Overview of theories, principles and models of learning

There are several types of learning theories but in the article it is filleted down to three main categories and they are:

• Behaviourism
• Cognitivism
• Humanism

Behaviourism focuses on the stimulus and response parts of the learner while cognitivism is based on how much information the individual brain is able to process and lastly the humanism aspect of the theory focuses on how an individual is self-determined to ultimately make their own choices.
To clarify even further, we must understand that these learning theories are imperative to any teacher/trainer who wants to understand how people think and learn. This further leads to improvement of our teaching to get the most of students and learners. Let me expand on the previously mentioned theories as follows:

As the name implies the behaviourism theory focuses on the behaviour of the learner and what motivates or incentivises the learner as well as the effects these have on learning. Detailed studies have been conducted by various authors, such as Watson, J.B (2013) in his book behaviourism, he argues that the learner is simply passive and starts on a clean slate and is only responding to environmental stimuli and this is further shaped by negative and positive reinforcement. Reinforcement whether it is positive or negative increases the probability that the behaviour will happen again. On the other hand, when a learner is punished through positive or negative, it leads to the decrease of the behaviour happening again. Positive refers to the application of the stimulus and negative is the withholding of stimulus. Other work that also focuses on behaviourism is the work of Pavlov I.P (2003) in his book conditioned reflexes where the behaviourist work was done with animals and later generalized to humans. He conducted studies such as training dogs to associate the ringing of a bell with food.

Cooper, P.A (1993) Cognitivism essentially replaced the behaviourism paradigm, in that it focused on the brain and the mental activities of the human mind that was valuable and necessary for understanding how people learned. The cognitive part of the learning theory focused on understanding the thinking, memory, knowing and problem solving processes of the mind rather than behaviour.

In contrast to the behaviourist approach, humanists believe that learners are organic human beings that are a product of their environment. For example, a learner’s past experiences determine their fear of failure and leading to being withdrawn or disruptive learners who lack confidence. Hence, the focus of humanism is the promotion of values and emotional factors. Learners should be able to pursue their interest and talents according to their preferences Rogers, C (1994).

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