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Learning Theories and Styles

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Individuals are considered to learn through several methods and a few learning theories have been developed in relation to learning. Each of these theories is related to various learning styles and are explored in this essay.

Behaviorist Orientation

In modern western society, this was the earliest formulation of a coherent theory of learning. A variety of perspectives of this theory have emerged over the decades. There are three main assumptions made in forming these perspectives. First, the environment  shapes an individual’s learning and behavior. This is  to say that what surrounds you and what happens in those surroundings will have a bearing in your learning compared to one’s own character traits.therefore, to increase the outcomes of a learning process, the environment can be modified gto yield the expected results. The second assumption is that observable behavior shows evidence of learning. This was the main focus rather than internal cognitive processes.  A change of observable external behavior indicates that actual learning has taken place. The third and final assumption is that principles of contiguity and reinforcement are core in explaining the learning process.

The behaviorist orientation is core to most current educational practices. Those who held a perspective to the behaviorist orientation theory believed that training individuals to adopt certain behaviors that would ensure their continuation and that of cultures was the ultimate goal of education. In this perspective, the role of the teacher is to avail an environment that triggers the desired and acceptable behaviors such as virtues and terminates the undesirable ones. This means that the internal traits of an individual are subordinate to the environmental factors.There are various educational practices, which have been founded on these notions. They include, programmed instruction, competency-based instruction, behavioral and performance objectives.

Cognitive Orientation

As a person learns, the processes that occurs inside the brain and nervous system are what cognitive theories of learning are concerned with (Arlin, 2008). They attribute learning to the efforts of the learner. Their perspective is that information is actively processed in individuals. These processes include input of information, organizing, storing, retrieving and establishing the relationship that exists between various information. Cognitive theories started to gain significance in the mid 20th century, some time after the end of the Second World War. Behaviorism was highly criticized for being too dependent on observable behavior to explain learning. This criticism provided completion to behaviorism as the only theory of learning that was accepted.

This theory puts emphasis on insight, perception and meaning as the key elements of learning. An individual was seen to decipher, interpret and give meaning to the events brought to his consciousness. The learner is said to make sense of things by putting thought to them. Research into cognitive learning theory places focus on mathematical learning models, artificial intelligence, computer simulations among others. This theory considers the impact of prior learning, the importance of which is neither emphasized nor considered by behaviorists.

Humanist Orientation

Humanistic theories emphasize on the learner’s individual potential growth. Various concepts found their way into the humanistic learning theories and these included the subconscious mind, repression, defense mechanisms, anxiety, drives and transference. This theory disapproved behaviorism and went on to propose that human beings are able to control their own destiny and naturally desire a better world for themselves and for others. Individuals are dynamic and can respond to the forces that affect their learning and lives. Behavior is influenced by the choices an individual makes, thus centralizing life's experiences as the main learning platform.

Social learning Orientation

The main focus of these theories is networking and the interaction with other individuals. This is considered the foundation of learning.  Social learning theories closely relate to behaviorism, suggesting that the tendency to imitate leads to observed behavioral changes (Mills, 2002).The processes involved include attention, retention or memory, motivation and behavioral rehearsal all of which contribute to learning through observation.

There are three popular learning styles (Mills, 2002). These are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. This does not, however, restrict one to a particular learning style, but individuals should employ a the style that best suits them. The visual learning style involves the use of sight to conceptualize information.individuals who favor this learning style finds it comfortable learning through diagrammatically represented information. Auditory learning is where learners comprehend information by listening. Kinesthetic is where one has to be practically involved in that which they wish to learn.

I prefer visual learning styles. This is attributable to the fact that it is easy to interpret what I see and even make a photographic memory of it. When visual learning is used, more than one sense is used. During the visual learning, it is accompanied by some audio aspects. As such, one can remember more of what was learned through visual learningion than those who learn through audio aspects only. This makes retrieval of such information easy and also simple to actualize what has been visually learnt. Visual learning styles are interactive and provide an appealing connection to the learner. Visual learning styles include graphs, charts, and flowcharts. Visual learning styles can be related to social learning theories in the use of face-to-face interaction with people, which can result through modifying what you pick up what you see, and developing a certain behavior. It can also be related to behaviorist orientation theories in the possibility of concluding what has been learnt by observing the external behavioral changes in individuals. The fact that observation comes to play leads to the conclusion that there exist a  close relationship between visual learning styles and the behaviorist orientation theory.

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