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Theories of Learning



Introduction: Learning is a fundamental process which enable an organism to service. Learning enables the organism to acquire the  fundamental skill which it can adopt and even change its environment. Learning is one of the key concept in education, and it has been identified as one of the focal area of education psychology.
Learning is a psychological process that refer to any change of behavior that is relatively permanent and could be attributed to a result of some particular experience, observation or training.
A very large number of theories have been perform by various scholars in field of psychology to explain the nature and complexity of the learning process.
A theories refers to any systematic or coherent set of ideas, principles or law proposed to further our understanding, control and prediction of natural phenomena.
Learning is complex and multifaceted in such a way that no single activity can present it completely.
The following form types of learning.
i.           Classroom Learning
ii.        Social Learning
iii.      Incidental learning
iv.      Problem solving Learning
v.        Verbal Learning
vi.      Skill Learning
There are three main classes of learning theories.
i.           Stimulus response (S-R) theories
ii.        Observational or Imitation theories
iii.      Cognitive theories
However our concerning is on Cognitive theories of learning.
Cognitive theories of learning belong to another family of learning theories different from S-R theories. Cognitive give importance to the role of perception in learning. Proponent of cognitive learning theories include Piaget, Lewin, Tolman and the Gestaltists. i.e Kohler Koffka and Wertheimer.
GESTALT THEORIES OF LEARNING: Gestalt psychology emerged as part of the growing criticism of the stimulus response theories during the 1940s and and 1950s. A group of German psychologist led by Wolfgang Kohler, Kurt Koffka and Max Wertheimer became very much dissatisfied with S-R connection as the explanation of processes as the proper subject for study and they advocated that we perceive and think of wholes rather than S-R theory assumption which claim that everything we see or think is put together of tiny piece like those of a Jigsaw Puzzle.
Gestalt is a German word meaning pattern shape, form or configuration. The gestaltists believed that we react to pattern of our own perception when we face a problem, based upon conditions in the environment. When we struggle with a problem the solution may come to use all of a sudden.
This quick response in perception on our parties called insight hence, the gestaltist research focus was mainly in the field of perception. Perception here refers to the psychological process occurring in the brain of an organism leading to the organization and interpretation of sensory information received from given stimulus or stimuli. Perception mechanism include analysis, synthesis and integration of sensory information.
Many experiments were conducted by especially Wolfgang Kohler using hungry chimpanzees placed in problem posing situations. The animals were placed in a cage and food (banana) was placed together with sticks and sometimes boxes with sticks which could aid their guest for getting the food. In these experiments, it was shown that the animal must perceive the total situation and relationship among all relevant parts of the problem before insight can occur in solving the problem. Secondly, insight tends to follow a trial and error pattern of behavior on the part of the animals. Once of high degree of transfer of similar problems.
The Gestaltist developed a number of laws which emanated from their experiments. These laws are:-
1.     Laws of Similarity: it suggests similar words, numbers and objects tends to associate in a group and easy recall from dissimilar ones.
2.     Laws of Proximity: it suggests that objects which are close in space A and B may as well perceived as a square and a triangle even though they are a collection of dots arranged in a certain pattern.
3.     Laws of Closures: it suggests the tendency to complete incomplete patterns e.g we tend to perceive incomplete figures as complete.
4.     Law of Pragnanz: it suggests that over perceptual pattern always tend to be simple, regular and complete with no loose end. The gaps are closed by the perceiver. The law of closure operates with the principle of pragnanz in all sensory modalities.
Conclusion: The nature and process of learning are very complex various theories of learning have offered substantive explanations of learning processed. To clarify the complexities of learning process, teachers need to understand the various perspectives of the learning process and tenets put forward. These will enable teachers to impact the designed goals into the students.
Summary: These theories provide definition of learning and identifies the theories that explain learning process. A application of the learning principles were also given.