Among the various types of educational theories, behaviorism and constructivism are the most popular with teachers. Behaviorism supports the notion that learning is affected by variations in the environment. Constructivism, on the other hand, sees learning as a way of searching for a particular meaning.
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Whereas behaviorism encourages learning from experience, constructivism upholds that learning is a personal initiative. Nevertheless, in the application, the two theories have weaknesses. In view of that, they are appropriate for certain scenarios and cultures and not others. This means that a teacher must apply them carefully if he wants to succeed in teaching. This paper provides a brief analysis of behaviorism and constructivism educational theories.
Skinner and Watson, when developing the behaviorism theory, sought to demonstrate that it is possible to control or predict a behavior (Weegar and Pacis, 2012). This school of thought portrays learning as a way of acquiring new conduct. Accordingly, the environment affects the learning process. A class based on this theory dwells on obtaining facts, concepts, and abilities. A reward system is also an important element of a behaviorist class.
This system aims at motivating students who demonstrate positive learning behaviors. Weegar and Pacis (2012) reaffirm that educationists who use this theory occasionally employ a punishment regime to discourage negative learning behaviors.
The two types of conditioning are the most important elements of this theory (Weegar and Pacis, 2012). When a natural reflex reacts to a stimulus, classic conditioning takes place. An operant conditioning takes place when a stimulus is strengthened. Rewarding a response to a stimulus is a typical example of an operant conditioning.
The constructivism learning theory maintains that the acquisition of knowledge is marred with uncertainty (Jia, 2010). In this theory, students are the cornerstone of the learning process. In this regard, they learn on their own initiative. A teacher’s work is, thus, to motivate and guide the student in constructing knowledge.
According to Jia (2010), people who coined the constructivism theory believed that knowledge is not the final solution to our problems. In fact, it is basically an explanation or an assumption. Therefore, knowledge cannot be directly used to unravel some of the problems affecting mankind. “Most issues have to be analyzed based on the prevailing practical conditions” (Jia, 2010, p.197).
As a philosophy of learning, constructivism dwells on experiences. This means that we acquire knowledge by adjusting our minds to changes in the universe. In addition, this theory allows teachers to give students a chance to demonstrate their capability in dealing with issues arising from the learning process.
Behaviorism and constructivism theories originate from different philosophical ideas. Proponents of behaviorism theory believe that all students learn the same thing If environmental influences are right (Weegar and Pacis, 2012). To them, if prevailing conditions remain favorable, anybody can learn. In contrast, constructivists uphold that a learner constructs his own knowledge. Consequently, a student must develop his own understanding of education material.
Unlike behaviorism, this theory does not disregard mental activities as it considers individual capabilities. A constructivist is, thus, interested in a student’s ability to derive meaning while a behaviorist lays emphasis on how the content and environment will influence learning. Moreover, teachers indicate the relevance and usefulness of what people are learning through constructivism. Conversely, a behaviorist setup is designed in a way that allows people to learn from experience.
Individualism and constructivism theories have some weaknesses. Nonetheless, the severity of these weaknesses depends on their application. For instance, behaviorism is widely applied in areas where collective action is valued. Constructivism, in contrary, fits scenarios where individualism is preferred over collectivism. Behaviorism theory does not appreciate the influence a student has over his behavior.
Different individuals have different capabilities. For that reason, they must be given an opportunity to nurture their abilities. Behaviorism does not guarantee this. Although constructivism ensures that a person’s capability is utilized to the maximum, it does not consider the influence of the environment on an individual.
Nature is endowed with a number of choices and preferences aimed at meeting our needs. Nonetheless, the extent to which an individual adapts to his environment dictates whether these needs will be met or not. Constructivism, hence, denies a person a chance to interact with his surroundings.
The most widely applied educational theories are behaviorism and constructivism. Behaviorism theory states that learning occurs after a behavior undergoes a noticeable transformation. In most cases, this change is brought about by variations in the environment. Alternatively, the guiding principle of the theory of constructivism is that we learn in order to pursue certain meanings (Jia, 2010).
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In addition, meaning calls for a student to understand the elements involved in learning. For a teacher to succeed, she needs to comprehend a student’s attitude. On the other hand, a student should not memorize, but generate her own meaning or analyze other people’s meaning. It is work noting that constructivism and behaviorism are applied in different settings. Accordingly, educationist must utilize them in situations that generate the right outcome.
Jia, Q. (2010). A brief study on the implication of constructivism teaching theory on classroom teaching reform in basic education. International Education Studies, 3 (2), 197-199. Retrieved October 4, 2013 from http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ies/article/download/5888/4661
Weegar, M. A., & Pacis, D. (2012). A comparison of two theories of learning: Behaviorism and constructivism as face-to-face and online learning. Retrieved October 4, 2013 from http://www.g-casa.com/conferences/manila/papers/Weegar.pdf