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Most influential theories of learning

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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Most influential theories of learning

Most influential theories of learning

http://www.ibe.unesco.org/en/geqaf/annexes/technical-notes/most-influential-theories-learning

ibe.unesco.org

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.”

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

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.

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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Reading and continuous learning

Reading is one of the best sources of continuous learning. It allows your mind to grow, change and make new connections.

Highly successful learners read a lot: Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother. Bill Gates reads 50 books per year. Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks. Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports.

Learning as a process 

Learning is a journey, not a destination. It's a process of self-discovery, fueled by curiosity.

Learning is an investment that usually pays for itself in increased earnings. And in a fast-changing world, the learning skills quickly is becoming a necessity.

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Mark Twain

“It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain
The most useful learning
Most people think about learning as adding knowledge and skills. You now have a new fact in your mind that didn’t exist before.

The most useful learning isn’t usually a strict addition of new knowledge, but first unlearning something false or unhelpful.

Types of Unlearning
  • Straightforward refutation of the old idea. This complete refutation is atypical. More likely the new knowledge doesn’t contradict the old one, but it may modify it in some way.
  • The new knowledge revises a simpler picture by filling it with more complex details. This is similar to adding new knowledge, although because the older, simpler view of the issue has been overwritten with more detail, there is some unlearning going on.

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Re-reading and highlighting

Both of these study strategies are relatively ineffective. Passively reading the same text over and over again won’t do much for recall unless it’s spaced out over time. 

Different learning styles

Systematic studies of learning styles have consistently found no evidence or very weak evidence to support the idea that matching the material to a student’s learning style is more effective.

Right or left-brained

There is no conclusive evidence that people preferentially use the left or right hemisphere.

Certain functions are processed more by one region of the brain than others, and this is known as lateralization. But we all use our entire brain equally.

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Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn is a meta-skill. It is a critical skill for everyone who needs to pick up and master new concepts frequently.

Understanding what is learning and how our memory works wil...

Learning skills

Learning how to learn is critical for everyone. Most of us have to deal with a changing world and to learn how to manage tons of new information.

However, most of our learning methods are outdated and far from optimal. It may even be giving us an illusion of learning, like re-reading and highlighting that don't provide proper feedback to show what you haven't learned.

Focused and Diffuse Mode

Focused and diffuse modes provide two models for how we develop, elaborate, deepen and broaden connections. Both methods are important.

  • The focused mode of learning is about bringing related concepts together into a unit, called a chunk. 
  • The diffuse mode operates through a wider net of connecting general ideas across different fields. We use this diffuse mode while we sleep, exercise or daydream.

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Minimalism And Self-Betterment

Practical minimalism goes beyond aesthetics to foster self-betterment. Ultimately, seeking minimalism is a process of value clarification, editing out the unnecessary, and refining.

Identify Your Values

By identifying your core values you become more aware of what pursuits are worth your resources and can better employ them. There will be necessary tasks that don’t align with your core values, but you still have tremendous freedom to make your choices matter.

Prioritize Your Projects

Prioritizing lets you better choose the content you consume and the opportunities you seek so you can foster your core values more effectively.

Once you start pursuing productivity, efficiency-killers like TV, social media, and mindless consumption are likely to be the first to go.

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Ditch Your Learning Style

Learning styles (visual, auditory etc.) have actually little impact on our ability to learn.

The best way to learn depends on what you’re trying to learn in the first place. The ...

Find Meaning In Learning

If you try to force yourself to just memorize random facts, you’re likely to forget them. 

We will most likely remember only the information that was meaningful to us, that we’ve been able to connect to our lives and our experiences.

Learn by Doing

We learn best when we perform the tasks we’re trying to learn. 

No matter how good your grades were at college, most of your learning takes place once you enter the workplace and start applying what you've learned.

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The lifelong passport

Nowadays, everybody is aware of the importance a university diploma has for one's future. However, the fact that learning goes beyond the five years spent at university is just started to be taken ...

Learning practical skills

Subjects like maths and physics provide you with an appropriate base for lifelong learning. 

Another major component of this process refers to the high importance of learning through projects, which eventually enables students to gather up practical skills, that can easily be kept and improved throughout their life.

Advantages and disadvantages of lifelong learning

While resorting to lifelong learning may provide some advantages, such as enabling individuals of different ages and professional experience levels to share their knowledge, it also has certain disadvantages like the fact that the time the learners are supposed to devote to learning is decreasing the moments spent with their family.

Bloom's Taxonomy for Effective Learning
Bloom's Taxonomy for Effective Learning

A method used by teachers to improve learning: Students are asked to deal with increasingly challenging questions to test their comprehension of a given material. By asking critical think...

Levels of Bloom's Taxonomy

Knowledge - Remembering previously learned information

Comprehension - Demonstrating an understanding of the facts

Application - Applying knowledge to actual situations

Analysis - Breaking down objects or ideas into simpler parts and finding evidence to support realization

Synthesis - Compiling component ideas into a new whole or propose alternative solutions

Evaluation - Making and defending judgments based on internal evidence or external criteria

Essential skills for filtering information
Essential skills for filtering information
  • Mindfulness: the awareness of context and of changes within that context.
  • Discernment: the ability to recognize and anticipate the consequences of the patterns around you...
Expectancy Theory of Motivation

3 things must occur for a person to have high motivation for achieving their goals: 

  • You must believe you can do what it takes to achieve your goal. 
  • You must believe that you know how to achieve it (you have the proper methods). 
  • You must believe that the rewards of a particular goal are personally meaningful. 
Keystone skills

Those half dozen skills which facilitate the development of other skills. They are foundational to living a life in alignment, to having confidence and clarity, and to becoming a powerful learner and leader.

Writing down the deadline

It is important to write down your deadlines on a calendar that you can see on a daily basis. Review your calendar each day to ensure that you do not miss any of them.

Failing to research the options

If you have a deadline, research your options ahead of time before finalizing that deadline. It may take you longer to complete a project than initially anticipated.

Falling prey to lack of motivation

Procrastination is often due to the lack of motivation to complete the project. 

Offer yourself a reward for working on the project consistently or for when you finish the project.

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