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Learning Theories: Constructivism, humanism, behaviorism Research Paper

New things will develop each day and people will need to learn them. Moreover, human beings have an inherent quest of wanting to know something new that they think will be of help to them. On the same note, young children are supposed to be taught how to handle various situations in life. In this regard, many ways have been developed that are used during the learning process.

It should be noted that various people have different intellectual levels and will therefore require different ways of learning. Consequently, different theories have been developed to explain the best way of learning. These theories include Constructivism theory, humanism theory and behaviorism theory. It is important to note that while these theories have various things in common, they also have some differences.

Constructivism theory is based on the assumption that people will always use what they know from past experience to construct new ideas. According to this theory, active involvement of learners in the learning process is crucial to help in construction of knowledge. Consequently, understanding the previous experience of the learners is very crucial in knowing what is known and what is not known.

In this way, the facilitator or the educator will be able to design the learning process in a manner that will allow the learner to develop (Plotnik & kouyoumjian, 2010). It is important to note that this theory emphasizes on the understanding of the learner’s cognitive development given that cognitive development is a crucial part of the theory. The main argument of the theory is that people do not learn well by just reading books and listening to teachers giving lectures.

On the same note, humanism theory of learning is based on the idea that interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence is vital in generation of knowledge meaning and experience. Like constructivism theory, humanism theory emphasizes on self-directed learning where learners are just given guidance and left to develop knowledge on their own. Prior knowledge of the learner is crucial because this is what is used in learning new ideas.

The theory argues that in order for learning to be complete, there is need to connect the logical and the intuitive as well as concept and experience. Moreover, humanism learning theory postulates that human needs are crucial in invoking the quest to learn as well as motivating learners (Leonard, 2002).

Development of expertise is the main aim of the learning process according to humanism learning theory. In this regard, the educator is just supposed to make available the necessary resources and create conducive environment for the learner without playing an active role.

Lastly, behaviorism learning theory is the viewpoint of the study of human behavior. The theory postulates that human behavior is heavily dependent on environmental factors. According to this view, interaction with different environments yields ground for the acquisition of new behavior (Moore, 2008). The major point of reasoning in the behaviorist approach of psychology is the importance of behavior reinforcement.

The theory suggests that there are positive and negative reinforcements of behavior (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). Positive reinforcement is the fortification of behavior by the injection of an event like praising someone for a task well done. Negative reinforcement on the other hand is the fortification of behavior by circumventing an event like quitting a job hunt so as to get food stamps and unemployment benefits (Moore, 2008).

Having explained what the three theories hold as regard the source of learning, it is important to now turn and look at where they concur or differ. To begin with, let’s look at how learning takes place in the three theories. In constructivism theory, new knowledge is created based on the prior knowledge of the learners. As a result, learners need to be taught the necessary skills as they continue solving various problems (Illeris, 2008).

Discussions and interaction between learners are very crucial in enhancing learning. As a result, learners should be actively involved in the learning process. It is the duty of the learners to motivate as well as control the direction of their discussions while teachers play a passive role. There are some other things which are inherited by learners just by belonging to a given group.

Similarly, humanism theory is also self-directed just as constructivism. Therefore, learning process is more concerned with the learner who is supposed to play an active role. According to the humanism theory, personal interpretation, evaluation, reasoning and decision making is very crucial in knowledge acquisition (Lefracois, 2011).

Discussions are also very important given that they make learners comfortable thus enhancing their degree of grasping ideas. It is the argument of the humanism theory that when learners enjoy, they will easily learn new ideas.

Behaviorism is completely different from the above theories. The assumption is that human beings respond to conditioning thus they will be ready to learn when conditioned properly. To begin with, people are given specific behaviors which they are supposed to undertake. According to the theory of radical behaviorism, people’s conscious plays no role in determination of behavior.

Consequently, non-observable actions including thinking and perception are not taken into consideration when behavior is shaped. This because behaviorism theory is based on the idea that conscious plays no role in shaping people’s behavior. Students are expected to act in a particular way and they are promised of rewards if they conduct themselves in the prescribed way. These rewards can be monetary gifts, promotions or even high marks.

On the same note, various stimuli are used to induce people to behave in a given manner (Moore, 2008). Unlike the other two theories, the educator plays an active role in behaviorism theory giving guidelines and ensuring that learners follow them.

The second factor of comparison between the three theories is the way that learning is influenced. As it has been noted from the beginning, constructivism learning theory is based on the idea that learning is a self-directed exercise. In this regard, learning is influenced by mentorship especially during problem solving. Moreover, learner’s background is very crucial in influencing learning because it practically shapes knowledge and the truth that learners create.

Furthermore, when learners master how to solve new problems using both the past experience and the knowledge gained during learning, they get motivated to continue learning (Pritchard, 2008). Nevertheless, since prior knowledge of learners is crucial according to this theory, culture and embedded worldview is an important factor in influencing learning.

On the other hand, the inherent need of the learners to accomplish a given task is very crucial in influencing learning as far as humanism theory is concerned. It should be noted that human beings are motivated to do things when they discover that they have the ability of successfully doing them.

Therefore, interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness is crucial in strengthening individual learning abilities. On the same note, humanism theory postulates that learning is needs motivated (Lefracois, 2011). Consequently, developing a sense of belonging, success, freedom and fun is important in boosting learner’s confidence and thus enhance learning.

As far as behaviorism theory is concerned, the rewards that people are given are responsible in influencing learning. While human beings will want to be rewarded of any good thing they do, they try as much as possible to avoid punishments. As a result, the expectation of good rewards whenever they do as required will make learners willing to learn what they are directed to learn. Since conscious does not affect the learning process, the learners are shaped by the expectations of rewards.

Conversely, with punishments being imposed on any deviation from the expected behavior, learners will be motivated to avoid these behaviors (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). Moreover, the stimuli and conditioning used to shape behavior is crucial in influencing learning.

It is also important to know how instructions have to be designed in the three theories. On the case of behaviorism learning theory, the required behavior that learners have to grasp is identified first. This is crucial because there is no way stimuli can be identified if the desired behavior is not known. The second step involves selecting the best stimuli that can lead to the required results.

Afterwards, various rewards are attached to various behaviors. It is important to note that rewards have to be those that learners will consider appropriate given that people will be less willing to learn if the rewards do not satisfy any of their needs. Therefore, needs plays a great role when coming up with rewards as far as the theory of behaviorism is concerned. Notably, the rewards must be both positive and negative to encourage people to conform to the required behavior.

It is also important to identify observable features that will be monitored continuously to ensure that learners are heading to the right direction (Leonard, 2002). The program can also be divided into stages so as to ensure that learners pass the first stage before proceeding to the next one. Educators can also give regular tests to evaluate the degree of conformity.

In the case of constructivism theory, the important and basic factor is to understand the learner’s background. This is because individual background is vital in shaping outcomes. Educators are supposed to be facilitators in the learning process. Therefore, instructions should be such that they allow students to carry out their own discussions. In a nutshell, learners should be able to reach their own conclusions and instructions should facilitate this through creating conducive environment.

On the same note, it is important to understand what the learner knows because this forms the basis of the learning process. Humanism theory follows more or less the same process given that it is also a self-learning theory.

However, individual interests play a crucial role in humanism theory. Therefore, it is important to know the learner’s interest and provide them with the necessary resources (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian, 2010). It is also important to design the learning in a manner that makes the learners feel a sense of belonging and some freedom to enhance their willingness to learn as this form the basis of humanism theory.

In any learning process, brain plays a crucial role. It is therefore worthwhile to look at the role of the brain in the three theories. In constructivism theory, learners are supposed to engage their brains when solving problems so that they are able to apply the gained knowledge to solve more complex problems.

Learners are only facilitated during learning so that they may be able to come up with their own conclusions (Illeris, 2008). Consequently, brain has a very crucial role given that innovativeness is the final target.

The same is the case for humanism theory. Using prior knowledge, learners are expected to invoke their brains and come up with solutions during learning. Given that the learner’s intellect is the main focus of learning, the brain is supposed to develop and be able to attend to more demanding scenarios. The learning process is also designed in a manner that helps in brain development of the learner.

While the educator is present during the learning process, they only give guidance and the learner is supposed to think and come up with solutions to various new problems (Pritchard, 2008). The brain plays a vital role as it is invoked during interpretation, evaluation reasoning and decision making. It is the role of the learner to use his or her intellect in solving problems. It can therefore be seen that brain is very crucial in not only mastering the skills, but also in applying them for the two theories.

On the contrary, behaviorism learning theory is based on the idea that conscious plays no role in the learning process. Learners have to be shown everything they need to know and their obligation is to cram what they have been taught. The brain of the learner is assumed to be ready to take anything when properly conditioned.

Therefore, the role of the brain is just to memorize what has been lectured by the educator. Learners are not motivated to think on their own but rather to read what has been given to them by the instructor (Leonard, 2002). Contrary to other two theories where prior knowledge was crucial, behaviorism does not depend on the same. The brain is not therefore developed to be innovative.

Lastly, the way learners apply the knowledge learned during the learning process is a matter of interest. Constructivism theory requires learners to become innovative and creative. Therefore, learners are supposed to use the information gained in the learning process to solve new problems in life.

Learners guided to be self reliant people who can be able to construct their own conclusions about ideas. Learners may also pass the knowledge gained to others during discussions on various topics (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). Most importantly, learners are taught to be open-minded when faced with complex situations.

On the other hand, humanism theory of learning also expects learners to develop their own solutions to various problems. Therefore, learners apply the gained knowledge by making decisions in situations similar to those learned.

Additionally, learners can apply the knowledge gained by educating others especially in their groups (Lefrancois, 20110. As can be seen, self-learning is all about the learner being able to stand on their own and being able to use their skills to come up with solutions in relatively different situations.

As far as behaviorism theory is concerned, learners are expected to repeat the skills taught until they stick. It is the aim of the trainer to ensure that learners get what is taught exactly the way it is taught. Learners are not supposed to deviate from what is taught. Consequently, learners apply the knowledge gained by solving the problems given to them exactly the way they were told. If a question is issued, the teacher expects the same answer from learners of the same group.

Moreover, learners are supposed to make the knowledge gained part of their life (Moore, 2008). In order to ensure that the knowledge learnt sticks, learners use the same problems that were used by the teacher in their exercises.

Despite these differences, behaviorism, constructivism and humanism have one similarity which is that learners can apply the gained knowledge by teaching other learners. Discussions are part of the learning process as well as a way of applying the knowledge gained.

Learning is very essential because it helps people know how to deal with different situations. Moreover, learning enhances knowledge of people besides giving them confidence in tackling problems that they encounter in their day to day activities. However, much as the main aim of learning is to increase our ability to solve various issues, methods of learning are different.

Some require learners to play a leading role while educators just act as guiders to ensure that learning is in the desired direction as proposed by constructivism and humanism learning theories. However, others give the educator a very active role while the learner just absorbs what the educator gives them. The most important factor is, however, to ensure that the right knowledge is gained.


Illeris, K. (2008). Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists in their Own World. London: Routledge.

Lefrancois, G. R. (2011). Theories of Human Learning, 6th ed.: What the Professor Said. Stanford: Cengage Learning.

Leonard, D. C. (2002). Learning Theories: A to Z. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Moore, J. (2008). Conceptual Foundations of Radical Behaviorism. New York: Sloan Publishers.

Plotnik, R. & Kouyoumjian, H. (2010). Introduction to Psychology. Stanford: Cengage Learning.

Pritchard, A. (2008). Ways of Learning: Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Russell, J. & Jarvis, M. (2003). Angles on Applied Psychology. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Publishers.

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IvyPanda. "Learning Theories: Constructivism, humanism, behaviorism." June 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/learning-theories-constructivism-humanism-behaviorism/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Learning Theories: Constructivism, humanism, behaviorism." June 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/learning-theories-constructivism-humanism-behaviorism/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Learning Theories: Constructivism, humanism, behaviorism'. 12 June.

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