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The learning process is often flooded with challenges as the pool of ideas between teachers, scholars and learners expands due to their various interactions. This affects the way students and teachers interact in the learning environment. This further affects the outcome of the learning process which educational psychologists, through years of research, have come up with theories or perspectives of the learning process that brings more clarity to the outcomes realized by students despite all being in the same neutral learning environment. The behavior, change in thinking patterns and social interactions are some of the variables shaping the narrative of the result. This makes the statistics iron clad when it comes to concluding why students learn differently from each other, why teachers teach differently and the socialism aspect bringing out the difference in students learning outcomes. There are three major theories put forward that will be discussed in this text namely classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning.

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Classical Conditioning

This entails the process of learning from interaction with the environment. The classic nature over nurture phenomenon whereby stimuli is introduced to a certain subject, the stimuli enables various changes in behavior or response. Famous psychologist John Watson (1902) developed a study to explain this conditioning concept, having borrowed notes from Ivan Pavlov, who had the original concept from an observation he made when he saw dogs salivate. The

meticulous scheduling of events that leads to the result of stimulus changing made his findings interesting that other scientists picked up on it and made the concept more believable. It is often quoted that classical conditioning is the first systematic study of the laws of learning how stimuli can adapt to different conditions. There are terms developed to help in some of the experiments Pavlov did mainly the salivation of dogs and the infant’s response to various conditions. The UCS (Unconditioned stimulus), which is the object that produces a response. In the case of the dogs being shown a plate of food at specific times. The UCR (Unconditioned response), which is a response not planned but occurs as a result of UCS. The whole concept of classic conditioning is to teach a specific response to a subject. Introduce a stimulus CS, test it on the subject, make the subject respond a certain way CR, by scheduling it differently and the result will be a predetermined outcome.

In modern day learning, teachers try and use this technique to get a certain outcome from students. There a several critiques that accompany this theory, majorly of it taking a reductionist approach to science, breaking down complex behavioral analysis into simple bits of statistics for an outcome. The impact of this study, however much influence it had on the school of educational psychology, did not realize the long term effects since the mind was a complicated subject back then and still had a lot more years to be explored. This led to operant thinking that advanced some of the concepts of classical conditioning (McLeod, S.A. Classic Conditioning. 2014. Retrieved from

Operant Conditioning

This method of learning is associated with rewards and punishment as a result of certain behavior. Good behavior, according to Skinner (1948), was likely to be repeated due to the pleasantry that accompanies it, but bad behavior was unlikely to be repeated. This is sometimes referred to as the law of effect. This is less inhumane and more intricate in explaining behavior and distinguishing the circumstance that will lead to a certain type of reaction. Unlike classical conditioning, the behavior of the test subject was as a result of the environment rewarding them for a positive reaction, positive reinforcement, or a negative reaction, negative reinforcement.

A rather classic example is kids in school, if a kid plays football well enough they get accepted into a team. This is a positive response in the environment that helps shape the behavior of the kids as the grow up in society. In normal circumstances, this learning process can be complicated as the desired response, however positive it may be, may not be realized immediately as expected. Skinner noted this anomaly during one of its experiments when the rat in the skinner box failed to react to the reward of a piece of pellet by switching off the current. A reinforcement whether positive or negative, introduced and repeated many times might be effective for a while but the subject changes. The intended emotion might be lost in the loop of having to repeat the same behavior with the same reward, what is a new reward is needed? Skinner accepted the fact that consciousness of the mind is something to be taken into account if a certain response is needed.

The complexity of the mind was not understood then, but had to be explored to find out if the experiments indeed brought about such meted responses. Behavior analysis by Skinner was more about the outside interaction with the environment rather than the inside of the mind like Watson did with his experiments. The expected responses vs the realized responses were astonishing. Today, the same criteria are applied in schools or learning institutions whereby if a student does wrong, they are punished accordingly, be it a suspension or an expulsion. This kinds of measures ensures that there is enforced discipline among the students and respect of authority is achieved. The long term effect will be realized when any form of punishment, however severe it might be, might not be responded to, this was the anomaly in the experiment and led to the third learning process (McLeod, S.A. Skinner-Operant Conditioning. 2018)

Observational Learning

This is a more modern day practice whereby the environment changes, so does the person viewing the environment change. They can be negative or positive responses to the environment. This brings up the issues of adaptability to the environment. In classic natural selection in evolution theory, organisms change and adapt when the environment changes. Animals grow thicker skin during winter, human being develop more red blood cells in high altitude areas, hibernation etc. The model studied, which is the environment, provides all the necessary tools needed to survive and adapt to the new situation. In social theory studies, there are several guiding principles that make it a unique phenomenon and an effective way for people or rather organism to adapt to a certain environment. There is the aspect of behavior attention to details. The observer cannot learn any new information unless they pay close attention to the activities in the environment. There are other principles that guide this learning process like the ability to retain information that is absorbed, motivate the observers to gain more from the adaptation of new environmental variables and be able to produce the exact actions that the environment needs to strike a balance.

Human interaction, throughout history has been about progress, growth, innovation and finding new beginnings. Everyday struggles take us to different places and with the experiences we learn, grow and motivate others on the journey, which is success in everything you do. the anatomy changes physically, mentally and emotionally and this is one major difference between us humans and the rest of the organisms

A brief assessment in today’s setting on how this learning perspective affects students, it can be noted that the effects are felt in different ways by different people. The teachers, who are responsible for passing the baton to the students to carry on with the work have to observer the behaviors or the learners, see what ways to punish them to rectify behavior, get to find out new ways to effectively teach these learners to pay attention, retain knowledge and reproduce this knowledge for the benefit of society (McLeod, S.A. Observational Learning. 2018).

Works Cited:

Englewood Cliffs, Bandura A, Prentice Hall. “Observational Learning.” Social Foundations of thought and Action. 1986.

McLeod, S.A. “Operant Conditioning.” 2018.

S.A, McLeod. “Classical Conditioning.” S.A, McLeod. 2014.

Seifert, Sutton. Educational Psychology. n.d. 19 June 2018.

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