Learning and MacBlain, 2012, p.197). It began with

Learning
is a process of discovery and gaining knowledge. Knowledge can be expanded by
being taught in a school environment, studying and real-life experiences.
Learning is a very important process as it allows us to use all the information
around us and bring it into our own
lives, helping us and our brains to evolve. Many believe that the learning process only takes place during the
primary stages of a child’s life. ‘From birth onwards, babies are interactive
processors of information. Some learning is incidental, effortless and
undirected, whilst other learning is effortful, purposeful, directive, creative
and reflective’ (Gray and MacBlain, 2012). However, it is now understood that
learning is a continuous process from birth till death, we never stop learning
and discovering.

 

There
are many different theories as to how people learn. These theories have been
discovered by people and have been used in the classroom for a long time. You may not have noticed but a lot
of the classroom rules and tricks originals started off as a theory. For
example, you may remember in primary school, receiving your workbook from the
teacher and opening it to find that your work has been marked. If your work was good, your teacher may have written
‘well done’ and added a stamp or a sticker as a reward. Did you know that this
is developed from the theory of behaviourism? In my essay, I will be addressing
the theories: behaviourism and constructivism and explaining how they have
played a role in my life and my experiences.

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Behaviourism
is ‘a learning theory that focuses on objectively observable behaviours and
discounts activities of the mind- how a child thinks, feels or interprets an
event’ (Gray and MacBlain, 2012). The theory is split into classical
conditioning and operant conditioning.

 

Classical
conditioning is when ‘new signals are acquired for existing responses, could be contrived to create associations of
learning’ (Gray and MacBlain, 2012, p.197).  It began with the theorist Ivan Pavlov’s
(1890) famous experiment ‘Pavlov’s Dogs’. This links to the idea of a stimulus
and a response. So, Pavlov presented food to the dog in which the dog responded
by salivating. This is the unconditioned stimulus and response as the dog did
not need to be taught to respond in this way. He then decided to add a bell
(the neutral stimulus) into the equation which gave a result of no salivation (no
conditioned response). Realising the pattern, Pavlov then presented the food to
the dog while also ringing the bell, causing the dog to salivate because of the
food. He continued this until the dog learnt to associate the bell with the
food. So, when Pavlov rung the bell again, now a conditioned stimulus, the dog
salivated, now known as a conditioned response. This also works with humans.
When I was younger, I went on a residential trip where we participated in
outdoor activities. One of the tasks was to go
into a tunnel which leads underground. I
remember, because I was a little hesitant, my teacher held her hand to me and
said, “there’s no need to be scared, nothing’s going to happen”. However, when
I entered the tunnel it was dark and wet which caused the fear to return. Now,
when somebody repeats them words to me, the fear automatically sets in because
I associate it with that experience.

Operant
conditioning is when ‘rewards and punishments are used within teaching’ (Gray and MacBlain, 2012, p.198). It is based on the idea that the individual learns through
the consequences of their behaviour. If they do something positive, they will
be rewarded which means they will most likely carry that act out again.
Whereas, if they do something negative, they will be punished and hopefully will
not repeat their actions again. The theorist B.F. Skinner was influenced by
John Watson. Skinner experiment was not as extremes as Watsons. Skinner started
his own research as he believed that classical conditioning was far too simple,
and it would not be able to explain and justify the complicated human being. Skinner
began his own research with the ‘Skinner Box’. The Skinner box was based on
‘Thorndike’s Law of Effect (1905). The
main features of the Skinner box were the lever, food dispenser, loudspeaker,
lights and the electric grid. Inside this box, Skinner placed a rat inside,
letting it explore. Whilst the rat was running around, it accidentally knocked the leaver causing food to
drop into the container. The rat repeated this process after realizing that
pulling the leaver will result in him receiving food. This is a demonstration
of a positive reinforcement. However, to demonstrate negative reinforcement,
Skinner activated the electric grid which electric currents to the rat. Out of panic, the rat started to
move around the box, accidentally
knocking the lever again, resulting in the currents to stop. This allowed the
mouse to work out that he had to keep pulling the lever to avoid the currents.
Relating this to my experience, in primary school, if we behaved and produced a
good piece of work, the teacher would reward us with a sticker and a well-done
card to take home and show our parents. This encouraged me to work hard all the
time, so I would get more rewards. This also influenced my parents as they
would also reward me whenever I received a sticker and a card. 

Pavlov
provided us with the first evidence from his experiments to help show how
learning is acquired. Skinner proved how ‘negative rewards weaken negative behaviour
and positive rewards strengthen positive behaviour'(Gray and MacBlain, 2012, p.40).
One of the many positives calls attention
to the fact that for more them 50 years,
behaviourism has influenced a wide audience on the content and delivery in education.