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Learning Theories Of Educational Psychology

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Learning Theories Of Educational Psychology

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Learning Theories Of Educational Psychology

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Question:
Discuss about the Learning Theories of Educational Psychology.
 
 
Answer:
Learning theories are defined as the conceptual frameworks that define, explain and describe the process of attaining, absorbing and retaining knowledge by the learner in a classroom. As per the learning theories of educational psychology, cognitive, emotional as well as environmental factors largely influence the learning process of the student, and there are multiple learning theories such as Behaviorism learning theory, Cognitive learning theory, Constructive learning theory and Transformative learning theory, each of which offers a new perspective regarding the learner’s process of acquisition of knowledge (Pritchard, 2013). This essay intends to critically analyze the distinct features of two learning theories- Behaviorism and Constructivism, and offer a comparative study of the same.
Behaviorism as a learning theory adopts a psychological approach that upholds the view that any form of behavior is learnt through the interaction with the environment. According to this theory, at the time of birth, the mind of a child is similar to a tabula rasa (meaning blank slate) and it is only with the help of the right environmental influences, can a child develop his knowledge (Kolb, 2014). Consequently, the behaviorist learning theory emphasizes on the identical learning ability of each learn, given they all are exposed to the same and right environmental influences (Siemens, 2014). The Behaviorist theory was founded by B.F Skinner (1904-1990) who clearly stated that “Teachers must learn how to teach…they need only to be taught more effective ways of teaching”. The behaviorists believe that a child can be conditioned to learn and he will be able to learn as much as any of his other friends. His learning behavior can be controlled and influenced by operant condition or stimulus condition, and thus this theory focuses on the importance of rewards and punishment, in influencing the learning process of the learner. On the other hand, as opposed to this, the Constructivists claim that a learner tends to construct his or her own understanding and knowledge of the world and the environment, by experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). Hence, unlike the former theory, Constructivist approach emphasizes the importance of free learning in a student whereby he can use his existent knowledge, interpret situations, and develop his understanding through social interaction. John Dowey (1859-1952) and Piaget (1896- 1980) are considered to be the founders of the Constructive theory of learning, who denied the passive assimilation knowledge process of learners.
 
From the above discussion, it is clearly evident that both the above stated theories adopt a different approach in explaining the factors that can increase a learner’s achievement. It would be interesting to draw a comparison between the two learning theories. First of all, in case of Behaviorist learning approach, the role of a learner is limited and highly passive, as he is only meant to respond to the stimuli, and participate in the learning process in fear of punishment or for being motivated by rewards (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). On the other hand, it is needless to state that learning is an active process in case of Constructivism, whereby the students are being offered the full autonomy to explore new facts, interpret and construct new principles and ideas based on their existent knowledge, and develop their learning ability. With the role of the learners, the role of the teacher also largely changes in each of the two theories. The Behaviorist learning theory entrusts the duty of designing the learning process to the teacher whereby the teacher is supposed to create an ideal learning environment for the student to learn and shape the learner’s behavior by positive and negative reinforcement (Klein & Mowrer, 2014). The teacher’s role plays an important role here as he is the one to present all the information, so that the student can demonstrate his knowledge through tests which again will be assessed by the teacher. The teacher under this learning theory is the ultimate guide and unquestionable authority who will only assist the student in the learning process. Contrary to this approach, in case of the Constructivist learning approach, the role of the teacher is limited to creating a learner-friendly environment, and encouraging the students to engage in an active, free learning process (Thomas et al., 2014). The teacher does not present all the information in the class, but rather encourages independent learning through open-ended questions as well as facilitates extensive academic dialogue amongst the students. The teacher is much more than a mere dispenser of knowledge (Duffy & Jonassen, 2013). The basic idea in the Behaviorist learning theory is conditioning of the learner’s mind in a way, that the learner can enhance his knowledge through positive and negative reinforcement, and trial and error methods. The learner needs to be fed with the information, assessed and given feedback and the earner can eventually lean through stimulus-response process. However, the key concept in Constructivist learning process is that a child can learn independently and analyze and critically evaluate little piece of information, provided the teacher acts as a facilitator rather than an instructor. Knowledge construction is prioritized over knowledge reproduction (Eysenck, 2013).
A chief advantage of Behaviorism is that it facilitates controlled learning whereby the learner’s progress can be measured, and controlled through repeated assessment tests and concrete feedbacks by the teacher. This might be a drawback in the Constructive theory, as while too much autonomy provided to the students can definitely encourage academic creativity of some of the students, the comparatively weaker students may not be able to experience academic progress in absence of proper control. However, a chief advantage of the Constructive learning theory is that it helps in boosting learner’s creativity and allow him to offer innovative ideas, that have not been proposed earlier. In case of Behaviorist theory, a learner is not allowed to be creative enough and his knowledge remains confined to the exhaustive academic curriculum the teacher has designed for the students (Thomas, 2014). The elimination of a standardized curriculum makes the learning process far more learner-centric in constructive learning process, whereby the students of different intelligence feel motivated to explore new ideas. The Behaviorist theory encourages the teachers to believe that all the students can be addressed by establishing the relation between sensory stimuli and the unique corresponding response. However, Constructivist learning theory helps to serve the slow learners and learners with low intelligence level, who cannot accomplish tasks in a strict teacher centric environment. The use of innovative, student-friendly tools such as the ICT tools in the learning process help motivate the students in the Constructive learning environment, while active engagement, inquiry, problem solving, and collaboration with others aids in easy, comprehensive process of learning.  
 
References
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.Duffy, T.M. and Jonassen, D.H. eds., 2013. Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Routledge.
Kolb, D.A., 2014. Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT press.
Pritchard, A. (2013). Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom. Routledge.
Siemens, G. (2014). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.
Thomas, A., Menon, A., Boruff, J., Rodriguez, A. M., & Ahmed, S. (2014). Applications of social constructivist learning theories in knowledge translation for healthcare professionals: a scoping review. Implementation Science, 9(1), 54.Eysenck, H.J., 2013. Learning theory and behaviour therapy. Readings in Clinical Psychology, p.349.
Thomas, A., Menon, A., Boruff, J., Rodriguez, A. M., & Ahmed, S. (2014). Applications of social constructivist learning theories in knowledge translation for healthcare professionals: a scoping review. Implementation Science, 9(1), 54.Gray, C., & MacBlain, S. (2015). Learning theories in childhood. Sage.

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