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Unit 1.1 Introduction to Learning Theories

Learning is a complex human activity which has various dimensions. The basic preconditions for learning to take place are presence and appropriate interaction of learner, experience and resources (environment, stimuli). Enquiry and investigation in this field has lead to illustration of various theories by eminent psychologists. The school of thought which interprets learning in terms of stimulus response (S-R) association belongs to behaviorists. Thorndike, Pavlov, Watson and skinner are members of this group. On the other hand cognitive theories support importance of insight, mental mapping and intelligently responding to environment as base of learning. Kurt Lewin, Kohler, Tolman are eminent members of cognitivists, class. Vygotsky and Jean piaget are bracketed as constructivists who studied influence of social, cultural factors as well as developmental stages of learner on learning.

In this unit we shall study different influential theories developed by these psychologists.

But before starting understanding the theories, lets recall what is learning and what are some types of learning.

What is learning?

Learning is a relatively permanent change in an organism’s behaviour due to experience.

The learning can be associative or observational.

  • In associative learning, we learn to associate two stimuli (for example, in classical conditioning) or a response and its consequences (as in operant conditioning).
  • In observational learning, we learn by watching others’ experiences and examples.

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