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Theories of Learning ...

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Cognitive theories
Motivation to Learn (inc. Maslow)
Humanistic theories
Behaviourism


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What is Learning?
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Theories of Learning

There are three sets of learning theory used in educational circles, under the headings of:

Behaviorism A particular embodiment of a positivist "scientific" approach to learning
Humanistic Arising from a value-base of empowering and even liberating the learner
Cognitive Everything else apart from
 
  • sheer imitation, which does not seem to be dignified with a theoretical home

Somewhat outside this mainstream sits situated learning theory, which is primarily social, but raises important questions about how we expect people to learn.

All of them make important points, and this site is not partisan: the issue is about the "range of convenience" of each of the models.

Contextual Reading

Note that because education and training are professional rather than academic disciplines (i.e. “contaminated” by assumptions about what ought to be the case as well as what is) they are selective in the way in which theories of learning have been approached, adopted, distorted and developed. So the biological approach does not get much of a look-in in educational circles, unsurprisingly — but for popular discussions of biological approaches to learning see:

KONNER M (1993) The Tangled Wing: biological constraints on the human spirit Harmondsworth, Penguin

PLOTKIN H (1994) Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge Harmondsworth, Penguin

and for the associated discussion of learning at all levels from the cell to the chicken see:

CAPRA F (1997) The Web of Life: a new synthesis of mind and matter London; Harper Collins, (for his accessible account of the work of Maturana and Varela, of whom more here) and

ROSE S (1993) The Making of Memory: from molecules to mind London; Bantam Books

 and for the evolutionary psychologists' perspective see:

WRIGHT R (1996) The Moral Animal: why we are the way we are London: Abacus,

MITHEN S (1996) The Prehistory of the Mind: a search for the origins of art, religion and science London; Thames and Hudson (although he comes at it from archaeology) 

and of course:

PINKER S (1998) How the Mind Works London; Penguin

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