Theory and Practice: Traditional Learning Theories - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1335 Words
Date:  2022-11-19


Teaching and learning are essential processes that make humans more aware, sensitive and adaptive to their environments. Different theorists provide various conceptions about what constitutes learning and the way it takes place. Despite these differences in points of view, there is some element of consensus that learning is a lifetime process which yields various outcomes such as a change in behaviour, attitude, or emotions. Fundamentally, learning is a continuous process which occurs either voluntarily or involuntarily and results in particular outcomes reflected in behavior, social skills, and general disposition of an individual. Due to the existential inconsistencies in the various schools of thought about what really constitutes learning, it is imperative to provide a nuanced description of what really constitutes learning.

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Learning Tasks and Orientation

The locus of learning is the interaction of a person, behaviour and environment. People are part of a social environment which significantly influences their behaviour patterns (Bandura, 2001). For instance, leaning a language is a social process in which an individual systematically embraces what they see in the immediate environment or what the society prescribes as a means of life. Learning a language is a typical example of this social learning paradigm. When a leaners live in an environment where the parents, teachers, and fellow students speak a particular language, they will try as much as possible also to speak the same way so that they identify with them. Through they become automatically attuned to slowly acquire the language since it confers the reward of providing a means of communication and a sense of identity to a broader community. This is the hallmark of social cognitive learning theory in which human learning is dictated by the occurrences in the social environment (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). In essence, the acquisition of knowledge, rules, skills, strategies, beliefs, and attitudes occurs through observing others. Through observation, learners tend to assess behaviors against their beliefs from where they tend to emulate those which generate reward and avoid those that attract punishment.

Another dimension of looking at learning is its purpose which is fundamentally to model new roles and behaviour. In essence, for any case of knowledge or information acquisition, an individual is motivated to use it to become something at the end. People are more inclined to emulate what is in their immediate environment since they act as practical examples of what they may attain at the end (Bandura, 2001). For instance, if the teacher emphasizes that to become a pilot then one has to embrace mathematics and sciences, the leaner will scan the immediate environment for any pilot and look at what subjects they pursed. If the people who are within his or her circles excelled in such disciplines, they automatically take up the challenge to be excellent in the specific areas of study. Therefore, while someone may cognitively process information, the way in which they exhibit or showcase such knowledge depends on their observation of the others around them (Jonassen & Land, 2012). In the classroom environment, a leaner will be more likely to develop an interest in a particular subject based on his perception about how the instructor teaches, how interactive or practical the lessons are and the general behaviour of the teacher. Alongside the cognitive faculties, a leaner also processes the observed behaviours within the immediate environment to foster holistic learning.

The teacher's role in teaching and learning is to model and guide new roles and behaviour among learners (Bandura, 2001). The teacher does not only facilitate the interaction between the learners and knowledge or information but acts as an ideal example of what they emphasize. Learners are more likely to embrace when they see practically as opposed to dogmatic or theorized information (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).Through giving practical impressions of what a particular knowledge base or information yields, the leaners can reciprocate it in their daily life. For instance, for a teacher to successfully foster teaching and learning on ways to become a good scientist among the students, he must demonstrate the same through his actions. These include adhering to procedures when conducting experiments, diligence in drawing inferences from results and the best ways to develop a conclusion. In case the instructor emphasizes keenness in experimentation yet he or she exhibits negligence, the students are less likely to embrace the teaching.

Fundamentally, the result of learning is to make people more resilient and adaptive to the environmental conditions around them. Therefore, education is a process that comprises of interaction with and observation of others in a social context (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). For learning to take place, there must be an agent and a recipient. The agent may be a living person or phenomena in the nearest environment. Depending on how the human agents behave or respond to the stimuli in the environment, a learner develops a conception which eventually plays a critical role in influencing his disposition. This stance draws from the social cognitive theory which underscores the importance of environment and society in determining what someone learns. Whereas an individual may have a natural inclination to a particular form of behaviour, conception or attitude, the way they express it eventually is dictated by what the society embraces, does or prescribes as being good (Schunk, 2012). In a classroom situation, it is impossible to subject leaners from different religious backgrounds to the same religious education. For a Christian student, the Bible is believed to be the holy book which presents God's communication to humanity while for a Muslim, the Quran is the religious book. Therefore, even within the same learning environment, the two students from different religious backgrounds will focus on teachings that are in line with the belief of their families or society. These illustrations fall squarely within the context of cognitive social theory which integrates behaviourism and cognitive theory.

In teaching adults, the efforts are framed by mentoring. Ideally, everybody has a cognition about what they believe is ideal in any given situation (Schunk, 2012). Therefore, the role of teaching and learning is to demystify what such conceptions mean so that the bearer develops a more precise understanding. This is the underlying stance of the cognitive social theory which emphasizes that the environment plays a significant in influencing how leaning occurs. In this case, the teacher takes the task of orienting and reorienting deep-seated conceptions so that the learner is only able to acquire and demonstrate the best behaviour patterns (Mahr, 2016). For instance, to teach a mother who has just gotten the first child, the teacher mentors her on what things to do in keeping the newborn healthy. It also involves directing them to specific cases of those who have exhibited successful motherhood. Whereas giving theoretical teachings on what constitutes good motherhood may be important, it is more useful to provide practical examples that capture the cognition.


Leaning is a continuum which involves the interaction of the leaner with knowledge, skills and information which help them in coping with their daily situations. Various philosophers have advanced different orientations or theoretical stances to define how learning takes place. These include behaviorism, social cognitive theory, constructivism, humanistic theory and cognitivist theory. The most convincing if these approaches are the cognitivist social theory since it frames leaners as being part of a larger social construct which prescribes their behavior and knowledge. Therefore, in a learning setting, the teacher should provide the best visual examples and also act as practical agents that the leaners can emulate. The leaner is more able to understand and reinforce on what they have a solid impression.


Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 1-26.

Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Routledge.

Mahr, M. M. (2016). Social cognitive theory to predict exercise behaviors for college students with disabilities. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest LLC.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories an educational perspective sixth edition. Pearson.

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