According to the Webster dictionary, learning can be defined as any skill or knowledge obtained through study or observation. The process of learning begins in infancy and continues well throughout adulthood. It is a major aspect of human development in which many scholars have studied and developed multiple theories to explore and explain the phenomena.
In psychology, more specifically educational psychology, a theory is defined as a collection of various information used to explain how one learns and how the application of the information gathered can be used to teach.
Early philosophers such as Plato (Mental Discipline Theory) and Aristotle (Associationism) provided the framework for later theorists Pavlov (Classical Conditioning Theory) and Thorndike (theory of Connectionism).
Plato was considered a Nativist who believed that a persons’ abilities and tendencies are namely inborn. These innate abilities or tendencies can only be developed by exercising the “muscles of the mind”. The base of the Mental Discipline Theory is that “the mind is a nonphysical substance that lies dormant” .
By continuous repetition, the mind develops its memory. The memory developed becomes what is learned.
Aristotle was an Empiricist that believed that a persons’ abilities and tendencies are mostly learned. He developed the idea of associationism. Associationism attempts to answer how learning occurs.
Aristotle broke associationism into three sub-categories: contiguity, similarity and contrast. Congruity is the idea that events that coincided with each other are often associated with each other. For example, thunder and lighting. You normally don’t see or hear one without thinking of the other.
These two instances wouldn’t be related to each other if they occurred at different times from each other.
Similarity is the idea that an association can be made with things that are similar in nature. For example, cars and trucks are readily associated because they are similar in appearance and function. Contrast is the association of events or ideas that are the opposite of each other. For example, with word association when you hear white you might think of black or when you hear tall you might think of short.
Pavlov developed the idea of Classical Conditioning. Classical Conditioning or respondent conditioning is the process by which certain inborn behaviors come to be produced in new situations. For example, sneezing in response to dust or salivating in response to food.
The concept of Classical Conditioning is directly related to Aristotle’s idea of Associationism. Pavlov studied how different stimuli can produce different behaviors.
When he experimented with dogs and the rate of salvation with the ringing of a bell he was providing the data for Aristotle had defined as the Law of Congruity. Over time the dogs were associated the ringing of a bell with food as these two events occurred for them congruently. This change in behavior is a direct result of a learned behavior.
By understanding how behaviors reflect conditioning teachers can implement different strategies to identify different triggers for stressors for students and helping them find ways to cope while adapting new replacement behaviors. This is especially important in early childhood education. By helping students to adopt replacement behaviors in response to stressors teachers can ensure greater success.
Thorndike’s theory of Connectivism studied the effect of stimuli occurring after a behavior CITATION Tra17 l 1033 (Tracey & Morrow, 2017). He developed four laws based on this theory: The Law of Effect, The Law of Readiness, the Law of Identical Elements and the Law of Exercise.
All four laws depict how behavior is affected after the event has occurred. This idea stems from Plato’s Mental Discipline Theory. The idea of one’s behavior changing as a result of a new stimuli post-event creates a memory. Whether that memory is desirable or not affects if and when new behaviors will emerge.
Both Plato’s and Aristotle’s theories or ideas reflect qualitative research or observable research while on the other hand Pavlov’s researched focused on quantitative or numerical data. While qualitative data is not hindered or restricted to experiments it lacks a control group. On the other hand, quantitative data can show trends and correlation the data is often in reference to a small subgroup. Quantitative research has its benefits as it can often be repeated with a larger population.
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