All About Learning!

An Informative Brochure for Parents


Classical Conditioning

Classical Conditioning is an automatic physiological or emotional response to a stimuli that is learned through repetition (254).

Classical conditioning uses an unconditioned stimulus (US) and an unconditioned response (UR), and by adding a cue, or a conditioned stimulus (CS), creates a conditioned response (CR) after repetition of the presentation of the cue (255).

Classical conditioning was first discovered, by accident, by a physiologist, Ivan Pavlov. You may have heard of his study with dogs and salivation. He noticed that a group of dogs, when presented with food, would salivate. In his experiments, he discovered that by creating a cue, in this case, a fork hitting a bowl, the dogs would learn that food was coming, and then the unconditioned response of salivation to food became paired with the cue, or the conditioned stimulus of the fork hitting the bowl (254-255).

Classical conditioning can also be used in order to teach children the proper behavior in specific settings. For example, a baby may cry when it is hungry. The baby quiets down and stops crying (UR) when it she fed (US). A mother realizes this and begins using a bottle to feed the child. That way, when the child is hungry and cries, the mother can quickly present the bottle (CS) so that the child realizes that she will be fed and quiets down quickly (CR).

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Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning is a more common form of conditioning in terms of teaching children proper behavior. Operant conditioning is the use of reinforcements and punishments to produce a pattern of learned responses (256). Although this may seem straight forward, many people confuse the different types of reinforcements and punishments.

I will use an example to help explain the difference between reinforcement and punishment:

Ellen was told by her parents to clean her room before her Aunt arrived for dinner that night.

First, we have positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is the presentation of something wanted or desired by the child when she does as she was told. So, if Ellen cleaned her room as she was told, perhaps her parents would allow an extra thirty minutes of TV time that night.

Next, we have negative reinforcement: the removal of an unwanted or disliked situation for the child. So, if Ellen cleaned her room as she was told to do, perhaps she was excused from helping her parents do the dishes after dinner.

Removal punishment is taking away a wanted or desired outcome for the child. Therefore, if Ellen disobeyed her parents and did not clean her room before her Aunt arrived, perhaps she would not be allowed to watch her allotted one hour of TV that night.

Presentation punishment is adding an unwanted or undesired outcome for the child. If Ellen did not clean her room, her parents would tell Ellen she must now do take out the trash as well as do the dishes after dinner.

It is important for both classical and operant conditioning to be consistent, otherwise the learned behavior may no longer occur, or it may become extinct (260).

Social Learning Theory

Bandora's Theory of Enactive and Observational Learning

The Social Learning Theory is accredited to Albert Bandura, a psychologist studying the formation of behavior. He believed that there were two forms of learning: enactive learning and behavioral learning. These two types of learning would then dictate the way a person behaves when presented with certain situations (278-279).

Enactive learning is defined as learning through experience. A person will base his or her future actions off of how they interpret the consequences of their actions in a situation (279). For example, if a child studies hard for a test and receives a good grade, he would associate the studying with the reward of a good grade and be more likely to study for future tests.

The other form of learning according to Bandura is observational learning. That is, learning from watching the outcomes of someone else, typically that you respect or look up to (279). Therefore, if a boy sees that his father, who is a very impressive man who he looks up to, compliments his mother and treats her well, he may be more likely to compliment the girl he has a crush on in school.

It is very important to be aware of the impact you are having on a child through your own actions and responses, because children often look to their parents to learn their behavior.

Information Processing Theory

Sensory Memory

The Information Processing Theory looks at learning in terms of memory. One learns both general and specific knowledge based on what they have committed into their long-term memory. The Information Processing Theory explains how a person chooses what to commit to memory. It divides memory into sensory memory, working memory, and long-term memory.

Sensory memory is a very brief memory of all the sensory stimuli present at any given moment. These senses can be iconic, pertaining to images, or echoic, pertaining to sounds (294).

For example, right now you may be exposed to the light coming in through the window and your partner standing in front of you. These elements of your sensory memory would both be considered iconic memory. On the other hand, the buzz of the dishwasher, and the words that your partner is saying to you would be considered echoic.

Although you are exposed to all of these sensory stimuli at once, you may not be actively paying attention to all of it. Typically, you may not notice the dishwasher because you choose to focus your attention on the words of your partner. Attention, therefore, drives those words from your partner from your sensory memory into your working memory.

Working Memory

Working memory is a brief store, as well as a processing system of the information transferred from the sensory memory. Here, information from long-term memory is used as a reference for sensory memory in order to expand on knowledge. The working memory is broken up into four departments.

First is the central executive. The central executive is responsible for deciding what information is relevant from long-term memory to the current sensory information.

Next, the phonological loop is responsible for sound information held for the short-term. One way to keep sensory information in the phonological loop is rehearsing, or repeating information out loud.

Similarly, the visuospatial sketchpad is responsible for visual information held in the short-term. Here, people may determine that if you turn an "s" 180 degrees, it will resemble something closer to a "z".

The episodic buffer combines the information from the phonological loop and the visuospatial sketchpad and the information retrieved from long-term memory by the central executive in order to make a complete memory. Although the memory is now complete in the working memory, it only remains there for about 5 to 20 seconds (300).

After that brief period, the working memory is either forgotten through a process of time decay, or is stored in the long-term memory.

Long-Term Memory

While working memory is a short-term and limited store of memory, long-term memory is a relatively permanent and limitless store room of memories and knowledge. Long-term memory is home to declarative, procedural, and self-regulatory knowledge.

Declarative knowledge is knowledge that can be demonstrated in terms of a statement or said through spoken word (304). For example, Steve may recall something he has learned in his elementary class and say "Chickens lay eggs." Steve is able to demonstrate his knowledge about chickens through a declaration.

On the other hand, when Lisa is learning how to drive, she is adding to her procedural knowledge (304). She knows that she should hit the break with her right foot at a stoplight and therefore does so through action. Over time, this knowledge may become more automatic through repetition and practice.

Self-regulatory knowledge is knowing when to use certain knowledge, whether is it is declarative or procedural (304). So, if Steve is taking his quiz on animals and comes across a question asking whether a chicken or a cow lays an egg, he will be able to recall through his declarative knowledge, that a chicken lays an egg. Similarly, if Lisa sees a red light, she can rely on her procedural knowledge to know that she is meant to stop.

Works Cited

Woolfolk, Anita. Educational Psychology. 13th ed. United States of America: Pearson Education, 2016. Print.