Learning Theories Abstract Learned Phenomena essay

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Critical thinking input: Good teachers that truly understand how distracted today's young people are (with technology, etc.) learn how to get the most out of students by combining proven strategies of engagement with scholarship challenges that are both entertaining and compelling to their active minds.

B.F. Skinner

Historical views of transfer. When something is said to you and it reminds you (without you having to conjure up memories) instantly of something from the past. You transfer, or project your feelings to that moment in the past, or that person in the past. Dr. Michael Conner (psychologist) explains that transference responses are caused "by unmet emotional needs, neglect, seductions and other abuses that transpired when you were a child" (Conner, 2009). Perhaps a loved one was seriously injured or killed and the sound of the first responder's emergency vehicle arriving stays in the back of the mind; years later when that person hears a siren of an emergency vehicle, the transference back to that very bitter, sad day is instantly accomplished in his mind.

How learning occurs (Skinner). Learning is a function of "changes in overt behavior" which in turn result from an individual's "response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment" -- according to Skinner. When a particular "stimulus-response" pattern is rewarded or reinforced then the individual who initiated the action learns to respond (www.tip/psychology.org/skinner.html). Typically factors that influence learning are: a) reinforcement in the form of praise given verbally or in writing; reinforcement in the form of a better grade or a personal feeling of satisfaction. This is Skinner's operant conditioning -- a kind of behavior modification that reinforces -- and it can be continuous, interval, and ratio reinforcement; b) punishment can influence learning but Skinner believed that while punishment can create fear that fear can fade away and the behavior that was punished originally can and will return. Information processing: Skinner believed that information should be presented to learners in small amounts, so they could digest it, absorb it, and retain it. Cognitive information processing looks at the role of three of memory's stages, according to Purdue University's educational department. Those three stages are sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory; the stages, according to Skinner retrieve information and transfer it for storage and for availability to be recalled when needed. The sensory portion of memory gives the learner the power to organize patterns or groups of information; "learners recognize and then process these patterns" (Purdue). Small amounts of information can be retrieved in the short-term memory fields -- and if the short-term memory information is "effectively connected to previous knowledge, it is stored in long-term memory" (Purdue). Long-term memory gives the learner the power to recall that information and then apply it "across learning environments" for most appropriate use.

Why is conditional knowledge important for learning? One of the most important of the kinds of knowledge is conditional knowledge because it helps the learner understand why certain information is important and valuable. Having conditional knowledge doesn't suggest that the learner has full understanding of an issue, but it connects the learner to a more thorough meaning. Having conditional knowledge of baseball helps the learner understand why the manager takes the pitcher out of the game in the 8th inning -- but it doesn't answer (nor does it have to) as to the psychological or emotional reasons the manager made that particular decision with that particular pitcher.

Critical thinking input: One problem that today's teachers may encounter is that students are often perfectly willing to gain conditional knowledge of a subject or an issue but never challenge themselves to look deeper into that subject. Surface interest can get a student through school, but the job of the teacher is to challenge the student to dig deeper.

Albert Bandura's Social Cognitive Views

The process of triadic reciprocity causality. Bandura broke with many traditional behavioral theorists with his theory of triadic reciprocity. Bandura postulated that meaning was created through the individual, his environment and his behavior, and that all three are necessarily intertwined prior to the achievement of true meaning. Bandura's quote is from his book Social Learning Theory (1977, p. 22): "Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling; from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. Because people can learn from example what to do, at least in approximate form, before performing any behavior, they are spared needless errors" (Bandura, 1977, p. 22).

Factors that effect observational learning and performance. If reading instruction is effective, Bandura explained, it can create positive attitudes among learners and hence those learners can improve their ability to achieve. The long-term goal for a teacher is to create a condition in which the learner has sustained motivation to learn. Bandura's key to learning is his "self-efficacy" concept -- a person's confidence that he or she can perform a specific task competently and successfully (Pajaraes, 2003). One factor that goes into learning is the belief that each individual possesses self-beliefs that help them exercise a certain measure of control over their actions, their thoughts and feelings. Observing students while they were in the learning stages of the writing process helped Bandura come up with positive strategies. One, assess what confidence level as they begin the writing assignment; two, challenge the student's ability to actually complete the task -- it could be as simple as writing a letter to a friend -- and three, to ask students at the end of their writing performance what grade they would give themselves.

Factors that influence learning. According to Bandura's approach (in his Social Learning Theory) factors that influence learning -- through the modeler and the student's responses -- include: attention (any distractions can wipe out the potential for learning; and on the other hand if the learning model is of particular interest, it will capture the full attention of the learner); retention (storing information and the ability to store information when it is part of a process is vital; moreover the ability to retrieve that information later is also vital to observational learning); reproduction (the attentiveness to the model that the teacher has presented will pay off when it comes time to practice the learned behavior that was sought from the beginning of the exercise); and motivation ("…in order for observational learning to be successful, you have to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled"; and moreover, reinforcement and punishment always play a pivotal role in motivating the learner; an example of rewards and how they motivate, if a student sees that another student gets extra credit for being in class on time, that first student may begin showing up early as well to cash in on the rewards) (Van Wagner, 2008).

Self-concept and self-efficacy. As mentioned previously, Bandura's self-efficacy relates to a person's belief in his or her own capabilities to get a grasp on a project (writing, researching, finishing an assignment) and to succeed. It's an issue of building self-confidence, but it goes farther than that. "Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behavior to motivation" (Van Wagner, 2009).

Kendra Van Wagner, writing in about.com explains that "virtually all people" have goals they need to complete and things they would like to change, but how to go about getting it done is another matter. Bandura, meanwhile, has discovered through his research and observations that a person's self-efficacy can play a "major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached" (Van Wagner).

For example, if a person has a strong sense of self-efficacy, then they will: a) look at "challenging problems" as merely "tasks to be mastered"; b) develop "deeper interest in the activities in which they participate"; c) form a "stronger sense of…[continue]

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