Learning Theory Essay

Learning Theory Essay

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Learning is defined as a, "relatively permanent change in an organism's behavior due to experience" (Myers, 2010). The purpose of this paper is to present a critical analysis of the different theoretical approaches and explanations for learning through an examination of the theories of behaviorism, social learning and cognitive. I will investigate the principles and postulates of each theory, their strengths and their weaknesses. It is my belief that because each theory is best applicable to varying types of learning, it is best that a combination of each is used to provide the most complete learning experience.

Behaviorism is a theory that focuses on objectively observable behaviors, while discounting mental activities. Behavior theorists thus define learning as an observable or quantifiable change in behavior through the "universal learning process" known as conditioning. There are two types of conditioning, classical and operant, each of which yield a different behavioral pattern.

Classical conditioning, also referred to as, "Pavlovian conditioning," is a type of learning in which an organism learns to associate two stimuli: the conditioned (an initially neutral stimulus) and the unconditioned (a stimulus that routinely triggers an unconditioned response). If the conditioned stimulus accompanies the unconditioned stimulus, one will eventually learn to elicit an anticipatory and preparatory conditioned response in the presence of the conditioned stimulus alone (p 228).

Although the ideas of classical conditioning were incomplete, "if we see further than Pavlov did, it is because we stand on his shoulders." (p 235) He provided us with a type of learning that is virtually applicable to all organisms dur...


... middle of paper ...


...ent can take place of what is happening, and whether it is positive to enlarge the students' contributions in learning from life, thereby reducing the adaptive role of the teacher.

To seek a best way to structure learning runs the risk of imposing conformity on what should be a rich and diverse experience. As you can see, each theory has its positive and negative aspects, which is why I suggest a pragmatic approach that considers both the learner and the subject matter at issue and then opts for the approach -- classical/operant conditioning, social learning, cognitive, or a combination -- that best suits that particular learning experience.



Works Cited:

Myers, David G. (2010). Exploring Psychology, eigth edition. New York: Worth Publishers.

Rabinowitz, B., Siegel, Dr. S. & Spear., Dr. N. (2004). Class tapes: COCR958 The Science of Psychology.

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