mind

    Concerned not so much with what learners do, but with what they know and how they come to acquire it

    Knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that requires internal coding and structuring by the learning. The learner is a very active participant in the learning process.Ertmer, P. & Newby, T. (1993)

  • *Information processing modelExplanations for how cognitive processes work are known as information processing theories or models.

    The three-component model of information processing is taught in Educational Psychology.http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/cognitivism/index.htm

  • *Which factors influence learning?Environmental conditions play a role (like in Behaviourism)

    TeacherInstructional explanationsDemonstrationsIllustrative examplesPracticeCorrective feedback

    Student (mental activities of the learner)Mental planningGoal-settingOrganisational strategiesThe way learners attend to, code, transform, rehearse, store and retrieve informationLearners thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and values are influential in learning process

    Focus of cognitive approach is on changing the learner by encouraging him/her to use the appropriate learning strategies (to cope with unstructured domains)Ertmer, P. & Newby, T. (1993)

  • ConstructivismSocial Constructivism

  • *ConstructivismConstructivism is a theory on how people learn

    It holds that learning is an active, constructive process

    Constructivism in educationthe curriculum should be learner-centered rather than teacher-centered. learners arrive in the educational setting with prior knowledge that they can use as a building block for acquiring new knowledge. learners construct meaning and understanding based on prior knowledge. (http://design.test.olt.ubc.ca/Cognitive-Construction)

    The learner is an information constructor. People actively construct or create their own subjective representations of objective reality. New information is linked to to prior knowledge.

    The learner is not a blank slate (tabula rasa) but brings past experiences and cultural factors to a situation.


  • *Some of the guiding principles of constructivism in educationLearning is a search for meaning. Therefore, learning must start with the issues around which students are actively trying to construct meaning.Meaning requires understanding wholes as well as parts. And parts must be understood in the context of wholes. Therefore, the learning process focuses on primary concepts, not isolated facts. The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorize the right answers and regurgitate someone elses meaning.http://www.funderstanding.com/content/constructivism Jacqueline and Martin Brooks, The Case for Constructivist Classrooms.

  • *Parts must be understood in the context of wholes.

  • *Originators and important contributors:Originators and important contributors:Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey, Vico, Rorty, Bruner

    Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky(18961934) a Russian-Belarusian psychologist, developed a social constructivism view of learning (zone of proximal development). Work was largely unkown to the West until it was published in 1962.

    Jean Piaget(18961980) a Swiss psychologist and philosopher, well known for his pedagogical studies.

  • *Vygotsky & social constructivismVygotsky believed that learning is a social process, hence his theory is referred to as social constructivismVygotskys social development theory is one of the foundations for constructivism. He believed that language, particularly self-talk and inner speech, plays a major role in learning. Major applications of Vygotsky's theory to education include:Zone of Proximal DevelopmentScaffoldingGuided participationApprenticeshipPeer interactionhttp://www.learning-theories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html

  • *Vygotskys focusVygotsky focused on the connections between people and the sociocultural context in which they act and interact in shared experiences (Crawford, 1996).According to Vygotsky, humans use tools that develop from a culture, such as speech and writing, to mediate their social environments. Initially children develop these tools to serve solely as social functions, ways to communicate needs.Vygotsky believed that the internalization of these tools led to higher thinking skills.


  • *Social Development TheoryVygotskys social development theory asserts three major themes:

    Social interaction plays a fundamental role in cognitive development. Vygotsky felt social learning precedes developmentEvery function in the childs cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). (Vygotsky, 1978).

    The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally thought of as being a teacher, coach, or older adult, but the MKO could also be peers, a younger person, or even computers.

    The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a students ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and the students ability solving the problem independently. According to Vygotsky, learning occurred in this zone. http://www.learning-theories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html

  • *Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)"What a child can do with assistance today, she will be able to do by herself tomorrow" (Vygotsky, p. 81, 1978).

  • *Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) - definitionWithin this definition, all three themes of Vygotskys writings are apparent. There is a social aspect, consisting of someone with expertise providing guidanceThe social connections in conjunction with various cultural mediators, like symbols or even technology, allow for...internalization of these processes to be applied in the future by the learners themselves

  • *Social Development in EducationMany schools have traditionally held a transmissionist or instructionist model in which a teacher or lecturer transmits information to students. In contrast, Vygotskys theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning. Roles of the teacher and student are therefore shifted, as a teacher should collaborate with his or her students in order to help facilitate meaning construction in students. Learning becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.In a constructivist classroom the teacher must function not as the "knower of all things", but as a facilitator of learning.Constructivism is a highly progressive model of education because it transfers control of learning from the teacher to the learner. No longer an instructor, the term coach may be a better application in educational settings. The learner constructs and validates his/her own set of knowledge with the prodding and instructions of his/her coach. Knowledge is negotiated and achieved through collaborative work (Mishra, 2002).http://design.test.olt.ubc.ca/Vygotsky%27s_Zone_of_Proximal_Development

  • *Constructivist Learning GoalsConstructivist Learning GoalsEmphasizes learning in context through meaningful activitiesFocus on high-level thinking activities to develop cognitive flexibilityConstructivists are interested in having learners identify and pursue their own learning goalsProblem solving, reasoning, critical thinking and reflection constitute the goals of constructivist instruction

  • *Constructivist Assumptions about LearningConstructivism is a view in which knowledge is believed to be constructed rather than acquired. It is not one theory but a multitude of approaches. Only the active learner is a successful learner. Learning by doing enables learners to achieve deep levels of understanding. Knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experiences. Learners are actively seeking meaning because learning with understanding is desired, as opposed to rote learning. Many constructivist theorists agree that there is a social component to learning, as learners test their own understandings against those of others, such as those of teachers or more advanced peers. Therefore, the social structure of a learning environment is important

  • *Constructivist Conditions for Learning - conclusionProcess not productsFocus on the process of learning, rather than the products of learning. This can be accomplished by embedding learning in complex, realistic and relevant environments. Minimal hand-holdingSimplifying tasks for learners will prevent them from learning how to solve the complex problems they will solve in real life by providing for social negotiation as an essential part of learning. Academic / social developmentHigher mental processes develop through social interaction. Students develop and defend individual perspectives while recognizing those of others and teachers support multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation. Mulit-sensory experienceViewing the same content through different sensory modes (such as visual, auditory, or tactile) enables different aspects of it to be seen and encourages ownership in learning. Self-directionStudents are actively involved in determining what their own learning needs are and how those needs can be satisfied, rather than being passive recipients of instruction that has been designed for them. Teachers share in the learning process rather than controlling it.

  • Recap on Learning TheoriesBehaviourism, cognativism, social constructivism

  • *Learning TheoriesAdapted from Siemens' (2006) response to Verhagen, Connectivisim: Learning theory or pastime for the self-amused?http://design.test.olt.ubc.ca/Situating_Connectivismbased on Ertmer, P. & Newby, T. (1993) 'Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective', Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4): 50-72

    QuestionsBehaviourismCognativismConstructivismHow does learning occur?Black box observable behaviour main focusStructured, computationalSocial meaning created by each learner (personal)What factors influence learningNature of reward, punishment, stimuliExisting schema, previous experiencesEngagement, participation, social, culturalWhat is the role of memory?Memory is the hard-wiring of repeated experiences - where reward and punishment are most influentialEncoding, storage, retrievalPrior knowledge remixed to current contextHow does transfer occur?Stimulus, reponseDuplicating knowledge constructs of knowerSocializationTypes of learning best explained by this theory?Task-based learningReasoning, clear objectives, problem solvingSocial, vague (ill defined)

  • *Learning Theories


    Cognativismmind is an operating system

    Social Constructivismknowledge is constructed in a social context



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