Learning Theory as One of Developmental Theories

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Psychologists had become increasingly inclined to make psychology more scientific in the early 20th century. Psychologists argued that to be scientific, they needed to know only those elements to be analyzed and evaluated. A variety of different teaching theories have been proposed to explain why and how people behave. The teaching approaches of advancement are focused on the influence of the environment on the learning experience. They examine how age, cultural identity, gender, and social and physical environmental conditions influence human learning. Cognitive researchers investigate learners and the concept of education within and outside of the traditional classroom. To better understand the psychological, cognitive, and social elements of human learning, they draw on educational practice following the latest studies in human development (Goldie 4). Educators can use constructs from learning styles to understand better and identify how rapid technological change helps or hinders the educational process of their students.

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Learning theory is the process of acquiring, fulfilling, or modifying one’s understanding, skills, perceptions, and ideologies through individual and situational experiences. Theories of learning develop hypotheses about how this process occurs. A theory of social learning posited by Albert Bandura learned through observation of others’ behavioral responses, inclinations, and emotional responses, and then modeling and imitating them. How environmental factors and psychological functions interact to simulate a person’s learning process is the focus of the social learning theory. Learning theories characterize the conditions through which people learn, providing educators with models for developing education at every level that leads to improved learning. What inspires individuals to explore and what situations enable or hinder learning are also examined in the theories of learning (Zhang et al. 107). When it comes to studying theories, some people are skeptical, believing that the hypotheses may not be relevant to the real world. However, learning theories have many applications. The frameworks and mechanisms that they characterize tend to apply to a wide range of settings and contexts. Still, they provide society with guidelines for developing exercises, tasks, and teaching strategies that correspond with how students learn best.

General Learning Theories

The major learning propositions include behaviorist concepts, constructivism, humanism, cognitive psychology, constructivism, cognitivism, and Experiential learning. Many different explanations have been proposed for the same phenomenon, possibly since learning is sophisticated and one hypothesis does not apply to everybody and every circumstance (Pritchard 103). Additionally, it is a direct consequence of mutual interaction interactions between people and society. Just as the individual shapes society, society influences the individual (Yarbrough 4). Thus, understanding the distinct concepts plays a crucial role in understanding the concept of learning.


Remarkably, Watson and Skinner are considered the fathers of behaviorism. Early in the 20th century, the behaviorist perspective on learning began to gain traction. An important concept in behaviorism holds that a behavior change is caused by affiliations between environmental stimuli and the monitoring functions of an individual. Behaviorists are keen on behavioral changes that can be measured and quantified. As a result of a person’s encounters with the external world, learning occurs. (Yarbrough 4). A person’s behavior changes as a result of experiencing the consequences of their environmental stimuli. People can change their behavior by modifying the process to promote certain behaviors and reduce others, a practice called conditioning. Behaviorism ignores or minimizes internal influences, such as previous knowledge and emotions, because it focuses on the external environment. They are passive participants whose only role is to absorb the teacher’s knowledge.

According to the behaviorist worldview, learners are passive, responding to stimuli from their environment. In the beginning, the learner is a blank slate, and the behavior is shaped by positive or negative reinforcement. As a result, both positive and negative reinforcement increase the likelihood that the antecedent behavior will occur again. Consequently, punishments make it less likely that the predicate behavior and attitude will repeat themselves. In psychology and education, behaviorism has had a major impact, shedding light on major influences on human behavior. Several teaching techniques used nowadays in homes, schools, offices, and other environments are based on psychological insights (Pritchard 13). The learning objectives break down larger objectives into a sequence of skills and knowledge that a student should possess. Behaviorist principles also influence the sequence and techniques used for the teaching process. Teachers use external forces to achieve their goals, explain and demonstrate skills or behaviors, invite students to practice, and provide responses that strengthen the behavioral patterns or competencies they hope students will learn or unlearn.


Constructivism is based on the principle of mental organization and reorganization. New experiences are related to basic information that is already well understood. This model emerged during the 1970s and 1980s, with the notion that students are not passive consumers but rather actively shape their knowledge through environmental stimuli and restructuring their cognitive representations in response to their surroundings. Hence, learners are portrayed as perceptual, not simply recording information but analyzing it. “Knowledge-acquisition” became “knowledge-construction” as a result of this new view of learning (Theys 37). It was also supported by the previous work of prominent scholars like Jerome Bruner and Jean Piaget, whose theories were based on the idea that learning is a constructive activity. A common feature of constructivist theory is the learner-centered strategy, in which teachers act as cognitive guides and not content transmitters.

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In contrast, whereas cognitivism is deemed to be teacher-centered, this learning ideology is learner-centered by acknowledging the learner’s importance as an active participant in interacting with the subject matter and creating meaning. Constructionist teachers serve as mentors or coaches, helping students learn through encouraging atmospheres. Individuals must figure out how to deal with new situations or new information. Analogous to the mechanisms mentioned under cognitivism, people examine their current knowledge to see if the additional knowledge fits within what they should know. In that case, it is relatively easy for them to integrate it. People will experience imbalance or cognitive conflict if the new details do not match what they know. Thus, these people must acclimate by incorporating the new information.


Every person has inherent dignity and worth; humanists believe that people should have some influence over their surroundings. As recently as the 1960s, this theory began to take hold, with “Self-actualization” being a term derived from this theory. As evidence of learning, the holistic, whole-person tactic does not realize behavior change as an indicator of learning (Untari 59). As a result of observations and accumulating experience, people can realize their full potential. Theorists believe mentors are the best coaches rather than didactic instruction. A Humanist views the individual as its subject and believes that education is an instinctual process that helps a person achieve self-actualization. Observation, exploration, and role-playing are significant considerations in humanistic learning. Thus, this model focuses on human liberty, dignity, and opportunities.

Interestingly, cognitive psychologists believe that knowledge discovery and meaning construction are essential to learning, contrary to the cognitivist notion of behavior modification. Humanists believe individuals must be studied as a whole, humanists believe. Individuals grow and develop throughout their lives (Untari 67). The investigation of individuality, inspiration, and goals is therefore of particular interest to psychologists. Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers are two of the most prominent proponents of humanism. It could be said that humanism’s primary goal is the development of autonomous, self-actualized individuals. Education is student-centered and personalized, and the educator’s role is that of a facilitator in the humanistic tradition. The aim is to develop self-actualized individuals in a collaborative, supportive environment.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology, instituted in the 1950s, made a significant contribution to the transition away from behaviorism. Behavioral scientists no longer see humans as collections of reactions to external stimulation but as information processors. When the computer emerged, it influenced cognitive psychology, which began to pay attention to significant cognitive phenomena that behaviorists ignored. Learners are information processors who absorb information, process it cognitively, and store it in memory. As an information processor, the mind is studied in cognitive psychology, a branch of science. As a processor of information, cognitivism sees the brain as similar to a computer, which runs on algorithms it develops to process knowledge and information (Rottman et al. 10). Schema is a term used in cognitive psychology to describe how individuals obtain and store understanding in their functioning brains.

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Experiential Learning Theory

Social and constructivist schools of thought influence experiential learning theories, arguing that experiences can motivate and enhance learning. Learning is the process of changing a person’s knowledge and behavioral patterns through meaningful experiences that occur every day. “Experiential learning” is self-initiated learning, according to Carl Rogers. This learning model involves learning by doing, a result of which it is named. It is a theory that encourages learning through experiences that help students retain content and recollect facts. Experientialism rejects all didactic approaches, arguing that one individual cannot efficaciously impart relevant knowledge to another (Kolb and David 11). Involving students in an experience can promote learning, but teachers cannot control what learners know from that encounter. Consequently, this viewpoint motivates teachers to design a non-threatening, educational environment where students can experiment freely. They are active in how the learner’s discovery and development of new expertise or notions impact their environment for learning, which influences the society where they live.


Instructors can use learning theories to help them understand the systems that enable the ability to learn and, as a result, develop activities and surroundings that are most conducive to learning. Since many theories exist, some of which contradict each other, it is a fact that the human brain and its cognitive processes are incredibly complex and not fully understood at this time. Assessment and experimentation help learning philosophers describe how individuals learn, but no theory is perfect. All theories have critics, and they change in favor over time. But the hypotheses provide scholars with an empirically-based ability to understand how people learn. A theory is not mandatory, but teachers can combine aspects of different concepts to affect their teaching styles and best understanding of students.

Works Cited

Goldie, John Gerard Scott. “Connectivism: A Knowledge Learning Theory for the Digital Age?.” Medical Teacher, vol. 38, no. 10, 2016, pp. 1064-1069.

Kolb, Alice Y., and David A. Kolb. “Experiential Learning Theory As A Guide For Experiential Educators In Higher Education.” Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, pp. 7-44.

Pritchard, Alan. Ways of Learning: Learning Theories For The Classroom. Routledge, 2017.

Rottman, Benjamin Margolin, et al. “Medication Adherence As A Learning Process: Insights from Cognitive Psychology.” Health Psychology Review, vol. 11, no.1, 2017, pp. 17-32.

Theys, Sarina. “Constructivism.” International Relations Theory (2017).

Untari, Lilik. “An Epistemological Review on Humanistic Education Theory.” LEKSEMA: Language and Literature Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, 2016, pp. 59-72.

Yarbrough, Jillian Ruth. “Adapting Adult Learning Theory to Support Innovative, Advanced, Online Learning–WVMD Model.” Research in Higher Education Journal, vol. 35, 2018.

Zhang, Chiyuan, et al. “Understanding Deep Learning (Still) Requires Rethinking Generalization.” Communications of the ACM, vol. 64, no. 3, 2021, pp. 107-115.

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PsychologyWriting. "Learning Theory as One of Developmental Theories." September 9, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/learning-theory-as-one-of-developmental-theories/.