THEORIES OF LEARNING
A learning theory is an attempt to describe how people and animals learn, thereby helping us understand the inherently complex process of learning. Learning theories have two chief values according to Hill (2002). One is in providing us with vocabulary and a conceptual framework for interpreting the examples of learning that we observe. The other is in suggesting where to look for solutions to practical problems. The theories do not give us solutions, but they do direct our attention to those variables that are crucial in finding solutions.
Now we will discuss theory of behaviorism of PAVLOV’s Classical Conditioning Theory.
PAVLOV’s CLASSICAL CONDITIONING (1849-1936)
Classical conditioning is a term used to describe learning which has been acquired through experience. One of the best-known examples of classical conditioning can be found with the Russian
psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his experiments on dogs.
In these experiments, Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate when they heard a bell ring. In order to do this he first showed them food, the sight of which caused them to salivate.
Later Pavlov would ring a bell every time he would bring the food out, until eventually, he could get the dogs to salivate just by ringing the bell and without giving the dogs any food.
In this simple but ingenious experiment, Pavlov showed how a reflex (salivation, a natural bodily response) could become conditioned (modified) to an external stimulus (the bell) thereby creating a conditioned reflex/response.
Basic concepts in classical conditioning:
There are several principles that are associated with classical conditioning, some of these are:
Extinction: a conditioned response will disappear over time when the conditioned stimulus is no longer presented.
Spontaneous recovery: sometimes there is the weak appearance of a previously extinguished response.
Stimulus generalization: This is when individuals respond in the same way to experienced stimuli. For example, all fuzzy animals scaring a young child instead of just a fuzzy cat.
Stimulus discrimination: Organisms can learn to discriminate between various stimuli.
Higher order conditioning: This is when a neutral stimulus can cause the conditioned response sense if it had been associated with the conditioned stimulus.
Implications of Pavlov’s Theory to Classroom Situations
a. The theory believed that one must be able to practice and master a task effectively before embarking on another one. This means that a student needs to be able to respond to a particular stimulus (information) before he/she can be associated with a new one.
b. Teachers should know how to motivate their students to learn. They should be versatile with various strategies that can enhance effective participation of the students in the teaching- learning activities.
c. Most of the emotional responses can be learned through classical conditioning. A negative or positive response comes through the stimulus being paired with. For example, providing the necessary school material for primary school pupils will develop good feelings about school and learning in them, while, punishment will discourage them from attending the school.
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