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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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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 comp...

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 b...

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.

    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 commo...

    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. ...

    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, interper...

    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 wi...

    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 i...

    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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