Theories of Learning

As I have never been involved with education before in my academic life I found the lecture on ‘How Learning Develops’ really helpful. I especially liked looking  deeper into Behaviourism, Constructivism and Social Constructivism, they are words I had heard mentioned at various points in the past four weeks but never with an explanation of what they were.

It has led me to look a bit deeper at not only where I have seen various features of these theories for learning in the classroom but how I would like to use them as functions in my own teaching.

Behaviourism for example works really well in some circumstances, possibly schools where behaviour management is a problem and getting children to understand instruction and good behaviour is a high priority for learning. What I find troubling about Behaviourism however, is that one of its key ideas is to disregard the child because they’re only motivation for learning is the prospect of reward and not because they think it important to learn and do well. As a teacher I would worry that a child was becoming dependent on rewards and only do what is required due to a reward or fear of a sanction. Even though I think praise is an important factor in successful teaching, as is punishment for bad behaviour but I don’t necessarily agree that it should be the motivational factor for learning. I found a video on YouTube which is really good for explaining the basics of Behaviourism:

On the other hand Constructivism believes that a child learns individually, where a child learns through playing, reading or constructing their own ideas through trial and error. I really like the idea that a child can learn through their own motivations for learning and expanding their knowledge and also that the child can build up their ideas over time. It seems that this approach will lead to a well rounded and deep understanding of the things the child is learning. Social Constructivism is very similar with its ideas of  education as an active experience for the child, but more socially conductive. In that a child would then learn through joint experience and later on consolidate the knowledge that they have gained. Through this sharing of ideas it means that language is used and that a clarification of ideas is expressed.  I think both of these are really positive in terms of learning, an individual and socially motivated theory of learning, and that they don’t have to necessarily be separated into two different modes.

I see all three of the theories that were discussed in the lecture as conducive to successful learning, and they don’t have to be separate entities as such. I believe that there is a place for all three modes in the classroom, because of the varying personalities and characters you have in your class. Their past history in school may also have an impact, if you do not know what the teacher before you used – you may have a class who were motivated by learning through reward and punishment, so it would be difficult to open up ideas to learning if you then enforced Social Constructivism as the mode of learning.