Learning is very complex and there are many theories relate to how students learn. The different theories demonstrate the different ways students learn. The teachers use a variety of theories in practice as this allows enhancing the learners’ experiences of learning. I will look at these learning theories in more detail and how I could apply in the classroom. I will explore three theories of learning that I have chosen which are - the behaviourist approach, the cognitivist model and constructivism approach.
Behaviourism is a stimulus and response theory and about how teachers can control the learning. The teacher will have to use reinforcement to encourage and motivate learners by using prompting techniques. To use the positive and negative reinforcement that skinner emphasis that this concept is agreeable as says it can shape the behaviour. It will be appropriate to use this theory for developing new skills for learners especially for those who find it difficult to speak out in class. For instance, if I nominate a student that I know has difficulty speaking in front of peers and they answer a question correctly I can use this theory by giving them verbal praise. This will then give them the confidence to answer questions in the class without the fear of getting it wrong. Also result in them in participating in group discussions and answering questions without teacher asking them to. Behaviourist propose we learn in response to external stimuli and these actions need to be reinforced by either praised or punishment. This theory appears to be effective for acquiring new skills and active learning in the classroom. This will be ideal for students on my course who are in placements in health setting.
Scale is against the behaviourist approach as he says it promotes learning without understanding. It’s not allowing students to think or discover concepts such as the cognitive approach. However, I like the idea of positive reinforcement as students are rewarded or either punished depending on their response. Behaviourist make the assumption that the behaviourist approach is linked to how all behaviour are learned through experiences an individual has in their environment.
Behaviourists look at the human behaviour how it is measured and observed. Behaviourists believe that learning is brought by "association between the response and reinforcement."(Reece & Walker, 2000) This theory is about how specific stimuli that have a certain response. This idea was from the study of Watson and his views on human behaviour. Operant conditioning interlinks with Watson idea which was expanded by Skinner. Skinner talked in great detail in his theory of positive reinforcement. Classical conditioning is a good starting point as it’s a simple form of learning. Pavlov demonstrated his model of classical conditioning which was the Pavlovian dog experiment. Reece & Walker (2000) state that the behaviourist learning theories suggest students learn by receiving a stimulus which causes a response.
Behaviourist approaches can be a useful approach in the area of health and social care. The nature of reinforcement is to encourage and reward and students. I will consider marking with ticks and positive feedback to enhance students learning also making them to work towards a higher level award such as a certificate or giving them verbal praise in front of the group. However many critics argue and disapprove of the behaviourist approach dislike the idea of rewarding all learners. Avis has suggested using rewards with learners’ who are motivated may distract the learners’ interest in the subject. Pritchard (2005) suggests the most effective behaviourist approach is when a particular learner has a history of academic failure, low motivation and "high" anxiety. On the plus side, this approach has indicated that rewarding aid promote appropriate classroom behaviours, discourages students to misbehave which makes the learning more conductive.
Behaviourists critique one another and argue about which behaviour is learnt better through positive or negative reinforcement. For example if I used the positive reinforcement by giving praise/reward the strength of this is that the individual will repeat the action again, but a limitation is that the individual will expect the reward every time. The same would apply if I had to discourage bad behaviour by punishing the learner by using the negative reinforcement to stop the behaviour, but a limitation is that it might provoke the individual to continue the bad behaviour
Behaviourist’s ways of learning are in forms of stimulation and response, with the aid of repetition, reinforcement and conditioning. To be an effective teacher, I will have expectations that I expect the learners to have learnt by the end of the lesson; that the learning process involves different stages; feedback is given at each step; that the learning will end with a reward or positive feedback to keep learners motivated.
To use the behaviourist approach for my teaching I will include in my Lesson planning reinforcement with frequent feedback on learning, delayed feedback allowing trial and error, and praise, marks and prizes. (Reece, Walker, 2000). In my lesson plan I should include short tasks with frequent feedback for reinforcement and praise. Although to be critical, learning cannot be reduced to processes of conditioned reflexes, inputs and outputs. Behaviour observed is not the same thing as knowledge. Over defined objectives can limit learning, and lead to triviality and criteria for learning in some subjects result from learning, in a more qualitative and dynamic relationship. (Reece, Walker, 2000, 107). This takes away the didactic method of teaching for the behaviourist approach and results the lesson not being practical application of teachers but is rather mainly student centred.
I have tried adopting the behaviourist approach of Skinners theory. Starting placement late was daunting and students had other tutors with different ground rules. I wanted to monitor the behaviour of learners during the lesson and then modify ways to promote positive behaviour. I did this by holding my hand up and waited for silence when I needed the learners’ attention and did this for a number of weeks. There were times; I had to remind them that I was waiting for silence. This did not work for the disruptive students therefore I put sanctions into place and kept students behind or not give them a break. However on the days students behaved and were quiet whilst I was teaching I would praise them and reward them with a choice of a game or quiz at the end of the lesson. Eventually the disruptive students have changed they behaviour as it reflected on the class as a whole and peer group pressure had reduced bad behaviour. Bandura's Social Learning Theory would say that the students were not only being conditioned to respond to the teacher, but also learning from their peers actions as to what was appropriate behaviour in the classroom.(Atherton 2009)
It’s been my 5th week on placement and students respond to signals without being hesitated and reminded that I am waiting to speak to them. It is evident that this approach has worked and that the students prefer the positive response rather than the negative response that was followed by a sanction. This has been beneficial as it leaves me in control and has changed the lesson atmosphere as it allowed me to continue with whatever activity I had planned without any disruption
ATHERTON, J.S., 2009, Learning and Teaching; Social Learning Theory (Bandura), [Online] (Updated Nov. 2009). Available: http://www.learning-theories.com/social-learning-theory-bandura.html [18.01.13]