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Major Learning Types and theories

Learning is a behavior change that occurs as an outcome of the experience. Learning entails knowledge absorption, procession, and retention. Learning can take place through association, consequences, and, observation. Some of the theories put forward by the educational psychologist to explain how one acquires and organizes knowledge and skills include the following: There are many types of learning, some major learning types are discussed below,

Classical Conditioning Learning

A theory by psychologist Ivan Pavlov defines classical conditioning as a mode of learning that involves modifying automatic behaviors to acquire new information through an association process (Brain, 2015). For instance, a dog salivates upon sight of food and its trainer who brings it food. Here, food (unconditioned stimulus) evokes salivation (unconditioned response). The dog associates the trainer (conditioned stimulus) with food after a certain period, and finally, the trainer can evoke the dog’s response (salivation). The response then becomes a conditioned response because it is conditioned to the new stimulus (Brain, 2015).

Operant Conditioning Learning

Psychologist B.F. coined this theory. Skinner described it as a learning method that happens through consequences for behavior, such as rewards or punishments. For instance, a laboratory rat presses a green button and a red button and in turn, it receives a food pellet and an electric shock respectively. This implies that the green button rewards, unlike the red button that punishes.

The key constitutes of operant conditioning are:

Reinforcement. This is termed as something that intensifies or strengthens the behavior. There are two categories;

Positive reinforces-favorable outcomes after the behavior. For example, a reward or praise for doing something good.

Negative reinforces- removes unsuitable or unpleasant events after behavior display. For example, when your child stops crying suddenly after handing him a chocolate box, there’s a high chance you will give chocolate box when he cries again.

Punishment is the demonstration of an unpleasant event that leads to behavior decrease. It comprises positive punishment and involves weakening the response. For example, slapping a child for misbehavior.

Negative involves the removal of the outcome after the behavior. For example, the child may be refused access to video games after misbehavior.

Reinforcement Schedules

The schedules quicken the learning process, and they include the following;

Continuous reinforcement- involves presenting reinforcement once a response occurs. Learning always takes place quickly, low response rate and quick extinction when reinforcement is stopped.

Fixed-ratio schedules are characterized by the reinforcement of responses only after a certain number of responses have occurred, resulting in a partially steady response rate (Talyzina, 1981).

Fixed-interval schedules- partial reinforcement mode in which reinforcement occurs after a specific time interval has elapsed. Response rates are steady and go up but slow down immediately after delivering reinforcement.

Variable-ratio schedules entail behavior reinforcement after unspecified response rates, leading to a high response rate and slow extinction rates.

Variable interval schedule- This type of partial reinforcement schedule described by Skinner involves reinforcement delivery after a certain amount of time has ended. This also leads to a high response rate and slow extinction rates (Talyzina, 1981).

Observational Learning

This is a learning method based on observation. Children grow slowly observing and paying attention to what people surrounding them (models) do and imitate them. The human memory is thought to reflect the working functionalities of the computer. It processes the information. The whole process of information processing flows as follows; sensory memory involves sensing of information and holding temporarily.  In selection attention, the learner chooses which information to process, ignoring the rest (Talyzina, 1981). Pattern recognition is the recognition and familiarization of the information. Short-term memory is where data is stored temporarily for a response or further processing.  Rehearsal and chunking- repeating and collecting both ideas and numbers to initiate the encoding process. Encoding is the memorization of information about ideas and concepts. Long-term memory (permanent storehouse of data) and finally retrieval. Information is retrieved for understanding purposes.


Brain, C. (2015). Edexcel psychology: Student guide 2.

Talyzina, N. (1981). The psychology of learning: Theories of learning and programmed instruction. Moscow: Progress.



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