Learning Theory: Cognitive, Behaviorist, and Social Paradigms of Learning
Learning is one of the most crucial human engagements. It is the essence of education, although much of human learning occurs outside the school system. For many years, psychologists and philosophers have attempted to understand the learning process, how it progresses, and how one party can influence the learning of another party through teaching. Consequently, a number of theories have been fronted in an effort to explain these processes. Some of the most common theories of learning include behaviorist, cognitive, and social theories. While these theories of learning largely look into the change in the knowledge of an individual and their ability to gain skills, there are still considerable differences regarding these changes. More importantly, it must be understood that there are different forms of learning which are better explained through various theories. The theories of learning, therefore, complement each other to offer different perspectives on the learning processes and situations.
The theory of behaviorism works on the principle of stimulus-response. In the theory, human behavior is caused by external factors in a process known as operant conditioning and not inner consciousness (Gordon, 2009). In this respect, behaviorism is essentially a theory that assumes the learner is passive in the learning process and only responds to external stimuli. The learner begins at a state where they have no knowledge, and their behavior is gradually defined through positive or negative reinforcements. These two reinforcements create a greater chance that the antecedent behavior will reoccur. On the other hand, when the learner is punished, it is unlikely that the antecedent behavior will occur again. Learning in this regard occurs through the change in the behavior of the learner. The behaviorist theory of learning assumes that free will is an illusionary aspect and that all human behavior is modeled through the environment either using reinforcement or association (Gordon, 2009). This school of thought began gaining popularity in the 20th century mainly influenced by John Watson and Ivan Pavlov (Good & Schubert, 2001). According to the behaviorist theory, the most efficient way to understand psychological and mental functioning of an individual is by studying their behavior patterns (Good & Schubert, 2001). Within the behaviorist model of learning, the instructor is the primary player in the classroom who controls the process and decides what behavior is acceptable or not. The learner (student) does not have an intuitive ability to reflect during the learning process. Rather, they are simply directed to what is right or wrong. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
The cognitive theory assumes that learning is a process arising from biological maturation and environmental experience (Clapton & Cree, 2004). The theory argues that the manner in which the learner thinks affects their behavior and therefore underscores the importance of thinking. Cognitive development is the process of increasing the intellectual capability of an individual (Clapton & Cree, 2004). Learning in this regard is about the ability of the learner to acquire new knowledge and process it. The acquisition of knowledge involves internal codification mechanisms in the mind of the student. Both the environmental and the mode of instruction are vital to the cognitive development of the learner. Learning through cognition is aimed at coding, rehearsing, storing, and retrieving information (Clapton & Cree, 2004). The information defines the learner’s beliefs, thoughts, values, and attitudes. Memory plays a significant role in the learning process since information is stored in an organized format in the mind. Teachers should, therefore, use techniques like analogies to help the students in memory. In cognitive learning, knowledge transfer occurs when the learner understands how to apply the knowledge within a different context. Therefore, while the knowledge stored in the mind is important, the ability to implement that knowledge is equally important as part of the learning process. Jean Piaget opined that intellectual growth of an individual occurs through the processes of assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration (Good & Schubert, 2001). Assimilation involves using existing knowledge to deal with a new situation while accommodation includes changing the existing knowledge to deal with an emerging situation. Equilibration occurs when the learner can comfortably deal with new knowledge.
Social Learning Theory
Albert Bandura’s social learning theory states that people learn from each other by either imitating, modelling, or observing behavior. The theory involves the use of memory, attention, and motivation and therefore acts as the connection between behaviorist and cognitive theories (Wrenn & Wrenn, 2009). The social theory of learning posits that humans learn by observing the behavior and attitudes of others. By looking at other people, an individual gains a perception of how new behavior is done and that information serves as a guide to future action. In order to realize modeling, there should be special attention to detail (Wrenn & Wrenn, 2009). Therefore, the learner must be distinctive and pay attention in the observation process. The learner should also have an ability to retain information so as to remember through mental images, motor rehearsal, and cognitive organization. The learner should then be able to reproduce the behavior by keenly organizing the response to the memory. More importantly, social learning through modeling is facilitated by a sound motivation to imitate the learner. The concept of reciprocal determinism is critical to social learning, and it argues that the environment is influenced by human behavior in the same manner that the environment influences human behavior (Wrenn & Wrenn, 2009). Consequently, the environment, human behavior, and personal attributes all affect each other reciprocally. In a classroom environment, social learning can be achieved through guided participation. The teacher can also act as the role model and motivate the learners to conduct themselves in a similar way. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
As an observing supervisor watching an instructor carrying out a class exercise, it is possible to tell the mode of learning occurring in the class environment. In the case of behavioral learning, I would look at how the students respond to the instructions of the teacher since the teacher should play the dominant part while the students remain passive. In a behavioral learning environment, the supervisor would simply be directing the students on what is supposed to be done and expecting them to learn from that. In this case, the students would be limited to the direction of the teacher. In the cognitive theory, I would look at the thinking of the learners through the questions they ask and their body language with respect to the learning process. Additionally, I would seek to understand how the students answer the questions posed by the teacher in order to gauge their ability to apply the knowledge gained. In the case of social learning, I would look at the behavior of the students with respect to how they practice what the teacher tells them. I would also look at how they conduct the class discussions since social learning theory relies on interaction. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
In conclusion, it is seen that the learning process in humans is a component of a different mechanism. The theories of learning all attempt to provide an insight into how people gain knowledge, store its, retrieve it, and apply it to solve issues encountered in life. The theories work in tandem since no single theory can adequately explain all the realms of the human learning process. Additionally, in a typical learning environment such as a school, learning occurs through various ways which complement each other. The role of the environment in the learning process cannot be overemphasized.
Clapton, G. & Cree, V. (2004). Learning for effective and ethical practice: Integration of learning for practice. Edinburgh, Scotland: Scottish Institute for Excellence in Social Work Education.
Good, D. M., & Schubert, C. R. (2001). Faculty practice: How it enhances teaching. Journal of Nursing Education, 40(9), 389-396.
Gordon, M. (2009). Toward a pragmatic discourse of constructivism: Reflections on lessons from practice. Educational Studies, 45(1), 39-58.
Wrenn, J. & Wrenn, B. (2009). Enhancing learning by integrating theory and practice. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), 258-265.