The issue of education has always been topical for people. It helps to impart knowledge from one generation to another and due to this process humanity managed to accumulate a great number of different knowledge. Being so important, the issue of education was studied by many different people. They tried to determine the way in which a person obtains knowledge and what conditions will be the best for a pupil to become successful and process all the information given. There were many attempts to find the answer to these questions and due to this fact numerous theories of learning appeared (Hemwall & Trachte, 2005). Thus, traditionally there are two theories which are considered to be the most influential ones and which have many adherers. These theories are behavioral and cognitive theories of learning. The purpose of this work is to determine differences and similarities of behavioral and cognitive theories of learning and understand whether they could be used in online environment or not.
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Behavioral is one of the oldest theories of learning which supposes that a pupil is essentially passive and it only responds to some environmental stimuli (Behaviorism, n.d.). It means that a common learner is taken as a clear slot which should be filled with knowledge. It is obvious, that there are special ways in which knowledge could be given. The main idea of this theory is that numerous repetitions of the same action or information can lead to its understanding and acceptance (Graham, 2015). That is why, all behavioral theories of learning take this statement into account and base on this assumption (Gopnik & Wellman, 2012). Great attention is also given to reinforcement, both positive or negative. It helps to increase the possibility of understanding of some knowledge and appearance of some set of skills. A pupil repeats some exercises until he/she is able to understand the main idea and repeat it in his/her life.
Thus, there is one more important theory of learning which is rather popular nowadays and is also investigated. It is cognitive theory of learning. This theory is based on the idea that a person is able to learn how to perform certain actions simply observing a model (Van Roojen, 2015). While looking at it, a person is also analyzing it. He/she tries to make a certain conclusion and determine the way in which this action was performed. In other words, cognitive theory of thinking is based on the great importance of cognitions. Under this term the set of metal abilities connected with study and obtaining information is meant (Wicks, 2015). With the help of cognition a person investigates the world and makes certain conclusions. This term is vital for cognitive theory of learning as it supposes that a person understands information better if he/she not just simply repeats but understands it.
Having obtained information about these important learning theories, it is possible to say that they have a great number of differences and similarities. First of all, it should be said that both these theories take a human being as the central part of teaching process and admit the fact that it should be centered around a pupil. Furthermore, both these theories underline great importance of knowledge which should be given to a person. They also underline the fact that a pupil should be given the possibility to obtain information in different ways, because their efficiency is not equal (Van Roojen, 2015). Besides, there is also a great number of similarities which could be taken as the evidence of some common roots of these theories. At the same time, differences show that these theories had been developing in various ways.
The first and the most important difference lies in the way in which a person should obtain new knowledge. Behaviorists state the fact that different exercises aimed at the repetition of the same information are the best way to obtain this very data. Moreover, a person will be able to accept a certain set of skills needed for the accomplishment of this exercise. According to some behaviorists, at the beginning of studying understanding of information is not necessary as a person repeats exercises and, during the process of learning, understands their mechanisms. Cognitive theory of learning has absolutely different approach to the issue of studying. It states that it is vital for a pupil to understand how to perform some action of according to which regularities some processes function. Looking at the model, a person should not repeat, but understand how it works and only after that, having understood the main points, he/she will be able to repeat it. These difference influence the whole theories and determine the way in which they develop.
Nowadays, one of the most widely used behavioral theory is operant conditioning. The main sense of this fact lies in the fact that behavior is controlled by various consequences. (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). There are certain punishments and rewards for a person for all his/her actions or behaviors. As a result, a person obtains certain associations which help him/her to find the right answer for some question or to act correctly in a certain situation. It is possible to say that it is rather simple though efficient method which could be used under different conditions and in various environments. The given theory was created by Skinner, who thought that inner motivations of a pupil or his/her state was not important for the process and that this conditioning can help to obtain the needed result.
There is one more theory which should be taken into account. It belongs to cognitive sphere of knowledge and is called cognitive load theory. It is based on the idea the memory of a person can hold a certain amount of information in a certain period of time and it is called cognitive load (Cognitive Theories of Learning, n.d.). Resting on this fact, certain information is given to a person. Usually it is given rather quickly and with a great number of new facts. The idea is that a pupil will be able to process it and understand, even if some time will be needed. Exercises, which are based on this idea, develop memory of a person and his/her ability to work with new information. This theory was created by Sweller, though it is widely used nowadays and a great number of scientists continue its development and improvement (Romanelli, Bird, & Ryan, 2009).
Their usage in online environment
Taking into account great importance of technologies in the modern world, it should be said that these theories can also be used in online environment (Reynolds, n.d.). The theory of operant conditioning can be applied to online teaching. Working online, a pupil can be evaluated immediately and a certain response from the program to his/her actions could be obtained. It could be either some sign of appreciation or some sort of punishment. The program should be created in the way which will be the most efficient and provide significant rewards or punishment. The same deals with cognitive load theory. It also could be used in online environment. Special course could be created for a person to be able to obtain a great number of new facts at the same time. Then, a certain period of time should be given for him/her to process obtained knowledge and to understand it. The final test will show results of this session. It should be said that it could be either a program or a course with a teacher online.
Having analyzed the main ideas connected with different learning theories, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. First of all, it should be said that both behavioral and cognitive theories are still topical nowadays and scientists and teachers use them in their practice. There are some differences and similarities between these theories, though they are aimed at teaching and giving some certain information, thus they use different approaches. At the same time, it is possible to say that their usage under modern conditions in online environment can also be taken as rather efficient remedy which could help to teach pupils and give them knowledge in different spheres.
Behaviorism. (n.d.) Web.
Cognitive Theories of Learning. (n.d.). Web.
Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. Web.
Gopnik, A., & Wellman, H. (2012). Reconstructing constructivism: Causal models, Bayesian learning mechanisms and the theory theory. Psychological Bulletin, 138(6), 1085-1108. Web.
Graham, G. (2015). Behaviorism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.
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Wicks, D. (2015). Emerging Theories and Online Learning Environments for Adults. Web.