Write a 2,500-word report that shows your reflection on and evaluation of your personal style and the methods available of enhancing learning. There are many different theories of learning, but there are three fundamental forms of learning theory, these being behaviourist, cognitive constructivist and social constructivist. In this study I will explore briefly these theories and a number of theories that branch from them. I will then apply them to myself and evaluate my learning abilities and personal style with reference to them.
Behaviourism is an approach to psychology devised by John Watson focusing on variables we can manipulate, natural reflex’s and reactions, and purely on the premise that the human mind is not in any way independent and regards all human actions to be merely reactions to previous habituation. Behaviourists believe that the way people behave is derived from learning and that learning alters a person’s behaviour. Learning is defined by behaviourists as the gaining of new behaviour.
Highly influential in the earlier part of the 1900s, behaviourism maintains that the way we behave is a reaction to environmental stimuli. Behaviourists use the term ‘conditioning’, meaning the learning of a new behaviour through unnatural stimulus. Classical conditioning happens when a natural reflex is provoked by a stimulus, a famous example being Ivan Pavlov’s experiment where he changed a dog’s normal response to food. Normally, a dog will salivate when food is in its mouth. Pavlov conducted an experiment to see if he could achieve this response with a different trigger. At first, he rang a bell (a conditioned stimulus), and then gave the dogs food. Then after a time, he rang the bell but didn’t give the food (the unconditioned stimulus). The dogs started salivating because they knew that the ringing of the bell was followed by the supply of food.
This response to conditioned stimuli is called classical conditioning. Operant conditioning however is when a reaction to a stimulus in strengthened. This is when a reward is given if the response to the stimulus. This makes response to the stimulus more likely to happen in the future. B.F Skinner used this to train rats. He put a rat in a ‘Skinner Box’, a cage where the animal needs to press a lever to obtain food. At first, the pressing of the lever will not happen regularly, but after a while the animal ‘learns’ to press the lever more and more receiving more reward or ‘reinforcement’. Therefore Skinner says that our actions are not determined by our feelings, but simply by our experiences, our rewards and our punishments.
There were many studies carried out by behaviourists but one of the most productive was that of Albert Bandura with his ‘Bobo Doll’ study. For this, he filmed a young woman hitting, punching and kicking an inflatable doll, shouting ‘sockeroo’ at it. He showed this film to a group of young children, then sent them into the room with the Bobo doll in. The children imitated what the woman had done, assaulting the doll, using the same language that she had. Without reward or orders, the children changed their behaviour to fit with what they had seen the woman. This, Bandura says, teaches us that we learn from observation and experience, calling this finding the ‘Social Learning Theory.’
Many alterations happened with this experiment, the bobo doll even being replaced by a live clown. Usually, a child is unlikely to start assaulting a clown, but after seeing the woman do this, they immediately attacked the clown as the woman had done. From this, Bandura formulated that there are particular measures to learning effectively. The first is attention. Bandura said that attention is the foremost important factor in learning and remembering.
He said that we pay more attention to a drawing for example, if it is colourful and eye-catching, pleasing to the eye, or relates to ourselves or someone we know, we will pay more attention to it. Secondly, it is important to be able to store the information learned. We store things in our brain through oral accounts or mental images. Now, the images of accounts have to be converted into actions and behaviour. This is ‘reproduction’. Bandura found that our ability to perform actions is improved when we watch or even imagine doing them and that our ability to imitate improves if we do them frequently.