Learning Theories


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Learning Theories

  1. 1. David Wray
  2. 2. What counts as learning? <ul><li>Example A: </li></ul><ul><li>A two year old is playing in the kitchen of his house. He accidentally touches a hot part of the oven. He burns his fingers and learns not to do that again. </li></ul>
  3. 3. What counts as learning? <ul><li>Example B: </li></ul><ul><li>A five year old is painting using a selection of coloured paints. He wants to paint something green but there is no green paint. He mixes paints together and learns that blue and yellow make green. </li></ul>
  4. 4. What counts as learning? <ul><li>Example C: </li></ul><ul><li>An eleven year old goes to a football match for the first time with his father. During the match the home team score three goals and win. His father gets extremely excited and hugs the boy every time a goal goes in. By the end of the match the boy has learnt to be a fan of this particular football team. </li></ul>
  5. 5. What counts as learning? <ul><li>All these are clearly examples of learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet the processes involved in each are completely different. </li></ul><ul><li>Learning is not one single thing, and thus there is no single theory of learning. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Theories of learning <ul><li>Three main schools of thought: behaviourism, cognitive/constructivist approaches and social constructivism. All account for certain types of learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Each school of thought has different views of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The nature of knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The learner’s role in learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The teacher’s role in learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The learning environment </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Behaviourism <ul><li>Learning is a relatively persistent change in a learner’s behaviour due to experience.. (Fontana, 1981) </li></ul><ul><li>Had origins in the positivist paradigm of the 1920s. </li></ul><ul><li>Rat scientists! </li></ul>
  8. 8. Some famous names <ul><li>Pavlov (Salivating dogs) </li></ul><ul><li>Watson (little Albert and the rat) </li></ul><ul><li>B F Skinner </li></ul><ul><li>(operant conditioning) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Skinner’s rejection of free will <ul><li>An interesting insight into Skinner’s views about learning, and his rejection of the notion of free will in learners, can be seen by watching the video – skinner.wmv </li></ul>
  10. 10. Behaviourist views of the child <ul><li>Children are born “freely emitting behaviours” </li></ul><ul><li>Only those behaviours eliciting a response (reinforced) will persist </li></ul><ul><li>The environment acts upon the child </li></ul><ul><li>Unreinforced stimuli cease </li></ul><ul><li>The child is seen as a tabula rasa </li></ul>
  11. 11. Behaviourist teaching involves: <ul><li>Breaking knowledge (of a known structure) into steps to be taught </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforcing learning of each step </li></ul><ul><li>Going on to the next step. </li></ul><ul><li>Skinner believed that, by the millennium, all teachers would be replaced by teaching machines. </li></ul><ul><li>(I believe that any that can be, should be.) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Behaviourism might be good at explaining <ul><li>The learning and teaching of behaviour. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who is sitting nicely? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pingers and CBG (catch them being good) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Token economies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extrinsic motivation </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Behaviourism isn’t so good at explaining <ul><li>Complex learning </li></ul><ul><li>Intrinsic motivation </li></ul><ul><li>Generation of new ideas or language </li></ul><ul><li>Not surprisingly, other perspectives on learning developed as a corrective to behaviourism. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Behaviourist applications in the use of new technologies <ul><li>Early drill software </li></ul><ul><li>Particularly prevalent in the areas of Mathematics and Spelling </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching machines </li></ul><ul><li>Integrated Learning Systems – SuccessMaker </li></ul>
  15. 15. Constructivism <ul><li>Wolfgang Kohler </li></ul><ul><li>(Ah ha! Moments) </li></ul><ul><li>How did the chimps solve the puzzle of reaching the banana? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Constructivism <ul><li>Piaget </li></ul><ul><li>Instead of considering how the environment acts on the child, Piaget considered how the child acts on the environment. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Constructivism: Piaget <ul><li>In the video – Piaget.wmv – David Elkind reviews the contribution of Piaget to our understandings about children’s development and learning. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Cognitive views of the child <ul><li>Cognitive theorists are interested in the mind </li></ul><ul><li>They hypothesise that children act on the environment to build up their own coherent view of the world </li></ul><ul><li>To do this they accommodate and assimilate schemas, which are built on the basis of experience </li></ul>
  19. 19. Schemas <ul><li>Mental maps of knowledge of the world which we use to understand new experiences and to generate expectations of what is likely to happen </li></ul><ul><li>Schemas are individual (my experience differs from yours) </li></ul><ul><li>Schemas are socially mediated </li></ul>
  20. 20. Read this <ul><li>The procedure is actually quite simple. First you arrange things into different groups. Of course one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step, otherwise you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important but complications can easily arise. A mistake can be expensive as well. At first the whole procedure will seem complicated. Soon however, it will become just another facet of life. It is difficult to foresee any end to the necessity for this task in the immediate future, but then one can never tell. After the procedure is completed one arranges the materials into different groups again. Then they can be put into their appropriate places. Eventually they will be used once more and the whole cycle will then have to be repeated. However, that is a part of life. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Read this <ul><li>You probably found the passage on the last slide almost impossible to understand (even though there are no really difficult words in the passage). </li></ul><ul><li>Once you are told, however, that this passage is about washing clothes, it now makes perfect sense! </li></ul><ul><li>What we have done here is activated a schema within which you can make sense of the new information. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Effects of schemas <ul><li>1. Mary heard the ice-cream van coming down the street. She remembered her birthday money and rushed into the house. </li></ul><ul><li>What can you say about Mary? </li></ul><ul><li>Why does she rush into the house? </li></ul><ul><li>About how old is she? </li></ul><ul><li>Note that the answers to these questions are not specifically stated in the passage. You have to infer them on the basis of your prior knowledge – your schema. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Effects of schemas <ul><li>2. Mary heard the bus coming down the street. She remembered her birthday money and rushed into the house. </li></ul><ul><li>What has changed? </li></ul><ul><li>Clearly Mary’s intentions are now slightly different. </li></ul><ul><li>Most people say she now seems older. How do you know this? </li></ul><ul><li>Again, your schemas are doing the work. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Effects of schemas <ul><li>3. Mary heard the ice-cream van coming down the street. She remembered her gun and rushed into the house. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Mary heard the ice-cream van coming down the street. She remembered her stomach and rushed into the house. </li></ul><ul><li>You can play around with this idea. What new schemas do the above passages elicit? Try this activity with children to see what they say. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Implications of schemas <ul><li>Schemas allow us to organise memory, recognise, remember, think and learn. </li></ul><ul><li>Each person’s knowledge is different. </li></ul><ul><li>Piaget felt schemas were developed only through experience, of different types at different ages and stages. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Implications for teaching of cognitive perspectives <ul><li>Children need practical experience </li></ul><ul><li>Play is the work of children- it is how they learn </li></ul><ul><li>Children must choose their own path of learning </li></ul><ul><li>Interest and intrinsic motivation are important. </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers are facilitators. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Cognitivist applications in the use of new technologies <ul><li>Problem-solving software </li></ul>
  28. 28. Social constructivism <ul><li>Vygotsky </li></ul><ul><li>A Marxist approach to learning theory </li></ul><ul><li>Revolution- not evolution </li></ul><ul><li>Development takes place first on a social plane then on an individual plane </li></ul>
  29. 29. Social constructivism: Vygotsky <ul><li>Some insights into Vygotsky’s theories of learning, and particularly the way in which he saw learning as leading development (rather than vice versa as Piaget thought) can be seen in the video: piaget.wmv </li></ul>
  30. 30. ZPD- Zone of proximal development <ul><li>The distance between the actual development as determined by individual problem solving and the level of potential development as determined by problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with MKO (more knowledgeable others) </li></ul>
  31. 31. Working in the ZPD <ul><li>Woods observed caregivers teaching their children to build a wooden pyramid. He derived rules for successful teaching. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure should be met by help (increased control) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When the child succeeds, less help should be offered (reduced control), giving more space for error or success </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This theory is known as ‘contingent control’ – the amount of control the adult takes over the child’s activity is contingent on adult perceptions of how easy the child finds the task. </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Scaffolding <ul><li>Bruner gave us the term ‘scaffolding’ for MKOs working with children in the ZPD </li></ul><ul><li>Their role is to offer the support necessary for the child to complete the task. The child's level will determine the level of support necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing the support may be better than reducing the demands of the task. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Implications for learning <ul><li>Knowledge is constructed by the individual from social knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Children learn from and with MKOs </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching is about knowing how the child knows and intervening skilfully to support the development of that knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers model processes and actions and share consciousness </li></ul>
  34. 34. And for teaching <ul><li>Teachers need to work with children and know how they know </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers need to have a full and flexible grasp on the knowledge area </li></ul><ul><li>Talk is central to learning </li></ul><ul><li>What a child can achieve in cooperation today he can achieve alone tomorrow. </li></ul>
  35. 35. Social constructivist applications in the use of new technologies <ul><li>Social software </li></ul>
  36. 36. Conclusion <ul><li>We don’t have a unified theory of learning </li></ul><ul><li>Different things may be learnt in different ways </li></ul><ul><li>Good teachers use their knowledge of what they are teaching, their understanding of the learner and their understanding of learning to make decisions. </li></ul>