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Outline two perspectives on learning Essay

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Classical Conditioning is when behaviour is learned through a stimulus response bond (S_R) This is done by using unconditioned stimuli as well as conditioned stimuli. Simply put this method of behaviourist learning is able to create behaviour that doesn’t normally exist (e.g. salivating at the sound of a bell) this is done through association. For example if a person was to ring a bell right before they fed the dog, the dog would salivate due to the presence of the food.

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If done enough times, the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell alone, even if no food was present (Pavlov’s experiment)

Operant Conditioning is used to shape behaviour that already exists in the learner. This is done through reinforcement whether it be positive (rewarding) negative (taking away a negative trait) or punishment Skinner found that people are more likely to learn a behaviour if they are rewarded after doing it (e.g. praise, gifts etc.) SLT refers to Bandura’s research, as he believed that people can learn through vicarious learning watching other people doing or not doing as they do. This is done by Modelling, which can mean to make an example of a peer in school, thus showing others how to, or not to act.


Carl Rogers believed that people learn best when they are given/shown Unconditional positive regard, empathy and genuiness. This looks at learners as human beings with sensitivities and self esteem as opposed to machines which can be programmed (behaviourist) Maslow was another humanistic believers he created the hierarchy of needs, suggesting that the learners needed their basic needs to be satisfied (food safety belingingess) before they can learn and have the desire to explore the “meta needs” (learning etc.)


Due to the fact that the three perspectives are so different in design, it can be very difficult to say how one method is nomothetically better than another. Each perspective has its own strong and weak points. The behaviourist perspective is a very affective method of learning as performance levels tend to be at the highest when the techniques of classical, Operant and SLT are applied. However this suggests that people learn only what they show, valuing nothing but the behaviour of the learner.

For example the use of Classical Conditioning can create associations which can benefit the learner (e.g. standing up when a governor enters the room) as it can avoid embarrassment however, it can also be considered unethical to use such techniques as learners ten can become unable to control their own actions as the SR bond created put their behaviour in the control of the subconscious therefore using classical conditioning techniques would not be best when trying to teach something of a creative nature (e.g. art, music etc.) as personal control is very important in these subjects

Another ethical issue with the use of behaviourist tactics in learning is that the reinforcement can hurt the learner’s self esteem. This can be seen in Operant Conditioning techniques like punishment in that although the behaviour may be shaped to an “acceptable standard”, the learners would become less motivated to produce work. This can also play a role in bad association between the student and the subject being taught in that they don’t like how the behaviourists teacher treats them, they would learn to dislike the subject as opposed to simply the teacher.

The Humanistic view, due to the fact that they value the development of the person more than the acquisition of trivial knowledge, can often very poor exam results within schools. An example of this would be the Summerhill school (Neil) which applied a completely humanistic approach to the workings of the school (e.g. no reinforcement of class attendance, no rules etc.) the results of this experiment showed that with the humanistic perspective, exam results were poor, however follow up studies showed that psychological problems and better stability within alumni

Another possible criticism of the humanistic views of Maslow is that there are people who can learn in school very well yet not have all of their basic needs satisfied (e.g. negligent parenting) however it can be said that the higher meta needs would be easier to pursue if the basic needs were provided for the learner. This goes against Maslow’s theory in that the hierarchy of needs can have exceptions based on individual differences (which can be analysed in the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator)

Cognitive psychologists believe that all information can be presented in a way that’s best taken on by the learner. However this goes against the theories of Piaget and Ausubel who thought that information was exclusively better if present in certain ways, (bit by bit versus all encompassing respectively) The cognitive approach doesn’t consider the learners as anything but information processors, which can also hurt students self esteem as they are not necessarily regarded as human beings who are valued (Rogers)

When it comes down to it each perspective is very helpful to the improvement of learning within children however if used exclusively can cause their own contrasting problems. The best way in my eyes is to create a hybrid of the systems, for example, in regards to dealing with disruptive behaviour a behaviourist system of punishment be most effective, but then followed up with a humanistic debrief, (explaining why being punished) this would allow the student to learn the behaviour as well as maintain or reinforce self esteem.

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Hi, I am Sara from Studymoose

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