People Learn Edward C Tolman Was a Essay

  • Length: 6 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Teaching
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #91703419

Excerpt from Essay :

People Learn

Edward C. Tolman was a man whose research focused on trying to understand how animals acquire knowledge. As a psychologist, he also tried to determine how the mind of the human being paralleled what he saw in lower life forms. What he found was that motivation was a primary factor in how people learn. A rat in a maze would find the hidden pieces of tasty cheese far more quickly if the animal had been left hungry than if he or she had been fed before the test had been administered. Subsequently, the rats learned to equate their examinations with the obtaining of food stuffs (Tolman 1948). Similarly, human beings learn to equate knowledge with acquisition of things that they desire. Students from the youngest of ages are told that good grades will be rewarded, not merely in the abstract but with physical reward such as money or gifts, as well as the promise of a brighter possible future than their less academically-inclined counterparts.

Researchers have utilized Tolman's research to find out why people desire knowledge and also how they acquire knowledge. His results all lay the foundation for some of the preeminent theoreticians of human logic and the acquisition of knowledge, such as Lee Vygotsky. This man Vygotsky was one of the first sociologists and psychologists exclusively interested in the study of child development and in the exploration over which education techniques would best serve children. Before him, psychologists such as Tolman were more concerned with the adult brain, and the male adult brain in particular. Theoreticians and sociologists in the modern time period have written extensively on whether or not the theories of Vygotsky are still viable in the United States and in the field of education throughout the world. Specifically researchers have examined his theory on the Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding wherein the child's base knowledge is used to determine the next step in their education. To this end, the works of authors Gredler (2009), Hofstetter (2009), Kravstov (2010), Louis (2009), Mills (2010), Muthivhi (2010), Nicolopoulou (2010), Towsey (2009), and Zaretskii (2009) all function as a dialogue with one another in exploring the continued significance of Vygotsky's theories on development of the human brain and the scaffolding technique.

This all builds on the initial research performed by Edward Tolman. Rats, he found, all have a stimulus-response if they are accomplishing a goal. That is, the rat must feel that he or she will be rewarded for making an attempt to find their way through the confounding maze. Gredler (2009) identifies the major concepts of Vygotsky's works and applies them into the modern perspective and also attempts to identify his writings with the perspective of the Soviet Union and the Cold War fears of the world at large. Besides this, Vygotsky, she argues, was influenced by other philosophers who were not working exclusively within the field of child development or education, such as Tolman. Specifically, Vygotsky was influenced by the philosophers Hegel, Spinoza, and Marx. Vygotsky did not begin his work studying the effects of the psychological development of children but rather later applied theories of human psychology exclusively to children. Tolman originally tested his theories of knowledge acquisition on the abilities of rats, but then applied the evidence of that research to higher life forms, which eventually included humanity. The basic analytical level Gredler studies is the effectiveness of the stimulus-response law that began Vygotsky's philosophical writings (4). She breaks down the different levels of Vygotsky's methodologies and defines their effectiveness in his overall assertions. Among these are a tabled breakdown of external regulation, internal regulation, egocentric speech, and the importance and outcomes of cognitive development, none of which could be understood without the research and experimentation of Tolman in the first half of the twentieth century.

In her conclusions, Gredler decides that although Vygotsky's theories and methodologies are still useful in the present educational climate, the current aims of education require the modification of some of these principles. For example, education in the modern era is now more concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and problem-solving skills, whereas Vygotsky felt the role of education was the development of higher mental functions (Gredler 2009,-page 10). Perhaps the greatest discrepancy in modern society vs. The hypothetical world Vygotsky was theorizing about involves the sense of self and individuality in education. "Unlike current perspectives, Vygotsky, by specifying developmental levels of self-mastery, defined self-regulation in terms of cognitive operations that are executed in the same way across curriculum areas" (Gredler 2009,-page 10).

The main discussion of Hofstetter (2009) is the differentiation between detained knowledge and objective knowledge and how that concept is applied in Vygotsky's theories. The questions with which the researchers are working are: 1) What is the relationship between development and education? 2) What is the knowledge to teach? And 3) What knowledge is required for teaching? The teacher and other educators, whether they be parent or peer, are all functioning with the intend of reforming the child's mental state through the acquisition and application of knowledge. The teacher, per Hofstetter's words, changes in the Vygotsky model from the originator who forces the child to memorize data and instead becomes an entity wherein the student learns through the psychological impact of the teacher. Psychologist and theorist Claparede made the assertion that teacher is both stimulator and collaborator. "It is not so much the knowledge and erudition of the teacher that counts, but his enthusiasm" (Hofstetter 2009,-page 617). This goes hand in hand with the Vygotsky methodology that the banking system of education where the teacher is informer and the students is intended to absorb the information without contradiction is an inefficient fallacy. Part of the discrepancy between the formulation of the Vygotsky theory and the modern interpretation is the fact that when he was writing, the modern education system was not in existence. His was still a time when children did not always finish school and many had to leave early to become part of the workforce. Tolman's research with rodents and other creatures has shown that motivation is an intrinsic part of education, that in order to be taught, a being must feel that they are getting something out of the learning process.

In the work of G.G. Kravsov (2010), the researcher conducts experimentation to determine the validity of Vygotsky's determination that children develop more through socialization and that the best way to create these opportunities for learning are through play. Kravsov points to four questions for inquiry: 1) there is a clear difference between classical education and the modern 2) classical does not understand play as an auxiliary tool to education 3) in modern educational setting, play can replace object-manipulative activities and 4) criterion of play has altered in the ensuing period. Kravsov found that "the psychological readiness for play is connected with special situational forms of communication between the child and adult, together with the use of 'key' actions with objects" (31). The child understands play from before they have linguistic ability and it is through play that the child acquires these educational strategies. However, play cannot be an individualized activity; there has to be some other individual or entity present in order to educate the child on the fundamentals of play. Once base knowledge is acquired, children develop imagination and the ability to apply play to all other forms of knowledge acquisition. This is the process of systematic leading and learning. Child is educated by leader and becomes learner. When the new person comes into contact with this child, the young one takes over the position of leader and the new individual is learner. At the same time, the two labels can be reversed within the same discussion so that both are learners and leaders at any given moment. "Play provides a special context of free, volitional forms within a child's communicational skills with others, forming a cohesiveness that helps to provide 'psychological readiness' for learning in school" (32). By turning all forms of learning into a game, the educator can alter an educational experience and imbue the child with the understanding that there is an equating of play and learning. The motivation for the child is not in the learning itself, but in whether or not they are enjoying their experiences. The desire to learn is not enough motivation in itself.

All theory regarding education has as its foundation the understanding that acquisition of knowledge is related to the function of the brain. Each brain is born with the capacity to gain new knowledge. Every person thus is born with a capacity to learn, whether or not he or she chooses to gain information and knowledge is often based upon factors like intelligence and upbringing. However, besides natural ability, the determinant factor of whether a person will try to learn with whether or not that person sees a benefit to education. Tolman proved that all learning, whether it be a rat in a maze or a child…

Cite This Essay:

"People Learn Edward C Tolman Was A" (2011, August 15) Retrieved January 16, 2017, from

"People Learn Edward C Tolman Was A" 15 August 2011. Web.16 January. 2017. <>

"People Learn Edward C Tolman Was A", 15 August 2011, Accessed.16 January. 2017,