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Learning Theories Jigsaw

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Brenda Chaney

on 11 June 2014

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Transcript of Learning Theories Jigsaw

Several learning theories seek to define learning, and to delineate steps in the learning process. This presentation describes and synthesizes five major learning theories and their application in the classroom.
Social Cognitive
Social Constructivism
Learning Theories
Children imitate their parents as they grow., exhibiting similar behaviors. (NAPCAN ad campaign for Child Friendly Australia)
The Social Cognitive model, proposed by Albert Bandura, bases behavior and learning on observation and modeling. Children learn by mimicking behavior modeled by parents, teachers, admired peers, and others who influence their world. According to Bandura, the environment
causes behavior, and behavior causes the
environment, both of which interact with the personality of the person - something he called
Reciprocal Behavior.
Bandura believed that behavior could
change as the result of a four-pronged
approach that begins with observation and
culminates in self-regulation of the observer
(Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013).
Social Cognitive
Attention - For people to learn, they must pay attention. An interesting model encourages observation, making learning easier. The more information gleaned during observation, the better the chance for effective modeling.
Retention - The ability to remember what a person observed and pull up the information at a later time is an important part of the learning process.
Reproduction - This part of the learning process is where a person actually begins to imitate the modeled behavior.
Motivation - This step provides the reason to continue the behavior. For successful observational learning, motivation plays an important role. Motivation often comes from reinforcement and gives the "why" of the behavior (Feist & Feist, 2009).
Cognitive Development Stages
According to Piaget's model, babies are born with highly organized reflexes - sucking, reaching, grasping, looking - that enable them to behave in a certain way. He labeled such reflexes the
, or the potential to act in a particular way, and he labeled that particular way as
. He labeled adding new information to the schema
and the process which allows for intellectual growth
. Every person grows through the process of assimilation and accommodation, which leads to
, or the point where learning has occurred (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013).
Every time a child has a new experience, the child goes through a process of
where the new experience upsets the balance of what the child already knows. For example, to a child all four-legged animals may be a cow. When the child meets a horse and someone tells him that the animal is a horse and not a cow, he is in a state of disequilibrium until he finally figures out the difference between a cow and a horse by listening and looking more closely at the animal. When the child arrives at the conclusion that a cow is a cow and a horse is a horse,
replaces the disequilibrium and learning has occurred (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013).
Piaget's stages of development are:
1) Sensorimotor Stage (0-2 Years) Basic movement and beginning motor ability.
2) Preoperational Stage (2-6 Years) Child learns to use words to represent familiar objects and people. The world centers around the child and his needs and wants.
3) Concrete Operational Stage ( 7-12 Years) Child begins to think logically and
make connections that bring sense to the world he lives in.
4) Formal Operational Stage (12 - Adult) Abstract reasoning skills become clear.

How it works - 4 Step Modeling Process
Learning Theories Jigsaw
Synthesis of Theories with Classroom Application
Monkey See, Monkey Do - Learning to Line-Up
How the Social Cognitive Theory works in the Classroom

Feist, G. & Feist, J. (2009)
Theories of personality
Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism.. In M. Orey (Ed.)
Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and
technology. Retrieved June 7, 2014, from

Lorenzen-Ewing, T. (2013) Social cognitive theory.
Retrieved June 7, 2014, from http://www.sfu.ca/

Olson, M., & Hergenhahn, B. (2013)
An introduction to
theories of learning, 9th ed.
, Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

The classroom presents a perfect place for modeling acceptable behavior for a child. From the time a child enters a kindergarten class until the final high school graduation, opportunities for observation abound. The kindergarten teacher models how to line up, raise hands, speak quietly, and learn how to operate within a group. Children who enter kindergarten may have been the center of the universe for their parents. They must learn where they fit in the world and teachers help them by modeling acceptable behavior.
Motivation to learn in a classroom often comes from reinforcing good behavior. Teachers employ many varieties of classroom management tools to reinforce children - Good Character Coins, www.Classdojo.com, clothespins on a chart, color-coded behavior charts, and other physical reinforcements encourage students to behave acceptably.
The down side to the social cognitive theory is that it does not take into consideration feelings and unconscious actions or reactions and does not leave room for children who have special needs with different learning styles. Rather, the theory focuses on how groups operate outside individual personalities, with all of the emphasis on social context (Lorensen-Ewing, 2013).

Jean Piaget proposed the Cognitive Theory of learning and development based on structures he observed in children during his employment at the Binet Testing Laboratory in Paris, developing standardized tests, in the early years of the 20th Century. He noted that older children answered more questions correctly than younger children, and that there was a correlation between which kinds of questions they answered correctly. He observed that the same kinds of mistakes were made by children of the same approximate ages. His observations continued in a more clinical setting because he could use more open-ended questions that children could answer, leading to more in-depth questioning than found on multiple choice questions (Olson & Hergenhahn, 2013).

Cognitive Theory
The four stages of cognitive development help the teacher know how children think, which enables the teacher to develop lessons appropriate for the stage of development most common among children in their classroom. The stages Piaget proposed help a teacher understand why a student is crying when left at school for the first time because the child experiences separation anxiety when apart from a parent. Piaget's cognitive theory addresses human behavior as children's choices make sense to them because, in a similar manner to Bandura, Piaget believed that children are products of how they perceive their environments. Teachers who adapt lessons and create an environment that promotes learning, paying close attention to the theory, will certainly help children in their classes.
While this theory makes a link between cognitive development and language, it does not make a connection or explain how language is developed in the first place, as Vygotsky attempts to explain in his social constructivism theory. Use of this theory could lead to an overgeneralization of language rules when used in teaching language, especially with children from homes with a different native language (Feist & Feist, 2009).
Cognitive Theory in the Classroom
Social Constructivism
Social constructivist learning is based on social experience with what is in the world around the student, as well as the cultural influences within the family and community environment. Lev Vygotsky proposed that learning does not take place in a vacuum and that children use tools within their own sphere of life to construct meaningful symbols - language, thought - and apply them to objects and concepts. Cultural mediation becomes the tool that a child uses to derive meaning from everything around them, making culture a variable in learning.
Social constructivism considers that a child has three areas of thought that they must go through to learn anything. The model, shaped with three concentric circles, involves what they already know (in the center of the circles), surrounded by the second circle representing what they can do with help, which is surrounded by what they cannot do. The Zone of Proximal Development is the middle area, representing what information that the child currently experiences in learning.
Unlike Piaget, who believed that language depends on thought for its development, Vygotsky believed that thought and language occur separately from the beginning of life, and will begin to consolidate around three years of age to produce verbal thought (McLeod, 2014).
Social constructivism in the classroom allows students to explore subjects based on their personal learning styles that influence, and are influenced by, the backgrounds and knowledge of the people in the entire group. Classrooms that use this theory enable students to have hands-on experience that makes students learn at a deeper level than traditional school methods (Kim, 2001). The social constructivist classroom seeks to build connections between the learner, the subject matter, and the world they live in.
A disadvantage of this method is a lack of structure that students are accustomed to, and the non-traditional grading system that parents cannot understand makes selling this method difficult. Some students may fall by the wayside as, instead of learning, they begin to copy others within their group.
Social Constructivism in the Classroom
Behaviorism is a theory based on stimulus-response, or cause and effect. The men most associated with behaviorism - Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner - believed that subjects learn through conditioned responses to stimuli. Each of the men operated from differing views, giving psychology the Classic Conditioning of Pavlov, and the Operant Conditioning attributed to Watson and
Skinner. Both schools of thought proposed that behavior is learned and can be changed through a series of conditioning exercises that reinforce desired behavior.
Children make connections between things that happen, changing behavior as benefits become apparent. Sometimes, faulty connections make one thing seem like it affects the other, as demonstrated in the cartoon to the left.
Conditioning happens in a controlled environment when a system of rewards is paired with the desired behavior, eventually resulting in a changed behavior.

Using reinforcement as a tool in the classroom is possible in a similar way that the Social Cognitive theory is implemented. A series of rewards for acceptable behavior - stars on a chart, character coins, etc. - helps change the behavior.
Operant conditioning can help a child overcome fears, learning on a step-by-step incremental approach, by rewarding small steps of behavior. In the following video, the teacher employs TAGteaching - Teaching by Accoustical Guidance - to teach writing the alphabet. (TAGteach International has B.F. Skinner's daughter, Julie Skinner Vargas, on the Board of Directors). I have used the TAGteach method while teaching Mobility and Orientation to help my blind student move more confidently through the halls at school. I also use it to reinforce his braille reading. Children love to play games, and this becomes a game.
Some people consider this approach too clinical and feel that
using it equates children with animals who respond to a treat or a
sound. This technique does not work with all students.

Behaviorism in the Classroom
Humanistic Theory
The humanist view of learning is based on Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs indicates that a person cannot progress as long as the level of needs currently occupied has been met. Humanism in education depends on rising to the next need in the hierarchy. In order to advance from the bottom rung of the needs - survival - the person must first ensure that food, water, and shelter are secure before moving on to the next level. Maslow believed that the ultimate point for the humanist view is self-actualization, which translates to life fulfillment (Feist & Feist, 2009).
The teacher who uses this approach in the classroom attempts to ensure that the student can move up the steps to the hierarchy of needs by making sure the basic needs of the student are met. Schools offer free lunches, backpacks, and other basic needs to children, which should enable the children to learn. Probing into the child's situation at home helps teachers understand the obstacles a child faces when in school and may allow the teacher to accommodate children's needs. Teachers try to facilitate students to learn at their own pace. This model often helps teachers of special needs students tailor their lesson to the students.
This approach puts the emphasis on individuals and does not emphasize teamwork and competitiveness, leaving students schooled in this method at a disadvantage when entering the workplace, or even a university, because many jobs involve interpersonal and social aspects. The humanist approach does not have traditional grading methods, making assessment difficult.
Humanism in the Classroom
Many factors affect the way a person learns. Theorists try to pin down what they explain as the best theory of learning, but teachers, parents, and others who work and live with children have to adapt and change the way they work with children because each child differs from the next child. Additionally, what will work with one class of First Graders may not work with the next class because the mix of personalities within the group changes the chemistry of the group.
Teachers must consider each of the five theories when approaching their classes of individual students. The social cognitive theory works well with the social constructivist theory, allowing students to explore a topic in a group setting with each student supplying a perspective different from the others because of the varying influences in their lives. The humanist theory and the social constructivist theories work well together because they both have less structure and allow students to explore on their own to get to an answer. Behaviorism and social cognitivism both use reinforcement to affect behavior and learning. The cognitive theory places emphasis on the pattern of development, allowing teachers to implement tasks that lead to mastery of skills within the age range of their students, from which point they may use any of the other methods to achieve successful results.
Learning theories exist to aid teachers in meeting the needs of all of their students. They interconnect like a web, with each one influencing another in some way, with the ultimate goal of helping students.
Brenda Chaney
MAT 5310
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