Behavioural and Constructivist theory in relation to learning

Topics: Learning, Educational psychology, Classical conditioning Pages: 8 (2450 words) Published: November 17, 2013
Education Studies Assignment

Within this assignment I am going to discuss Behavioural and Constructivist theory in relation to learning, drawing attention to my own experiences as a practitioner and learner. I will draw attention to their relationship to the Early Years Foundation Stage and will attempt to explain the importance of play in relation to these concepts. This will lead me to discuss the role of the practitioner both in keeping up with current legislation and initiatives and incorporating these concepts into planning and assessment. I will relate this to my own experiences and pedagogy and reflect on the importance of being a 'Reflective Practitioner' and what that entails.

Behavioural Theorists believe that genetics and intelligence have no part to play in the construction of a human being's mind, but rather that its construction is solely due to our life experiences (Potter, 2003). This view inspires an unprejudiced view of others and entails a society where anyone can achieve anything, given the correct upbringing and a specific set of opportunities. Behaviourist theory was central to learning theory right up until the 1960's and its influence is still apparent in schools today.

Behavioural theory suggests that psychology shouldn't use words such as 'feeling' or 'mood' to investigate the human mind, but should, instead, focus on what can be observed from the subject externally. Due to the complex ethics involved in human 'experimentation' many Behavioural Theorists gathered their external observations through experiments on animals. One of the first Behaviourists to do so was Pavlov. His work involved study into 'Classical Conditioning' which explores the relationship between stimulus and response or 'reflex.' Through his experiments with dogs Pavlov determined that:

...Differential association of a neutral event with one which reliably elicits an unconditioned response leads to the development of a conditioned response to the previously neutral stimulus. (Blackman, 1984, p.3)

Skinner further developed Pavlov's research into conditioning by developing his ideas on what is known as 'Operant Conditioning.' Where Pavlov had identified the relationship between 'Stimulus' and 'Response', Skinner, through his work with animals, developed a theory of the role in learning of “Stimulus, response, reinforcement and consequence” (Pollard et al, 2005, p.144).

One of Skinner's experiments is referred to as a 'Skinner Box.' Skinner placed a mouse in a box with a lever inside. When the mouse pressed the lever it would be rewarded with food. The mice quickly recognised the relationship between the lever and the food and began to push the lever repeatedly. Many theorists of the time likened the 'Skinner Box' to the classroom because the classroom has the stimulus in the shape of the work, the lever in the form of the correct answers and a reward in the form of good results and praise. I remember this approach being used on me when I was learning my times tables.

In the 1960's, the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget's views on Constructivist learning were being heralded as a welcome contrast to the Behaviourist approach. Piaget's revolutionary concept was that human beings create their individual understanding of the world they live in and must internally 'construct' their own knowledge rather than 'receive' it, by interacting with their environment through either the process of 'assimilation,' where new knowledge is incorporated into an already existing view of the world, or 'accommodation,' which is when that view of the world has to be changed in order to incorporate the new knowledge. (Moore, 2000) This emphasis on 'discovery learning' was promoted intensely in the Warnock Report (Warnock, 1978, cited in Moore, 2000, P.8) and still influences how we view educational theory especially in the Early Years.

Piaget also defined three stages of development he believed all children go...
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