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Children these days are learning from their surroundings, whether from children their same age or adults. Learning theories are a group of studies that deal with the behavior of children and explain how they can absorb and use what they have learned from others. There are three types of learning theories which this paper will discuss: Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning and Social Learning Theory.
“Classical conditioning” is the response elicited by one stimulus become to be a different formally neutral stimulus. There was a study done by Ivan Pavlov explaining the classical conditioning by making an experiment in the dogs salivate in the early twentieth century. Ivan Pavlov restrained the dog in the experimental room first thing that he did he give food to the dogs the dog salivates. Then he rang the bell, but the dog didn’t salivate. Pavlov presents food and rang the bell the dog mouth salivates. The last thing that Pavlov did he rang the bell without the food and the dog salivate. This shows that the automatic reaction may be associated with no automatic responses.
In 1920 Watson and Rayner have expanded Pavlov work by Appling it to a human being. He did the study to Little Albert he was a 9-month-old. The goal of the study was made Albert to become afraid of the white rat. In the beginning, Little Albert has no sign of fear from the rat. Then he makes loud noise and rat was presented to Albert. This was done seven times, he feels scared and cries. By now the little Albert every time he sees the rat he burst tears. Watson found that Albert had phobias of objects that shared the characteristics with the rat this show that classical conditioning could cause some phobias in humans.
Moreover, I have a song that reminds me of the past and puts me in a good mood every time I listen to her. It reminded me of the wonderful times they I had spent with my grandmother when she alive. (
Second theory is “Operant conditioning” which is a process that can change the student/child behavior by encouraging them or by punishing them. Skinner(1948) carried out an experiment called “Skinner Box”. He made this box like a puzzle to watched the mouse behavior. According to Skinner (1948), his box had lever, light, speaker, food and came out. At first, the mouse didn’t know how to get the food but after he pressed the lever by mistake the food came out. So, the mouse knew that if he pressed the lever the food would come out for him.
Skinner put an electric current in the box to make the mouse feel upset and move around the box. The mouse discovered that if he press the lever the electric current would stop. Skinner (1948) had discovered 3 types of operant conditioning:
1 – Positive reinforcement: when an event is repeated and a certain behavior is happened. For example: the mouse knows that if he presses the lever he will have food, so he does it again and again to get food.
2 – Negative reinforcement: if we remove the reinforcement the behavior will become strong. For example: Skinner put in the box electric current which made the mouse annoyed and moved around in the box until he pressed the lever and stopped the electric current. So, when that happened the mouse do it again and again to stop the electric current.
3 – Punishment: this type of operant is opposite of reinforcement because it’s decreased the behavior or remove it. For example: a child who wrote with pen on wall was punished by his mother by taking the pen away what made him cry and hopefully thinking to draw in the wall.
Moving to the last theory “social learning theory”, which is a theory that considers the social behavior of the student/child. It explains the communication and learning between students/children through imitating, watching, observing (rewarding and punishment) and modeling each other’s.
A study carried out by Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961), explained the social learning theory by doing an experiment on the Bobo Doll. This study was done to observe if the aggressive behavior was learned through imitation (doing as what they saw from others). They took 36 boys and 36 girls from age 3-6 years old to be the participant of this experiment that was watched by their teacher. They were divided to three rooms, where the first room teacher observed that:
1 – Some of the children were playing aggressively with Bobo Doll when throw it and punching it imitating what they watched.
2 – Others were ignoring the Bobo Doll.
3 – The rest of children were acting as the control group because they didn’t behave aggressively or non-aggressively with the Bobo Doll. 10 minutes later, they were taken to a second room to play with attractive dolls. They were told by the experimenter that these toys were the best and they actually played calmly. Later on, they moved to the third room where they spent 20 minutes playing aggressively or non-aggressively.
1 – Children who play aggressively with a Bobo doll were imitating what they were watching (aggressively model).
2 – Children who watched non aggressively model were less aggressive than the aggressive ones.
3 – Boys were more aggressive with each other than girls. The results of this experiment support the social learning theory because children imitate what they watch other do. I actually faced a situation where this theory was applied when KG-1 children were visiting our university where we have to start practice teaching them. We were giving them a group of papers and colors. They were playing quietly but one of them started to push other with colors in their shoulders. Other boys watched him and started to behave aggressively with other trying to harm them. We didn’t know how to act with them, but we try to separate them, so they don’t be aggressive with each other.
In conclusion, learning theories are much important these days for us as a students and parents because we need to know what is happening with our children in this age and how they are learning. For classical conditioning, Pavlov’s dog experiment was useful and more practical but in the little Albert experiment we can’t generalize because not all children are the same. Animals learning studies are not useful, humans have higher and more complex cognitive capacities. Moreover, for operant condition I think that positive reinforcement can use it with kids, but negative reinforcement and punishment are not good for them.
Finally, the experiment that had done for the children with Bobo Doll was successful because it explain how children’s are acting these days from what they watch. In my opinion, this experiment had a positive side and negative side. The positive side was the experimenter knew how children in this age are learning. But the negative side was children had learned aggressive behavior. In general, this experiment describes how children are learning and behaving, and that what we have to know, so we can deal with our children.
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