Learning Theories

The three main theories of learning are behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Behaviorism focuses on teaching specific behaviors and rewarding for those behaviors to get students that have the behaviour that is wanted. Cognitivism has a large focus on how the students learn and allows for inquiry and curiosity but does not take into account individual needs. Constructivism is highly inquiry-based and allows students to take control of their learning.

I saw mostly behaviourism and cognitivism in my school experience. I found that teachers tend to use behaviourism in small ways in the classroom. For example, teachers sometimes did things like giving the students that settled down the fastest candy or something along those lines. Cognitivism was the most commonly used when I was in school, most teachers would do some inquiry, but it was for the most part it was structured and focused on learning the curriculum. I found that constructivism was used little to none and most of the teachers leaned towards the other learning theories. It was interesting to me because most teachers wanted to be inquiry based at let students take control of their own learning but most of the time it did not happen.

I have always wanted a classroom that I could do inquiry based and teach students what they want to know, unfortunately this is not possible because of the curriculum. One of the things that I always remember, and it always sticks with me is that so many students want to learn practical skills that they need once they finish high school. Many students are unengaged because what they are learning is irrelevant to what they actually need and want to know. I want to use cognitivism and constructivism in my classroom as much as possible.

1 Comment

  1. Sam Sperling

    Hi Sarah,
    I enjoyed your post about the learning theories. The definitions you provided were very direct and easy to understand. You provided examples of behaviourism, what are some examples of cognitivism? In what situations would the teacher use cognitivism as well as constructivism? How did the teachers try and make the learning more constructivism manner? I feel as though the curriculum does not completely withhold the idea of wanting to have a constructivism learning based classroom. You can still base the ideas off of the curriculum but allow them to learn the curriculum material in a way that keeps them engaged.
    Thanks, Sam

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