5 Educational Learning Theories

For students to maintain behavioral and cognitive growth in their lives, they need sound guidance from their teachers. Careful thought into how they obtain and retain information from their ability to learn and interact with the world around them is pertinent. All students start as young children, going into primary school with a lack of understanding of how the entire process of human interaction works.

Although most children are gregarious and have a basic idea of how to conduct themselves for success, teachers build their curriculum from the five educational theories as fundamental tools to achieve favorable interaction from the students.

When used with careful understanding, these philosophical ideas will carry on to the students well beyond their years in primary and secondary school, passing down to their place of work and their methods of teaching their future children. Below is a detailed look into the five educational theories, all of them crucial to their psychological growth as a whole.

A brief description of each educational theory is evaluated in the description further down. A FAQ follows with correlating details on each subject.

Behaviorism: A philosophical process that focuses on human behavior and its relation to consequences.

Cognitivism:  How cognitive ability is used by people to gain knowledge, insight, and understanding from internal observations.

Constructivism: The process and study of building knowledge from information gathered through close interaction.

Humanism: The study of how humans use rationality in thought for the moral, ethical, and rational betterment of individuals and other people.

Connectivism: A theory that promotes human improvement through networking and interaction with technology. All forms of media, including tools used for social networking, can fall under the umbrella of connectivism.

Many people believe that all one needs to be a good teacher is a solid foundation of knowledge in the subject or grade level and a decent ability to connect with children or adolescents. This might be true, however, great teachers also become experts at applying the educational learning theories covered in every teacher training program. Here are the five most common theories currently used by the majority of educators.

The Five Educational Theories Explained

1. Behaviorism

At its core, behaviorism refers to the notion of learning to do or not do certain behaviors by way of reinforcements and punishments. This refers to both natural consequences and those implemented by another person. In the context of educational learning, teachers use behaviorism in the form of grades, classroom behavior economies, detentions, time-outs, recommendation letters, and parent-teacher conferences, just to name a few.

The specific consequences are determined by the age of the students. Behaviorism involves learning how to most effectively apply and help students appreciate internal consequences, such as pride in one’s work.

2. Cognitivism

Cognition refers to the human processes of understanding. It is grounded in the work of Jean Piaget, who developed a theory of cognitive development throughout the lifespan. This theory involves four stages of cognitive development including sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operations.

The sensorimotor stage lasts from birth to two years of age. Infants and toddlers acquire knowledge through motor skills and the five senses. The preoperational stage lasts from two to seven years. Children learn to make connections based on symbols by playing pretend, connecting letters to sounds and eventually to words. The concrete operational stage lasts from seven to twelve years.

This is when children and preadolescents develop logic. The formal operational stage begins around age twelve and lasts through adulthood. This involves the ability to understand and talk about abstract ideas, and students develop critical thinking skills. The role of teachers is to tailor the curriculum to students’ stages and spot and address cognitive deficiencies.

3. Constructivism

Constructive theorists found that human beings are unique in their ability to construct unique understandings of their immediate environments and the world beyond them. Every individual experiences life differently based on an immeasurable number of physiological and emotional factors.

What this means for teachers is that students cannot be expected to absorb and apply the material in the same way. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development published an informative article about differentiating instruction to help teachers meet each student’s unique needs.

4. Humanism

Closely related to constructivism is humanism, which concerns the idea of self-actualization. All people function under a hierarchy of needs, beginning with the most basic physiological survival needs, and culminating in self-actualization. Self-actualization refers to those brief yet beautiful moments when one feels as though all of their physical, cognitive, and emotional needs are met, and one is the best possible version of oneself.

This is a state that all humans are always striving for but the vast majority of people do not remain in for long periods. People influence each other’s places on the hierarchy, so teachers must structure their curriculum and classroom environments to help students move towards self-actualization.

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5. Connectivism

Connectivism is the newest educational learning theory. As the name implies, it is grounded in the notion that people learn and grow by forming connections. This includes connections with each other and connections between their increasing number of roles, obligations, hobbies, and other aspects of life.

The rise of technology presents both challenges and opportunities for connection. Teachers must learn how to encourage students to make the right kinds of connections and utilize educational technology in the most effective ways.

No two students are created equal, and neither are any two teachers. These five educational learning theories inform teachers about both the similarities and differences between their students in terms of their development and understanding. Teachers are responsible for instructing their students about life as much as their subjects. These five theories form their foundation for accomplishing this.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are examples of all five learning theories?

Each theory is used in real-world situations, even when people may not realize it.

Behaviorism – In class, students are expected to take tests so that the institution or state can assess their ability to move on to another grade. It may involve seasonal or grade-specific exams given to students within a particular age bracket. When this happens, the students themselves are prepped for the test with identical exams and study guides. Once the test is near, teachers may offer rewards to students in the form of a treat, a movie after class, or even a field trip. Rewards in the context of behaviorism are known as positive reinforcement. The method is to encourage students to retain a mindset where reward becomes commonplace, where the simple passing of an exam is all that’s needed for them to perpetuate good grades in their class and future exams.

Cognitivism – Since cognitivism reinforces students’ ability to absorb data, it’s used through implied learning. Students could be shown a video that’s loosely related to a subject being taught to their class on any given day. When students internally use the subject of the video to base their insight into their curriculum, it’s through the process of cognitivism.

Constructivism – Some students learn faster and slower than others. It doesn’t mean that one student is intellectually disadvantaged. Instead, much of it is the student’s unique way of processing subjects. Not all students do this in the same manner. For instance, a student may learn better when they’re grouped with other students, and someone else may score better grades when given a leading role in a subject. Still, others could take in info better by strict observation without working directly with someone.

Humanism – Since humanism deals with human morals, ethics, and values, the theory is realized when students undertake activities at school or even extracurricular activities outside of it. Children are taught to build better situations for themselves using the ethics of democratic beliefs. Alternatively, kids could be given the role of teachers, with other students voicing or voting for policy under the umbrella of the curriculum being taught.

Connectivism – Connectivism has many examples that are arguably more conspicuous to notice than the other theories shown. The most obvious today is the use of the internet to connect students to their peers. Many classrooms have begun to take their studies online, with students having responsibilities that necessitate connecting through social media. A school could create a forum for subjects online, having students create an account and establishing group chats discussing history, science, reading, or even the school itself.

2. Do the educational theories apply to employees outside of education?

Yes, all of the five educational theories are easy to see in nearly every field of employment. Some of them may not appear to be obvious but others are unmistakably apparent. Our process of voting in a democratic election is humanism at its core.

Many jobs provide rewards through increased salary, higher positions in the company, and additional vacation days for good work. Rewards are a national process of the workforce. Employees need incentives to stay with the job, even if they’re not always monetary. Sometimes, customer interaction is the most rewarding to workers, all of this being closely connected to behaviorism.

3. How can the theory of cognitivism be Implemented in Infants and toddlers?

Even in human infancy, mothers and caretakers use the ideas presented with cognitivism for their children’s sensory and cognitive development. The first several years that a child is born are vital to their success later on in life.

For the newborn, baby, and toddler, close relationships with objects that can facilitate brain development are found in the toys they play with and the tools they use to learn new skills at a rapid pace. Even while they might not remember the skills that were taught to them in this early stage, they boost cognitive performance and mental acuity for the rest of their life.

Young children in childcare have plenty to keep them busy. There are lots of toys used by daycare centers built to assist in a child’s gross motor skills development. This is cognitivism at a child’s earliest levels. But in primary education and beyond, things such as students taking notes or learning hands-on abilities like building circuit boards and woodworking are more educational instances of cognitivism.

4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of constructivism?

Because constructivism helps students to build knowledge through thoughts and experiences already retained by them, it could put some at the risk of poor rationale and decision making when the subject is dubious. It’s how misinformation spreads through media that’s cynical and heavily subjective. When the topics being learned are factual and concrete, constructivism gives students improved knowledge for forming their own logical opinions on an issue or classroom task.

5. What additional methods do teachers use to guide their students towards self-actualization?

Teachers want their students to be successful in everything they do. Self-actualization is possible when students have everything they need to model themselves into what they are, what they want to be, and the person they wish to become in the future. Helping students to appreciate good teachers and concern for their needs is a Humanist interaction.

6. Are the Educational Theories Utilized in Higher Education?

All of the educational theories outlined are commonplace in colleges and universities. In some instances, they’re frequently applied more in higher education than in grades K-12. Behavior, teaching young adults how more refined approaches in their cognitive abilities, and establishing an atmosphere built on the things they have previously been taught carries with them in undergraduate and graduate courses. Some students become more aware of the Educational theories in this phase of their learning, particularly philosophy and sociology majors.

Colleges routinely hire students for employment outside of their coursework or assist them in finding jobs to help cover tuition costs. Educational theories such as humanism and constructivism provide college students the realization to keep themselves grounded in their study, to use their time wisely, and to make reasonable choices that’ll put them on the career path they seek.

Summary: Learning Through Means of Understanding

What do the five educational theories have the most in common?

In their entirety, one theory works best when the others are applied simultaneously. But even in situations where it’s not completely obvious, all of them are put into effect from the demand that people engage, learn, and develop greater comprehension of learning and teaching from them.

However, knowing how the educational theories work, where they’re used, and how to build them into classroom curriculum can foster a progressive mindset that raises their likelihood of success.

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