" We’re often told that there are three styles of learning and that the way in which we learn new things can fall into one of three areas: Behaviorism, which is the process of learning through the observation of something else, or “seeing it”. Cognitivism, which focuses on brain-based learning and memory-related information. Finally, there’s constructivism, which is learning through “building” new ideas based on one’s own experience, or “learning through doing”. However, these are really just the three main philosophical frameworks from which all learning theories are derived. In reality, there are around 80 different learning theories with other theories branching out from those. This article aims to clarify and to look at in more detail, the ideas behind a number of the more popular and commonly talked about theories of how we learn and why."
1. Observational Learning: Also referred to as the “monkey see, monkey do” method of learning. This happens when a person (or animal) exhibits behavioral changes after having observed another “model” do a similar thing. Also called the social learning theory, the observer will often mimic or imitate what is seen if the “observed” possesses characteristics that the observer finds attractive, for example, wealth or good looks. So, if we ever see someone (or ever do it ourselves) copying someone or indeed learning something from someone they admire, it’s all down to how we learn from observation and how people behave in the world around us.
2. Learning Styles: Because we’re all different, we have difference needs and desires, likes and dislikes. This can also be applied to the field of learning, in that we all have different ways of doing so. This theory is basically about how well a person can learn depending on how the learning experience is geared towards their particular style of learning or not. How a person will learn from an experience all depends on how their psychological type is when compared to the experience at hand. Concrete/Abstract learners will learn through solid experiences like learning and doing, analysis and observation, similar to what has been mentioned previously. Whilst active/reflective learners will learn better through though and reflection on the experience.
3. Communities of Practice: This refers to the process of social learning that happens when communities of people work and live in close approximation to one another. These “communities” may be neighborhoods of residents, or even people with common goals, it’s all about how they act towards each other as they strive to reach those goals. The term was coined by anthropologists Barbara Rogoff and Jean Lave, and has come to refer to communities that “practice” some sort of lifestyle, and into which new people that entered the group would enter and then attempt to pick up the social and cultural practices of said community.
4. Right Brain and Left Brain Learning: At one point or another, we’ve all heard about how the brain can be divided up into two hemispheres, with each side responsible for difference aspects of thinking (sometimes referred to as “modes” of thinking). It’s commonly thought that the left side is responsible for logical/scientific thinking, as well as analysis. While the right side is usually linked to more creative thinking, emotional and reflective in nature. Right/Left Learning also appears to be the subject of a number of short tests on the internet, supposedly letting you find out which “side” you lean towards.
5. Control/Choice Theory: Conceived by William Glasser, his theory states that behavior and learning are not caused by outside stimulus rather than what a person wants or needs at any given time. A better understanding of Control Theory will enable those who teach to better get their lesson across, because the learners will actively want to learn, and if students are unwilling to finish their homework, then it might well be because they view the work as basically being irrelevant to their basic human needs, as in, they don’t need to do it. Glasser came up with several ”drives” that every human has a need to fulfill in some respect, these are: Survival, power, love, freedom, fun and belonging. So if teachers are willing to motivate, care for, reward/praise and have faith in students and fulfill these innate desires, then learning is going to be whole lot easier.
6. Multiple Intelligences: Is a theory proposed by psychologist Howard Gardner and states that there are a number of ways in which people have a learning and understanding of what goes on around them, and that each of these ways are labeled as an “intelligence”, or a set of skills or methods in which people understand things. Gardner breaks these down into seven identified subsets of “intelligence”: Verbal, Logical, Visual, Body (physical motion and control), Musical, Interpersonal (interactions with others) and Intrapersonal (knowledge of oneself).
7. Brain-Based Learning: Is what it says, basically, that the brain is responsible for the learning aspect of life. That as long as the brain isn’t stopped from doing what it’s supposed to, then learning will happen. The theory also states that the morn we learn about the brain and the way it functions, the more we can relate how it processes learning and we can adjust our teaching patterns accordingly. Some examples of the main principles of this theory of understanding our minds include: That we have two types of memory – spatial and rote, each brain is unique, learning something usually involves peripheral attention as well as focused attention, and that learning is developmental.
8. Behaviorism: Briefly touched on at the start, Behaviorism is the theory that we learn via observation, that we “mimic” what behavior we see from those that come before us, and some even go so far as define learning as not much other than purely the acquisition of new behavior: We see what a teacher does/says and make that “behavior” our own. Research has gone into identifying different types of what is called “conditioning”, and that different types of conditioning may return different behavioral results. Classical conditioning is when a natural reflex occurs in response to some sort of stimulus, the experiment involving Pavlov’s dogs is arguably the most famous example of this, in which Pavlov gets dogs to salivate when a bell rings, this bell is – for the dogs – associated with the providing of tasty food. Another example of conditioning is ”operant conditioning”, when a response is reinforced through some method. A good example of this would be in the classroom, if a teacher rewards a student for good work, then because of reward, the response is likely to become more probable in the future (the response being good work from the student).
9. Theory of Cognitive Development: Also known as Piaget’s Developmental Theory, after Jean Piaget, a Swiss philosopher. His theory applies to the learning patterns of children whilst they’re growing up, that they build “cognitive structures” of how the view the world, which would involve the mental processes (schemes, concepts and responses, being some examples) required for dealing with a given situation, and that these structures would become increasingly complex as we grow up, that our intellect would grow as we learnt more and had to process ever more information.
10. Constructivism: Is the theory that we all learn by “doing”. It’s the philosophy that as we reflect on past experiences, we come to a much greater understanding of how the world works. Because our experiences are unique to us, so are our “rules” and “cognitive structures”, and this contributes to making each of us unique as a person, both in personality and in knowledge. Constructivism is when a learner is actively involved in creating new experiences that one can learn from, together with a teacher, who has these experience to pass on, thus creating unique cognitive experiences for all of the learners involved.Via Accredited Degrees. This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 9:47 am. (C) 2008 Accredited Degrees. All rights reserved.