Behaviorist and Cognitive Learning Perspectives

When it comes to education and learning, there are many different fields and approaches to help explain and improve how students learn such as behavioral, cognitive, constructivist, and social cognitive. Some theories coming from different approaches tend to conflict with each other, but there are also ones that work together, for example: the nature vs. nurture debate. The main difference between behaviorist and cognitive learning perspectives is behaviorism focuses more on explaining things through one’s outward behavior or things that can be observed, while cognitivism revolves around cognitive processes such as decision making and memory. These psychological perspectives come into play a lot when considering what teaching styles do and don’t work and for what reasons. We can and should consider both theories when aspiring to perfect our teaching methods because there are students with many different backgrounds and learning styles, so it is important to find ways to reach each and every one of them.


So what does this mean specifically for applying these theories to the classroom setting? When considering Albert Bandura’s theory that environmental factors, personal factors, and behavior all flow together from one to the other and vice versa, it can explain almost all types of behavior in the classroom. For example: one of your students acts out constantly, talks out of turn, and seems to always need the attention of the class and the teacher on them…one possible factor that is causing the expression of this particular behavior with this child is that maybe they have neglectful parents at home who don’t take care of the child’s physical and emotional needs. There are endless other examples, but overall this theory says that any factor whether it be environmental or cognitive can create a domino effect of behaviors. Before jumping to conclusions about your students’ behavior, it is very important to consider the “why” and not the “what”.

Group Of Primary Schoolchildren And Teacher Working At Desks In Classroom

Some concrete applications of cognitive theory in the classroom include: being a good role model to your students. Be someone that they can look up to and model after. Encourage your students. If they have low self confidence they might need someone else to tell them that they can do it until they believe it themselves and live up to their full potential. An example for older students, possibly juniors or seniors in high school is to teach them about shallow and deep processing and different study techniques to help retain information that will come in handy when pursuing a higher education like what Stephen Chew discussed in his videos. Although extremely beneficial, there are some limitations to these theories. Unfortunately, like most things in life, problems and situations in the classroom are not always black and white and therefore require something more than a black and white solution. What I mean by this is that there are a lot gray areas when it comes to your students’ lives and learning experiences, and it may take some trial and error to figure out what specifically the problem is and what does and doesn’t work for them.


When it comes to my own beliefs in regards to the role of teachers, peers, and students, I’d have to say I fit somewhere in with the constructivist theory, more specifically individual. As I said before though, I think a teacher is putting all of their students at a disadvantage if they only choose to study the theory that resides with them. Although I am more of an individualistic learner and like to build onto things I already know, that doesn’t mean that will work for all of my future students too. Some kids really rely on their peers to help them learn, some like to learn alone. Some kids only need their teacher to guide them in the right direction, others need their teacher to manage and supervise everything they do. Every child is different and in my future teaching career I hope to get to know all of my students well enough to figure out their own individual needs and do my best to satisfy them.


Works Cited:

Barth, D. Caine, G. Caine, R. Sullo, B. (2017, January 5). Jean Piaget: Cognitive Development in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Chew, S. (2011, August 16). How to Get the Most Out of Studying: Part 2 of 5, “What Students Should Know About How People Learn”. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Chew, S. (2011, August 16). How to Get the Most Out of Studying: Part 3 of 5, “Cognitive Principles for Optimizing Learning”. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Hurst, M. (2015, June 4). Using Cognitive Development Psychology in the Classroom – Video & Lesson Transcript. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

McGuire, S. (2013, March 26). Study Smarter | Dr. Saundra McGuire on The Study Cycle. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from

Woolfolk, A. E. (2008). Educational psychology: active learning edition.Retrieved March 14, 2017, Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

1 Comment »

  1. John LePine Said,

    March 14, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

    I agree that a good positive role model in the class room can effect a student’s way of behaving inside the classroom, as well as outside of it. The outside factors also play a big role in this so as future educators we should be aware of all students home life so we know how to address the issues when it comes to adapting to a new environment and explain why they need to act differently in a variety of situations.

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