Assignment: Review of Concepts

Assignment: Review of Concepts

Assignment: Review of Concepts

PART-1  What are some similarities and differences between behavior and cognitive theories?

PART-2  Let’s examine how we assess learning. What are some methods of assessment and what are some pros and cons of these?


PART-3  Review this week’s course materials and learning activities, and reflect on your learning so far this week. Respond to one or more of the following prompts in one to two paragraphs:

  1. Describe what you found interesting regarding this topic, and why.
  2. Describe how you will apply that learning in your daily life, including your work life.
  3. Describe what may be unclear to you, and what you would like to learn.

**Provide citation and reference to the material(s) you discuss.


  1. Complete Parts 1 and 2 for this assignment.
    Part 1
    Watch the “Ethics vs. Psychological Research” video in the Week One Electronic Reserve Readings.
    Part 2
    Professional psychologists, in nonclinical fields, provide valuable consultation services to governmental, corporate, nonprofit agency, and individual clients. Many times this advice focuses on application of learning theory to educational or training tasks.
    Select one of the following professional fields:

    • Environmental or evolutionary psychology
    • Forensic psychology
    • Health or sports psychology
    • Industrial/organizational or engineering psychology
    • Create a 5- to 7-slide Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation with speaker notes for a client explaining psychological learning theory and how it can be applied in the workplace.
      Address the following in your presentation:
    • How the basic tenants of theory influence the study of learning
    • How psychological learning theory can be applied in the workplace
    • Provide examples of how research methods are used to study the process of learning
    • Any American Psychological Association (APA) ethical guidelines or specific division ethical guidelines relevant to your presentation
    • Note. If you select industrial/organizational psychology, you might prepare a presentation for an audience of manufacturers on how learning theory can be used to design effective training programs for product assemblers on a moving assembly line.
      Format your presentation consistent with APA guidelines.
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    Chapter 1 Introduction to the Study of Learning

    Russ Nyland teaches a graduate education course on learning and cognition. It is toward the end of the semester, and as class finishes one day, three students approach him: Jeri Kendall, Matt Bowers, and Trisha Pascella. Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Jeri: Dr. Nyland, can we talk with you? It’s late in the course and we’re still confused.
    Russ: About what?
    Jeri: Well, we’ve been studying all these theorists. It seems like they’re saying different things, but maybe not. Bandura, Skinner, Vygotsky, and the others. They make different points, but then some of what they say seems to overlap what others say.
    Matt: I’m confused too. I read these theorists and think I agree with that. But it seems like I agree with everything! I thought you were supposed to have one theory, to believe one way and not others. But it seems like there’s a lot of overlap between theories.
    Russ: You’re right, Matt, there is. Most of what we’ve studied in this course are cognitive theories, and they are alike because they say that learning involves changes in cognitions—knowledge, skills, beliefs. Most theorists also say that learners construct their knowledge and beliefs; they don’t automatically adopt what somebody tells them. So yes, there is much overlap.
    Trisha: So then what are we to do? Am I supposed to be something like an information processing theorist, a social cognitive theorist, a constructivist? That’s what I’m confused about.
    Russ: No, you don’t have to be only one. There may be one theory that you like better than the others, but maybe that theory doesn’t address everything you want it to. So then you can borrow from other theories. For example, when I was in grad school I did research with a professor whose specialty was cognitive learning. There was another professor who did developmental research. I really liked her research, probably because I had been a teacher and was interested in development, especially the changes in kids from elementary to middle school. So I was a learning theorist who borrowed from the developmental literature and still do. It’s okay to do that!
    Jeri: Well, that makes me feel better. But it’s late in the course, and I guess I want to know what I should be doing next.
    Russ: Tell you what—next class I’ll spend some time on this. A good place to start is not to decide which type of theorist you are, but rather determine what you believe about learning and what types of learning you’re interested in. Then you can see which theory matches up well to your beliefs and assumptions and maybe do as I did—borrow from others.
    Matt: Isn’t that being eclectic?
    Russ: Perhaps, but you may still have one preferred theory that you adapt as needed. That’s okay to do. In fact, that’s how theories are improved—by incorporating ideas that weren’t in them originally.
    Trisha: Thanks, Dr. Nyland. This is really helpful.

    Learning involves acquiring and modifying knowledge, skills, strategies, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. People learn cognitive, linguistic, motor, and social skills, and these can take many forms. At a simple level, children learn to solve 2 + 2 = ?, to recognize y in the word daddy, to tie their shoes, and to play with other children. At a more complex level, students learn to solve long-division problems, write term papers, ride a bicycle, and work cooperatively on group projects.

    This text focuses on how human learning occurs, which factors influence it, and how learning principles apply in educational contexts. Animal learning is de-emphasized, which is not intended to downgrade its importance because we have gained much knowledge about learning from animal research. But human learning is fundamentally different from animal learning because human learning is more complex, elaborate, rapid, and typically involves language.

    This chapter provides an overview of the study of learning. Initially, learning is defined and examined in settings where it occurs. An overview is given of some important philosophical and psychological precursors of contemporary theories that helped to establish the groundwork for the application of learning theories to education. The roles of learning theory and research are discussed, and methods commonly used to assess learning are described. The links between learning theories and instruction are explained, after which critical issues in the study of learning are presented.

    The opening scenario describes a situation that many students find themselves in when they take a course in learning, instruction, or motivation and are exposed to different theories. Students often think that they are supposed to believe in one theory and adopt the views of those theorists. They may be confused by the perceived overlap between theories.

    As Russ says, that is normal. Although theories differ in many ways, including their general assumptions and guiding principles, many rest on a common foundation of cognition. This text focuses on these cognitive theories of learning, which contend that learning involves changes in learners’ thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, strategies, and skills. These theories differ in how they predict that learning occurs, which learning processes are important, and which aspects of learning they stress. Some theories are oriented more toward basic learning and others toward applied learning (and, within that, in different content areas); some stress the role of  development , others are strongly linked with instruction; and some emphasize motivation (Bruner,  1985 ). Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Russ advises his students to examine their beliefs and assumptions about learning rather than decide which type of theorist they are. This is good advice. Once we are clear about where we stand on learning in general, then the theoretical perspective or perspectives that are most relevant will emerge. As you study this text, it will help if you reflect on your beliefs and assumptions about learning and decide how these align with the theories.

    · This chapter should help to prepare you for an in-depth study of learning by providing a framework for understanding learning and some background material against which to view contemporary theories. When you finish studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

    · ■ Define learning and identify instances of learned and unlearned phenomena.

    · ■ Distinguish between rationalism and empiricism and explain the major tenets of each.

    · ■ Discuss how the work of Wundt, Ebbinghaus, the structuralists, and the functionalists helped to establish psychology as a science.

    · ■ Describe the major features of different research paradigms.

    · ■ Discuss the central features of different methods of assessing learning and criteria for assessment methods.

    · ■ Explain what value-added assessment of learning is and how it can be used to determine progress in student learning.

    · ■ Explicate the ways that learning theory and educational practice complement and refine each other.

    · ■ Explain differences between behavior and cognitive theories with respect to various issues in the study of learning.


    People agree that learning is important, but they hold different views on the causes, processes, and consequences of learning (Alexander, Schallert, & Reynolds,  2009 ). There is no one definition of learning that is universally accepted by theorists, researchers, and practitioners (Shuell,  1986 ). Although people disagree about the precise nature of learning, the following is a general definition of  learning  that is consistent with this text’s cognitive focus and that captures the criteria most educational professionals consider central to learning:

    ·  Learning is an enduring change in behavior, or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion, which results from practice or other forms of experience.

    Let us examine this definition in depth to identify three criteria for learning ( Table 1.1 ).

    · Table 1.1 Criteria of learning.

    · ■ Learning involves change.

    · ■ Learning endures over time.

    · ■ Learning occurs through experience.

    One criterion is that learning involves change—in behavior or in the capacity for behavior. Change is a central ingredient of learning (Alexander et al.,  2009 ). People learn when they become capable of doing something differently. We do not observe learning directly but rather its products or outcomes. In other words, learning is inferential—it is demonstrated based on what people say, write, and do. The definition also says that learning involves a changed capacity to behave in a given fashion because it is not uncommon for people to learn skills, knowledge, beliefs, or behaviors without demonstrating them at the time they learn them ( Chapter 4 ).

    A second criterion is that learning endures over time. This excludes temporary behavioral changes (e.g., slurred speech) brought about by such factors as drugs, alcohol, and fatigue. Such changes are temporary because when the cause is removed, the behavior returns to its original state. Although learning is enduring, it may not last forever because forgetting occurs. Researchers debate how long changes must last to be classified as learned, but most people agree that changes of brief duration (e.g., a few seconds) do not qualify as learning.

    A third criterion is that learning occurs through experience (e.g., practice, observation of others). This criterion excludes behavioral changes that are primarily determined by heredity, such as maturational changes in children (e.g., crawling, standing). Nonetheless, the distinction between maturation and learning often is not clear-cut. People may be genetically predisposed to act in given ways, but the actual development of the particular behaviors depends on the environment. Language offers a good example. As the human vocal apparatus matures, it becomes able to produce language; but the actual words produced are learned from interactions with others. Although genetics are critical for children’s language acquisition, teaching and social interactions with parents, teachers, and peers exert a strong influence on children’s language achievements (Mashburn, Justice, Downer, & Pianta,  2009 ). In similar fashion, with normal development children crawl and stand, but the environment must be responsive and allow these behaviors to occur. Children whose language and movements cannot be expressed freely in an environment may not develop normally.


    The roots of contemporary theories of learning extend far into the past. Many of the issues addressed and questions asked by researchers today are not new but rather reflect a desire for people to understand themselves, others, and the world about them.

    This section traces the origins of contemporary learning theories, beginning with a discussion of philosophical positions on the origin of knowledge and its relation to the environment and concluding with some early psychological views on learning. This review is selective and includes historical material relevant to learning in educational settings. Readers interested in a comprehensive discussion should consult other sources (Bower & Hilgard,  1981 ; Heidbreder,  1933 ; Hunt,  1993 ). Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Learning Theory and Philosophy

    From a philosophical perspective, learning can be discussed under the heading of  epistemology , which refers to the study of the origin, nature, limits, and methods of knowledge. How can we know? How can we learn something new? What is the source of knowledge? The complexity of how humans learn is illustrated in Plato’s Meno (427?–347? B.C.):

    ·  I know, Meno, what you mean … You argue that a man cannot enquire (sic) either about that which he knows, or about that which he does not know; for if he knows, he has no need to enquire (sic); and if not, he cannot; for he does not know the very subject about which he is to enquire (sic). (Plato,  1965 , p. 16)

    Two positions on the origin of knowledge and its relationship to the environment are rationalism and empiricism. These philosophies are recognizable in current learning theories.


    Rationalism  reflects the idea that knowledge derives from reason without recourse to the senses. The distinction between mind and matter, which figures prominently in rationalist views of human knowledge, can be traced to Plato, who distinguished knowledge acquired via the senses from that gained by reason. Plato believed that things (e.g., houses, trees) are revealed to people via the senses, whereas individuals acquire ideas by reasoning or thinking about what they know. People have ideas about the world, and they learn (discover) these ideas by reflecting upon them. Reason is the highest mental faculty because through reason people discover abstract ideas. The true nature of houses and trees can be known only by reflecting upon the ideas of houses and trees.

    Plato escaped the dilemma expressed in Meno by assuming that true knowledge, or the knowledge of ideas, is innate and is brought into awareness through reflection. Learning is recalling what exists in the mind. Information acquired with the senses by observing, listening, tasting, smelling, or touching constitutes raw materials rather than ideas. The mind is innately structured to reason and provide meaning to incoming sensory information.

    The rationalist doctrine also is evident in the writings of René Descartes (1596–1650), a French philosopher and mathematician. Descartes employed doubt as a method of inquiry. By doubting, he arrived at conclusions that were absolute truths and not subject to doubt. The fact that he could doubt led him to believe that the mind (thought) exists, as reflected in his dictum, “I think, therefore I am.” Through deductive reasoning from general premises to specific instances, he proved that God exists and concluded that ideas arrived at through reason must be true. Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Like Plato, Descartes established a mind–matter dualism; however, for Descartes the external world was mechanical, as were the actions of animals. People are distinguished by their ability to reason. The human soul, or the capacity for thought, influences the body’s mechanical actions, but the body acts on the mind by bringing in sensory experiences. Although Descartes postulated dualism, he also hypothesized mind–matter interaction.

    The rationalist perspective was extended by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Kant addressed mind–matter dualism and noted that the external world is disordered but is perceived as orderly because order is imposed by the mind. The mind takes in the external world through the senses and alters it according to subjective, innate laws. The world never can be known as it exists but only as it is perceived. People’s perceptions give the world its order. Kant reaffirmed the role of reason as a source of knowledge, but contended that reason operates within the realm of experience. Absolute knowledge untouched by the external world does not exist. Rather, knowledge is empirical in the sense that information is taken in from the world and interpreted by the mind.

    In summary, rationalism is the doctrine that knowledge arises through the mind. Although there is an external world from which people acquire sensory information, ideas originate from the workings of the mind. Descartes and Kant believed that reason acts upon information acquired from the world; Plato thought that knowledge can be absolute and acquired by pure reason.


    In contrast to rationalism,  empiricism  reflects the idea that experience is the only source of knowledge. This position derives from Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), who was Plato’s student and successor. Aristotle drew no sharp distinction between mind and matter. The external world is the basis for human sense impressions, which, in turn, are interpreted as lawful (consistent, unchanging) by the mind. The laws of nature cannot be discovered through sensory impressions, but rather through reason as the mind takes in data from the environment. Unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that ideas do not exist independently of the external world, which is the source of all knowledge.

    Aristotle’s contribution to psychology was his principles of association as applied to memory. The recall of an object or idea triggers recall of other objects or ideas similar to, different from, or experienced close, in time or space, to the original object or idea. The more that two objects or ideas are associated, the more likely that recall of one will trigger recall of the other. Such associative learning is reflected in many learning theories (Shanks,  2010 ). Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Another influential figure was British philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), who developed an empirical school of thought that stopped short of being truly experimental (Heidbreder,  1933 ). In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke noted that there are no innate ideas; all knowledge derives from two types of experience: sensory impressions of the external world and personal awareness. At birth the mind is a  tabula rasa  (blank tablet). Ideas are acquired from sensory impressions and personal reflections on these impressions. What is in the mind originated in the senses. The mind is composed of ideas that have been combined in different ways. The mind can be understood only by breaking down ideas into simple units. This atomistic view of thought is associationist; complex ideas are collections of simple ones. Assignment: Review of Concepts

    The issues Locke raised were debated by such profound thinkers as George Berkeley (1685–1753), David Hume (1711–1776), and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). Berkeley believed that mind is the only reality. He was an empiricist because he believed that ideas derive from experiences. Hume agreed that people never can be certain about external reality, but he also believed that people cannot be certain about their own ideas. Individuals experience external reality through their ideas, which constitute the only reality. At the same time, Hume accepted the empiricist doctrine that ideas derive from experience and become associated with one another. Mill was an empiricist and associationist, but he rejected the idea that simple ideas combine in orderly ways to form complex ones. Mill argued that simple ideas generate complex ideas, although the latter need not be composed of the former. Simple ideas can produce a complex thought that might bear little relation to the ideas of which it is composed. Mill’s beliefs reflect the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is an integral assumption of Gestalt psychology ( Chapter 5 ).

    In summary, empiricism holds that experience is the only form of knowledge. Beginning with Aristotle, empiricists have contended that the external world serves as the basis for people’s impressions. Most accept the notion that objects or ideas associate to form complex stimuli or mental patterns. Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Mill are among the better-known philosophers who espoused empiricist views.

    Although philosophical positions and learning theories do not neatly map onto one another, conditioning theories ( Chapter 3 ) typically are empiricist whereas cognitive theories ( Chapters 4  8 ) are more rationalistic. But overlap often occurs; for example, most theories posit that learning occurs through association. Cognitive theories stress association between cognitions in memory; conditioning theories emphasize the association of stimuli with responses and consequences. Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Beginnings of the Psychological Study of Learning

    The formal beginning of the psychological study of learning is difficult to pinpoint (Mueller,  1979 ), although systematic psychological research began to appear in the latter part of the 19th century. Two persons who had a significant impact on learning theory are Wundt and Ebbinghaus.

    Wundt’s Psychological Laboratory.

    The first psychological laboratory was opened by Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) in Leipzig, Germany, in 1879, although William James had started a teaching laboratory at Harvard University four years earlier (Dewsbury,  2000 ). Wundt wanted to establish psychology as a new science. His laboratory acquired an international reputation with an impressive group of visitors, and he founded a journal to report psychological research. The first research laboratory in the United States was opened in 1883 by G. Stanley Hall (Dewsbury,  2000 ).

    Establishing a psychological laboratory was particularly significant because it marked the transition from philosophical theorizing to an emphasis on experimentation and instrumentation (Evans,  2000 ). The laboratory included scholars who conducted research aimed at scientifically explaining phenomena (Benjamin,  2000 ). In his book Principles of Physiological Psychology ( 1874 ), Wundt contended that psychology is the study of the mind. The psychological method should be patterned after the physiological method; that is, the process being studied should be experimentally investigated in terms of controlled stimuli and measured responses. Assignment: Review of Concepts

    Wundt’s researchers investigated such phenomena as sensation, perception, reaction times, verbal associations, attention, feelings, and emotions. Wundt also was a mentor for many psychologists who subsequently opened laboratories in the United States (Benjamin, Durkin, Link, Vestal, & Acord,  1992 ). Although Wundt’s laboratory produced no great psychological discoveries or critical experiments, it established psychology as a discipline and experimentation as the method of acquiring and refining knowledge. Assignment: Review of Concepts