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