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The Three Learning Schemas: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, & Constructivism

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Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are three prominent learning theories. These theories try to develop efficient learning programs and study the psychology involved in an individual’s ability to learn.  

Each of these theories has its own virtues, allowing educators to employ them to various degrees.

What Is Behaviorism?

Behaviorism is a learning theory that treats individual learning as non-existent. It instead focuses on “the observation of the environment and responding to it” as the basis of education.

Behaviorist theory focuses on how people learn and form habits. The general idea is that ‘all the behavior learned by an individual is through interactions with the environment.’

Individual traits and natural tendencies have a minimal role to play in the education of an individual. Individuals get conditioned by their interaction with the environment, leading to the development of a habit.

 Ardent behaviorists believe that “all behaviors are the result of experience” and that “any person, regardless of his or her background, can be trained to act in a particular manner given the right conditioning.”

Behaviorism believes that people are born as a blank slate (tabula rasa). Using rewards and punishments as a basis of conditioning, people slowly learn appropriate behavior.

For example, if we find specific actions by individuals desirable, we provide them with a suitable reward as positive conditioning. If we find certain actions by individuals undesirable, we provide them with punishments as negative conditioning. The result of this conditioning done repeatedly is the development of behavior in individuals.

In the Classroom

Inside the classroom, conditioning plays a vital role in developing educational behavior, according to behaviorists. For example, a model student receives praise (positive conditioning), while a poor performer is scolded or punished (negative conditioning). This stimulus motivates students to perform better and the conditioning develops into a stimulus-response.

Another way to apply behavioralism in classrooms is through mastery learning. In this way, students learn and practice certain material until they obtain a minimum level of expertise. Once this happens, they earn a promotion to a higher standard. The act of promotion is a positive conditioning exercise.

What is Cognitivism?

Cognitivism, on the other hand, treats individuals as mental beings that analyze and evaluate the information. Thus, it directly counters the beliefs of behaviorism.

Developed as a response to behaviorism, cognitivism asserts that learning by an individual happens when they process the information and stimulus they receive. Rather than simply responding to stimuli and responding through conditioning, learners think about and analyze their responses.

Cognitivism goes beyond the confines of simple observation of an individual and pries into their internal psyche to understand their learning behavior. Cognitivists term these mechanisms as cognitive domains.

Cognitivists argue that a person goes from one layer of the cognitive domain to another for deeper learning. Each domain personalizes the learning experience of an individual.

The cognitive theory looks at each individual as a separate entity with individual cognitive domains and ways of understanding to various degrees. In this way, recalling and retention of knowledge become very important.

In the Classroom

Inside the classroom, cognitivism emerges via interactive activities that spark the thinking potential of students. For example, when students receive thought-provoking questions, it guides their brains to look deeper into their present knowledge to find solutions.

Activities involving self-reflection and memorizing also help in building the learning potential of students. Asking students to demonstrate a concept, reciting and retaining poetry, giving them hands-on problems, and interactive discussions are some ways that enforce cognitive learning inside the classrooms.

What Is Constructivism?

Constructivism relies on the idea that individuals create an understanding and interpretation of lessons based on their prior experience and knowledge. The theory also asserts that all knowledge and learning exists solely inside the mind.

Closely related to cognitivism, constructivism states that all knowledge builds upon prior knowledge. According to this theory, people “actively make their own knowledge.” This knowledge creation shapes their perspective of reality.

Constructivism treats learning as an active and social process. The students bring their own unique experiences and perspective to the classroom, shaping their understanding of concepts taught to them.

Constructivism shifts the focus of learning from the teacher to the students. It believes that students bring their own unique experiences to the class, improving and diversifying the learning potential of the entire class.

In the Classroom

Teachers employ constructivism Inside the classroom in different ways to create learning opportunities for students.  The students utilize their own understanding and experience for gaining unique insights on the subject.

Allowing students to drive learning via discussions, debates, and the sharing of knowledge between peers, are some ways constructivism makes its way inside modern classrooms.

The students are allowed freedom of interpretation, as they each experience the knowledge provided to them differently. The theory of constructivism primarily focuses on treating knowledge as a process solely existing inside the mind, making motivation a key factor.

According to constructivism, an unmotivated student cannot learn anything.

FDA’s Learning Philosophy

Fairborn Digital Academy believes that each student has his or her own individual learning journey to take. Find more information about our teaching styles and learning pathways available to your student!

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