4 Theories of Learning (Explained)

Theories of LearningLearning is the individual growth of the person as a result of cooperative interaction with others.

It is the advancement of understanding that enables the learner to function better in their environment, improve and adapt behaviors, create and maintain healthy relationships, and achieve personal success.

Learning has taken a place if an individual behaves, reacts, and responds taken from other as a result of experiences change in a behavior or formerly behave.

4 Theories of learning

  1. Classical Conditioning
  2. Operant Conditioning
  3. Cognitive Theory.
  4. Social Learning Theory.

These are explained below:-

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is a type of conditioning in which an individual responds to some stimulus that would not ordinarily produce such as response.

It is the process of learning to associate a particular thing in our environment with a prediction of what will happen next.

Classical conditioning, the association of such event with another desired event resulting in a behavior, is one of the easiest to understand processes of learning.

When we think of the classical conditioning, the first name that comes to our mind is Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist.

The normal stimulus for a flow of saliva is the taste of food. But often the mouth waters at the mere sight of a luscious peach, on hearing it described or even thinking about it. Thus, one situation is substituted for another to elicit behavior.

This is called conditioning. In the case of classical conditioning, a simple surgical procedure allowed Pavlov to measure accurately the amount of saliva secreted by a dog.

When Pavlov presented one dog with a piece of meat, the dog exhibited a noticeable increase in salivation. When Pavlov withheld the presentation of meat and merely rang a bell, the dog did not salivate.

Then Pavlov proceeded to link the meat and the ringing of the bell. After repeatedly hearing the bell before getting the food, the dog began to salivate as soon as the bell rang. After a while, the dog would salivate merely at the sound of the bell, even if no food was offered.

In classical conditioning, learning involves between a conditioned stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus. Here, the meat was unconditioned stimulus; it invariably caused the dog to react in a specific way.

The reaction that took place whenever the unconditioned stimulus occurred was called the unconditioned response. Here, the bell was a conditioned stimulus.

When the bell was paired with the meat, it eventually produced a response when presented alone. This is conditioned response.

Operant conditioning

The second type of conditioning is called operant conditioning.

Here, we learn that a particular behavior is usually followed by a reward or punishment. What Pavlov did for classical conditioning, the Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner did for operant conditioning.

Actually, operant conditioning argues that one’s behavior will depend on different situations. People will repeatedly behave in a specific way from where they will get benefits.

On the other hand, they will try to avoid a behavior from where they will get nothing. Skinner argued that creating pleasing consequences to specific forms of behavior would increase the frequency of that behavior.

In one famous experiment displaying operant learning, the psychologist B.F. Skinner trained rats to press a lever to get food. In this experiment, a hungry rat placed in a box containing a lever attached to some concealed food.

At first, the rat ran around the box randomly. In this process, it happened to press the lever, and the food dropped into the box. The dropping of food-reinforced the response of pressing the lever.

After repeating the process of pressing the lever followed by dropping off food many times, the rat learned to press the lever for food.

People will most likely engage in desired behaviors if they are positively reinforced for doing so. Rewards are most effective if they immediately follow the desired response. In addition, behavior that is not rewarded, or is punished, is less likely to be repeated.

For example, suppose you are an employee of ‘X’ Bank limited. Your Branch Manager has announced in a meeting that you will get an extra bonus if you can bring $100,000,000 deposit for the bank. You worked hard and found that you have done this successfully.

But when the time comes, you find that you are given no bonus for your hard work which increases the bank’s deposit by $100,000,000.

In the next year, if your manager again says you about the hard work.

Maybe you will be stopped because last year you did not receive anything for it. Many activities that we will engage in during everyday life can be classified as operant.

Turning your key in a lock, writing a letter, saying “I Love You” to your wife, calling parents on the telephone- all of these are operant acts, operant in this sense that we do them in anticipation of reward which acts as a reinforcer for the commission of these behaviors.

Cognitive Theory

Cognition refers to an individual’s thoughts, knowledge interpretations, understandings, or ideas about himself, and his environment. This is a process of learning through active and constructive thought processes, such as a practice or using our memory.

One example might be that you were taught how to tell time by looking at a clock. Someone taught you the meaning of the big hand and little hand, and you might have had to practice telling time when you were first learning it.

This process of learning was entirely inside your mind and didn’t involve any physical motions or behaviors. It was all cognitive, meaning an internal thought process.

The theory has been used to explain mental processes as they are influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, which eventually bring about learning in an individual. Cognitive learning theory implies that the different processes concerning learning can be explained by analyzing the mental processes first.

It imagines that with effective cognitive processes, learning is easier and new information can be stored in the memory for a long time. On the other hand, ineffective cognitive processes result to learning difficulties that can be seen anytime during the lifetime of an individual.

Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory also called observational learning, stresses upon the ability of an” individual to learn by observing what happens to other people and just by being told about something.

One can learn things by observing models, parents, teachers, peers, motion pictures, TV artists, bosses, and others. Many patterns of behavior are learned by watching the behaviors of others and observing its consequences for them.

In this theory, it is said .that the influence of models is the central issue.

Four processes have been found to determine the influence that a model will have on an individual. These processes are:

  • Attention process
    People learn from a model only when they recognize and pay attention to its critical features. If the learner is not attentive they would not able to learn anything.We tend to be most influenced by models that are attractive, repeatedly available, which we think is important, or we see as similar to us.
  • Retention process
    A model’s influence depends on how well the individuals remember the models’ action after the model is no longer readily available.
  • Motor reproduction process
    After a person has seen a new behavior by observing the model, the watching must be converted to doing. It involves recall the model’s behaviors and performing own actions and matching them with those of the model.This process then demonstrates that the individual can perform the modeled activities.
  • Reinforcement process
    Individuals are motivated to exhibit the modeled behavior if positive incentive or rewards are provided. Behavior that is positively reinforced is given more attention, learned better and performed more often.

At last, we can say that social learning theory is a function of consequences. It also acknowledges the existence of observational learning and the importance of perception in learning.

In this case, a person who wants to learn should identify the target behavior and select the appropriate model and modeling medium. Then he/she should create a favorable learning environment and observe the model.

Here the learners will try to remember and use practically the observed behavior if there is a positive reinforcement is related to this behavior.

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