Nevine Kamal/ CEP 800Synthesis Paper/ Learning theoriesFinal project Interaction 1 Classical/Recollection learning theory Socrates, Plato, LockeThis paper synthesizes the development of the learning theories, in particular recollection/classical learning theory, behaviorism, cognitivism/constructivism, and social constructivism.Understanding the learning theories allows the educators/ instructional technologists to find thestrategies and tactics in each for effective learning.To start with, it is necessary to highlight the main aspects of the classical/recollectiontheory of learning. The most eminent figures for this theory are Socrates, Plato, and Locke.Socrates developed a philosophy which gained the attention and respect everywhere. ForSocrates, Athens became the classroom. He went about asking questions of authorities and of theman in the street in order to arrive at political and ethical truths. He questioned groups of hisstudents as a means of teaching, to force them to think a problem through to a logical conclusion.His method of investigating problems through dialogue and discussions came to be known as theSocratic Method. It asserted that learning is the on the lookout for of truth in matters, and itoccurs after questioning and interpreting the wisdom and knowledge of others. Skills andknowledge are acquired by: interpreting, testing, examining the knowledge or wisdom of others,learning from those who are wise, and examining oneself.Influences by Socrates, Plato came up with much more defined theory of learning. Plato’s theorypostulated that what appears to be learning something new is just recollecting something alreadyknown. According to Plato, all forms of knowledge are preexistent in our memory and are innate.Therefore, learning is the process of recalling what the soul has already seen and absorbed.Consequently, teaching for Plato is simply helping the remembering process. Plato valued abstract reasoning and consequently, the person who is trained to reason clearlywould be more likely to escape from the “cave of ignorance and see truth by using his mind”.This explanation would be applicable for many types of explorations such as empirical inquiry.This theory may not be appropriate or applicable to answer non-empirical questions when therearen’t any standard procedures for getting the answers. In other words how could the soul learnby observing unless it already knew something? Hence, we still need to ask where knowledgecomes from.Locke tried to answer the above mentioned question two thousand years after Plato. Lockeshared some of Plato’s assumptions but disagreed with him about others. For Locke, knowledge
is not innate. Yet, he believed that something had to be present for the child to be able to learn.Infants come to the world with a mind void of knowledge like an “empty cabinet”. The blanktablet or cabinet states that mind is clear of ideas and that is shaped and molded by theenvironment and experiences it faces and encounters. According to Locke, each experience ahuman faces contributes to how a person perceives the world around him/her and that is whypeople see the world differently. Therefore, for Locke, if one does not have certain experiences,he/she will lack the related simple ideas and thus there might be deficiencies in the complexideas an individual can build up. According to Locke, the newborn baby knows nothing but itstarts to have experience of its environment via its senses. Along with its senses, the child willuse the powers of combination and abstraction to build up complex ideas. To conclude,according to Locke, experience is derived from two sources: simple ideas created by ourinteraction with a sensory world and simple ideas developed out by observations concerning theobservations of our minds as concentration, puzzlement, love, and etc.To sum up, Plato and Locke shared the passive picture of learning during the early stages ofacquiring knowledge. They both believed that something had to be present for the child to beable to learn. For Plato, the learner is recollecting existing innate knowledge by remembering it,and for Locke, the mind is like an empty cabinet waiting to be filled by encountering differentexperiences. Furthermore, to Plato and Locke, experience is something that happens to thelearner. This idea has been argued against by many theorists who believed that experience issomething that a learner engages in, and thus, learning occurs as a result of interaction betweenthe learner and his/her surrounding.Instructional implicationsLocke asserted that at birth the human’s mind is a blank slate, or tabula rasa, and empty of ideas.We acquire knowledge from the information about the objects in the world that our senses bringto us. We begin with simple ideas and then combine them into more complex ones. Lockebelieved that children obtain information most easily when they first consider simple ideas andthen increasingly combine them into more complex ones. Locke recommended realistic learningto prepare people to manage their social, economic, and political affairs efficiently. He believedthat a sound education began in early childhood and insisted that the teaching of reading, writing,and math should be gradual and cumulative. This idea is very much similar to the modernconcept of scaffolding. This idea of holistic education did not explain how learning occurs, whathappens in the mind of the learner, what factors influence learning, and the role of memory.
Interaction 2 Behaviorism Pavlov, Thorndike, and SkinnerSince the above mentioned concepts failed to give a clear definition of learning and whathappens in the learner’s mind, here came a need to relate learning with the environmental forces.Hence, the behaviorist approach was developed.Behaviorism operates on the principle of “stimulus-response.” All behavior is caused by externalstimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to considerinternal mental states or consciousness. Early behaviorist work was done with animals (e.g.Pavlov’s dogs, Thorndike’s puzzle, and Skinner’s rat) and then generalized to humans.Behaviorism assumes that a learner is essentially passive, responding to environmental stimuli.The learner starts off as a blank slate and a behavior is shaped through positive reinforcement ornegative reinforcement.Both positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement increase the chance that the antecedentbehavior will happen again. In contrast, punishment (both positive and negative) decreases thepossibility that the antecedent behavior will happen again. Positive indicates the application of astimulus; Negative indicates the withholding of a stimulus. Learning is therefore defined as achange in behavior in the learner.The main key concepts in the behaviorism are classical conditioning, operate conditioning, andlaw of effect.To begin with, let’s consider Pavlov and his notion of classical conditioning. The basicexperiment he conducted had to do with associations. Every time Pavlov would feed his dog, hewould ring a bell. After a period of time the dog learnt to associate the ringing of the bell withfeeding time. Even when it wasnt time for food, Pavlov would ring the bell and the dog wouldcome and salivate (thinks it is dinner time) this is because the dog has learnt to associate theringing of the bell with feeding time. This is called classical conditioning. In classical conditioning a stimulus that already leads to aresponse is replaced by a different stimulus. In terms of Pavlovs dog (classical conditioning) thismeant replacing the smell of food, as the stimulus that leads to salivation, with the sound of abell instead so that eventually even with the sound of the bell alone the dog has learned tosalivate. After Pavlov, Thorndike proposed the concept law of effect. This required the subject dosomething in response to a reflex before a reward is given. This type of contingency is calledresponse-stimulus. Thorndike was also famous for his puzzle boxes where in a series of isolatedtrials he would put a cat inside one and in order for the cat to escape, it must perform anywherefrom a single task to a series of tasks. Thorndike came up with the Law of Effect which states
that a response that is followed by pleasant effects will be repeated and a response that isfollowed by unpleasant effects wont.Then, Skinner – father of behaviorism- developed further this notion and came up with operantconditioning and that is you teach yourself through trial and error or through rewards. Anexample of this notion is Skinners rats. Skinner had some rats in a cage at which he never fed.After a while the rat discovered a button in the cage, when it pressed it food came out and intothe cage. The rat had learnt to press the button in order to get food so would do so every time itwas to be fed. In other words, operant conditioning is a form of learning in which responses thatare usually voluntary are controlled by their consequences.To sum up, behaviorism is characterized by outward expression of new behaviors. This approachfocuses only on observable behaviors. Learning, according to this approach, is contextindependent. The behaviorist teacher advocates the notion of reward and punishment as a meansof learning. The teacher is the main source of knowledge as students have passive role. They arejust receipts of knowledge. Finally, it is highly structured.Behaviorism is and instructional design: o Emphasizing producing measurable outcomes in students- behavioral objectives, task analysis, criterion-reference assessment, o Pre-assessing students to determine where instruction should begin, o Emphasizing mastering small steps before progressing to more complex levels of performance, o Using rewards, positive and negative reinforcement,Criticism of behaviorismThough was quite famous, the behaviorist approach revealed some drawbacks, such as:It did not consider for the processes taking place in the mind of the learner and cannot beobserved. Furthermore, it postulated the notion that one size fits all. It did not consider individualdifferences and mixed abilities classes. For the behaviorists, knowledge is given throughprogram instruction. Most importantly, it advocated teacher –centered classroom.
Interaction 3 Cognitivism/ constructivism Gestalt, Kohler, Dewey, PiagetCognitivism grew in response to behaviorism. In contrast to behaviorism that focused on externalobservable behavior because it considered the mind as a blank box, constructivist approach gotinside the box and tried to explain the inner structures and processes of learning.Constructivism is the idea that learning does not happen by traditional teaching methods. That isthe teacher is not the only source of knowledge. The teacher doesn’t stand in front of the classand lectures. This theory can by summarized using Confucius quote, “I hear and I forget. I seeand I remember. I do and I understand.”According to the cognitivism, knowledge is stored cognitively as symbols, and in such caselearning is the process of connecting symbols in a meaningful and memorable way. Thus,cognitive studies focused on the mental processes that facilitate symbol connectionConstructivism as a learning theory developed from the work of Gestalt, Kohler, Dewey, Piaget,Vygotsky, and Bruner. With the rise of culture, two perspectives prevailed:constructivism/cognitivism and social constructivism.Constructivism initially evolved from the work of Piaget. It conceptualizes learning as the resultof constructing meaning based on the individual’s experiences and prior knowledge-schema. Thetwo cognitive theories to be considered are the Insight theory of Gestalt and Piaget’sdevelopmental stage theory. Gestalt -who initially developed the cognitive learning theory- believed that the whole is morethan the sum of the parts. Gestalt and Kohler others focused on the concept of totality. Gestalt-whose work is consider the corner stone for the cognitivism- emerged as a reaction to thebehaviorist theories of Pavlov and Watson which focused on mechanical stimulus-responsebehavior. The term "Gestalt" refers to any pattern or organized whole.Then Kohler took a further step and emphasized that one must examine the whole to discoverwhat its natural parts are, and not proceed from smaller elements into wholes. Kohler proposedthe view that insight follows from the characteristics of objects under consideration. His theorysuggested that learning could occur by "sudden comprehension" as opposed to gradualunderstanding. This could occur without reinforcement, and once it occurs, no review, training,or investigation are necessary. Significantly, insight is not necessarily observable by anotherperson.
Gestalt, Kohler and others asserted the importance of organizational processes of perception,learning, and problem solving. They believed that individuals were inclined to organizeinformation in particular ways. The fundamental thoughts of Gestalt psychology are: Perceptionis often different from reality- including optical illusions; the whole is more than the sum of itsparts. Gestalt and his psychologists believed that human experience cannot be explained unlessthe overall experience is examined instead of individual parts of experience; the organism isprone to arrange experience in particular ways. For example, the law of proximity is that peopletend to perceive as a unit those things that are close together in space.Very much influenced by Gestalt, Piaget developed the cognitive theory from a biologicalperspective. Along with the idea of schema or prior knowledge, Piaget proposed two majorprinciples play role in the intellectual growth and development: adaptation assimilation andaccommodation. He asserted that children are active learners who constructed new knowledge asthey developed cognitively through different stages of learning building on what they alreadyknow. Piaget emphasized that older children think qualitatively differently from youngerchildren and this is because all children have to go through the same developmental stages:sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage.Piaget confirmed that the development that occurs is resulted from maturation of the brain andthe nervous system, on one hand. And the experiences that help children adapt to newenvironment, on the other hand. In other words, during all developmental stages, the childexperiences his/her own environment using whatever mental maps he/she has constructed so far.Therefore, the child builds cognitive structures through mental and concept maps.Techniques in the Cognitive approach active involvement of the learner, hierarchical analyses to identify and illustrate prerequisite relationships, structuring, organizing and sequencing information to facilitate optimal processing Learning environments that allow and encourage students to make connections with previously learned material- recall of prerequisite skills, use of relevant examples, analogies.Cognitivism seems to be more about making knowledge more meaningful by helping learnerslink it to existing knowledge. Learning needs to be more tailored to the learners’ needs andabilities.
Interaction 4 Social constructivism Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, GardnerThough it gained considerable fame, the main setback of the cognitivism is that it does notaccount enough for individuality. In addition, it places little emphasis on affectivecharacteristics.Since the work of the cognitivists neglected the role of culture in the learning process, there wasa need to develop the concept of social constructivism. Social constructivism grew from thework of Vygotsky as well as others. The social constructivists believed that learning occurs viathe construction of meaning in social interaction as well as cultural interaction, and throughlanguage.Piaget is one of the great pioneers of the cognitive and social constructivist approach. Havingpoint out the role of Piaget in the above mentioned approach, it is necessary to point out the roleof vygotsky in developing the social constructivist approach further. Vygotsky criticized Piaget’stheory because it underestimated the importance of culture. Vygotsky claimed that in somesituations complex skills can be acquired easily once simpler pre-requisite skills have beenacquired. He also underestimated the ability of some children. That is some children can performand achieve better results than other children at the same age. Finally, most importantly, heunderestimated-if not overlooked- the importance of culture. Vygotsky developed the socialconstructivist approach that asserted the importance of culture in the child’s development. Hesuggested that a child’s cultural upbringing affects the learning development. Vygotsky claimedthat different contexts create different forms of development. Therefore, the cognitive processes-language, thought, and reasoning- develop through social interaction. Vygotsly emphasized therole of social interaction and instruction through the concept of Zone of proximal development(ZPD). The Zone of Proximal development acts as a scaffolding procedure that assists the childto learn. To conclude, Piaget viewed language as just another representational system that isunderdeveloped until the ages of 6/7. Vygotsky, on the other hand, viewed language as a socialand communicative component in the child’s development.Bruner was very much influenced by Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s work. Bruner’s work highlightssimilarities as well as differences with Piaget and Vygotsky.In terms of similarities with Piaget, Bruner emphasizes the socio-cognitive stage theory. Thistheory focused on enactive mode, iconic mode, symbolic mode, and abstract thinking which aredeveloped out of concrete thinking.
In terms of similarities with Vygotsky, Bruner claims that interpersonal communication isnecessary for development. Development here relies on active intervention of experts throughscaffolding and contingency rule.In terms of differences, Bruner took a further step and stressed the role of language in child’slearning development. Bruner points out that without language, thought is limited. Not only this,but language forms the basis of understanding.In summary, Bruner embraced the notion of socio-cognitive stage theory which is based oninteraction with adults. Not only this, but also emphasized on adults developing reciprocalbehavior with the child.Yet there were some drawback and criticism to this approach such as, knowledge is neither givennor absolute, often seen as less rigorous than traditional approaches, and does not fit well withtraditional age grouping and rigid learning context.Therefore, grew out of the social constructivism, and framed around meta-cognition the approachof multiple intelligences was brought to light.Gardener developed multiple intelligences approach in response to the social constructivismand asserted that all people are born with eight intelligences: verbal-linguistic, visual spatial,logical-mathematical, musical, naturalistic, and interpersonal. The multiple intelligences in theclassroom focused on the delivery of instruction through multiple mediums, student-centeredlearning environment authentic assessment, and finally self-directed learning.Finally, I believe that learning takes place in different ways, at different levels, and at different times in aperson’s life. Therefore, there are benefits associated with all the learning theories that werediscussed. Hence, the role of instructional technologist is to adopt an eclectic approach and findwhat works and use it bearing in mind learners, contexts, and different learning theories.Instructional technologist should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the learningtheories and try to optimize their use in appropriate instructional design strategy.