Workplace Learning the Subject of Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The classic example of this type of conditioning is the feeding of Pavlov's dog, in which the dog is provided with two unrelated stimuli (food at the sound of the bell). After a time, the dog, upon hearing the bell, begins to salivate, even though food is withheld from the subject. The dog "learns" that the bell sound means food, without the dog undergoing any cognitive processing or thinking about the activity (David C. Leonard, 2002)."


The motivations provided by the employers should be closely associated with the response of the employees. This will allow the employees to transform all their behaviors into a learning process and thus a never ending cycle of learning and improvement will be created. However, there are certain complications in implementing the "Connectionism Theory." David C. Leonard, (2002) explains this phenomenon in detail, he writes, "Edward Thorndike's behaviorist learning theory proposes that learning occurs through the close associations that occur between stimuli and responses without any consideration of the internal mental states which, by their very nature, are unobservable and therefore irrelevant. Thus the "connection" in connectionism is the S-R stimulus-response association that guides all behavior, including learning. Connectionism, according to Thorndike, follows three basic laws: the law of effect, the law of readiness, and the law of exercise. The law of effect states that responses to stimuli become habits when the effect of the response is rewarding to the 'organism.' The law of readiness states that there exists a chain of responses from the "organism" as it pursues an externally rewarded goal. If this chain is blocked at any point, it causes the organism a great deal of frustration and annoyance. The law of exercise states that the more connections become stimulated over time, the stronger (and more habitual) they become and vice versa (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

Contiguity theory (behaviorism)

This theory believes that humans learn through trail and error; that humans do not react as strongly to rewards/punishments as they do to trail and error. In an organizational environment, this may be factual because of the immense competition and very little time the workforce has to gather itself and assess the situation. Therefore, the time between the motivation and the reaction to that motivation is very little. David C. Leonard, (2002) explains this phenomenon by asserting, "This is Edwin Ray Guthrie's theory, which postulates that learning is a result of the organism's association between a specific stimulus and a specific response. The classic study that Guthrie performed was on cats trying to escape the maze of a puzzle box. Trial and error is important to escape. By photographing the cat's movements, Guthrie observed that the cats learned to repeat their movement sequences based upon their last escape from the puzzle box. The cats improved their escape ability by unlearning movements that were not successful to their mission (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

There are however certain complex implications in this theory as well. For instance, while the employees may be able to quickly react to the incentives and kick start the learning process, they may also very quickly forget the lessons learned from the task, once the task is completed. Therefore certain things have to be taken into consideration when executing this theory.

David C. Leonard, (2002) writes, "The key thing about the theory is that learning occurs immediately at the time of the response to the stimulus. Rewards and punishments are insignificant to learning. Forgetting what is learned is not a result of passage of time, but rather a result of interference. For the learner, as the stimulus becomes associated with other incorrect responses, the interference occurs. Within a human (versus cat) learning situation, contiguity theory stresses having the learners perform very specific tasks and making sure that their last response in the learning situation is correct, for that is what will be remembered and learned. The downside of the theory is that just as specific actions are quickly learned, so too are they quickly unlearned (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

Contingency schedule

Certain behaviors of employees are constructive for the organization's success, while other behaviors are considered to be destructive. The Contingency schedule can resolve this dilemma by restricting the employees' negative behaviors by strengthening their constructive behavior. This will allow them to focus more on their constructive side and thereby enhance the productivity of the organization. The equilibrium created through this measure will pave way for an effectual learning environment, where all members of the organization can fruitfully participate.

David C. Leonard, (2002) writes, "Important within the context of reinforcer and reinforcement theory, a contingency schedule is a method used to increase behavior modification in an organism by denying access to a specific action. In early reinforcement theories, a reinforcer is anything that reinforces behavior. For Hull, a reinforcer is anything that causes drive reduction in an organism. Generally speaking, a reinforcer is a stimuli, of which there are two types. A primary reinforcer is one that has as its basis the survival of the organism. A secondary reinforcer is a stimulus that is paired with a primary reinforcer. According to William Timberlake, the disequilibrium hypothesis postulates that each and all activities of an organism can be a reinforcer if the experimenter provides a contingency schedule whose sole purpose is to constrain the organism from accessing a particular activity. The contingency schedule creates in the organism a disequilibrium in which the restriction to activity access is itself a reinforcer. By providing a contingency schedule, the least probable activity that could be reinforced is reinforced in the organism (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

Disequilibrium hypothesis (behaviorism)

When the workforce is overly restricted and controlled, tie laves negative and unconstructive influence on the workforce. They turn out to be less productive and less enthusiastic to learn new things about their line of work. This does harm the organization because in this dynamic nothing is stable and the workforce has to consistently up date it self with the latest developments. Similarly, too much freedom given to the workforce will also have a negative influence on the organization's performance. David C. Leonard, (2002) writes, "This reinforcement theory of William Timberlake states that restricting access to a particular response from an organism makes that response even more reinforcing. Conversely, providing excessive access to a response makes that response even more punishing to the organism (David C. Leonard, 2002)."


The senses play an important role in developing complex ideas. In the present day environment a good idea can be the difference between success and failure. The workforce is seen to be extra motivated and inspired after hearing the new ideas, which they feel will bring out positive results for the organization. This in turn spurs up constructive activities that eventually pave way for an environment where exchange of ideas becomes a norm.

David C. Leonard, (2002) writes, "Not really part of any one learning paradigm, but an influence on all, empiricism is the philosophical belief that the basis for the understanding and attainment of human knowledge (i.e., epistemology) is through sensory experience. Through the senses, humans gather information and process it. The human mind is thus a direct result of life and learning experiences. From sensory experience, humans derive simple ideas. From a combination of simple ideas, complex ideas are formed (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

The study of senses is not a new phenomenon; since research has shown that the concept had been alive even in the first millennium. However, as time progressed, newer theories related to the sensory perceptions and the human mind started evolving. These theories sometimes contradicted one another and other times supported each other's claims. David C. Leonard, (2002) explains the historical development of Empiricism, he writes "Empiricism's most obvious and ardent expositor in relatively modern times was the seventeenth-century English philosopher John Locke. He believed that the human mind at birth was a blank slate (tabula rasa) upon which experience writes. In the eighteenth century, David Hume, often regarded as a radical empiricist, argued that we can be sure of nothing, for all of our knowledge is based upon subjective and personal sensory experience. From a philosophical perspective, empiricism, especially in its most radical form, was a tremendous influence on behaviorism, in which the study of mental events was regarded as irrelevant and off-limits. Instead, human behavior, not human thought, should be the focus of learning research. To the behaviorists, behavior can be scientifically observed and analyzed. This is not the case with human thought (David C. Leonard, 2002)."

Goal gradient

In order to effectively enhance the motivational level of the workforce; they must be given tasks they can relate to. This can be gauged frpm the response they give after the task is given to them. An energetic response will prove that they are eager to execute the task and lackluster response will show that they are not all that keen to carry out the task. The goal gradient theory lies on the fact the…

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