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Overview of Learning Theory
Scholar Training Project for
Southwest Jiaotong University
Presented by
Dr. J. Shane Robinson
Associate Director, ITLE
Behavioral Learning Theories
• Behaviorism
• Social Cognitive
Behaviorism Theory
• Learning is a change in behavior.
• Explains learning in terms of environmental and
external events.
• Interested in how people respond to stimuli.
Behaviorism cont.
• Stimuli – perceivable units of the environment or events
that may affect behavior
• Responses – observable reactions to stimuli
• Contiguity – whenever two sensations occur together
over and over again, they become associated
• School bell (stimulus)
• Scurrying student
– zipping backpacks, slamming lockers, crowded hallways, etc.
Types of Behaviorism
1. Classical Conditioning
2. Operant Conditioning
Classical Conditioning
• Developed by Pavlov
• Includes stimuli and responses
– Unconditioned Stimulus (US) – automatically
produces a response
– Unconditioned Response (UR) – naturally occurring
– Conditioned Stimulus (CS) – an object used to
stimulate a response
– Conditioned Response (CR) – learned response
Operant Conditioning
• Developed by B. F. Skinner
• People learn by doing.
• Learn through reinforcement & punishment.
– Reinforcer – A stimulus that increases the
frequency of behaviors.
Social Cognitive Theory
• Developed by Albert Bandura
• Learning occurs in a social environment.
• Assesses one’s self-esteem and self-efficacy.
Social Cognitive cont.
• Social Cognition – learning occurs through
modeling and observing.
– Observational learning – when a person
observes or imitates someone else’s behavior.
– Self-efficacy – the belief that one can master a
situation and produce positive outcomes.
4 Factors of Observational
1. Attention – Learners must attend to the model.
2. Retention – Learners must retain the behavior.
3. Production – Learners attempt to produce the
4. Motivation – Desire to reproduce the behavior.
Cognitive Learning Theories
AGED 3103
Dr. Robinson
What do you see?
Kitchel & Torres (2005)
Comparing the two sets of
• Behavioral Learning Theories – focuses on
observable changes in outward behavior & on
the impact of external stimuli to effect change.
• Cognitive Learning Theories – focuses on the
internal mental processes, how they change,
and how they affect external behavior changes.
Behavioral vs. Cognitive
• New behaviors are learned.
• Reinforcement strengthens
• Teacher-centered
• Knowledge is learned.
• Reinforcement is
feedback or information.
• Student-centered
Cognitive View of Learning
• Look at how people process and organize
information and construct knowledge.
• Assess how people make sense of the
knowledge they gain.
• Assume that humans are active participants in
their own acts of cognition.
Cognitive Learning Theories
• Constructivism
• Information Processing
• Brain-Based Learning (BBL)
• Individuals must experience learning.
• Meaning must occur.
• Prior knowledge must exist.
Elements of Constructivism
• Embed learning in complex, realistic, and
relevant learning environments.
• Learning is a shared responsibility.
• Learning supports multiple perspectives.
• Encourages ownership in learning.
Information Processing Theory
• Encoding – process of gathering and
representing information
• Storage – process of putting new
information in memory
• Retrieval – remembering
previously stored information
Types of memory
• Sensory
• Working
• Long-term
Sensory memory
• Holds information in original form
• Has large capacity
• Short duration (1-3 seconds)
Working memory
• Where info. is held while it is processed
• 5-9 bits of info. for 20-30 seconds
• Maintenance rehearsal – repeating info.
over and over again
• Elaborative rehearsal – associating info.
with something you already know
Long-term memory
• Holds info. for long periods of time
• Declarative knowledge – “knowing that”
something is the case; facts
– Semantic – general knowledge about the world
– Episodic – info. tied to a particular time & place
• Procedural memory – how to do things
• Large capacity
Brain-Based Learning
• An extension of info. processing theory.
• Identifies the brain and its functions in the
learning process.
• Determines ways in which the brain
• Focuses on emotions and experiences.
• Focuses on the learning environment.
– Safety and security of students are a must!
How the brain functions
• New dendrites are formed.
• Connections increase in complexity.
• Neurons fire to create a stronger, more
intense, connection.
Factors associated with BBL
Patterns and Context
What do you see?
Kitchel & Torres (2005)
What about now?
Kitchel & Torres (2005)