Education is becoming more and more important in our lives.

Therefore, learning is a central focus in universe. Every children’s way of learning is different and it is responsibility of teacher to figure out how children learn. There are different approaches of learning that may help to find better learning techniques. A learning theory describes how people and animals learn. Hence, it helps us to understand the complex process of learning.

Learning is commonly defined as a process that brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences for acquiring, enhancing, or making changes in one’s knowledge, skills, values, and world views (Illeris, 2000; Ormorod, 1995). Learning theories mainly suggests us where to look for solutions about problems of learning. There are many theories of how people learn. Behaviorism and cognitivism are among the main approaches of learning theories.

The first approach to learning is the behavioral approach. For the behaviorist, everything that we do can be observed. This approach emphasizes on experiences, especially reinforcement and punishment as determiners of learning. For behaviorism, learning is the obtaining of new behavior through conditioning. According to Skinner, there are two types of conditioning. First one is Classical conditioning in which behavior becomes a reflex response to a stimulus. Pavlov tried to figure out the reaction of dogs in different experiments to show the relationship between learning and reaction response. Second one is Operant conditioning where there is a reinforcement of the behavior by a reward or punishment. Basically, a behavior may occur because of a punishment or reward.

The theory of reinforcement was developed by Skinner. He believed that behavior is an action of its outcome. Rewards can include verbal reinforcements. You are certainly on the right track. While negative reinforcement may also strengthen a behavior, punishment on the other hand may weaken a behavior. According to this theory, the learner will repeat the desired behavior if it is followed by a positive consequence.

Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitive theories look at the patterns rather than isolated events. It sees human beings as lively processors of knowledge. According to cognitive approach, learning is the construction of information. There are several instructional models that are consistent with cognitive theories of learning and Jerome Bruner’s discovery learning is one of them. According to him, if students grasp the structure of a subject, their learning will be more sincere. In order to understand the structure of a subject, Bruner supposes that students should actively look for the key assumptions themselves rather than directly agree with the teachers explanation. The role of the teachers in this process is to provide problem situations and stimulate students thinking.

From my point of view, attempting to understand the process of learning through theory construction may create more problems. However, I would use a combination of both theory of reinforcement and discovery learning in my classroom. While reinforcement gets attention of my students to the lesson, discovery of what they learned will make them explorers of life.


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