One of our modules in class focuses on different perspectives of learning; mainly behaviorism and cognitivism. This particular module made little sense at first, but after diving deeper into the concepts, I essentially came to this conclusion: behaviorism focuses on the ‘what’ that we expect or anticipate from our student and cognitivism focuses on the ‘how’ in terms of processing decisions and choices. The biggest difference between the two perspectives is the idea of predisposition. While the behaviorist standpoint adheres to a more ‘blank slate’ approach to learning and development, the cognitive perspective focuses on the idea that every student has a certain capacity to learn.
Well, the importance of this difference lies in our own values as educators, the way we interact with our students, and the material we present. If we, as teachers, feel as though our students are little minds waiting to be molded by our gift of knowledge, it shapes how we view reinforcement. If we believe that each child has the capacity to learn regardless of intellectual level, then we plan a lesson based on discovery, expansion and some self-guidance. The ideas of Vygotsky and Bandura are the two that I immediately sided with in terms of knowledge fluidity and self-efficacy. After going into the depths of Youtube to find a video that better aids to my audio/visual learning style, I came across this ( although slightly dry) useful and point-driven video on the differences in learning perspectives based on teaching.
How do I know which to use?
That’s a loaded question. In theory, we like to think (in terms of curriculum and execution) that everything is completely streamlined, efficient, and foolproof. In reality, that’s never truly the case. Concept and style mixtures happen and for good effect! To me, not every child is the same (which demonstrates my values in perspective). We must understand that while some students need a more behaviorist approach to adhere to standards in the class and to receive a baseline of information they may not have received before, some students can run on self-guidance and discovery. Learning perspectives should not be viewed as concepts that we need to adhere to, but more as references for what we want to accomplish in our classrooms.
Woolfolk, A. (2014). Educational psychology: active learning edition. Boston: Pearson.