Keynote: Learning Theory

Stanton Wortham from The University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business is talking about learning theories, their characteristics and contradictions.

Behaviorists believe that organisms learns by feedback from their environment. B.F. Skinner is among the most prominent behaviorists. You create a situation that rewards students for doing what you want them to do. Positive behaviors lead to positive responses — negative behaviors result in negative responses. Behaviorists want control and access to good rewards, has to have clear goals for what they want students to achieve and they need to be consistent.

Cognitivists believe that students need to have control of a situation in order to understand it. Students are trying to get students to build their own models of understanding of the world. They create an environment with lots of tools and manipulables to come up with their own answers and monitor/question their actions to support the students in building their own path to the right answers. When students fail, it presents an opportunity to revisit issues and choose another path.

Behaviorists and Cognivists believe that the individual is the thing that learns, and learning transfer happens when an individual learns something from one context and applies it in another context. Socio-culturalists believe that it’s not individuals that learn, but a system that learns. It’s not crucial that an individual understands everything about a subject, but that they contribute their part to the system.

> *Note… this is the first time I’ve heard about a theory of social learning, so I need to find out more about this because I’ve previously thought of myself as a Cognitivist, but this sounds like a way to highlight where learning is going — possibly coupled with Cognitivism.*

I was originally going to go to a discussion on Performance Support with Frank Nguyen next, but I may follow up more with Dr. Wortham.