As we discussed during the class learning is a process of connecting between what is already known or understood and new information. Merriam Webster defines learning as “gaining knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience”. So, learning happens when people use their experience to deal with new situation, develop their knowledge.
In other words, we can say people construct information from experience, build on prior knowledge, and organize their own learning. As an instructional designer, I have been taught to concentrate on developing quality classes, to achieve this goal, we strive to develop classes based on sound of instructional design and planning using systematic models and learning theories.
These learning theories provide a basis to understand how people learn and a way to explain, describe, analyze and predict learning. Thus, first let’s start talking about how learning occurs based on learning theories.
According to Behaviorist Theory: learning occurs when proper response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific stimulus. The focus is to maintain and strengthen the relationship between the stimulus and response. Learning occurs when there is reactive with the environment (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Also, when there is promotion of desirable behavior and discourages of undesirable behaviors. So, external stimulus and response are important to learn.
According to Cognitive Theory: Learning is an active process where meaning and understanding built from experience (Wildman & Burton, 1981). Learning occurs when the learner is very active in the learning process (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). Moreover, learning takes place when information is absorbed through sensory memory, sent to working memory, processed, and encoded into long term memory for storage.
According to Constructivist Theory: learning happens by creating a meaning from experience. What the learner knows is based on his/her own experiences. Knowledge is constructed by the learners. Learners strive to know, so the experience should be examined as it is in constant change (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).
According to Social Learning Theory: learning is a social process. Learning occurs when each learner is engaged in social activities. Knowledge is culturally and socially constructed (Kim, 2001).
Second, which factors influence learning? According to psychology, there are many factors that influence learning, some of them associated with learner and other connected with learning process. First, psychological factors: readiness, intelligence, motivation, mental health, nature ability to learn, and individual differences, fear to failure, etc. Then, biological factors: physical health, self-concept, maturity, needs, proper sleep, proper nutrition, etc. Next, environment factors: learner beliefs, culture demands, family background, physical conditions, achievement, social expectation etc. Finally, instructional factors: teacher’s personality, learning strategy, curriculum, teaching aids, etc.
According to Behaviorist Theory: Strength of stimulus. Chaining and shaping. Environment of the learner. Reinforcement (positive and negative) increase the behavior and punishment to decrease the chances of the behavior happening again. All these can influence learning.
According to Cognitive Theory: Extrinsic and intrinsic components. Rehearsal, encoding, chunking, selective attention, pattern recognition, interference, failure to encode or retrieve.
According to Constructivist Theory: Both the learners and the environments influence learning. The content must be embedded in the situation. Real setting and tasks are relevant to the learner’s experience (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).
According to Social Learning Theory: Learning influences through social interactions with more knowledgeable learners. Collaborating with other learners through community of practice is important (Kim, 2001).
Finally, what is the role of both learners and teacher in learning process based on learning theories? In general, learners have responsibility for their learning. They should engage activity, shape and review own learning throughout self-assessment, and develop skills for further learning. On other hand, teacher primary goal is to inform a learner through explicit instruction, supplemented by textbook and other materials. Teacher can also facilitate learning, provide learners with the information and tools they need to master a subject, and involve interaction with students.
The role of teachers according to Behaviorist Theory: Providing students with instructional cues, practicing, and reinforcement. Helping in determining goals and outcomes. Using activities that offer rewards, quizzes that offer feedback or online activities that again offer feedback and allow the students to go back over the material.
The role of teachers according to Cognitive Theory: Teaching the learners how to learn. Discussion group/questions. Demonstration of working knowledge through projects or models. Presentations in front of the class. Brainstorming in class about a topic in order to allow students to link new ideas to anchoring one schema.
The role of teachers according to Constructivist Theory: Providing opportunities to learners who can deal with unstructured and complex problems (Ertmer & Newby, 1993).
The role of teachers according to Social Learning Theory: Providing learners with problem-based learning, shared teaching, peer collaboration and learning with others.
In conclusion, although these theories differ in some ways such as general assumptions and guiding principles, there is no one best learning theory. They have a common foundation which explains how learning and teaching processes should be or should take place.
Ertmer, P.A. & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4).
Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology, 1(1), 16.
Wildman, T. M., & Burton, J. K. (1989). Integrating learning theory with instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 4(3), 5–14.