Understanding Learning Theories


Learning theories inform organised set of principles which explain the way individuals retain, develop, acquire and recall knowledge. In this assignment, the learning theories along with principles and models are explored to understand the way they contribute to learning and teaching.

Analysis of theories, principles and models related to learning

The behaviourism is a theory related to learning which focuses on the idea that all nature of behaviours is learned through conditioning which happens by interacting with the environment (Murtonen et al. 2017). This means that an individual’s behaviour is shaped by the way the person acts towards environmental stimuli. According to classic behaviourist experiment of Pavlov, a dog was conditioned to generate increased saliva when a bell was ringed as it indicates food is being provided (Aubrey and Riley, 2018). The positive reinforcement while learning increases the likelihood that learned response is to be shown again in the same situation. The criticism of behaviourism is that it has focused on one-dimensional approach to inform about the way human behaviour is learned and has ignored influence of free will, as well as internal factors like thoughts, moods and feeling, have effect on learning behaviour (Harasim, 2018).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs theory is a nature of motivational theory which includes five-tier model regarding human needs depicted in form of hierarchical levels within a pyramid. Maslow with the help of this theory has been able to focus on the physical, social, emotional as well as intellectual qualities of an individual and the way the factors impact on learning. The mentioned basic needs are to be fulfilled for motivating the learners to learn the aspects being taught (Bridgman et al. 2019). For instance, a hungry and tired student cannot learn until the individual’s basic need of sleep and food is met. The criticism regarding Maslow’s theory is that it has failed to inform and expand on the differences between intellectual and social needs of those individuals who are raised in collectivist societies to influence them to learn (Khorasani and Almasifard, 2017).


Gibb’s reflective cycle is a nature of learning model which provides plan for examination of learning experiences and given its cyclic nature helps the learner have repeated experiences which allows them to learn as well as plan for things that were good and bad. The model has six stages which are description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan (Husebø et al. 2015). The criticism regarding Gibb’s reflective model is that it leads the learner to superficially reflect their learning process and there is no implementation of critical thinking or analysis (Tanaka et al. 2018). Thus, it indicates that the learning by using the model for learning would be unable to assess their learning process in depth.

Explaining ways in which theories, models and principles of learning are to be applied in learning, teaching and assessment

The behaviourist theory informs that if positive reinforcement or any form of reward is provided by teachers when an individual or student shows a desired or positive behaviour then they will learn to perform the same behaviour on their own (Mason, 2017). Thus, teachers thinking of teaching students to learn a positive behaviour are to provide them reward for the action. However, if the teacher provides punishment to students for negative behaviour students would learn to avoid performing the same behaviour (Foong, 2017). This is because behaviourists think that people learn to show certain behaviour in response to any internal or external physical stimuli.

The Maslow’s motivation theory informs tutors to focus on basic needs to be fulfilled while framing the lesson plans so that they are able to encourage and motivate the learner to learn from them (Gemeda and Tynjälä, 2015). This is because the theory informs that fulfilling the basic needs leads the individuals reach full potential to learn something. In contrast, according to the theory, if the teachers fail to meet and incorporate the basic needs of the students then it would result the students to disengage from learning creating barrier for the individuals to reach their full potential (Fisher and Royster, 2016).

Gibb’s reflective cycle is to be applied by teachers as well as students for making self-assessment regarding what went wrong and what did well as well (Pianpeng and Koraneekij, 2016). This is because the reflection would help the teachers and students to identify their personal strength and weakness that influenced each situation helping them to plan next regarding the way to act so that the weakness can be resolved and strengths can be further improved.

Analysing models of learning preferences

The Kolb’s learning model informs four learning styles to explain learning preferences which are diverging, assimilating, converging and accommodating. The diverging individuals prefer to learn by watching rather than executing actions as they tend to collect information and use their imagination to learn and solve problems. The assimilating people prefer to learn through a concise and logical approach because for them ideas and concepts are more important. The converging individuals prefer to use their learning in solving problems and they are found to prefer technical tasks. The accommodating people prefer to learn through hands-on experience and are more relied on institution rather than thinking logically to learn (Li and Armstrong, 2015; An and Carr, 2017; Balakrishnan and Gan, 2016). The criticism of Kolb’s learning model is that it does not focus on to illustrate empirical thinking which is based on actions that may result theory to draw wrong conclusion about learning preferences of individuals (Newton, 2015).

Honey and Mumford learning model is developed based on the work of Kolb where four learning styles are informed which are pragmatists, activists, theorist and reflector to explain learning preferences. The individuals who are pragmatists prefer to learn by trying out theories, ideas and techniques to understand the way it works (Stander et al. 2019). This indicates that pragmatists are the one who are able to see the way learning can be put into practice in the real world. The activists’ individuals prefer to learn through practical experiences as they always wish to involve themselves fully and without any biases in experimental learning (Dorca et al. 2016). The individuals who are theorists prefer to learn things by understanding the theory existing behind such actions. The learners who are reflectors prefer to learn by thinking and minutely observing what has happened from different perspectives (Aljaberi, 2015). The criticism of Honey and Mumford learning model is that it does not take into context other variables such as learning disability and the way it influences learning. Moreover, the learners are seen to use more than one style as they choose learning style based on activities which result the model fails to detect which particular learning style an individual is going to use for learning purpose (Kumar and Pande, 2018).

Explaining the way to identify and account of learner’s individual learning preferences allows inclusive teaching learning and assessment

The divergent in Kolb’s model is similar to pragmatists who are focused on learning through experiments rather than practical actions. According to Honey and Mumford model, to properly teach the pragmatists they are to be involved in case studies and problem-solving so that they can discuss and have time to think about the way they can implement the learning information in real life (Truong, 2016). Thus, to include these two natures of learners the mentioned activities to be following in inclusive teaching is allowing them to think and discuss through case–studies. The reflectors are found to be similar to accommodators in Kolb's learning model as they also believe in practical experimentation to learn like reflectors. The reflectors are to be provided self-analysis questionnaire and involved in observation actives and paired discussion to help them learn (Hasibuan et al. 2016). In the case of theorist, they are found to be similar to assimilating people as both beliefs in learning through ideas and theoretical concepts. Thus, to educate them through inclusive teaching they are to be allowed to apply theories, models, quotes, stories and others into learning information (Arslan, 2018). The converging individuals are found to be similar to activities as they both wish to learn by exploring practical and technical tasks. In order to teach them in inclusive teaching, they are to be offered sopportunity to brainstorm, solve problem, puzzles and help them participate in competition. However, if all these nature of learners are to be included in inclusive teaching, the teacher requires to use different teaching methods so that they can implement inclusion and help each of them maximise their potential of learning new behaviours and skills.

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The above discussion informs that behaviourism, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Gibb’s reflective cycle are potential model and theories that help to encourage students in learning. The Kolb’s model and Honey & Mumford model are to be used to understand the preference of each learner to frame plan for inclusive teaching.


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