There are many theories of learning which teachers can easily use to improve their teaching practice. The three main schemas of learning theories include - Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. All theories of learning that exist fall under these three schemas.
Behaviorism - The notion behind behaviorism is that knowledge is self-contained and exists outside of the learner. In the eyes of a behaviorist, the learner is a blank slate that needs to be filled with information.
Cognitivism - In contrast to behaviorism, the school of cognitivism believes that students process information rather than just responding to a given stimulus. The retrieval of information can be understood through cognitivism, and it has led to the evolution of many educational theories like cognitive load theory, schema theory, and dual coding theory.
Constructivism - Constructivism is founded on the assumption that we acquire new ideas by constructing them from our own existing knowledge and experiences. As a result, each learner's experience is unique. Students adjust their understanding models by reflecting on previous theories or correcting mistakes.
Now let us dive deep into the main theories of learning.
What are the Theories of Learning?
Social learning theory
Albert Bandura developed a comprehensive social learning theory that includes both cognitive and behavioral aspects. It focuses on characteristics such as attention, memory, and motivation. His theory advocates that people learn by observations or through others' experiences, or by imitating others.
This kind of social learning is even more impactful on children. They usually learn things from their peers or from imitating people they look up to. Thus, positive role-modeling has a deep impact on a child.
The social constructivist approach considers knowledge to be already present within the individual, but the processing of that knowledge and learning depends on his interaction with the surrounding environment. The knowledge is nothing in isolation but attains meaning only when understood in a social context.
It takes a new meaning with the change in social factors such as context, culture, and society. Thus, learning is actually an interaction between an individual and his environment, and knowledge is a product of the same.
This kind of learning, as the name suggests, is based on experiences. People learn a lot from various experiences. These experiences can be their own or of others, they have known. This theory tries to understand how experiences shape a person's thinking and make him learn.
By understanding this, experiential learning can be applied to students to make them learn and respond to situations based on meaningful and positive experiences. This will enhance the learning outcomes of the students. This kind of learning is never forgotten by the person and helps throughout his lifetime.
A noted psychologist, Howard Gardner, developed his theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. He was not of the general view that the learning process is the same in every individual and is based on some common factors. He considered intelligence to be of many types. Some people possess some types, and some people possess some others. Each person can have a different set of intelligence. The following are some of the types of intelligence given by him:
According to him, if one could recognize the type of intelligence possessed by a person and work on harnessing it, he could achieve really great results. This can be applied in schools as well. Teachers should be trained to recognize certain traits in students and motivate them to work on them and excel in that particular area.
Situated theory of learning
This theory is given by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. It incorporates the aspects of many other theories of learning. The theory states that the learning process is most efficient when made engaging and group-based. People understand far better in such settings. Community-based learning is efficient and yields good learning outcomes.
Another psychologist, Thomas Sergiovanni, also favors the view that group-based learning is very effective. This kind of learning can be leveraged to get good results not only in schools but also to improve some social ills and incorporate good behavior in citizens. It can be used to improve governance and discipline in workplaces leading to a healthy working environment.
New-age learning or skills
New-age skills are knowledge-based skills and technologically driven. It requires classroom-based learning to focus on developing critical thinking, interpersonal communication skills, and also self-learning using the resources available online. One such method to acquire these skills is through group learning which helps in addressing real-world problems with a collaborative approach.
Theories of Learning and Long-Term Child Development
In general, psychological constructivism, such as Piaget's, believes that the long-term development of a child determines his ability to learn and grow. In the early years of a child's development, he just responds to his environment using his senses. Neither does he know how to speak nor to understand any language. Therefore, it becomes difficult to make him learn in a conventional school-like setting. But, as he grows and develops language skills, it becomes easier to make him understand things.
The parents are the very first mentor of a child, and as he goes to school, the teachers take that place. The teacher has to make sure that the child is provided with enough opportunities to interact with him and the other children of similar age-group. This way, the learners and the teachers will be able to understand each other better. This will enable learners to respond better to their situation, adjust their behavior accordingly and make healthy relationships. All this will help them succeed in life.
Thus, these theories of learning, if understood and applied properly by teachers and mentors, can lead to the holistic development of children to make them well-rounded individuals.