Learning is a complex process that involves the acquisition of knowledge and skills through instruction, which modifies the behavior of man. (Merriam-Webster, 2008) Moreover, learning is the act of obtaining new information by undergoing educational instruction, reading, and other ways of gaining facts and information. Two types of learning characterize the process of acquiring information for learners. These two types of learning include cognitive or perceptual learning and behavioral or stimulus-response learning.
These two shall be discussed in the following paragraphs in order to explicate the concept of learning and the role that cognition and behavior play in the process. Behavior plays a significant role in learning. Interest in learning, for instance, given that interest is a behavior, increases potential to accomplish academic success. Primarily, interest in learning as a behavior motivates people to attend programs in educational institutions, which lead to classroom instruction and learning. Interest is one efficient predictor of success in students. (Renningner, et. al. , 1992)
There are established theories of learning which support the significant role of behavior in learning. Classical conditioning, authored by Ivan Pavlov, follows the theory of stimulus-response behavior. When applied to learning, the theory suggests that a particular stimulus influences response. Moreover, the theory explicates how behavior is developed, and in turn how certain behaviors influence learning. Basically, if a person is motivated to learn within the classroom environment, his behavior leans toward learning. This behavior produces desirable learning outcomes from the individual. (Staats, et. al. , 1963)
The theory of classical conditioning has evolved throughout the years, and B. F. Skinner developed the concept of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is similar to Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning, such that both theories suggest behavior as an integral part of learning. However, operant conditioning relies on the manipulation of stimulus or external factors in order to influence the behavior of learners. Positive reinforcements for desirable learning behavior motivates individuals to learn, while negative reinforcements that are administered for negative learning behavior reduces its occurrence.
Reinforcements act as consequences to actions, whether positive or negative, which influences how individuals behave. (Huitt & Hummel, 1997) Behavioral learning may be applied in the classroom through motivation in the form of praises and rewards, and punishment. For instance, in order to arouse the interest of learners to attend school everyday, teachers should give incentives and punishments such as checking the attendance every day and giving rewards for learners who have complete attendance.
On the other hand, learners who are always absent or late, are given rewards such as putting them in detention, extra work in the form of quizzes, assignments, etc. As students learn the value of being present every day because of the rewards, merits, and acknowledgements that they receive every day, they are able to understand why there is a need to attend classes and are able to adapt the behavior of coming to class regularly. For those who are always absent, thus, receiving demerits and punishments, they learn that in order to avoid being punished and receive rewards instead, they should go to class on time each day.
This idea changes the behavior of students who are always absent. The basics of behavioral learning delve into the complex personality of learners and seek to understand the motivational techniques and strategies that incite the desire to learn from individuals. Determining these motivational techniques and strategies allows teachers to adjust their instructional techniques within the learning environment in order to adapt to the desires of learners and manipulate these desires to incite desirable learning outcomes.
The secondary objective of behavioral learning is to lessen undesirable learning behaviors. Cognitive learning does not simply rely on stimulus and the response of learning in order to acquire necessary information for the learners. The mechanisms inside an individual’s brain form the basic concepts underlying cognitive learning. These mechanisms are called cognitive processes. Cognitive processes include the acquisition of knowledge and new information and manipulating these acquired knowledge and information to form concepts and ideas that are meaningful. (Think Quest)
For instance, the concept of the color wheel is learned by determining all the different colors that make up the wheel, such as red, blue, green, orange, violet, etc. If colors are identified by their names and their appearance, the individual also learns to categorize primary colors from secondary colors, and secondary colors from tertiary colors, or tertiary colors from neutral, etc. Through this information, the concept of mixing primary colors to form secondary colors, etc. is learned.
Cognitive processes that are involved in learning the concept of colors in the color wheel include observation, analysis and interpretation. Moreover, cognitive learning relies on the senses, such as hearing, sight, feeling, etc. , reading and comprehension, experience, analysis, observation, among others, in order for individuals to learn. (Think Quest) This is supported by theories authored by Piaget and Vygotsky. The socio-constructivist and socio-cultural theories relate cognition to learning, such that learning takes place through social interaction. Funderstanding, 2001) For instance, problem solving which entails knowledge and experience is influenced by social interaction with other people. A learner’s problem solving skills is derived from interpretation of his cultural background, how he sees other people and the world that he lives in. Basically, an individual’s schema, which is used to solve his problems, depends solely on social interaction, his experiences, and how he interprets these experiences.