By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Following is a brief explanation of 12 learning theories on how people learn:
1. Constructivism: a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. There is no standardized curriculum, instead it emphasizes on practical training, open-ended discussions and interaction between students and teachers.
2. Behaviorism: a theory of animal and human learning that only focuses on objectively observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. It relies only on observable behavior and describes several universal laws of behavior.
3. Piaget's Developmental Theory: Piaget's theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds cognitive structures--in other words, mental "maps," schemes, or networked concepts for understanding and responding to physical experiences within his or her environment. A developmentally appropriate curriculum should be planned so that it enhances the students' logical and conceptual growth.
4. Neuroscience: Neuroscience is the study of the human nervous system, the brain, and the biological basis of consciousness, perception, memory, and learning. A curriculum is planned on the basis of real experiences and integrated "whole" ideas.
5. Brain-based learning: This learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain. According to this theory, as long as the brain is not prohibited from fulfilling its normal processes, learning will occur. Learning is made contextual and a curriculum is organized based on the interests of the student.
6. Learning Styles: The learning styles theory implies that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart."
7. Multiple Intelligences: This theory suggests there are at least seven ways that people have of perceiving and understanding the world. They are verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.
8. Right brain/left brain thinking: According to this theory, the two different sides of the brain control two different modes of thinking. This theory proposes that in order to be more "whole-brained" in their orientation, schools need to give equal weight to the arts, creativity, and the skills of imagination and synthesis.
9. Communities of Practice: This approach views learning as an act of membership in a "community of practice." It suggests teachers understand their students' communities of practice and acknowledge the learning students do in such communities.
10. Control Theory: the control theory states that behavior is inspired by what a person wants most at any given time: survival, love, power, freedom, or any other basic human need.
11. Observational Learning: Observational learning, also called social learning theory, occurs when an observer's behavior changes after viewing the behavior of a model. Students must get a chance to observe and model the behavior that leads to a positive reinforcement.
12. Vygotsky and Social Cognition: This theory asserts that culture is the prime determinant of individual development. It emphasizes that a child's learning development is affected in ways large and small by the culture--including the culture of family environment--in which he or she is enmeshed.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.