Understanding Learning

On my journey to a better understanding of how learning theories have shown themselves in my life, I realized that I have had more experience with them than I had first thought. I don’t see myself as being changed dramatically by any one learning experience, but I do realize that my desire to learn has increased as I have been introduced to a variety of teaching methods. In short, I could not pick one theory that I could relate most of my learning experiences to.

Therefore, as I looked through our textbook, I tried to remember if and how any of these theories played a role in my educational development so far. As we have studied, most learning theories can be placed into one of two groups: cognitive learning and association learning. “The cognitive learning view states that learning is based on a restructuring of perceptions and thoughts occurring within the organism. This restructuring allows us to perceive new relationships, solve new problems, and gain understanding of a subject area. Cognitive learning theorists stress the reorganization of one’s perceptions in order to achieve understanding.” (Sprinthall, Sprinthall, and Oja; Educational Psychology- A developmental Approach 1998)

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One of these cognitive-learning theorists is Wolfgang Kohler. Kohler performed many experiments with chimps during World War I. Kohler constructed a variety of problems for the chimps, each of which involved obtaining food that was not directly accessible. In the simplest task, food was put on the other side of a barrier. Dogs and cats in previous experiments had faced the barrier in order to reach the food, rather than moving away from the goal to go around the barrier.

The chimps, however, presented with an apparently similar situation, set off immediately on the roundabout route to the Over the last few years my husband and I, for lack of anything better to do, have begun playing video games. One of the first we started to play together was Tomb Raider. Tomb Raider is an action/adventure game that only lets you progress to the next level once you have successfully completed the current level. Some of levels are rather challenging and my husband and I often found ourselves stuck in one problem that we could not solve to go onto the next level. We would try and try to get past this obstacle, but just couldn’t figure it out.

One night, while watching TV, the solution just “came to me”. This is what is Understanding the concept if transfer is also very important to getting to know ourselves as learners. Transfer occurs when learning task A influences task B. When learning task A helps us to learn task B, positive transfer has taken place. When learning task A obstructs learning task B, negative transfer has occurred. One experience I have had with positive transfer is that of learning to ride a motorcycle after I had learned to ride a bicycle. When I was eleven years old we lived in a very rural area and rather than take me to my best friends house, 5 miles away, they opted to get me my own transportation. A motorcycle.

The motorcycle was a step up from the bicycle I had learned to ride a few years earlier, the difference being that I didn’t have to pedal. I thought the difference was huge, but in all actuality it wasn’t. The main goal of learning how to ride a motorcycle was balance, something I had already learned on my bicycle. Once I applied the same concept of balance I had learned on my bicycle, it was much easier to achieve success on the motorcycle.

I am currently experiencing the effects of negative transfer. I am working toward my degree in Psychology and I thought, though not a very well thought out thought, that I should take as many Psychology classes as possible. This is true in most cases, but I decided to take 3 psychology classes in one term. Now that the proctored exam is coming up, I find myself mixing up what I’ve learned in one Psychology class with something that I’ve learned in another class.

For example, while studying the social learning theory, I found myself repeatedly trying to incorporate cognitive dissonance into the process. Cognitive dissonance is something I had been studying in my Social psychology class. Both of these concepts are important to psychology.

However, they can not be readily used my me until I really understand them and I can’t really understand them if I keep Jerome Bruner’s main point in his constructivist theory is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current and “The concept of prime numbers appears to be more readily grasped when the child, through construction, discovers that certain handfuls of beans cannot be laid out in completed rows and columns.

Such quantities have either to be laid out in a single file or in an incomplete row-column design in which there is always one extra or one too few to fill in the pattern. These patterns, the child learns, happen to be called prime. It is easy for the child to go from this step to the recognition that a multiple table, so called, is a record sheet of quantities in completed multiple rows and columns. Here is factoring, multiplication and primes in a construction that can be visualized.” I had taken a class on C++ programming.

The first part of the class was problem solving, using algorithms. Once that concept was learned, we moved on to basic programming. Using algorithms to break a program down into parts helped to solve the problems encountered in writing a program. George A. Miller has provided two theoretical ideas that are very important to the information processing theory. Information processing is also a cognitive theory of learning. This theory states that information flows into the organism by way of the sense organs. It is then passed to the memory and nervous system where it is encoded (this means that memory traces are made. Then, the information can be stored in the memory and later retrieved.

The three memory components are sensory register, Short-term memory, and long-term memory. Our sensory registers are like a video camera, they “pick up” information as it is happening. Short-term memory can be likened to the cable that carries the information from the camera to the video tape. Our short-term memory can hold only a limited amount of information for a limited amount of time. The last of the components, long-term memory, can be compared to the video tape.

The video tape stores the information picked up by the camera, and carried by the cable, for an indefinite period of time, until we are ready to retrieve it (by way of a VCR). The first concept is “chunking” and the capacity of short term memory. Miller (1956) presented the idea that short term memory could only hold about 7 items, plus or minus 2, where a chunk is any meaningful unit.

The experience I have had with the chunking concept is rather simple. I find it easier to remember a person’s phone number if I make a word out of the last 4 digits. For example, My best friend Becka had gotten a new phone number. Since I call her all of the time, it was more convenient to learn her number than to write it down and look it up every time I wanted to speak with her. Her new number was 3287, the best way I could remember it was to put it in the form of a word- EATS. Becka no longer has that number, but I still The second concept is TOTE (Test-Operate-Test-Exit).

Miller thought that TOTE should replace the stimulus-response as the basic unit of behavior. In a TOTE unit, a goal is tested to see if it has been achieved and if not an operation is performed to achieve the goal; this cycle of test-operate is repeated until the goal is eventually achieved or Ivan Pavlov introduced us to classical when his dog began salivating at the sound of a bell. Classical conditioning occurs when a natural reflex responds to a stimulus. Classical Anyone who is interested in saving money can understand the significance of a blue light flashing at K-Mart.

The blue light flashing usually means that there is a sale in whatever department the light is. I have gone into the local BX many times and have seen a blue light flashing, this time for a salesperson to give a customer assistance, and automatically thought there must be a sale. One of the leading behaviorists, B.F. Skinner, believed that learning occurs from changes in behavior.

These changes occur when a person responds to events in his/her environment. A response produces a consequence such as defining a word, hitting a ball, or solving a math problem. When this stimulus-Response pattern is rewarded, the individual is conditioned to respond. This pattern of learning is known as Operant conditioning.

Reinforcement, or reward, is the key element in Skinner’s theory. A reinforcer can be anything that strengthens the When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher used positive reinforcement to ensure we wanted to behave correctly. Mr. Brown told us that if we could be good for one week, then the next week we were allowed to sit in a Lazy-Boy chair he had placed in his classroom. This, of course, motivated us to behave in the manner in which he was When I was a child, my mother used to tell me over and over to clean my room. One day my friends and I were playing outside.

My mother called me in and told me that I had to stay in my room until it was finally clean. Not wanting to miss out on the game that my friends and I were playing, I quickly complied. The social learning theory of Albert Bandura also emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behavior of others. Sometimes, just watching how other people behave and how they are reacted to can make you learn a lot.

The entire time I was growing up, my parents took me out to dinner with them on a weekly basis. One time we were sitting in an expensive restaurant and the people seated next to us were chewing their food loudly with their mouths open. I watched as the people around them turned to look at them with disgust. I quickly learned that this was not acceptable behavior and always chewed my food quietly and with my Another aspect of modeling is the concept of observational learning. We learn by watching others demonstrate how to do something. As a child, my mother wanted me to learn how to play golf. I had no idea how to play, or the rules of the game. She took me to the local golf pro and signed me up for lessons.

The first thing we did was go out to the sand traps on the course. Then the instructor explained to me which club I needed to use to hit the ball out of the sand. Then he told me how to swing the club to hit the ball out of the sand. I was lost. Then he took his sandwedge out of his bag, climbed into the Sand trap and demonstrated to me how to hold the club depending on how far I would have wanted to hit the golf ball. Watching him demonstrate how to hit the ball, I soon learned how to do it. If he had continued to tell me how to strike the ball to get the desired effect, I would still be lost. All in all, there have been many learning experiences in my life, and I’m sure there will be many more. I truly believe that we can not learn solely by one theory alone. We need different instruction for different activities.


  1. Richard C. Sprinthall, Norman A. Sprinthall, and Sharon Nodie Oja, Educational
  2. Psychology- A developmental approach, 1998
  3. Constructivist Theory- http://gwu.edu/~tip/bruner.html
  4. Social Learning Theory- http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/bandura.html
  5. Information Processing Theory- http://www.gwis.circ.gwu.edu/~tip/miller.html
  6. George Washington University, Operant Conditioning- http://www.gwu.edu/%7Etip/

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Understanding Learning. (2018, Jun 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/understanding-learning-essay/