Summary of Theories
Relating to Learning and Human Development

Citation: Huitt, W. (2013, December). Summary of theories relating to learning and development. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/summary/lrndev.html


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We have reviewed a number of theories related to how human beings learn and develop. On this website, learning is defined as "a relatively permanent change in behavior or behavior potential brought about as a result of experience" and development is defined as "as a relatively permanent change in behavior or behavior potential brought about as a result of maturation or biological function." The following table provides an overview of the major schools of thought related to learning and development.

DIMENSION

Behavioral


Information Processing
Humanistic
Cognitive Constructivism Social Learning, Social Constructivism,
& Social Cognition
Connectivism
Primary
Focus
Observable behavior

Stimulus-response connections

Mental behavior

Acquisition of knowledge

Intelligence

Critical thinking

Affect/Values

Self-concept/Self-esteem

Needs

Mental behavior

Developmental processes

 

Social influences

Modeling & vicarious learning

Attitudes

Goals

Knowledge and attitudes developed through interaction with digital networks
Assumptions Learning is a result of environmental forces Learning is a result of mental operations/ processing Learning is a result of affect/emotion and goal-orientation Learning is the result of the construction of meaning by the individual learner Learning is a result of influences of social environment on thinking Learning is a result of receiving information from and contributing to digital social networks
Subcategories Contiguity

Respondent (Classical)

Operant (Instrumental)
Information Processing

Hierarchical

Developmental

Critical Thinking

Affect

Motivation & needs

Self-concept

Self-esteem

Maturationists

Information processing

 

 

Observational (Social)

Sociohistorical

Self-efficacy

Goal-setting

Self-regulation

None yet developed
Major
Theorists
Thorndike

Pavlov

Watson

Skinner

 

Atkinson and Shriffin

Craik and Lockhart

Neisser

Ausubel

Gagne

Bloom

Rogers

Combs

Purkey

Maslow

N.V. Peale

Ziglar

Piaget

Bruner

Dewey

Vygotsky

Bandura

Sears

Pajares

Schunck

Siemans

Downes

Principles Time/place pairings

Biological basis of behavior

Consequences

Modeling

Memory is limited

Changes in complexity

Changes over time

Good thinking requires standards

Individual uniqueness

Self-determination

Dreams and goals are vital for success

Diagnose learner readiness

Structure learning experiences using spiral organization

Facilitate student extrapolation and filling in his or her knowledge gaps

 
Social interaction with adults and peers

Reciprocal determinism

Individual responsibility

Learning in the digital age is primarily influence by connection to digital networks

Learning is a function of connecting to and developing digital networks

Personal construction of meaning is critical
Methods Experimental methods

Laboratory studies

Systematic observation
Experimental/ correlational

Paper/pencil

Clinical method

Paper/pencil

Natural observation

Structured observation

 

Experimental/ correlational

Systematic observation

Paper/pencil
Mainly qualitative

Applying principles from these theories of learning and development can help you guide your own learning.
 
Theory Principles
Behavioral
  • Have specific goals and objectives that state precisely what you are to learn.
  • Break the goals and objectives into manageable units.
  • Interact with the material while you are listening or reading (e.g., take notes, answer previously developed questions)
  • Reward yourself for learning activities and outcomes (e.g., listen to one song after 20 minutes of studying; go to a movie when you make an "A" on an exam)
Information Processing
  • Make sure you're paying attention during lectures and reading.
  • Overview any reading before you actually get started. Identify major terms and concepts.
  • Ask yourself different levels of questions when you study (e.g., low level -- what does this term mean; higher level -- how could I use this concept or principle; how is this concept similar or different from another)
  • Give yourself time to allow time to pass before a review
Humanistic
  • Think about how this learning relates to your life goals or mission.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable as you start your learning; if you feel stressed, take a few minutes to relax (close your eyes, imagine yourself in your favorite spot or activity; breath slowly and deeply)
  • Imagine how you will feel when you successfully take a test on this material.
  • Make a game out of learning the material; make it fun.
Cognitive Constructivism
  • Before you get started, review activity or concept and reflect on how this might be similar to something you've already done.
  • Try to apply the principle or think about how you might apply it.
  • Work with another student as you identify important terms, concepts, and principles.
Social Learning, Social Constructivism,
& Social Cognition
  • Work in a study group to learn the material.
  • Take action and then reflect on how successful you have been in the learning process.
  • Set goals for learning the concepts or skills, not just making a passing score on a test.
  • Keep records of your learning activities and reflect on which ones seem to work best; talk about these with other students.
Connectivism
  • Actively connect to various networks of knowers, inquirers, and knowledge bases.
  • Become producers of knowledge that can be accessed throughout your lifetime and connect that knowledge to others' or personally developed knowledge bases.

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