The three main learning theories for teachers to make use of

by Brad Fein
Female teacher

No two pupils are alike, and everyone learns in their own unique way. Our brains are diverse, and our life experiences contribute to the many ways we learn. Psychologists have spent many hours administering tests to gain a better understanding of how students learn.

Current and aspiring teachers must be trained to be prepared to teach kids every day and understanding different learning styles is a crucial element of teacher education. Teachers often learn numerous well-established learning theories as they prepare to assist pupils in the classroom. Teachers that understand learning theories can utilize a variety of approaches in their classes to accommodate various types of learning. This can help all pupils maximize their academic achievement.

Whether it is a kindergarten pupil just starting on your education journey or you are working towards a degree in MA Education online and hoping to shape the future of teaching, learning is still learning. The University of Exeter offers a 100% online program to earn a Master of Arts in Education that integrates four core themes of theory, practice, research and policy.

Learning involves obtaining, modifying or enriching one’s attitudes, beliefs, behavior, knowledge, skills and worldviews by integrating personal and external experiences and influences. Learning theories generate ideas that characterize how this process occurs. In general, teachers rely on three widely established learning theories


Behaviorism is based on the assumption that knowledge is self-contained and external to the learner. In the mind of a behaviorist, the learner is a blank slate that should be filled with the ability to be taught. New associations are formed due to this contact, which leads to learning.

Learning occurs when the presented stimuli alter behavior. Pavlov’s work is a non-educational example of this. Pavlov demonstrated that stimulation induced a dog to start drooling when he heard a bell ring in his famous “salivating dog” experiment. The dog linked the bell’s ringing with being fed, so when the bell rang, it began salivating; it had learned that the noise was a forerunner to being fed.

 Teachers use behaviorism to educate students on how to respond and behave to different stimuli. This should be done frequently to remind students of the behavior that is required of them. In behavioral learning theory, positive reinforcement is crucial. Students will quickly abandon their responses if they aren’t effective without positive encouragement.

For example, if pupils typically receive a sticker every time they pass a test or quiz and educators stop supplying that positive reinforcement, fewer students may pass their test or quiz because the behavior stops being associated with being rewarded.


Internal and external influences affect an individual’s mental processes to augment learning, according to cognitive learning theory. When cognitive processes do not function consistently, learning delays and challenges can occur. Attention, observation, retrieval from long-term memory, and categorization are examples of these activities.

Several researchers have contributed significantly to this theory. Jerome Bruner concentrated on the relationship between mental processes and teaching. Another scholar, Jean Piaget, understood the importance of the environment and focused on changes in the internal cognitive structure.

Some pupils make rapid progress. Some require more time than others. When educators consider their students’ prior knowledge, they may better support each student’s unique learning experience.

Cognitivism, as a learning theory, has numerous uses in the classroom. The basic premise of any application is to include student experiences, viewpoints, and expertise. This technique can help students learn and feel appreciated and listened to. This can make the class more exciting and foster students’ lifelong love of learning.

Teacher posing


Constructivism is the idea that states that rather than passively absorbing information, we generate knowledge. Students develop their own representations of the world and incorporate new information into their pre-existing knowledge as they experience it and reflect upon it.

A typical approach to teaching relies on imparting information to students. However, constructivism contends that this cannot be done directly. Only firsthand experience can help students build their own expertise. As a result, the purpose of education is to create these experiences.

Constructivist classrooms are frequently substantially different from traditional classrooms in various ways. Constructivist classrooms focus on student questions and interests. They build on what students already know, emphasize interactive learning, and are student-centered.

Teachers engage students in dialogue to help them construct their own knowledge, they are rooted in negotiation and students work primarily in groups. Teachers in constructivist classrooms frequently engage in small group work, collaborative and interactive activities, and open debates about what students require to succeed.

However, applying learning theories is not always straightforward. Educational psychology is still grappling with the best relationship to practice… It may appear to be excessively theoretical and disconnected from the realities of everyday teaching and learning.

Most learning theorists were psychologists who conducted experimental and laboratory-based research, unlike most educators, who have been primarily concerned with directly adapting teaching approaches to classrooms and learning settings. Teaching experience is valuable since theory without experience can be misleading because it underestimates the effects of situational conditions.

Additionally, these hypotheses do not contradict one another. We do not have to stick entirely to one theory. We can integrate parts from multiple approaches that resonate with our teaching styles and reflect our best understanding of our students.

For example, a teacher may use cognitivism to improve students’ retention and recall while developing group activities that encourage social constructivism through peer-to-peer communication. Educators, particularly those with younger students, may draw on behaviorism by employing prizes and positive reinforcement to stimulate student engagement with the curriculum.

However, they must also combine humanism by empathizing with students and providing constructive comments to create a growth attitude. Finally, we may use our knowledge of developmental stages to design courses and activities to help kids grow.

Learning theories are helpful because they help teachers understand how their pupils learn. As a result, teachers can employ more comprehensive learning activities and assist students in achieving academically by utilizing various learning approaches.

Learning theories can influence all learning aspects, including formal education curriculum development and how people engage in self-learning. Although studying many educational ideas is crucial for aspiring and active teachers, understanding some of them can help anyone learn more about themselves and maximize their learning ability.

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