Overview of The Theories of Learning and Its Application

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1793 |

Page: 1|

9 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2018

Words: 1793|Page: 1|9 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Theories of Learning
  3. Behaviourism
    Cognitive constructivism theory
    Social constructivism learning theory
    Experiential learning
    Andragogy theory
  4. Conclusion


Learning is something that happens quite certainly and goes by often undetected in many circumstances. Any theory requires a clear idea of what the theory is trying to explain. But when a particular concept or word is used, people usually assume everyone has the same depth of knowledge to grasp the concept and this is absolutely not right. In trying to understand the various theories of learning and their implications for education, it is helpful to realize that the term “learning” means different things to different people and is used somewhat differently in different theories.

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As theories of learning evolved over the past half-century, definitions of learning shifted from changes that occur in the mind or behavior of an individual to changes in participation in ongoing activities with other individual changes in a person's identity within a group (e.g., a change from being a follower to being a leader). However, most definitions of learning involve a change in an individual's knowledge, ability to perform a skill, or participate in an activity with other individuals; there is considerable variation among the theories about the nature of this change. In many cases, the various theories are relevant to different types of learning and are not necessarily incompatible with one another.

Rather, they provide different perspectives on the complex phenomena of learning and complement one another in their ability to explain different types of learning situations. Thus, radically different theories are relevant to the classroom by addressing different aspects of learning, and it is wise to avoid comparing apples with oranges. The relationship between theories of learning and educational practices is complicated by the reality that there is more than one type of learning. None of the present theories are capable of explaining learning in all situations, and scholars working within a particular theoretical perspective often ignore or deny the importance of other types of learning and the relevance of other theories for different situations. Nearly every educational setting involves several types of learning, each with its own unique importance to the functioning of the classroom.

Theories of learning are efforts to explain how people learn. Different theories are based on different assumptions and are appropriate for explaining some learning situations but not others. These can notify teaching and the use of different instructional resources including technology, but ultimately the learning activities in which the student actually engages (mental, physical, and social) determine what a student learns in the classroom. Classroom learning involves social, emotional, and participatory factors in addition to cognitive ones, and theories of learning need to take these factors into account.

Furthermore another form of learning is research. These researches are conducted in cells at schools and universities where professors and students are involved daily with a large range of topics. In simple words in enterprises the research might focus on developing a product but in classrooms the research might focus on techniques of questioning, experimenting so that students learn and can implement later. Most current theories of learning presuppose that the goal of education is to develop the ability of students to understand the content and to think for themselves, presumptions that are consistent with the majority of modern-day schools.

Theories of Learning


Behaviourism lies in the learning theory which directly highlights observable behavioural conducts and forgoes any independent practices of the mind. The supporters of behaviourist theory explain 'learning' as a new behaviour formed by the surrounding situations. Behaviourist learning theory is regarded as a successful theory and it contributes towards several practical implications which have been seen to improve the lives of people such as helping in establishing therapies to treat phobias. The theory also gives strong evidence through research for the nurture discussion. Behaviourism contributes to the research evidence available in the literature so that we can make effective decisions in relation to learning and child-rearing.

However, there have been several criticisms against behaviourist learning theory such as the theory does not relate to all types of learning because it neglects the activities linked with the mind. Moreover, behaviourist theory does not describe some learning, for example, learning new patterns of learning by children, and no support mechanism is involved. In addition to it, some researches also have shown that animals adapt to the new information by their reinforced patterns.

Cognitive constructivism theory

This theory states that learning is an active and constructive process. However, the learners are the ones who construct information. The newly constructed information is associated with prior knowledge. Unlike behaviorism which is based on the external circumstance, cognitive learning is based on an internal approach. The theory wanted to evaluate how well children could spell, count, and solve problems. However, this theory is focused on children rather all learners. On the other hand, the theory is concerned more with development rather than learning. According to Jean Piaget, children undergo four stages of cognitive development. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage with is between birth and the age of 2years. During this stage, Piaget believes that an infant knows the globe through their sensations and movements. Piaget also believes that children learn more about the globe through basic actions such as grasping, sucking, grasping, listening, and looking. During the sensorimotor stage, children undergo a period of learning and dramatic growth. As children associate with their surroundings, they continue to make new inventions about how the globe works.

The second stage is the preoperational stage. This stage encompasses children between 2-7 years. During this stage, children begin to think through the use symbols and learn how to use images and words to respresnt objects. They try to think about objectis in a concrete manner. They struggle to understand the idea of constancy. The third stage is the concrete operational stage. At this stage, children start to think in a logical manner about concrete events. Moreover, children at this stage become altruistic and start to think about how other persons might feel or think. The fourth stage is the formal operational stage which is between the ages of 12 and above. At this stage, teenagers think about philosophical, ethical, social, and moral issues that require theoretical and abstract reasoning.

Social constructivism learning theory

According to the scholars behind this theory, social constructivism puts emphasize on the collaborative nature of learning. The theory states all cognitive functions come from social interactions. More so, learning does not comprise only accommodations and assimilation of new knowledge by a learner. The theorists view the learners as the knowledge constructor. On the hand, culture and language are great contributors to cognitive development. The theory views how a learner may acquire motivation through constructivism learning. According to the theory, the motivation of learners may extrinsic or extrinsic. On the contrary, as per the behaviorism theory, motivation comes from external factors. Learning through interaction requires learners to develop group skills and view personal learning as related to group achievement. Example in the classroom, a teacher may group learners and assign topics of discussions. Learners will understand better when they are discussing because they can exchange knowledge freely with each other leading to detailed comprehension of knowledge.

Experiential learning

This refers to the kind of learning which is acquired from experience. David Kolb was the psychologist behind this theory and he was impacted by other theorists’ work such as John Dewey, and Jean Piaget. David refers to this kind of Learning as a strategy through which knowledge is developed through experience tranformation (Kolb & Kolb, 2015). Experiential learning is different from other learning theories such as behavioral and cognitive theories. The cognitive theory emphasizes on the mental process of learning whereas behavioral theory ignores the feasible role of personalized experience in the learning process. Kolb explained two different approaches of acquiring experience; tactile and abstract experience (Poore, Cullen & Schaar, 2014). The first one is the tactile experience. Tactile experience avails information that acts as a foundation for contemplation. From the assimilation, learners assimilate data and form imaginable concepts. The concepts are then applied in developing new theories about the world which then learners experiment how they can be used in their daily lives.

Andragogy theory

This theory was developed by Malcolm Knowles and it emphasized that adults are self-driven and are anticipated to take responsibilities for their own choices. Therefore, adult learning centers have accommodated this feature. The theory is built on various assumptions. The first presupposition is self-concept. Since adults are mature, they have more self-concept that children. This gives them the authority to take part in directing their own learning. The second presupposition is prior learning experience. Adults have a wide collection of experiences that they can refer to in their learning process compared to children who are in the journey of gaining new experiences. The third assumption is the willingness to learn. Most adults see the importance of education and this makes them be focused and serious about learning. The fourth assumption is practical lessons to learn. Adults search for empirical and problem-centered strategies for learning. The fifth assumption is internal motivation. While most children are motivated by external factors such as rewards or punishments, adults have intrinsic motivation. Therefore, as per the androgyny theory, adults need to aim more on the process and less on the content being taught. Adult learners should use strategies such as role-playing, case studies, and self-evaluation. on the other hand, the instructors should adopt a facilitator role rather than a lecturer.

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Learning is the accssion of skills and knowledge through experience, study, or being taught. Teaching may be viewed as a complex task but with the aid of different theories, it has been easier for tutors to direct, control, and achieve the best outcomes. The first teaching and learning theory is cognitive theory. This theory stipulates that learning is an active and constructive process. The learners are the ones who construct information. The newly constructed information is associated with prior knowledge. Behaviorism is a learning theory that mainly aims at observable behaviors and rewards any activity that is done independently. The theory uses two types of conditioning in explaining how behaviorism theory is applied in a learning environment which includes operant and classical conditioning. However, social constructivism theory explains that learning develops through the procedure of social exchange and assessment of the suitability of individual comprehension. On the other hand, experiential learning refers to learning which is acquired from experience. More so, the hypothesis addresses ways in which learners can identify their own strengths at the same time developing in the areas which they are work in. Andragogy theory emphasizes on adult learning. The theory has been applied in tertiary institutions and it has made the work of tutors easy because adults are conversant with the importance of education and also the consequences that may result from it.

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The Theories of Learning. (2022, November 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“The Theories of Learning.” GradesFixer, 22 Nov. 2022,
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