Ways to Improve Learning

In formal school settings, digital video technologies offer a variety of functions for supporting collaborative learning in classrooms. According to Zahn, Krauskopf, Hesse and Pea (2012) research in the field of computer-supported collaborative learning has provided ample evidence on how technology affordances can support students’ learning in general and specifically for using digital video technologies to support a variety of socio-cognitive functions [1].

According to Commodari (2013), infant attachment security might be related to various aspects of cognitive and socio-emotional development. As early as the 1970s, it was found that 2- year-olds with secure attachments show greater persistence and efficacy on cognitive tasks. Other studies reported security-related differences in the areas of object/person permanence, language acquisition and symbolic play. Jacobsen, Edelstein, and Hofmann (1994) showed that children with secure attachment representations have more successful cognitive performance in childhood. Conversely, children with insecure-disorganized attachment representations perform poorly on deductive reasoning tasks and were likely to be strongly inhibited from engaging in cognitive transaction with their environment. Therefore, in order to improve collaborative learning skills, precocious assessment of children’s social skills must be done. These are necessary skills and stimulate achievement in school settings [2].

According to Guney and Al (2012), each of learning theories provides environment for effective learning in the following ways:

  • Behaviorist learning environment: Behaviorist’s schools are typically framed in single buildings with several stories. Classrooms are located at one end for new learners and moved through the other end for upper grade learners. Long corridor with two side classroom is suitable for behaviorist schools. This kind of arrangement provides desired responses of the teacher centered education.
  • Cognitivist learning environment: Cognitivist learning schools are usually single or two-story buildings connected by various walkways, which provided opportunities for the students to interact with the outdoors, supporting the explorative approach.
  • Constructivist learning environment: In schools based on environment for the constructivist theory; corridors are designed as a learning space and place for a social interaction instead of long corridors which serve only for circulation. And classrooms can be designed as articulated spaces where children can study by themselves or within a group, because students sometimes need places to be alone for intrapersonal intelligence, and sometimes for active social interaction for interpersonal intelligence.
  • Experiential learning environment: The experiential learning classroom environment described by Kolb (1984) should provide an opportunity for consciously reflecting on the thoughts, emotions and behavioral actions and transforming them. Accordingly, they can be designed for group learning to provide social learning and stimulate the social brain; turning break spaces into social area for conversation. Classroom design may have flexible properties and allow for multiple choices of instruction and learning. Experiential learning can take place inside in the classrooms and outdoors. Thus designer should relate the in- and outdoor learning.
  • Humanistic learning environment: Child can feel belonging to his class-school if he is allowed to personalize his environment. That is why classrooms must allow maximum amount of independence to realize this. Further, pupils also can work on different issues, in different groups at the same time, observe what others doing, learn from one another, and make interpersonal relationships. School environment should be equal for all students. For self-actualization, school environment must offer choices of spaces which can reveal student’s potential and help pupils to do what they aimed.
  • Social- situational learning environment: While designing school environment based on social-situational learning theory positive effect of observation, group workings and social interaction must be kept in mind.

School’s application for learning theory should reflect physical context of the school. When designing for suitable learning atmosphere, design activity should follow a holistic, systemic way; thus, all aspects should be taken in to account [3].

Adler has proposed following little ways for improving learning:

1)      Learn holistically: It is exact contrary to rote learning. It refers to learning concepts by relating them to things that are already known to one. This interconnected web of information facilitates retrieving information from memory as it creates different routes to information.

2)      Visualize it: Visualizing the learning material helps to make pictures of it in one’s head. If one is an auditory or kinesthetic (touch) learner, then she/he must translate concepts and ideas of learning material into those senses instead.

3)      Diagram it: If one is facing difficulty in translating ideas to senses, then she/he must roughly draw ideas and concepts. These little pictures help in remembering even really difficult concepts.

4)      Metaphor it: Using metaphors while learning helps to interlink ideas holistically and form mental pictures. Thus help in information retrieval.

5)      Test it: One must test his knowledge by asking himself questions and problems to solve. One of the best ways is to solve problems in different ways. Therefore, each attempt to solving will organize her/his knowledge a little more and improve creative problem solving skills.

6)      Teach it: Teaching knowledge to someone is the best way to understand and learn it. This is because teaching forces one to think holistically, and relate concepts and idea with different metaphors, examples and images [4].


[1]. Zahn, C., Kraukopf, K., Hesse, F.W., and Pea, R. (2012). How to improve collaborative learning with video tools in the classroom? Social vs. cognitive guidance for student teams. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (2012) 7:259–284. doi 10.1007/s11412-012-9145-0

[2]. Commodari, E. (2013). Preschool teacher attachment, school readiness and risk of learning difficulties. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 28 (2013) 123– 133. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.03.004

[3]. Guney, A., and Al, S. (2012). Effective learning environments in relation to different learning theories. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 ( 2012 ) 2334 – 2338. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.480

[4]. Adler, M. 7 little known ways to drastically improve your learning. Ririan project. Website address: http://ririanproject.com/2007/04/15/7-little-known-ways-to-drastically-improve-your-learning/

VARK Learning Style

VARK is a sensory model and it is an extension of the neuro-linguistic model. In the acronym VARK,

  • V stands for visual,
  • A for aural,
  • R for read/write and
  • K for kinesthetic.

According to Fleming (2006), VARK refers to category of communication preference. It deals with the way we take in and give out information. He conducted a VARK survey in order to evaluate people’s learning style preferences. While observing that different people prefer different ways of learning, he reached the following conclusions:

  • The preferred modes of learning (also called ‘modal preferences) influence behaviors of individuals.
  • Both teachers and students can provide examples of their preferred learning styles.
  •  Using one’s preferences, strategies can be developed for improving learning in that person.
  • Matching strategies for learning of a person with his learning style preferences can be highly motivating for him.
  • This matching would also lead to deeper approach to learning, consistent learning efforts and effective metacognition.
  • In order to improve one’s learning, knowledge of his learning styles and acting on them is important [1].

The VARK learning style model is modified from VAK model. The VARK inventory developed by Fleming (2006) provides scores on each of these four perceptual modes. Individuals have learning style preferences from 1 to all 4 modes. In VARK questionnaire, the individual is asked thirteen questions and he has to choose one or more of actions corresponding to learning style preferences. Ten questions have four choices and three questions have three choices [2].

It has been observed that visual learners usually like graphs, brochures, charts, highlighters, designs, pictures etc. Visual preference could have been called Graphic. Aural/Auditory learners prefer discussions, seminars, jokes, lectures, seminars, debates, conversations etc. They have preference for information that is heard or spoken. Read/write learners prefer textbooks, essays, taking notes, bibliography, manuals, web pages, readings and printed handouts. They like information displayed as words. Kinesthetic learners prefer examples, laboratories, field trips, role play, hands-on approaches, trial and error, solutions to problem, guest lectures, using their senses etc. They like learning through practice and experience. Individuals who do not have strong preference for any of above mentioned modes are called multimodal. They possess mixtures of preferences for learning styles [3].

According to Othman and Amiruddin (2010), the effectiveness of VARK model has been seen in a number of studies conducted worldwide. For instance, Piping (2005) conducted a study and proved that VARK learning style not only enhances students’ understanding but also raises learning motivation and interest among them. Prithard in 2005 observed that good learning depends on students’ learning style, and teaching materials used. Hence, the production of teaching materials needs to be heavily based on students’ learning styles.

From the results of study undertaken by Fleming in 1995, it has been discovered that the mode that is most commonly used in learning process is speech mode and this is represented as aural mode.

However, in a study conducted by Larry and Marie (2005), it was found that visual students are more prone to use text and graphic in multimedia element. Aural student prefer using text and graphic and also audio application in multimedia element. While kinesthetic students are more inclined to use text and graphic through assignments in which requires act or hands on work. That study also did a research on the tendency of students leaning style using senses on each mode [4].


[1] Fleming, N., and Bauma, D. (2006). Learning styles again: VARKing up the right tree. Educational developments SEDA 7 (4), pp 4-7. Website address: http://www.johnsilverio.com/EDUI6702/Fleming_VARK_learningstyles.pdf

[2] Israa, M.A., Majid, T.M., Charles, D., Safaa, A.,  Hamzeh, Y.Y. (2008). Problem-based learning (PBL): Assessing students’ learning preferences using VARK. Nurse Education Today 28, 572–579. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2007.09.012

[3] Hawk, T.F., and Shah, A.J. (2007). Using Learning Style Instruments to Enhance Student Learning. Wiley online library. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4609.2007.00125.x. website address: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4609.2007.00125.x/full

[4] Othman, N., and Amiruddin, M.H. (2010). Different Perspectives of Learning Styles from VARK Model. Procedia Socia and behavioral sciences, 7. Pp 652–660. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.10.088

[5] Steven K.K. Ng, Charles K.M. Chow, and David W.K. Chu. (2011). The Enhancement of Students’ Interests and Efficiency in Elementary Japanese Learning as a Second Language through Online Games with Special Reference to Their Learning Styles. Website address: http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-642-22383-9_25.pdf

Learning Styles

Everything that is characteristic to an individual when she/he is learning refers to her/his Learning style, for instance, a particular method of approaching a learning task, the learning strategies activated in order to accomplish the task. A widely accepted definition is given by Keefe (1979), according to which, learning style represents ”the composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment”[1].

According to Rovai and Grooms (2004), learning styles can be classified and defined along a variety of dimensions [2]. James and Gardner (1995) suggested perceptual, cognitive, and affective dimensions, while others have suggested personality, information processing, social interaction, and instructional preference models. Still other researchers have suggested learning style models based on physical and sensory preferences [3].

Researchers and scholars have been interested in this area of learning from past few decades. Up till now, Coffield et al. (2004) identified 71 models of learning styles, among which 13 were categorized as major models. These models differ in the learning theories they are based on, the number and the description of the dimensions they include. Some famous models in learning styles literature are of Kolb, Dunn & Dunn, Honey & Mumford , and Myers-Briggs [4].

According to Popescu (2009), each of the learning style models offers a set of principles and recommendations for the instructional strategies that should be used with the students pertaining to each learning style category. Most psychologists recommend that the teaching style of the instructor should correspond to the learning style of the student (the “matching hypothesis”) [5].

Felder (1993) mentioned that mismatching can have serious consequences: for instance, students may feel “as though they are being addressed in an unfamiliar foreign language. They tend to get lower grades than students whose learning styles are better matched to the instructor’s teaching style and are less likely to develop an interest in the course material” [6]. Dunn and Griggs (2003) also suggested that teachers adapt the instruction and environmental conditions by allowing learners to work with their strong preferences and to avoid, as far as possible, activities for which learners report having very low preferences [7].

Another important role of learning styles would be to increase self-awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the students during the learning process. According to smith (2001), the potential of such awareness lies in “enabling individuals to see and to question their long-held habitual behaviors”; individuals can be taught to monitor their selection and use of various learning styles and strategies [8].

According to Popescu (2009), it has only been recently that learning styles are introduced for enhancing learning. Last decade was quite important in this regard, as several learning style based adaptive educational systems (LSAES) started to appear in the last few years [5].


[1]. Keefe, J. (1979) Learning Style: An Overview. In: NASSP’s Student Learning Styles: Diagnosing and Prescribing Programs, pp. 1–17.

[2]. Rovai, A.P., and Grooms, L.D. (2004). The relationship of personality based learning style preferences and learning among online graduate students. Journal of computing in higher education. 16(I), 30-47.

[3]. James, W.B., & Gardner, D.L. (1995). Learning styles: Implications for distance learning, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 67, 19-32.

[4]. Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning. A Systematic and Critical Review, Learning and Skills Research Centre, UK

[5]. Popescu, E. (2009). Addressing Learning Style Criticism: The Unified Learning Style Model Revisited. LNCS 5686, pp. 332–342, 2009. Website address: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-03426-8_40.

[6]. Felder, R.M. (1993). Reaching the Second Tier: Learning and Teaching Styles in College Science. Education. College Science Teaching 23(5), 286–290

[7]. Dunn, R., Griggs, S. (2003). Synthesis of the Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model Research: Who, What, When, Where and So What – The Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model and Its Theoretical Cornerstone. St. John’s University, New York

[8]. Sadler-Smith, E. (2001). The Relationship between Learning Style and Cognitive Style. Personality and Individual Differences 30, 609–616

Types of Learning

This article discusses main approaches to learning: classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning. The two types of conditioning are a product of Behavioral Psychology, as it involves behavior observation and laboratory experiments. Conditioning is also referred as Stimulus-response learning (Hill, 2001). [1]

Classical Conditioning

Classical conditioning is also called Pavlovian conditioning as it was first discovered by a Russian physiologist Ivan P. Pavlov in 1900s. He was up to his research on digestion in dogs. His observation of salvation in dog laid the ground work on classical conditioning. Classical conditioning involves pairing of a neutral stimulus with a stimulus which already elicits a desired natural response. After learning, the conditioned (neutral) stimulus elicits a conditioned response without unconditioned stimulus (Mkzihe). [2]

Classical conditioning can be understood as learning about event series that occur independently of an individual’s actions in his environment. Especially, an individual learns that a previous event (also called stimulus) becomes an indication for a following event (Ploog, 2012). [3]. Phenomena of classical conditioning occurs when there is contingency between conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus, thus results in change in magnitude and timing of conditioned response of human and animal subjects (Schmajuk, 2010). [4]

Turkkan (1989) integrated many research areas that have used classical conditioning as an explanatory model. The researcher alleged that data from a number of different disciplines show that classical conditioning processes has a larger role in the explanation of human and animal behavior than previously supposed. Data gathered from many seemingly unconnected phenomena like the placebo effects, relapse to drug or alcohol abuse by post addicts, and the immune system responses appear to include classical conditioning processes. [5]. While summarizing developments in the area of classical conditioning, Hout and Merckelbach (1991) said that previous studies have focused on following four misconceptions regarding what is classical conditioning:

  1. Firstly, classical conditioning does not result due to simple temporal pairing of conditioned stimuli with an unconditioned stimuli. Instead, a conditioned response occurs if a subject is able to forecast the incidence of a stimulus from the occurrence of another stimulus.
  2. Secondly, something which is learned through classical conditioning is not essentially a reaction to a cue, but it rather presents a probabilistic link between different stimuli.
  3. Thirdly, classical conditioning is not merely manifested in reactions mediated by autonomic nervous system (ANS), but also in many immunological factors, in evaluative judgments and in motoric behavior.
  4. Lastly, the nature of conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (US) is most of the time not a subject of indifference or irrelevance: particular combinations of conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus produce more influential conditioning effects as compared to other combinations [6].

Procedural Learning

According to Poulos, Christian & Thompson (2008), classical conditioning is considered as an example of procedural learning. Procedural learning can be defined as a type of learning which involves acquiring a novel response or skill through experience. Procedural memory is a type of non-declarative memory and thus it does not depend on the attainment of knowledge which can be overtly recalled. Fear conditioning and Eye blink classical conditioning are the most passionately studied examples of classical conditioning in mammals. Moreover, classical conditioning provides an excellent model for understanding processes through which we generate adaptive behaviors. These behaviors thus reflect a change in our awareness of the fundamental structure of the world [7].

Operant Conditioning

Instrumental conditioning, also called operant conditioning, is a form of learning which allows an individual or an animal to adapt its actions in order to gain maximally from his environment while being rewarded for correct responses only (Touretzky and Saksida, 1997). [8]. The term operant conditioning was first coined by a behaviorist B.F. Skinner, that is why it is also referred as Skinnerian conditioning. Skinner believed in observable and external causes of behavior instead of internal motivations and thoughts (Cherry) [9].

Any event or object that increases the future probability of a behavior is called an operant reinforcer. On the other hand, any event that decreases the future probability of a behavior is called a punisher. Compared with classical conditioning, it includes a link between a response and consequences. B. L. Thorndike was the first to conduct experiment for determining relationship between a response and its consequences. Thus operant conditioning is based on Thorndike’s ‘Law of Effect’ which says that learning is determined by the effect which the response produces (Mkhize, 2008) [2]. Behaviors which are reinforced tend to be repeated in future (i.e. strengthened); behaviors which are not reinforced tend to die out in future or be extinguished (i.e. weakened). B. F. Skinner identified following types of responses, reactions or operants which can occur after a behavior.

  • Neutral operants: Responses from environment which can neither increase nor decrease the future probability of a behavior that is being repeated.
  • Reinforcers: Responses from environment that can raise the possibility of a behavior that is being repeated. Reinforcers can either be positive or negative. Positive reinforcement strengthens behaviors by giving a consequence which is rewarding for the individual. For example, a mother gives her child 1 chocolate each time he completes his homework (i.e. a reward), he will be more likely to repeat his behavior in future, thus behavior of completing homework is strengthened. Negative reinforcement refers to removal of an unpleasant reinforce. It strengthens behavior because removal of an aversive or adverse stimulus is ‘rewarding’ for the individual.
  • Punishers: Response from environment that decrease future probability of a behavior that is being repeated. Punishment always weakens behavior. Like reinforcement, punishment also involves application of an unpleasant stimulus. For example, a mother slapped her child for his misbehavior. Or removing a rewarding stimulus, for example, deducting his pocket money in order to punish his undesirable behavior. (McLeod, 2007) [10].
  • As punishment and rewards of behavior form the basis this learning, human brains gradually increase or decrease their reflexes for behaviors when they are rewarded or punished for doing those behaviors. Thus past experiences and consequences of an individual’s behavior help in anticipating future events. Human beings share this form of learning with many other animals, including invertebrates (Brembs, 2003) [11].

Comparison between neuronal responses in classical and instrumental conditioning

Tsitolovosky, Babkina and Shvedoc (2004) compared neuronal reactions during classical and instrumental conditioning under similar conditions. They said that it is necessary to distinguish between classical and instrumental conditioning, as in both cases the response to a paired or conditioned stimulus rises. They studied neuronal equivalents of instrumental and classical conditioning in the known neurons that were responsible for the self-protective closure of the pneumostome in the mollusk (Helix) under similar conditions.

During the classical conditioning part, a mollusk was punished after a physical (tactile) stimulus. However, during instrumental conditioning, a mollusk was punished when a known neuron did not produce a capacity for action as a result of a physical stimulus. Another physical stimulus, which was not ever paired to the unconditioned stimulus, was used as a discriminated stimulus. The researchers also compared the behavior of those known neurons during pseudo conditioning. They carried our experiments in a semi-intact planning. They examined how reactions to the physical and painful stimuli changed through different forms of training. It was found that dynamics of neuronal reactions to a conditioned physical stimulus were a lot more complex during instrumental conditioning as compared to classical conditioning and involved several phases.

They proved that response to a hurting stimulus during classical conditioning falls after a short-term initial rise. However, the neurons directing instrumental action remained highly sensitive to unconditioned stimulus during instrumental conditioning. Moreover, foreign neurons reduced their reactions to the unconditioned stimulus. The researchers tentatively concluded that instrumental and classical paradigms are primarily different at cellular level [12].

Observational Learning or Modeling

Observational learning or modeling is learning something through observation. It occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating new behaviors executed by others. For example, one can see kids learning a great deal from watching parents, peers and siblings. Even the behaviors they observe on television, video games and internet can also impact their thoughts, behaviors and actions. Observational learning is powerful; therefore, it is important to ensure that they observe the right kind of behaviors.

Observational learning was first identified in a famous and influential experiment of Albert Bandura, known as Bobo doll experiment. Bandura and his colleagues demonstrated one of the ways through which children learn aggression. Bandura’s social learning theory also suggests that learning occurs through observation and interaction with other people. The experiment involved 36 boys and 36 girls at Stanford University Nursery School. The children ranged in age between 3 and almost 6 years, and the average participant age was 4 years 4 months. Children were assigned to control, aggressive and non-aggressive group. The experiment involved exposing children to two different adult models; an aggressive model and a non-aggressive one. After witnessing the adult’s behavior, the children were then placed in a room without the model and were observed to see if they would imitate the behavior they had witnessed earlier. “Bandura made several predictions about what would occur. The results of the experiment supported three of the four original predictions.

  1. Children exposed to the violent model tended to imitate the exact behavior they had observed when the adult was no longer present.
  2. Bandura and his colleagues had also predicted that children in the non-aggressive group would behave less aggressively than those in the control group. The results indicated that while children of both genders in the non-aggressive group did exhibit less aggression than the control group, boys who had observed an opposite-sex model behavior non-aggressively were more likely than those in the control group to engage in violence.
  3. There were important gender differences when it came to whether a same-sex or opposite-sex model was observed. Boys who observed an adult male behaving violently were more influenced than those who had observed a female model behavior aggressively. Interestingly, the experimenters found in the same-sex aggressive groups, boys were more likely to imitate physical acts of violence while girls were more likely to imitate verbal aggression.
  4. The researchers were also correct in their prediction that boys would behave more aggressively than girls. Boys engaged in more than twice as many acts of aggression than the girls” (Cherry) [13].

Not all observed behaviors are effectively learned. Some factors play a role in whether learning is successful or not. Certain requirements and steps must be followed. The steps involved in the observational learning and modeling process are as follows:

  • Attention:
    In order to learn, one needs to pay attention. Anything that detracts one’s attention can have a negative effect on observational learning. If the model is interesting or there is a novel aspect to the situation, the individual is far more likely to dedicate his full attention to learning.
  • Retention:
    The ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. Retention can be affected by a number of factors, but the ability to pull up information later and act on it is vital to observational learning.
  • Reproduction:
    Once the individual has paid attention to the model and retained the information, it is time to actually perform the behavior he has observed. Further practice of the learned behavior leads to improvement and skill advancement.
  • Motivation:
    Finally, in order for observational learning to be successful, one has to be motivated to imitate the behavior that has been modeled. Reinforcement and punishment also play an important role in motivation.

Heyes and Dawson (2007) conducted an interesting experiment on rats. They observed effects of observation on rats. Hungry rats were allowed to observe a conspecific demonstrator pushing a manipulandum, a joystick, to the right or to the left for food reward. Afterwards, they were allowed to access to the joystick. The effects of right-pushing vs. left-pushing observation experience were investigated on (1) response skill attainment, (2) reversal of left-right distinction, and (3) responding in the process of extinction. They found that rats that had observed left-pushing made more left responses during acquisition than rats that had observed right-pushing, and rats that had observed demonstrators pushing in the direction that had previously been reinforced took longer to reach criterion reversal and made more responses in extinction as compared to rats that had observed demonstrators pushing in the opposite direction to that previously reinforced. These results provided evidence that rats are capable of learning a response, or a response–reinforcer contingency, through conspecific observation [14].

According to Yi and Davis (2003), previous researches have indicated that modeling is an effective form of computer skills training. They developed and tested a different theoretical model of observational learning processes through which training programs based on influence computer skill performance. They alleged that observation based learning processes are signified as a second-order concept with these four dimensions: attention, motivation, production, and retention. They developed new measures for these dimensions. These measures had sound psychometric properties. They found out that observational learning processes significantly influence training outcomes. This new model provides a complete theoretical explanation of the mechanisms through which modeling-based interventions affect training outcomes [14].

Other Types of Learning

  • Perceptual learning – it involves the ability to learn to recognize those stimuli that have been seen before.
  • Motor learning – it involves formation of changes in motor system.
  • Relational learning – it involves connections between different areas of association cortex.
  • Spatial learning – it involves learning about the relations among different stimuli.
  • Episodic learning – it involves remembering sequences of events that one witnesses.


  1. Hill, G. (2001). As level: Psychology through diagrams. Oxford university press. website address: http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=-rYkNmp4EPcC&pg=PA67&dq=classical+and+operant+conditioning&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YKlOUa-xPMvQ7AbA3oGACw&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=classical%20and%20operant%20conditioning&f=false
  2. Mkzihe, N. (2008). Learning. In Nicholas, L (ed). Introduction to Psychology (2nd edition). UCT Press. Website address: http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=MP5X2SK2DCgC&pg=PA130&dq=classical+and+operant+conditioning&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YKlOUa-xPMvQ7AbA3oGACw&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=classical%20and%20operant%20conditioning&f=false
  3. Ploog, B. O. (2012). Classical Conditioning. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior (Second Edition). doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-375000-6.00090-2. Website address: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123750006000902
  4. Schmajuk, N. A. (2010). Mechanisms in classical conditioning: A computational approach. Cambridge University Press. doi: org/10.1017/CBO9780511711831.002. website address: http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9780511711831&cid=CBO9780511711831A009&tabName=Chapter
  5. Turkkan, J.S. (1989). Classical conditioning: The new hegemony. Behavioral and brain sciences, 12 (1). Website address: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6777200&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0140525X00024572
  6. Hout, M.V.D., & Merckelbach, H. (1991). Classical Conditioning: Still Going Strong. Behavioural Psychotherapy, 19 (1).  doi.org/10.1017/S0141347300011514. Website address: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=5850604&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0141347300011514
  7. Poulos, A.M., Christian, K. M., & Thompson, R.F. (2008). Procedural Learning: Classical Conditioning. Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference (3). doi.org/10.1016/B978-012370509-9.00121-2. Website address: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123705099001212
  8. Touretzky, D. S., & Saksida, L. M. ( 1997). Operant Conditioning in Skinnerbots. Adaptive behavior, 5 (3-4). doi: 10.1177/105971239700500302. Website address: http://adb.sagepub.com/content/5/3-4/219.short
  9. Cherry, K. Introduction to Operant Conditioning. About.com Guide. Website address: http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/introopcond.htm
  10. McLeod, S. A. (2007). B.F. Skinner | Operant Conditioning. Website address: http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html
  11. Brembs, B. (2003). Operant conditioning in invertebrates. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 13 (6). doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2003.10.002. website address: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959438803001570
  12. Tsitolovosky, L., Babkina, N., & Shvedoc, A. (2004). A comparison of neuronal reactions during classical and instrumental conditioning under similar conditions. Neurobiology of learning and memory, 81 (1). doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2003.08.002. Website address: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1074742703000923
  13. Cherry, K. Bobo Doll Experiment. About.com Guide. Website address: http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/a/bobo-doll-experiment.htm
  14. Heyes, C. M. & Dawson, G. R. (2007). A demonstration of observational learning in rats using a bidirectional control. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section B: Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 42 (1). doi: 10.1080/14640749008401871. Website address: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14640749008401871
  15. Yi, M. Y., & Davis, F. D. (2003). Developing and Validating an Observational Learning Model of Computer Software Training and Skill Acquisition.Information Systems Research, 14 (2). doi:10.1287/isre. Website address: http://infosys.highwire.org/content/14/2/146.short

For further reading:

  • Nicholas, L (ed). Introduction to Psychology (2nd edition). UCT Press. Website address: http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=MP5X2SK2DCgC&pg=PA130&dq=classical+and+operant+conditioning&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YKlOUa-xPMvQ7AbA3oGACw&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=classical%20and%20operant%20conditioning&f=false
  • Anderson, J. R. (2nd Edition). Learning and memory: An integrated approach. Website address: http://tocs.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/89959310.pdf


Major Learning Theories

Following are the major learning theories:


Behaviorists consider learner as a passive being who merely reacts and responds to his environmental stimuli. Watson (1930) says that “Behaviorism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept”. The Behavioral Learning Theories emphasize on learning of observable, tangible responses or behaviors. By a continuous process of stimulating and reinforcing a desired response, the learner finally changes his behaviors in order to match the desired response. This type of learning takes place in most basic way, and it is something that one can see. The learning occurs as long as the desired behavior is taking place. Though a mental process is involved in learning of behaviors, but most behavioral theorists do not actually address this mental process. Instead they limit their explanation of learning processes to a very fundamental behavioral change. Mostly, they don’t even admit that an in-depth mental process is required to bring about change in behavior. Some critics suggested that as behaviorists tested mostly on animals, thus they gave a level explanation of learning which do not involve role of complex mental functioning (Barret, 2003) [1].

While discussing the schedules of reinforcement and differences between positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, Barret (2003) argued that these definitely can be applied if the ultimate goal is nothing more than a basic behavioral change, like getting a child clean his room, or complete his homework. However, he still believed that there is a mental process going on as well, that needs to be addressed. According to Harzem (2004) and Akinsami (2008), learning occurs when change in actions occurs through an explorative process.  Individuals are exposed to external stimuli until a desired response is received. In school settings, though the knowledge is factual, objective and absolute, one can see that students are passive participants (As cited in Guney and Al, 2012) [2].

Later on, this theory has been criticized as overly simplistic. Nevertheless, its influence can be seen in educators’ insistence that feedback is critical to learning.

Cognitive Learning Theories

The Cognitive Learning Theories emerged when researchers found out that behaviorism did not account for all types of learning. Knowledge is viewed as a scheme i.e. figurative mental structures which are processed in mind. Learning occurs when there is a change in learner’s schemata; the learner is considered as an active participant (Gagne, 1984 and Akinsami, 2008 as cited in Guney and Al, 2012). Cognitive theorists focus not only the behavioral outcomes but also on the thought processes that are involved in human learning [2].

Cognitive learning theorists argue that learning cannot be described merely in terms of changes in behavior. They make a distinction between learning and memory. They view learning as the achievement of new information. However, memory is considered to be related to the ability to recall information that has been previously learned. Cognition refers to a process through which one receives information, processes it, and then does something with that information, i.e. either discarding it or keeping it. Information is about everything, like the lighting, the time, the weather, and something on the chalkboard, refers to information that can be processed simultaneously.  How one takes in these sections of information and screen or transform them so that only the material on the chalkboard is confidently remembered, is a portion of his cognitive learning processes. Learners are ‘information processors’, i.e. information is transferred to learners and thus knowledge is organized, coded and recalled (As cited in Pange, Lakka and Toki, 2010) [3].

This can be comprehended as a stimulus-response cycle, where the learner uses numerous controls in learning environment and gets reinforced.  For example, in a classroom setting by controlling certain factors, the instructor can influence attention of students on desired information. These factors can be size, intensity, emotion, novelty, incongruity, and personal significance. The main objective of the cognitive theorists is about helping their learners organize the information in order to reproduce it at later retrieval building stage of that information. However, according to Barret (2003), there are environmental factors that cannot be ignored [1].

Social Learning Theory

The Social Learning Theory [SLT] describes how the environmental factors affect one’s behavior. Social Learning theory grew out of early work by Miller and Dollard (1941) and Rotter (1954) which focused on imitation and learning through observation. This early work had a definite behaviorist flavor as Miller and Dollard were students of Clark Hull (1884-1952), a staunch behaviorist. This early work gave way to the social learning movement of the 1960s, led by Albert Bandura, the researcher most associated with social learning theory (Doolittle, 2001) [4].

SLT focuses on learning occurring in social contexts. It includes learning from one another, such as observational learning, modeling, and imitation (Ormrod, 1999). Bandura [5] believed that behaviorism alone could not explain all that be observed. He believed that behavior and the environment affected each other. He called this phenomenon reciprocal determination. SLT is not a combination of behavior and cognitive learning theories, but SLT poses that either one of these cannot occurs alone or without the effect of outside environment. Following are the general principles of SLT:

  • People learn by observing;
  • Learning can occur without a change in behavior;
  • Consequences of both behavior and cognition play a role in learning (Barret, 2003) [1].

Learners must possess the following in order to model behavior:

Attention- learner must be ready to hear information, and pays attention in order to model something.

Retention-learner can remember the behavior observed.

Motor Reproduction-learner must be able to practice and then reproduce behavior.

Motivation-learner needs a good reason to adopt behavior, outcomes are valued, and model is similar and even admired by observer.

Constructivist Learning Theory

According to Constructivist Learning Theory, learning is a process of constructing knowledge instead of acquiring it. It takes into consideration and theorizes that the learner constructs his knowledge through his experience. In other words, learner interprets his new information through his contextual experiences and builds on his existing knowledge from conclusions reached during the assimilation of new knowledge and reflection on it (Boyle, 1997; Devries and Zan, 2003 as cited in Guney and Al, 2012) [2]. Learning is, therefore, an active process in which learners build on their own symbols by giving points to their prior knowledge (As cited in Pange, Lakka and Toki, 2010) [3].

Humanistic Learning Theory

Humanists gave priority to human needs and interests. They also believe that it is necessary to study the person as a whole, especially as an individual grows and develops over the lifespan (Edword, 1989; Kurtz, 2000; Huitt, 2009). According to Humanistic Learning Theory, learning is an independent action that is related to the values an individual develops throughout his lifespan (As cited in Pange, Lakka and Toki, 2010) [3].

Experiential Learning Theory

According to Kolb (1984), Experiential Learning Theory refers to a holistic perspective on learning that combines experiences, behavior, cognition and perception. This theory focuses on the central role of experience in the learning process. Thus learning is a continuous process grounded in experience. In classroom settings thus provide an opportunity for consciously reflecting on the behavioral actions, emotions and thoughts and transforming them (Guney and Al, 2012) [2].


1. Barret, E. C. (2003). The study of learning: A thought paper. Website address: http://www.google.com.pk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDIQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ferincunia.com%2Fportfolio%2FMSportfolio%2Fide621%2Fide621f03production%2Fafter.doc&ei=TpJyUZ_1H4XwrQfdyYCABg&usg=AFQjCNGv9LCHdV3zuoi6atBqzPHdYdzpYg&sig2=tUEY07IlilNdoLck8EssSg&bvm=bv.45512109,d.bmk

2. Guney, A., and Al, S (2012). Effective learning environments in relation to different learning theories. Procedia: social and behavioral sciences, 46. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.480

3. Pange, J., Lekka, A., Toki, E.I. (2010). Different learning theories applied to diverse learning subjects: A pilot study

4. Doolittle, P. (2001). Learning theory: Introduction. Website address: http://staffweb.itsligo.ie/staff/bmulligan/ISDL/learning.pdf

5. Bandura, A. Social learning theory. Website address: http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-learning.html

For further reading:

  1. Doolittle, P. (2001). Learning theory: Introduction. Website address: http://staffweb.itsligo.ie/staff/bmulligan/ISDL/learning.pdf
  2. Learning theories by Wikibooks contributors (2006). Website address: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Learning_Theories OR http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/Learning_Theories.pdf