Almost every child learns how to speak and to understand his native language. At an appropriate stage of development a child learns vocabulary with amazing speed: typically a child learns many new words, and their correct usage, each day. The learning is efficient, in that a child does not need to hear the same words repeated over andover again or to be corrected very often. Thus learning language must be easy, but we do not have effective theories that explain the phenomenon.
Pavlov´s Classical Behaviorism
Pavlov was a behaviorist. This means that his theories focused on observable behavior, because behavior can be measured and thought can not. The human mind should be interpreted as a black box that can not be opened. Onlywas goes in the box and what comes out can be known. Scientific evidence is the keyword in his theory.
Pavlov studied reflexes, automatic behavior that is caused by a stimulus from the environment. Some reflexes, such as blinking your eyes when a puff of air comes in it, or the sucking of a baby when something is put in his/her mouth. This automatic behavior can be manipulated. This is calledconditioning. In this conditioning process, a unconditional stimulus is given to a person. This stimulus causes a reflex on its own. When the unconditional stimulus is now given to the person together with a stimulus that does not cause a reflex on its own. Thus, a unconditional stimulus is given together with a conditional stimulus. Because the presence of the unconditional stimulus, the reflex iscaused. This process of stimulus-response is repeated for a number of times. After a while, the unconditional stimulus is not offered any more. Only the conditional stimulus is offered. Because of the repeated association of the unconditional and the conditional stimulus, the conditional stimulus will now cause the reflex on its own. Classical conditioning is succeeded. Pavlov's theories where veryinfluential, in particular in the field of child psychology.
Skinner's Operant Conditioning
The theory of B.F. Skinner is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual's response to events that occur in the environment. A response produces a consequence such as defining a word, hitting a ball, or solving a mathproblem. When a particular Stimulus-Response pattern is reinforced, the individual is conditioned to respond. The distinctive characteristic of operant conditioning relative to previous forms of behaviorism is that the organism can emit responses instead of only eliciting response due to an external stimulus.
Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's S-R theory. A reinforcer is anything thatstrengthens the desired response. It could be verbal praise, a good grade or a feeling of increased accomplishment or satisfaction. The theory also covers negative reinforcers -- any stimulus that results in the increased frequency of a response when it is withdrawn (different from adversive stimuli -- punishment -- which result in reduced responses). A great deal of attention was given toschedules of reinforcement and their effects on establishing and maintaining behavior.
One of the distinctive aspects of Skinner's theory is that it attempted to provide behavioral explanations for a broad range of cognitive phenomena. For example, Skinner explained drive in terms of deprivation and reinforcement schedules. Skinner tried to account for verbal learning and language within the operantconditioning paradigm, although this effort was strongly rejected by linguists and psycholinguists. Skinner deals with the issue of free will and social control.
Ausubel's Meaningful Learning Theory
Ausubel, whose theories are particularly relevant for educators, considered neo-behaviorist views inadequate. Although he recognized other forms of learning, his work focused on verbal learning. He...