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Learning Theories - Essay Example

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For the extreme behaviorist, all human behavior can be understood through the processes of conditioning, these being classical and operant in form.
A child learns new behaviors, or is able to modify existing behaviors, as a function of environmental events that either reward or punish that behavior. Skinner's learning theory is a move away from the traditional behaviorist approach of stimulus and response, as he differentiated between types of responses. When a response was elicited by a known stimulus it is considered to be associated with the known stimulus. Alternatively, responses that do not require a specific stimulus, which he termed operants, are independent of the stimulus. Skinner emphasized that it was the operant response that could be strengthened or weakened by use of personal, social or environmental rewards or punishments respectively.
Skinner's principles advocated the idea that learning could be 'programmed,' which fit with the 1960s initial explorations into computer aided instruction. All that was required was for the student to practice, and to be provided with the ideal reinforcement (i.e., reward or punishment). Students were perceived to learn through processes of rote memorization and amount of practice.
A subject such as English has been greatly influenced by Skinner's principles of reinforcement in terms of be...
The information is then presented in a logical and sequential way, as an 'instruction' which step-by-step and aims to shape the behavior of students to a predetermined outcome (e.g. being able to critically evaluate a narrative text). His principles also contributed to the concept behavioral objectives in lesson plans and standardization of exams. Hence, achievement outcomes were evaluated by way of the student providing the correct response (i.e., answer) to a prompt (i.e., exam paper question).
Alternatively, the cognitive approaches of challenged the concept of behavioral theory that it was the environment that determined a person's behavior. Cognitive learning theorists advocated that a person actively participates in the acquisition of new knowledge. Additionally, cognitivists highlighted that not all learning is observable, such as with mental representations within the mind of a person, and the processes of memory and thinking, which could be measured by way of interviews or surveys of people, as well as observations of external behaviors. The cognitive approach pointed to the learning development of children, wherein they do not just respond to their environment, but actively engage in making sense of the world and their experiences within it, and using their own guesswork as to how the world is structured and functions. Many behaviorists ignored initial cognitive theories because they focused on the subjective and mental processes of individuals, which, at the time, could not be observed or measured by way of controlled experiments.
Within class, for example during social studies, the student is expected to actively interact with their learning environment, including their social environment. The ...Show more
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Summary

It is generally conceded that teachers are required to have an understanding of child development and learning processes. Two major schools of learning are the behaviorist and the cognitivist. The behaviorists focus on observable behavior and reduced the learning experience to a process of stimulus and response…
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Learning Theories Essay
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