Learning as a Process - Learning Theory

The focus on process obviously takes us into the realm of learning theories - ideas about how or why change occurs. On these pages we focus on four different orientations (the first three taken from Merriam and Caffarella 1991).

• The behaviourist orientation to learning

• The cognitive orientation to learning

• The humanistic orientation to learning

• The social/situational orientation to learning

As with any categorization of this sort the divisions are a bit arbitrary: there could be further additions and sub-divisions to the scheme and there a various ways in which the orientations overlap and draw upon each other.

The four orientations can be summed up in the following Table : As can seen from the above schematic presentation and the discussion on the linked pages, these approaches involve contrasting ideas as to the purpose and process of learning and education and the role that educators may take. It is also important to recognize that the theories may apply to different sectors of the acquision-formalized learning continuum outlined above. For example, the work of Lave and Wenger is broadly a form of acquisition learning that can involve some more formal interludes.

Four Orientations to Learning (after Merriam and Caffarella 1991: 138)

Aspect

Behaviourist

Cognitivist

Humanist

Social and

situational

Learning theorists

Thorndike,

Pavlov,

Watson,

Guthrie,

Hull, Tolman,

Skinner

Koffka,

Kohler,

Lewin,

Piaget,

Ausubel,

Bruner,

Gagne

Maslow, Rogers

Bandura, Lave and Wenger, Salomon

View of the

learning

process

Change in behaviour

Internal

mental

process

(including

insight,

information

processing,

memory,

perception

A personal act to fulfill potential.

Interaction/ observation in social contexts. Movement from the periphery to the centre of a community of practice

Locus of learning

Stimuli in

external

environment

Internal

cognitive

structuring

Affective and

cognitive

needs

Learning is in relationship between people and environment.

Purpose in education

Produce behavioural change in desired direction

Develop capacity and skills to learn better

Become self-actualized, autonomous

Full

participation in communities of practice and utilization of resources

Educator's role

Arranges environment to elicit desired response

Structures content of learning activity

Facilitates development of the whole person

Works to

establish

communities

of practice

in which

conversation

and

participation can occur.

Manifestations in adult learning

Behavioural objectives

Competency-based education

Skill

development and training

Cognitive development

Intelligence, learning and memory as function of age

Learning how to learn

Andragogy

Self-directed learning

Socialization Social

participation

Associationalism Conversation

To learn is to acquire knowledge or skill. Learning also may involve a change in attitude or behavior. Children learn to identify objects at an early age; teenagers may learn to improve study habits; and adults can learn to solve complex problems. Pilots and aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) need to acquire the higher levels of knowledge and skill, including the ability to exercise judgment and solve problems. The challenge for the aviation instructor is to understand how people learn and more importantly, to be able to apply that knowledge to the learning environment. This handbook is designed as a basic guide to educational psychology. This chapter addresses that branch of psychology directly concerned with how people learn.

 
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