Learning is very complex and there are many theories relating to how students learn. The different theories demonstrate the different ways students learn. The teachers use a variety of theories in practice as this allows enhancing the student experiences of learning. I will look at these learning theories in more detail and how they could use them in the classroom. I will explore three theories of learning that I have chosen which are - the behaviourist approach, the cognitivist model and humanist approach.
Behaviourists look at the human behaviour how it is measured and observed. Behaviourists believe that learning is brought by "association between the response and reinforcement."(Reece & Walker, 2000) This theory is about how specific stimuli that have a certain response, this was the study of Watson and his views on human behaviour. Operant conditioning interlinks with Watson idea which was expanded by Skinner. Skinner talked in great detail in his theory of positive reinforcement. Classical conditioning is a good starting point as it's a simple form of learning. Pavlov demonstrated his model of classical conditioning which was the Pavlovian dog experiment. John Watson was a behaviourist like Pavlov and described the frequency principle and regency principle, two principles upon which conditioning may be dependant. As Reece & Walker (2000) also state that the behaviourist learning theories suggest that we learn by receiving a stimulus that causes a response.
Behaviourist approaches can be a useful approach in the area of health and social care. The nature of reinforcement is courage and rewards and extra privileges are given to students. Teachers should consider marking with ticks and positive feedback to enhance students learning also making them to work towards a higher level award such as a certificate or public praise.
However many critic argue and disapprove of the behaviourist approach dislike the idea of rewarding all students. Previous studies have suggested using rewards with students' who are motivated may distract the student interest in the subject. Another critic of the behaviourist approach is giving a particular student attention may affect others in the classroom. Pritchard (2005) suggests the most effective behaviourist approach is when a particular student has a history of academic failure, low motivation and "high" anxiety.
On the plus side, research has indicated that rewarding aid promote appropriate classroom behaviours, discourages students to misbehave which makes the learning more conductive.
Behaviourist's ways of learning are in forms of stimulation and response, with the aid of repetition, reinforcement and conditioning. To be an effective teacher a teacher will know what they expect they students to learn by the end of the lesson; that the learning process involves different stages; feedback is given at each step; that the learning will end with a reward to keep students motivated.
To use the behaviourist approach for my teaching I will include in my Lesson planning reinforcement with frequent feedback on learning, delayed feedback allowing trial and error, and praise, marks and prizes. (Reece, Walker, 2000). In my lesson plan I should include short tasks with frequent feedback for reinforcement and praise. Although to be critical, learning cannot be reduced to processes of conditioned reflexes, inputs and outputs. Behaviour observed is not the same thing as knowledge. Over defined objectives can limit learning, and lead to triviality and criteria for learning in some subjects result from learning, in a more qualitative and dynamic relationship.(Reece, Walker, 2000, 107)
Cognitive theorists focus on human behaviour, how students gain and organise their knowledge, how they digest and store new information. Cognitivists are insistent that students were taught to think for themselves and how to solve problems in order for them to become independent learners. In other words they want students to think about what it will take to solve a problem and how to put it all together until the problem is solved in order to learn. (Olsen & Hergenhahn, 2009).
Cognitive learning is the process how students digest new information in a way that makes it significant to them. Critics argue the implication of this is that every student will have different understanding from one another so it's not always effective in a classroom. Reece & Walker (2000) describe the three stage theory to cognitive learning. These three stages include cognitive, associative and autonomous.
Firstly the cognitive stage, this is when the student is given verbal instruction on the task in hand which includes the student to use personal perception and decision making how to perform the skill correctly. The second stage, associative being when the skill is repetitively performed to correctly performs the task. And the final stage when the performance can be altered due to both positive and negative influences.
Reece & walker (2000) state that Bruner sees the teachers' role as facilitating the my subject I will engage all students to be active and motivate them to seek new information and participate in the teaching methods. To use the cognitive theory strategy on my lesson plans, I will have to allow students time to discover concepts and principles for themselves and to relate to what they might already know. Feedback is essential element in this process. It allows the teacher to check the entry level of the students own knowledge and ides and what they need to know. This is transforming students learning regards to existing knowledge and then verifying it and checking it against the new knowledge.