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A brief summary, related links, and keywords related to the learning process.

Although the term learning has many possible meanings, the term as used by teachers emphasizes its relationship to curriculum, to teaching, and to the issues of sequencing, readiness, and transfer. Viewed in this light, the two major psychological perspectives of learning—behaviorist and constructivist—have important ideas to offer educators. Within the behaviorist perspective are two major theories or models of learning, called respondent conditioning and operant conditioning. Respondent conditioning describes how previously neutral associations can acquire the power to elicit significant responses in students. Operant conditioning describes how the consequences and cues for a behavior can cause the behavior to become more frequent. In either case, from a teacher’s point of view, the learned behaviors or responses can be either desirable or unwanted.

The other major psychological perspective—constructivism—describes how individuals build or “construct” knowledge by engaging actively with their experiences. The psychological version of constructivism emphasizes the learners’ individual responses to experience—their tendency both to assimilate it and to accommodate to it. The social version of constructivism emphasizes how other, more expert individuals can create opportunities for the learner to construct new knowledge. Social constructivism suggests that a teacher’s role must include deliberate instructional planning, such as facilitated by Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives, but also that teachers need to encourage metacognition, which is students’ ability to monitor their own learning.

On the internet

< (External Link) >This is the website for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and as such it is an excellent source of examples of how behaviorist learning principles can be applied to a wide variety of behavior-related difficulties. Any article older than one year is available in full-text, free of charge from the website. (If it is from the most recent three issues, however, you have to subscribe to the journal.)

< www.piaget.org >This is the website for the Jean Piaget Society, which in spite of its name is not just about Piaget, but about all forms of constructivist research about learning and development, including social constructivist versions. They have excellent brief publications about this perspective, available free of charge at the website, as well as information about how to find additional information.

Key terms

Appropriate (verb)


Bloom’s taxonomy

Classical conditioning


Psychological constructivism

John Dewey

Jean Piaget





Social constructivism

Jerome Bruner

Instructional scaffolding

Lev Vygotsky

Zone of proximal development



Extrinsic motivation



Intrinsic motivation


Operant conditioning




Schedule of reinforcement

Ivan Pavlov


Respondent conditioning

Conditioned response

Conditioned stimulus

Unconditioned response

Unconditioned stimulus

B. F. Skinner



Alberto, P.&Troutman, A. (2005). Applied behavior analysis for teachers, 7th edition . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Anderson, L.&Krathwohl, D. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives . New York: Longman.

Bruner, J. (1960). The process of education . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Copple, C.&Bredekamp, S. (2006). Basics of developmentally appropriate practice . Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dewey, J. (1938/1998). How we think . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Ferster, C., Skinner, B. F., Cheney, C., Morse, W.,&Dews, D. Schedules of reinforcement . New York: Copley Publishing Group.

Fosnot, C. (Ed.). (2005). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice, 2nd edition . New York: Teachers College Press.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century . New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (2006). The development and education of the mind . New York: Routledge.

Goldman, J. (2006). Web-based designed activities for young people in health education: A constructivist approach. Health Education Journal 65(1) , 14-27.

Gruber, H.&Voneche, J. (Eds.). (1995). The essential Piaget . New York: Basic Books.

Israel, S. (Ed.). (2005). Metacognition in literacy learning . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Lavond, D.&Steinmetz, J. (2003). Handbook of classical conditioning . Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishing.

Mazur, J. (2005). Learning and behavior, 6th edition . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Onslow, M., Menzies, R.,&Packman, A. (2001). An operant intervention for early stuttering. Behavior modification 25(1) , 116-139.

Pavlov, I. (1927). Conditioned reflexes . London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Piaget, J. (2001). The psychology of intelligence . London, UK: Routledge.

Rockmore, T. (2005). On constructivist epistemology . Lanham, MD: Rowman&Littlefield Publishers.

Salkind, N. (2004). An introduction to theories of human development . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms . New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Skinner, B. F. (1948). Walden Two . New York: Macmillan.

Skinner, B. F. (1988). The selection of behavior: The operant behaviorism of B. F. Skinner . New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tharp, R.&Gallimore, R. (1991). Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning, and schooling in social context . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Source:  OpenStax, Educational psychology. OpenStax CNX. May 11, 2011 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11302/1.2
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