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Learning is a process where a learner has accepted new information which has instigated a change in their beliefs, attitude, or actions. There are many definitions that describe learning in different ways. Pritchard, (2005) mentions that the definition that is used as an everyday term is "supposed that learning is the process of gaining more knowledge, or of learning how to do something." Looking at learning in context learning is defined by Gagne and Medsker (1996) as a "relatively permanent change in human deposition". This can be an altered disposition of attitude, interest or value. Overall all learning has a content of skill or meaning which is stated by Illeris, (2002). Learning may be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour, or behavioural repertoire that occurs as a result of experience (Terry, 2009 p. 5).
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 intend to discuss learning theories and how they relate to classroom environment. The learning theories that I have chosen to discuss this process could be explained through several theories, some of which include; behavioural, cognitive, constructivist, and social cognitive learning theories. Presently teachers make use of these theories in their classrooms in order to maximize the learning potential of students and also to create a better learning environment inside the classrooms
I will explore three theories of learning that I have chosen which are - the behaviourist approach, the cognitivist model and humanist approach. I shall explain these approaches in further detail. I will then analyse these learning theories and how I could use them in my everyday teaching.. I will present the main concepts. Lastly, I will apply discuss how I would use the theory by interlinking it with strategies I could use in the classroom.
Learning theories - ideas about how or why change occurs
Behaviourism, mainly focuses on the aspects of human behaviour which can be observed and measured. According to Watson, human behaviour is a result of specific stimuli which brings about a certain response. B.F. Skinner expanded on this and came up with a view called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning was talked about in great detail by Skinner, in his theory of positive reinforcement. This theory makes three assumptions; firstly that learning is manifested by a change in behaviour, secondly that the environment shapes behaviour and thirdly that the principles of contiguity. (Moore, 2000)
Classical conditioning represents an extremely simple form of learning and it is why it is a good starting point for the investigation of the learning process. The model for classical conditioning is the Pavlovian dog experiment. Social learning of this sort is particularly powerful. 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. Behaviourists believe that learning is brought by "association between the response and reinforcement."(Reece & Walker, 2000)
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)
There are certain limitations that affect learning and it's important that these factors are addressed to enable learners' full potential. Each learning theory aims to explain the complex nature of teaching and is supported by different theories of learning. It is essential, as teachers in the life-long learning sector, that we