UGC NET Study Notes on Theories of Learning

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

The topic Theories of Learning is often asked in the UGC NET Paper 1 exam. The overall score will increase by scoring well in Paper 1 of UGC NET. This topic comes under Learning and further under Teaching Aptitude. We are providing you with complete detailed information about Value Education in this article from which candidates will understand. 

Get complete UGC NET Study Notes on Learning Theories which includes the definition, concept, scope and more


What is Learning Theories?

A. Introduction to Learning

  • Learning is a permanent change in behaviour or attitude of a person, because of direct and indirect experience or education and training and practice.
  • “Learning is any relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience”. The definition comprises some essential elements: Change process, Setting behavioural actions, need for meaningful experience and permanent change.
  • The motivation of the learner, the Mental set of the learner, Nature of Learning, Material Practice and Environment are the factors that affect the learning process.

B. Theories of learning

  • Classical Conditioning Theory
  • Operant Conditioning Theory
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Cognitive Learning Theory

Types of Learning Theories

1- Classical Conditioning Theory

  • Classical conditioning is the relationship of one event with another and desired event resulting in behaviour.
  • Developed on the basis of experiments by Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist who tried to establish a Stimulus-Response (S-R) connection/ link.
  • In his experiment, he correlated the dog’s salivation and the ringing of the bell. Pavlov carried out his experiment in three stages.
  • Stage I: The dog is provided with a piece of meat, the dog shows a noticeable increment in salivation. Here, the meat is an unconditional stimulus that is biologically effective and salivation is an unconditional response to the unconditioned stimulus which is an unlearned response.
  • Stage II: In this stage, rather than being given a piece of meat the dog was unveiled with the sound of the ringing bell; the dog did not salivate to the mere sound of a ringing bell.
  • Stage III: In order to build the relationship, he repeated the presentation of meat and the ringing of a bell frequently. After some time, the dog began to salivate whenever the bell rang. After repeating the same process, the dog started salivating just at the sound of the bell, even if no food was shown. Hence, the dog was conditioned to respond to the sound of a bell and started salivating. This is the Conditioned response to the conditioned stimulus when it is presented solely.
  • Classical conditioning represents only a very small part of total human learning as it plays only a passive role.

2- Operant Conditioning Theory

  • Proposed by F. Skinner, this theory is also called instrumental conditioning, which says, it is a learning process that deals with response stimulus connection.
  • According to this theory, learning depends on voluntary behaviour which is the impact of consequences, pleasant and unpleasant responses. In case the consequences are pleasant, the behaviour related to such consequences will be repeated in future and if it is unpleasant, the behaviour will be inactive.
  • The principle of the theory is that people learn to behave to achieve what they want or to ignore something they don’t want. 

UGC NET Study Notes on Theories of Learning

  • In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement increases a pleasant stimulus which in turn strengthens behaviour, for example giving reward to a child after completion of an activity. While, negative reinforcement decreases an unpleasant stimulus which in turn strengthens behaviour, for example consuming painkiller to reduce pain, will lead to consuming it again when pain rises. 
  • Positive punishment initiates unpleasant stimuli, which leads to weakening of behaviour, for example punishing a student for misbehaving in class. While Negative punishment leads to withdrawal of pleasant stimuli, which results in weakening of behaviour, for example taking away a child’s phone if he breaks rules.

3- Social Learning Theory

  • Social learning theory is based on the rationale that People learn through both observation and direct experience. Through observing people in our social circle such as, parents, friends, teachers, peers, internet and television, performers, superiors, or colleagues, a new behaviour pattern is learned.
  • According to this theory, Learning may occur by observing behaviour and by observing the outcomes of the behaviour. This process is also called vicarious reinforcement.
  • This theory is based on a behavioural approach which says, people, observe, change or sometimes build a particular environment in order to fit in a socially behavioural pattern.
  • Human behaviour is determined by three factors/influencers:
    • Environmental factors: These include social norms, approaching a community, and the ability to change their own environment.
    • Behavioural factors: These include skills, abilities, practice and self-efficacy of a person.
    • Cognitive factors: These are also called as personal factors which include attitudes, knowledge and expectations of a person.
  • This theory assumes that learning is a combination of environmental determinants. Therefore, it emphasizes the interactive nature of cognitive, behavioural and environmental determinants.
  • There are four vital processes to detect the influence that a model will have on an individual.
    • Attention Process: People learn from a model which is attractive to be recognized and gain attention to its features.
    • Retention Process: It depends on the remembrance of the model’s activities after the model is not readily available.
    • Motor Reproduction Process: Individuals can repeat the activities by observing the model.
    • Reinforcement Process: Individuals get motivated to perform in a certain way if reinforcement is positive. Positive incentives or rewards are provided.

4- Cognitive Learning Theory

  • Cognition indicates a person’s thoughts, knowledge, ideas or views about himself and the environment in which he lives.
  • An experiment was conducted on a monkey by Kohler. Kohler conducted this experiment on monkeys by presenting two sticks in a cage. Sticks were very short to grab a banana kept right outside the cage, which produced cognition in monkeys. The Monkey then joined both sticks together and pulled the banana inside the cage which proves that learning took place inside the mind of the monkey.
  • The learning process is gathering or organizing various information about an event, in a pattern perceived inside the mind of the learner.
  • According to this theory, a person learns the meaning of various objects and events and the response depending upon the meaning assigned to the stimuli.
  • According to the pioneer of this theory, Edward Tolman, the theory identifies the role of an individual in receiving, memorizing, organising and interpreting the stimulus and reaction to the same.
  • This theory includes the relationship between environmental/cognitive indications and expectations.

How to Prepare for Theories of Learning?

Candidates preparing for UGC NET Exam have to prepare for the Learning Theories topic which is an important topic in UGC NET Paper 1.

  • All the applicants are also advised to solve as many UGC NET Previous Year Papers as possible. Previous Year Papers give you an idea of what to expect in the examination, it prepares you for the types of questions asked in the examination. 
  • UGC NET Mock Tests are also proven to be a great tool for preparation.

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