Analysis, Synthesis, and Integration
Psychology of Learning
Mechanistic World View
The Mechanistic world view involves the fundamental belief that it is possible to tease apart various factors that influence behavioral change and assign an independent relative level of importance to each; mechanistic theories differ in the relative weight each assigns to the influence of environment and genetic factors.
Common Threads among Mechanistic Theories
viewing behavior as a response to discrete, antecedent events
seeing observation and interpretation as separate and distinct
describing causal agents as acting independently of one another
classifying all behavior at all ages as consisting of the same basic elements
concluding that all behavior, theoretically at least, is lawful and therefore fully predictable.
Organismic World View
Organismic theory is holistic, in that development cannot be reduced to the study of its components.
Organicists believe that reactive behavior is not sufficient to explain human development across the life span.
Organicists believe that our efforts to make meaning out of our experiences, or to construct knowledge, is a lifelong activity.
Common Threads among Organismic Theories
Belief that development is best understood as a qualitative process involving the progressive, active construction and reconstruction of levels of organization
Belief that development is a universal, unidirectional process typical of all humans
Belief that there is an idealized end point toward which all development proceeds
Belief that individuals actively attribute meaning to their experiences
Belief that development proceeds through a series of syntheses, each leading to a greater potential for effective adaptation to life experiences
Contextualist World View
Metaphor is historical act
The meaning of any behavioral event is dependent on the context in which it occurs.
Makes no universal claims.
Focuses on interdependency of individual within a sociohistorical context.
Scrutinizes what a person is doing and what meanings he or she ascribes to both these actions and the surrounding events.
Common Threads among Contextualist Theories
Belief that the study of human development always reflects the sociohistorical perspective of the researcher
Belief that the meaning of an event is best defined from the perspective of the individual experiencing that event
Belief that explanations and interpretations of human development are always situated in and restricted to any particular sociohistorical context
Belief that human development is an open-ended phenomenon, with no necessary theoretically implied directions, patterns, or limits
Belief that there is a moral and ethical imperative in the study of human development that is directed toward a “politics of liberation”
Strategies of the World Views
Reductionistic vs. holistic
Universalism vs. time and place
Fundamental Theoretical Differences
Asks questions about variability within and between populations
Fine-grained level of analysis; identifying basic building blocks of human development and learning
Asks questions about patterns and sequence over time
Research methods reflecting belief that individual, functioning as an integrated system, is the most basic level of analysis.
Asks questions about the situated experience of our lives, about the here and now
Research methods are answerable only at the holistic level, like organicist’s, but the basic level is not the person but the person in context. Because the basic level is person-in-context, whatever discoveries the contextualist makes are limited to that context.
Theoretical Approaches to Learning
Science should focus only on what is measurable, that of actual behavior and its causes.
Human behavior to some degree is influenced by mental processes such as thinking, feeling, intending, wanting, expecting, reasoning, remembering, and evaluating.
Pavlov: Classical Conditioning
simple explanation for human and animal behavior
based on objective, replicable, scientific methods
began with dog being trained to salivate in response to a tone
set stage for next 100 years in human learning
principles are widely applied (clinical psychology, education, industry, etc.)
Watson: American Behaviorism
embraced Pavlov’s theory
first North American psychologist to define science of psychology completely objectively
deals with observable rather than merely hypothetical
Believed individuals are born with only a few reflexes, which become conditioned to other stimuli by being repeatedly paired with them
Watson was a spokesman for environmentalism, the belief that environment determines personality, and claimed he could condition healthy infants into any types of persons.
Guthrie: One-Shot Learning
There is a tendency for a response to occur again next time stimulus is presented; thus, learning is complete with first pairing of stimulus with a response.
Practice does not strengthen response but helps ensure that the person learns it in many different situations.
Undesirable habits can be removed with the learning of new habits that are incompatible.
Guthrie believed punishment and reward will merely change the stimulus situation, preventing unlearning of a response.
Thorndike: Trial and Error and The Law of Effect
Law of Effect states that learning is a consequence of the effect of behavior.
Responses that lead to a satisfying state of affairs tend to be repeated.
Learning = stamping in process; forgetting = stamping out process
Law of multiple responses is the tendency to respond in variety of ways until one of the responses emitted is reinforced; trial and error.
Hull: A Hypothetico-Deductive System
Attempted to develop objective, complex, and highly detailed system to predict responses
Deals with input variables, intervening variables, and output variables
Central concept is habit, which is an S-R connection.
Antedating goal reaction is a reward-related response that an organism makes as it nears a goal; reflects expectancy.
Skinner: Operant Conditioning
based on notion that learning results from reinforcement of responses
studied different schedules of reinforcement on rate of learning, response rate, and extinction rate.
Experimented mostly with animals.
Shaping involves reinforcing successive approximations to desired behavior to teach animals complex behaviors.
Applied in education, medicine, advertising, psychotherapy, etc.
Developed Programmed instruction and Behavior modification
Darwinian influence, strong attention to biology and genetics
autoshaping and instinctive drift
Sociobiology, branch of evolutionary psychology, looks at inherited predispositions as underlying causes of social behavior
Claims that there is human nature; evident in similarities among cultures
Currently explanations do not all lie in genetically determined behavior but instead in malleability, responsiveness to environmental and cultural influences
Hebb: The Neurophysiology of Learning
Thinking involves activity among groups of neurons arranged in closed loops (cell assemblies) or of more complex arrangements of such loops (phase sequences).
Transmission among neurons is a function of repeated firing among them (learning).
Through learning, cell assemblies and phase sequences correspond to environment.
Ideas have been supported by recent research using sophisticated techniques of brain imagery, such as EEGs and MEGs.
Tolman: Behavior has a Purpose
All behavior is purposive, guided toward goals, not by stimuli but by cognitions, or conscious awareness in the form of expectancies.
Emphasized molar aspects of behavior.
What is learned as a function of reinforcement is not a response-stimulus link or a response-reinforcement link but a cognition.
Awareness or expectancy guides behavior
The Gestaltists: German Cognitivism
First cognitive position in American psychology
Used people more humans in research than behaviorists
Concerned with perception and insight
Rejects trial-and-error explanation of learning
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
Sought to discover laws governing perception: closure, proximity, symmetry, contiguity, and pragnanz
Bruner: Going Beyond the Information Given
Bruner championed approaches that rejected constraints of behaviorism.
Developed theory to explain perceptions.
Bruner’s writings have dealt with both learning and development.
Learning involves categorizing.
Concepts and perceptions are useful when organized into systems of related categories (coding systems) that have wide generality.
Piaget: Development and Adaptation
Major focus is development, though relevant to learning
Development is evolution of a child’s ability to interact with the world in appropriate ways.
Described children at different stages of cognitive development.
Intelligence is a biologically oriented process involving adaptation by means of equilibrium between assimilation and accommodation.
Children construct a view of reality rather than simply discovering it or learning it passively.
Vygotsky: Culture and Language
Cultural interaction and language makes all higher mental processes possible.
If children are capable of X on their own, they might be capable of X + Y with the help of an adult.
Y then becomes the zone of proximal development, or child’s capability with help.
Successful teaching will present child with tasks that fall into this zone
Scaffolding is assistance that skilled educators and parents provide children within the zone of proximal development.
Neural Networks: Connections
Compares human neurology and the brain (wetware) with computer hardware and human cognitive functioning to computer software
Two models: symbolic (digital computer) and connectionist (parallel distributed processing computer)
Symbolic models assume all knowledge can be represented in symbols and manipulated using rules.
Connectionist models recognize that some learning is implicit and cannot be easily verbalized.
Some think that machines are in the making that can actually think, taking into account factors that humans would, using fuzzy logic.
People process and remember information according to short-term memory (STM) or long-term memory (LTM).
STM is active, ongoing, easily disrupted, and limited in capacity.
LTM is passive, stable, with virtually unlimited capacity.
Memory can be explicit, potentially conscious, or implicit, unconscious, nonverbalizing.
Explicit memory includes semantic memory (stable, abstract knowledge) and episodic memory (personal, autobiographical memory, tied to specific personal time and place)
Memory is not necessarily isolated to one part of the brain.
Theories of motivation assume behaviors are reflexive, instinctual, driven, or psychological; active view of behavior, describing it as a conscious attempt to make sense out of self and environment.
Maslow’s theory recognizes (1) basic, deficiency needs, (2) growth or metaneeds, and (3) self-actualization
Cognitive dissonance theory
Explains learning socially appropriate behavior and processes of social interaction; effects of modeling:
Inhibitory and disinhibitory effects
Imitative behaviors are learned because they are reinforced either directly or vicariously; operant conditioning
Some behavior is controlled by stimuli, others by symbols.
More important than immediate consequences are humans’ ability to imagine or anticipate consequences and discover cause/effect relationships.
Bandura states that humans are agents of their own actions, demonstrating intentionality, forethought, and self-reflectiveness.
Critique of Behaviorism
dehumanized humans through mechanization
conditioning leaves much of human behavior unexplained
use of animals in studies
applying science to shape and control thought and action
only dealing with that which is measurable and definable can produce valid and reliable conclusions
other “mentalistic” theories are chaotic and confused
stresses objectivity and loses some relevance in the process
has generated much research and continues to influence learning theory
Critique of Transitional Theories
Theories are vague.
Specifically, Hebb’s neurophysiological theory based largely on speculation and does not lead to new discoveries or anything more than explanation for what is already known.
Focus increasing attention on biological roots for behavior
Hebb’s theory is not all speculation; newer research supports his speculation.
Contributed to current theories of motivation.
Commitment to preserve objectivity in psychology while including inferences about mental processes that cannot be measured.
Have contributed significantly to counseling practices and to subsequent development of cognitive theories.
Critique of Cognitivism
less precise and more subjective approach to theorizing
Bruner & Piaget – terminology is confusing and metaphors are obscure and impractical
Piaget – imprecise experimental methods, nonrepresentative samples, extremely small sample sizes, lack of statistical analysis in early work, and tendency to overgeneralize
Vygotsky – lack of precision, for global and all-encompassing nature of his theorizing
dealing with topics that are more relevant to human behavior than stimuli, responses, and consequences
investigating mentalistic topics requires making inferences from relatively limited data
Influenced child-rearing and educational practices in schools.
Robert Cagne: An Instructional Design Theory
People learn in many ways, as evident in the 5 outcomes of learning processes
Concerned with conditions that facilitate these learning outcomes
Type 1: Signal learning
Type 2: Stimulus-Response learning
Type 3: Chaining – Motor Chains
Type 4: Chaining – Verbal associations
Type 5: Discrimination Learning
Type 6: Concepts Learning
Type 7: Rule learning
Type 8: higher-order rules
Nine instructional events provide conditions of learning, which should be helpful to all teachers.
Informing learners of the objective
Stimulating recall of prior learning
Presenting the stimulus
Providing learning guidance
Eliciting performance (responding)
Enhancing retention and transfer
Jerome Bruner: Models of the Learner
Models of the human learner that underlie theories of learning:
Tabula Rasa (“blank slate”) - classical and operant conditioning theorists
Hypothesis Generator - Humans are characterized by intentionality.
Nativism – The mind is already shaped by certain tendencies before any learning occurs.
Constructivism - The world is constructed by the learner through experience.
Novice-to-Expert – concerned with practical application of learning techniques; analyzes experts and novices, describes differences, then devises ways of making novice more like expert.
There is no one “best” learning theory.
The most useful models allow for various kinds of learning in various circumstances.
Ideally, the human learner is flexible rather than rigid, open rather than closed, inventive rather than receptive, changing rather than fixed, and poetic rather than prosaic… models of learning should reflect this.