5 theories of pedagogical learning and how to apply them | UOPX (2023)

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  • There are five main theories of educational learning: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism.
  • Additional learning theories include transformative, social, and experiential.
  • Understanding learning theories can yield a variety of results, from improving communication between students and teachers to determining what students learn.

How educational theories of learning can affect your education

Teaching and learning may seem like a universal experience. After all, everyone goes to school and learns more or less the same, right? Well not exactly.

As the prolific number of learning education theorists suggests, there is actually an impressive variety of educational approaches to the art and science of teaching. Many of them were started by educational theorists who studied the science of learning to determine what works best and for whom.

(Video) The 5 Learning Theories

"Learning is defined as a process that brings together personal and environmental experiences and influences to acquire, enrich, or modify one's own knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, behaviors, and worldviews," says theInternational Bureau of Education. "Learning theories develop hypotheses that describe how this process occurs."

In general, there are five widely accepted learning theories that teachers rely on:

  • behaviorismlearning theory
  • Cognitivelearning theory
  • constructivismlearning theory
  • Humanismlearning theory
  • connectivismlearning theory

Education theorists, teachers, and experts believe that these theories can inform successful teaching approaches and serve as the foundation for developing curricula and syllabi.

What are learning theories?

Theories in education didn't begin in earnest until the early 20th century, but curiosity about how humans learn dates back to the ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. They explored whether knowledge and truth can be found within oneself (rationalism) or through external observation (empiricism).

In the 19th century, psychologists began to answer this question with scientific studies. The aim was to objectively understand how people learn and then develop teaching approaches accordingly.

In the 20th century, the debate among educational theorists centered on behavioral theory versus cognitive psychology. Or, in other words, do people learn by responding to external stimuli or by using their brains to build knowledge from external data?

The five theories of educational learning

Today, many researches, studies and debates have given rise to the following five learning theories:

(Video) What is Pedagogy? | 4 Essential Learning Theories | Satchel

behaviorismAs Simply Psychology says: "Behaviorism is concerned only withobservable stimulus-response behaviors, since they can be studied in a systematic and observable way".Learning is based on a system of routines that "drill" information in the student's memory bank, as well as positive feedback from teachers and the educational institution itself. If students do an excellent job, they receive positive reinforcement and are sent for recognition.
CognitivismLearning depends on both external factors (such as information or data) and the internal thought process.Developed in the 1950s, this theory moves away from behaviorism to focus on the role of the mind in learning. In accordance withInternational Bureau of Education: "In cognitive psychology, learning is understood as the acquisition of knowledge: the student is an information processor that absorbs information, performs cognitive operations on it and stores it in memory."
constructivismThe student builds on his previous experience and understanding to "build" a new understanding."The passive view of teaching sees the learner as 'an empty vessel' to be filled with knowledge," explains Simply Psychology, "whereasConstructivism holds that students construct meaning.only through active engagement with the world (such as experiencing or solving real-world problems)."
HumanismA "student centered approach“where the potential is the focus and not the method or the materials.With the understanding that people are inherently good, humanism focuses on creating an environment conducive to self-actualization. In doing so, students' needs are met and they are free to determine their own goals, while the teacher helps achieve those learning goals.
connectivismInformed by the digital age, connectivism moves away from constructivism by identifying and remedying gaps in knowledge.Heavily influenced by technology, connectivism focuses on the learner's ability to frequently obtain and update accurate information. Knowing how and where to find the best information is just as important as the information itself.

Why are learning theories important?

It is part of the human condition to yearn for knowledge. Consequently, numerous scientists, psychologists, and thought leaders have dedicated their careers to the study of learning theories. Comprehensionaspeople learn is a critical step in optimizing the learning process.

It is for this reason that teacher colleges or educator preparation programs spend a lot of time for teacher candidates to study human development and various theories of learning. Fundamental knowledge of how humans learn, and specifically how a child learns and develops cognitively, is essential for all educators to be the most effective instructors in the classroom.

Pamela Roggeman, EdD, Dean of the University of Phoenixeducation school, explains his point of view on the role that learning theory plays in teacher preparation:

"Just as no two people are the same, no two students will learn in exactly the same way or at the same rate. Effective educators must be able to target and design instruction that meets the needs of each student to meet the needs of each student. of all the world'". Solid knowledge of multiple learning theories is a first step towards this and another reason why great teachers work their entire careers to master both theart and scienceeducation".

Although championing a specific learning theory is not necessarily necessary in most teaching roles,author and online learning consultantTony Bates points out that most teachers tend to follow one theory or another, even if unconsciously.

So whether you're an aspiring or experienced teacher, a student, or a parent of a student (or a combination of both), knowing more about each theory can make you more effective in your pursuit of knowledge.

Are there other theories in education?


Like the students themselves, learning theories in education are varied and diverse. In addition to the five theories outlined above, there are even more options, including:

  • TransformerLearning Theory: This theory is particularly relevant to adult learners. He postulates that new information can fundamentally change our view of the world when our knowledge and life experience are combined with critical reflection.
  • SocialLearning Theory: This theory incorporates some of the unspoken principles of peer pressure. Specifically, students observe other students and model their own behavior accordingly. Sometimes it is to imitate the companions; other times it is to distinguish himself from his peers. Harnessing the power of this theory involves engaging students, focusing on how they can retain information, identifying when it is appropriate to replicate past behavior, and determining student motivation.
  • experientialLearning Theory: There are many clichés and parables about teaching someone something by doing, although it wasn't until the early 1980s that it became official learning theory. This approach emphasizes both learning about something and experiencing it so that students can apply the knowledge in real-world situations.

How educational theories influence learning

Educational theories influence learning in many ways. For teachers, learning theory examples can affect their approach to instruction and classroom management. Finding the right approach (even if it's a combination of two or more learning theories) can make the difference between an effective and inspiring classroom experience and an ineffective one.

Applied learning theories directly impact a classroom experience in many ways, such as:

  • offer studentsstructureand a comfortable and stable environment.
  • Help educators, administrators, students and parentsalign goals and results.
  • to allowmaestrosto be, as Bates says, "in a better position to make decisions about how to approach your teaching in a way that best meets the perceived needs of your students."
  • shockingasit is whata person learns
  • Helping strangers (universities, testing companies, etc.)determine what type of educationhave had or are receiving.
  • Allow students to have a say in determininghow will the class be run.
  • decide ifinstruction will be primarily teacher or student directed.
  • determininghow much collaborationIt will take place in a classroom.

How to apply learning theories

So how do learning theories apply to the real world? education is aevolving field with a complicated future. And, according to Roggeman, the effects of applied educational theory can be long-lasting.

(Video) Application of Learning theories in the classroom #learningtheories

She explains:

"The learning theories we experience as students influence the type of work environment we prefer as adults. For example, if someone experienced classrooms based heavily on social learning during the K-12 years, as an adult they might feel very comfortable "in a highly collaborative work environment. Reflecting on one's educational history can serve as an insightful tool for personal fulfillment in the workplace as an adult."

Educational theories have come a long way since the days of Socrates and even the pioneers of behaviorism and cognitivism. And while theories of learning will undoubtedly continue to evolve, teachers and students alike can reap the benefits of this evolution as we continue to develop our understanding of how humans learn most effectively.

Educational theories of learning are one thing.adult learning theoriesthey are another. Learn more on our blog.

Ready to put theory into practice? To exploreFundamentals of Virtual Teachingat the University of Phoenix!

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(Video) 5. Theories of Learning


What are the 5 educational learning theories research and give a short explanation each of them? ›

There are five primary educational learning theories: behaviorism, cognitive, constructivism, humanism, and connectivism. Additional learning theories include transformative, social, and experiential.

How can you effectively apply the learning theories in your teaching? ›

Incorporate learners' prior knowledge and interests. Provide tools for learners to succeed, but encourage independent responsibility. Promote experiential learning by including reflections. Create clear course goals, learning objectives, and assessment instructions to guide students through the learning process.

How to apply constructivism learning theory in the classroom? ›

Examples of constructivist classroom activities

Allow pairs of students to teach each other. Learners pose their own questions and seek answers to their questions via research and direct observation. They present their supporting evidence to answer the questions.

What is pedagogy theories of learning? ›

Pedagogic theory is a systematic conceptualization of the process of education and conditions of human development in both the individual and the societal life sphere. It deals with processes of upbringing, teaching, learning, and social and cultural development.

What are the 5 five established learning styles? ›

There are five established learning styles: Visual, auditory, written, kinesthetic and multimodal. Kinesthetic learners have to do something to get it, while multimodal learners shift between different techniques.

How to apply classical conditioning as a learning theory to a classroom situation? ›

Teachers can apply classical conditioning in the class by creating a positive classroom environment to help students overcome anxiety or fear. Pairing an anxiety-provoking situation, such as performing in front of a group, with pleasant surroundings helps the student learn new associations.

How will teacher apply the learner centered approaches and strategies in the classroom? ›

Learner-centered approach activities
  • Foster collaboration with group projects. Think of yourself as a coach on the sideline of a sports game. ...
  • Let learners develop content. ...
  • Stage presentations. ...
  • Hold a competition. ...
  • Hold a debate. ...
  • Gamify learning. ...
  • Pose a problem. ...
  • Do role-play.

How would you apply critical theory in the classroom practice? ›

How to Implement Critical Pedagogy into your Classroom
  1. Challenge yourself. If you are not thinking critically and challenging social structures, you cannot expect your students to do it! ...
  2. Change the classroom dynamic. ...
  3. Present alternative views. ...
  4. Change your assessments. ...
  5. Encourage activism.
Sep 6, 2019

How to apply Cognitivism in teaching and learning? ›

Examples of cognitive learning strategies include:
  1. Asking students to reflect on their experience.
  2. Helping students find new solutions to problems.
  3. Encouraging discussions about what is being taught.
  4. Helping students explore and understand how ideas are connected.
  5. Asking students to justify and explain their thinking.

How do you apply Bandura's theory in the classroom? ›

Social learning theory can be used to encourage and teach desirable behaviors in the classroom through the use of positive reinforcement and rewards. For example, a student who is praised for raising their hand to speak will more than likely repeat that behavior.

How do you apply constructivism in facilitating learning? ›

Constructivist classrooms focus on student questions and interests, they build on what students already know, they focus on interactive learning and are student-centered, teachers have a dialogue with students to help them construct their own knowledge, they root in negotiation, and students work primarily in groups.

What are the 5 pedagogical approaches with examples? ›

The five major approaches are Constructivist, Collaborative, Integrative, Reflective and Inquiry Based Learning ( 2C-2I-1R ).

What pedagogical approaches can be used? ›

What Are the Different Approaches to Pedagogy?
  • Constructivism. This can also be described as progressive teaching style which is a response to a traditional method of teaching. ...
  • Social Constructivism. ...
  • Behaviorism. ...
  • Liberationism.

What is pedagogy examples? ›

Examples of pedagogical skills

This can involve skills like writing clearly or knowing how to engage students in class so they pay better attention. Outside the classroom, your communication skills can be useful for talking to parents about their child's progress and needs.

What are the five 5 perspectives on educational change? ›

As they are now defined and operationalized, the five perspectives are labeled Transmission, Apprentice- ship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform.

What are the 7 learning theories in education? ›

The major concepts and theories of learning include behaviourist theories, cognitive psychology, constructivism, social constructivism, experiential learning, multiple intelligence, and situated learning theory and community of practice.

What methods should teachers use in the best learning environments? ›

13 ways to create a positive classroom environment
  • Build positive relationships. ...
  • Arrange the physical environment. ...
  • Set high academic expectations. ...
  • Provide positive reinforcement. ...
  • Be open to feedback. ...
  • Encourage collaboration. ...
  • Use current curriculum and teaching methods. ...
  • Be there for them.
Jun 29, 2021

What are the five methods of teaching literacy? ›

Effective instructional programs and materials emphasize the five essential components of effective reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Which is the best teaching strategy to be used in a classroom? ›


This strategy, if used well, can drastically help students focus on the concept or subject matter at hand. It brings concepts to life and encourages students to make connections to the real world.

What are the 5 principles of cognitive learning theory? ›

The 5E Model consists of five phases: engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation.

What is educational theory and research? ›

Theory and Research in Education, formerly known as The School Field, is an international peer reviewed journal that publishes theoretical, empirical and conjectural papers contributing to the development of educational theory, policy and practice.

What is the 5 factor theory of effective schools? ›

five-factor theory of effective schools. A theory, developed through school effectiveness research, that emphasizes five factors: effective leadership, monitoring student progress, safety, a clear vision, and high expectations.

What are the 5 educational philosophies explain? ›

They are Perennialism, Essentialism, Progressivism, and Reconstructionism. These educational philosophies focus heavily on WHAT we should teach, the curriculum aspect. For Perennialists, the aim of education is to ensure that students acquire understandings about the great ideas of Western civilization.

What are 5ps of teaching and learning model? ›

The 5P instructional model is integrated RBL and was developed by researchers to cover five main phases, namely persuasion, planning, performance, production, and presentation.

How do you use cognitive learning theory in the classroom? ›

Cognitive Learning In The Classroom
  1. Asking students to reflect on their experience.
  2. Helping students find new solutions to problems.
  3. Encouraging discussions about what is being taught.
  4. Helping students explore and understand how ideas are connected.
  5. Asking students to justify and explain their thinking.

How would you apply principles of cognitive development when you are teaching? ›

Three specific cognitive learning principles that are effective in the classroom include encouraging classroom discipline, using personal contracts, and creating token economies, which are systems of ''trade'' that allow the students to earn privileges or objects that they want.


1. ProfEd Review: 5 Educational Learning Theories Part 1
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2. Applying Learning Theories to Instructional Design & Learning Environments
3. My Classroom! How I Apply Learning Theories & My Philosophy of Education
4. Fala Quem Sabe: A educação vista por grandes autores | Paul A. Kirschner
(Iniciativa Educação)
5. Learning Theories and Instructional Design webinar
6. 5 Main Learning Theories: Behaviorism
(Teacher Zyrus)


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