3 Theories of Learning

A learning environment for behaviorism is based on students providing in the correct response to a particular stimulus, and then generalizing the correct response to similar stimulus appropriately. A focus is made on “mastering early steps before progressing to more complex levels of performance” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 56).  In the realm of educational technology, a program may drill a learner on multiplication facts and rewards correct answers. As the learner masters one level of difficulty, the learner is moved to the next level and facts become more difficult and/or complex.  This program would be behaviorism in nature.


Cognitivism is similar in some aspects to behaviorism; however, the focus is based on the mental processes of the learner rather than the response itself.  Rather than simply expecting a particular response, the learner is encouraged “to use appropriate learning strategies” and build upon previous knowledge (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 59).  Learners matching similarities and differences from something they know, such as the United States government, to something they are learning about, such as an ancient or foreign government, would be considered cognitivism.


For constructivism, learners “create meaning as opposed to acquiring it” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 62). Learning is an interpretation of an experience; therefore, authenticity and context are important.  Many of the courses in the EDTECH program utilize this theory.  During EDTECH 503, learners are tasked with the planning, creation, and revision of an actual instructional design.  The use of discussion boards for debate is another example.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72. Retrieved January 24, 2016, fromhttp://edtech.mrooms.org/file.php/977/EDTECH504_Module2/504Module2_ErtmerNewby.pdf


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