Learning Can Be Categorized Into Three Distinct Essay

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learning can be categorized into three distinct groups: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Behaviorism refers to the student's interaction with the environment and focuses on the external aspects of learning and on that which encourages learning such as positive reinforcement on the one hand and punishment on the toehr. Cogntivism, on the other hand, focuses on attitudes, motivation, and ideas and refers to the brain's interaction with the academic environment and with subject taught. Finally, constructivism represents and describes the situation where the learner actively builds new ideas or constructs learning situations.

Other approaches include humanism (where the focus is placed on respecting and motivating the individual student as encouragement to learning) and social / situational (namely those situational / social constructs interact in shaping a student's motivation and classroom attitude.


Behaviorism believes that external actions and manner dominate if not replace cognition. Radical behaviorists believe that mind / cognition is a non-existent entity. For a change in behavior to occur it has to come about through changes in the environment. Deliberate modifications in experience (i.e. In external manifestations through actions of others or modifications in environment) cause changes in behavior. A person is so through his or her environment, and learning occurs through changes in that environment. (The cognitive stance, on the other hand, asserts that learning is a change in mental associations accrued as a result of experiences). Whereas behaviorists put the accent on external manifestations: behavior and the environment, internalism (or mentalism) accents the internal -- cognition and mental. Stimulus of necessity equals response, and some behaviorists maintain that if no observable change happens, then no learning has occurred.

Behaviorists believe that individuals are born as blank slates and since each has different learning experiences, each, therefore, evidences different sets of personalities and character since each one's differential learning experiences permanently impresses their behavior (or personality) in a particular manner. In essence, therefore, humans become conditioned by their environment, and learning has a permanent impact on their behavior (Ormrod, 1999).


Cognitivism focuses on the array of mental products that go into the learning process. These include perception, intelligence, social role acquisition, memory (short-term and long-term memory), cognitive load, insight, and information processing.

Mental schemas -- otherwise known as mental abstractions - automatically compel us to categorize facets of our environment such as objects, personality traits, self, social roles, and social groups in a certain manner, consequently driving the student's response. The central hypothesis of cognitive science is that thinking can best be understood in terms of representational structures in the mind and computational procedures that operate on those structures. Most work in cognitive science assumes that the mind has mental representations analogous to computer data structures, and computational procedures similar to computational algorithms. Some of these heuristics include mental shortcuts approaches such as 'representativeness' (where a percept is associated with a similar item), 'framing effect' (in terms of the context) or availability (that which most readily springs to mind).

In terms of education, learning is viewed as an internal mental process that in order to be best acquired and internalized requires skills and methods that develop the student's intelligence and present the learning n such a way that his/her cognitive abilities master and enjoy the subject


Constructivist educators, famously Dewey, Piaget, and Vygotsky, see education as integration of past and present experiences with all stimuli involved in building new ideas or learning constructs (Driver et al., 1994). To this end, Dewey, for instance, advocated that education employ a combination of stimuli and senses so that learning truly become part of the self and that it attempt to reach affect in synthesis with cognition. For this reason, contemporary modes of education endeavor to relate education to practicum so that putting oneself into the piece of data, thinking it through, applying it to one's situation, and making it a part of oneself eventuates by having the learning make a permanent imprint on behavior.

Similar to constructivism is the concept of social constructivism where it is believed that ideas are shaped within a social structure. Learning, it is posited, can best occur within the medium of the social group and is naturally shaped by social processes. Ina peripheral sense, social construction also refers to the way that social phenomena are created, institutionalized, and made into knowledge structures by humans (Dictionary.com). In terms of education, it would extend to social perceptions of a particular school, university, or program. Students associated with that particular academic institution (for instance, Harvard) are often assessed according to the name of the school or to the kind of program. Poverty can cause society to label a student in a certain way according him or her less chances than another. Intelligence may be another factor as may be perception of any other of a student's characteristics. All of these have a self-prophetic effect where the individual may come to act in the way that he/she is perceived.

Constructivism is evidenced in self-directed learning, transformational learning, situated cognition, experiential learning, religious practice, and reflective learning.


The humanist approach, such as that advocated by Kagan, Kyle, and Scott (Charles, 2005) recommends showing appreciation for the student, showing him or her positive ways of receiving attention, and working on building self-validation and self-esteem skills. One of the most important characteristics, if not the most important is consistency. Students need a clear idea of what the rules entail, and crave stability. A common reason, too, that children misbehave is because of a fear of failure, and the humanist approach believes that if excitement rather than fear were instilled, students would be motivated to grasp the subject matter. Instruction is delivered in a win-win manner where rather than teacher being on top, teacher and student interrelate with one another and it is with the student being granted respect, listened to, and accepted in an unconditional way with teacher seeking to understand him or her that learning can best be achieved.

Other Learning Theories

Transformative learning

Transformative learning (Taylor, 2008) is another approach that heavily leans on interaction, particularly in the form of debate and argumentation as an effective vehicle for promoting change. Believing that an individual "looks at his world through transparent patterns or templates which he creates and then attempts to fit over the realties of which the world is created" (Kelly, 1963), and that that our characterization of events are often unduly influenced by prior beliefs or knowledge structures called belief preference and enculturation, transformative theorists believe that this can best be challenged by entering into critical discourse with others. This enables us to see others points-of-view and move towards a more democratic wider understanding that is more inclusive, self-reflective, and based on evidence rather than on emotion.

Design-based Research Methods (DBR)

DBR is the approach that believes in integrating research with theory. There is an abundance of research on education, not all of which is context-based or applicable to the classroom. DBR believes that learning best be achieved by confluence of theory and practice within the context of the classroom rather than the laboratory and within the context of real-life (Learning theories.com).

Recent theories of learning argue whether learning should evolve with the general idea first presented and pieced filled in later, or whether learning should occur in a piecemeal fashion. In Marzano's (1991) restructuring knowledge, for instance, prior knowledge helps students move on to bigger ideas and understanding of concepts. This usually occurs in an informal, oftentimes, hands-on, interactive situation. Using a Socratic approach, it is believed that new knowledge can only be gained by challenging the old, and that once current ideas are challenged, alterations in information paradigms can step in and take their place. This accords with studies by Brown and Ryoo (2008) who suggest that learning best occurs when broken up into a series of steps rather than thrust on the student in one go.

Similarly is the concern with motivation where theorists such as Deci argue that students learn best when they are motivated to do so.

According to Deci (Learning theories.com) learning involves two categories: (1) the type of learning that the individual absorbs data that is directed to him and, obediently, memorizes or robotically acts upon. He 'learns' that information as, for example, a lesson in math or geography, and (2) the learning that emanates from 'inside out'. This type of learning has become an extension of and a construction of the individual, where the individual synthesizes data with his own experiences, opinions, and beliefs and where the learning, having taken on the face of the individual, assumes a new character. It is with this latter form of learning that a permanent change in behavior can occur for the learning is no longer extrinsic to the individual but has become an internal part to him.

Informal learning theorists argue that students, therefore, learn best in collaboration -- in groups or in teams -- rather than alone and that this is best acquired through debate, talk, and discussion.…

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