When reading about the three learning theories, it became apparent to me that adopting a single theory exclusively is limiting. Each learning theory, and the practices that are developed around the theory, has a place in teaching. It is in the best interests of our students to recognize that learning can happen in a variety of ways, and we should make the effort to include teaching practices that accommodate for this.


My first thought when I read about behaviourism, was Pavlov’s dog experiment, where he discovered that a dog would react, in this case salivate, to an outside stimulus (a metronome ticking), without the presence of food in the area. This is similar to the description on the behaviourist theory of learning where it is believed that students can be conditioned to learn if the right stimuli are used. With behaviourism, a person’s previous experiences and feelings are not considered to impact learning process. Some of us may remember the posted sticker chart in the classroom, where you earned a sticker if you got 100% on a spelling test. For some students, seeing the line fill up next to their name would have been a driving force in them memorizing their words for the week. The question I have, is that actually learning? This theory relates most to the product model of curriculum where the goal is to be efficient at reaching predetermined goals (usually outlined in the curriculum) and relies on feedback and other outside stimuli to make that happen.

I feel that behaviourism is the theory that is used most frequently in school. I believe that early year teachers often turn to this theory of learning because they are trying to set up a foundation of learning that is often acquired through rote learning – can you say multiplication tables, fast math, spelling tests and sight words. I think the belief is that once these skills are acquired, more experiential learning can be introduced.


The cognitivism theory does not simply rely on input in/input out. Rather, it takes into consideration the fact that the human experience factors into how and what we learn. Every individual has a unique experience and therefore they process new information in their own way. Cognitivism wants learners to work through the mental processes thinking to help develop comprehension, problem solving and understanding of new learning topics. The curriculum as process model is most similar to cognitivism as it’s aim is to develop critical thinkers who are encouraged to use previous experiences and learning to get there.

Although this may have been present in classrooms when I attended school, I have become more aware of it as I have gone through my field experiences. I see more student directed learning happening and teachers encouraging students to relate what they are learning to something that the student has seen or experienced.


Lastly there is the theory of constructivism. This theory looks at learning as not having a universal aspect but rather is individually constructed based on outside social interactions and the environment. Students use previous knowledge and adapt their learning or understanding as they process through experiences and learn more. Just like the previous theories had a connection to different curriculum models, constructivism does as well. I find it is most inline with curriculum as praxis, as this model wants students to engage with society, process the experience to learn more in order to increase critical thinking and become leaders for social change.

I first experienced constructivism once I started attending university and more in my education courses then in my previous science courses. Many of the education courses requires us to reflect on what we have been taught, read, or learned. This is definitely a skill that takes time to acquire and develop and might be difficult for younger learners to engage with.