Theories on Human Learning
Let's Define Learning
Classical Conditioning involves learning an involuntary emotional or physical response to a previously neutral stimulus. In our society, we immediately think of school as a place of learning because over the years, those words have become associated in our heads. Classical Conditioning was discovered by Ivan Pavlov in the 1920s, who was not actually researching anything to do with psychology at the time. His initial study was to see how much time it took a dog to start producing digestive juices after being fed. Conditioning begins with a neutral stimulus, when a certain stimulus does not bring forth any reaction. For Pavlov's dog, no sound or command would make the dog salivate until the food, or unconditioned stimulus, was present. Once Pavlov started sounding a tuning fork and immediately feeding his dog, the tuning fork began to become a conditioned stimulus, and the salivation with no food present was a conditioned response.
Operant Conditioning, developed by B.F. Skinner, works much the same, only instead of eliciting a response, an operation becomes involuntary, much like turning on a light switch. When you are small, you do not know how the lights turn on, but soon enough, you learn that to do this, you must flip a switch to the on position.
Social Learning Theory
Enactive Learning is the idea that people learn through doing and experiencing direct consequences of their actions. Unlike operant conditioning, the consequences provide information for further learning instead of strengthening or weakening behavior.
Observational learning is the idea that people learn by observing others. When children are growing up, they are constantly observing their parents and adults around them to learn how to communicate needs, wants, and ideas. Especially in the early stages of childhood, children learn very quickly how to treat other people by observing their parents' interactions with each other and others.
Finally, Bandura makes a distinction between learning and performing. He says that we all learn behaviors through observation, but then make choices on whether or not to act on those behaviors based on the predicted outcome of the behavior.
Information Processing Theory
First, is sensory memory. It is the initial stage of processing that uses the senses to make sense of the incoming stimuli. Information remains in the sensory memory for an extremely short amount of time, less than a second. At this point, perception and attention determine what to move into the working memory, and what to throw out. If information is deemed worthy to pass from the sensory memory, it is moved into the working memory. Working memory, also known as short term memory, is the holding and further-processing zone where complex cognitive tasks take place, like language comprehension, learning and reasoning. Information is stored here for about 10 to 15 seconds before, again, it is moved along in the storage process, or is discarded. Finally, after time and effort, memories can be stored in the long-term memory. Unlike the limited space in working memory, it appears that long-term memory space is unlimited. During its time in the long term memory, information turns into one of three types of knowledge:
- Declarative knowledge - knowing "that" something is true, like specific facts. (Ex: the force of gravity on earth is 9.807 m/s^2)
- Procedural knowledge - know "how" to do something. (Ex: translating a sentence from English to German)
- Self-regulatory knowledge - knowing how and when to switch between the previous two types of knowledge.
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