Most influential theories of learning - Deepstash

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Learning theories

Learning theories develop hypotheses that describe how learning takes place.

The major theories of learning are the following: 

  • behaviorist theories 
  • cognitive psychology 
  • constructivism
  • social constructivism 
  • experiential learning 
  • multiple intelligence
  • situated learning theory and community of practice.

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Behaviorism theories

The behaviorist perspectives of learning originated in the early 1900s. The main idea of behaviorism is that learning consists of a change in behavior because of obtaining, strengthening and applying associations between input from the world, and observations of the individual.

  • Learning is reinforced by exercise and repetition, followed by a positive reward.
  • Learning takes place when the right parts of more complex behavior are rewarded.

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Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychology started in the late 1950s and contributed to the move away from behaviorism.

  • Instead of viewing people as collections of responses to external stimuli, people are viewed as information processors.
  • Cognitive psychology was influenced by the computer that processes information, that became analogous to the human mind.
  • Cognitive psychology understands learning as absorbing knowledge, acting on it, and storing it in memory.
  • The main teaching methods are lecturing and reading textbooks, where the learner receives knowledge passively.

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Constructivism

Constructivism started in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • The idea is that learning is not passive, but that learners have to make sense of their world by interpreting information actively.
  • Earlier influential theorists include Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner.
  • The common thread is the learner-centered approach, where the teacher becomes a guide of the learner's learning instead of only passing on information.

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Social learning theory

The theory of Albert Bandura suggests that people learn within a social context and that learning is the result of imitation and observation, which are processes involving attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.

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Socio-constructivism

In the late 20th century, socio-constructivism highlighted the role of context, in particular social interaction.

The criticism against the information-processing constructivist approach to learning is that the mind is not isolated from the world around it. Knowledge is not sufficient if it does not interact and connect with the context it finds itself in. Learning then became known as "participation" and "social negotiation."

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Experiential learning

It puts experience at the center of the learning process.
Carl Rogers is an influential proponent of these theories, suggesting that people have a natural inclination to learn, that they learn when they are fully involved in the learning process. He stated:

  • "Learning can only be facilitated: we cannot teach another person directly."
  • “learners become more rigid under threat”
  • “significant learning occurs in an environment where a threat to the learner is reduced to a minimum”
  • “learning is most likely to occur and to last when it is self-initiated.”

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Multiple intelligences

Howard Gardner's theory challenges the understanding of intelligence as a single general ability. He argues that every person's level of intelligence actually consists of many distinct bits of intelligence, namely:

  1. logical-mathematical
  2. linguistic
  3. spatial
  4. musical
  5. bodily-kinesthetic
  6. interpersonal
  7. intrapersonal

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Situated learning theory

Situated learning theory recognizes that there is no learning which is not situated. Learning occurs most effectively within communities - e.g., cooperation, problem-solving, building trust, understanding, and relations.

Thomas Sergiovanni argues that academic and social outcomes will improve only when classrooms become learning communities, and teaching becomes learner-centered.

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21st-century learning or skills

21st-century learning or skills result from the concern that learning should meet the new demands of the 21st century, which is knowledge and technologically driven. It encourages the development of core subject knowledge as well as new media literacies, critical and systems thinking, interpersonal, and self-directional skills.

One learning method that supports the learning of such skills and knowledge is group learning or thematic projects.

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