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Language Learning

Theories
1. Behaviourism
2. Cognitivism
3. Social Constructivism
4. Humanism

Behaviourism
The core to all of behaviorism is the
assumption that human and animal
behaviours are determined by
learning and reinforcement.
Whether by classical conditioning or
operant conditioning, species acquire
new skills, deepening on the effects
these skills have on the specie's
environment.

A famous proponent of behaviourism,


Burrhus Frederic Skinner, noticed that
the responses he was recording when
he experimented with rats that
behaviour were influenced not only
by what preceded them but also by
what followed them.
The common behavioural approach at
the time was influenced by the work
of Pavlov and Watson, both of whom
focused on the stimulus-response
paradigm.

B.F Skinner found that if an action


proves to have a positive outcome
(e.g., by pressing a button, a rat
receives food), the organism is more
likely to continue to repeat this
behaviour.
However, if the outcome is negative
(e.g., if by pressing a button, a rat
receives a shock), the organism is
less likely to repeat the behaviour.

Skinner, and Stimulus-Response (S-R)


adherents, believed that behaviourist
theory could be used to infer a
learning history.
They held that one could take an
animal or person, observe its/his/her
behaviour, and figure out what had
been reinforced previously.

Behaviorists reduced all responses to


associations, to a pattern of positive
and negative reinforcement that
establishes links between stimuli and
their environmental antecedents and
consequences.

Cognitive psychologists challenge the


limitations of behaviorism in its focus
on observable behaviour.
They incorporate mental structure and
process into their learning theories.
However like behaviourists, they
engage more in the hypotheicodeductive scientific inquiry.

Cognitivism

Cognitive psychology emphasizes the


internal processes and structures
processes inferred through the
observation of behaviour.

The internal representation of the


learners can echo the external
reality, which asserts a position of
objectivism that the mind can stand
separate and independent from the
body.
Thus, knowledge can be transferred
from the outside of the mind into the
inside of the mind.

Noam Chomsky asserted that


language learning must include
internal constructs. (cognitivism)
A theory that only considers the
observable stimuli and responses in
linguistic interaction is not sufficient.
Psychologists believed that
knowledge comes from more than
just experience; it also involves the
knower actively imposing
organization on sensory data.

Kohler (1925, The Mentality of Apes)


proposed that behaviour could not be
explained by the principles of
association alone.
He proposed that there was an inner
process that enabled the apes to
grasp the structure of a situation, in
which learners recognized the
interconnection based on the
properties of things themselves.

As posited by Kohler (1925),


Learning, therefore, does not occur in
a regular, continuous way from a
pattern of trial and error.
Instead, learning occurs with a
realization of a new relationship, 'the
insight experience'.

Piaget's Cognitive
Development
Piaget's theory intends to explain the
following phenomena:
1. What are the psychological states that
children pass through at different points
in their development?
2. What are the mechanisms by which
they pass from one state to another?
How do changes in children's thinking
occur?

Piaget (1970) proposed that children


progress through an invariant
sequence of four stages:
sensormotor, pre-operational,
concrete operational and formal
operational.
Those stages are not arbitrary, but
are assumed to reflect qualitative
differences in children's cognitive
abilities.

Piaget postulated that being


controlled by the logical structures in
the different developmental stages,
learners cannot be taught key
cognitive tasks if they have not
reached a particular stage of
development.

learning process is iterative, in


which new information is shaped to
fit with the learner's existing
knowledge, and existing knowledge
is itself modified to accommodate
the new information. (Piaget, 1985)

The major concepts in thiscognitive


process include:
Assimilation: it occurs when a child
perceives new objects or events in terms
of existing schemes or operations.
Children and adults tend to apply any
mental structure that is available to
assimilate a new event, and they will
actively seek to use a newly acquired
structure. This is a process of fitting new
information into existing cognitive
structures

Accommodation: it has occurred


when existing schemes or operations
must be modified to account for a
new experience. This is a process of
modifying existing cognitive
structures based upon new
information.

Equilibration: it is the master


developmental process,
encompassing both assimilation and
accommodation.
Anomalies(irregularities) of
experience create a state of
disequilibrium which can be only
resolved when a more adaptive, more
sophisticated mode of thought is
adopted.

Piaget'sconception of
equilibration(1985) implied a
dynamic construction process of
human's cognitive structure.
There is no structure apart from
construction because the being of
structure consists in their coming to
be, that is, their being 'under
construction.

The latest catchword in educational


circles is "constructivism, " applied
both to learning theory and to
epistemology---both to how people
learn, and to the nature of
knowledge.

What is meant by
constructivism?
The term refers to the idea that
learners construct knowledge for
themselves---each learner
individually (and socially) constructs
meaning---as he or she learns.
Constructing meaning is learning;
there is no other kind.

The dramatic consequences of this


view are two fold;
1) we have to focus on the learner in
thinking about learning (not on the
subject/lesson to be taught):
2) There is no knowledge
independent of the meaning
attributed to experience
(constructed) by the learner, or
community of learners.

Learning is not understanding the "true"


nature of things, nor is it (as Plato
suggested) remembering dimly
perceived perfect ideas, but rather a
personal and social construction of
meaning out of the bewildering array of
sensations which have no order or
structure besides the explanations which
we fabricate for them.
Dewey, Piaget and Vigotsky among
others are famous proponents of this
thought.

Principles of learning;

Learning is an active process in which


the learner uses sensory input and
constructs meaning out of it.

The more traditional formulation of


this idea involves the terminology of
the active learner (Dewey's term)
stressing that the learner needs to do
something; that learning is not the
passive acceptance of knowledge
which exists "out there" but that
learning involves the learners
engaging with the world.

People learn to learn as they learn:


learning consists both of constructing
meaning and constructing systems of
meaning.
For example, if we learn the
chronology of dates of a series of
historical events, we are
simultaneously learning the meaning
of a chronology.

Each meaning we construct makes


us better able to give meaning to
other sensations which can fit a
similar pattern.
The crucial action of constructing
meaning is mental: it happens in the
mind.

Physical actions, hands-on


experience may be necessary for
learning, especially for children, but
it is not sufficient; we need to
provide activities which engage the
mind as well as the hands.(Dewey
called this reflective activity.)

Learning involves language: the


language we use influences learning.
On the empirical level; researchers
have noted that people talk to
themselves as they learn.
Vigotsky argues that language and
learning are inextricably intertwined.

Learning is a social activity: our


learning is intimately associated with
our connection with other human
beings, our teachers, our peers, our
family as well as casual
acquaintances, including the people
before us or next to us at the exhibit.
We are more likely to be successful in
our efforts to educate if we recognize
this principle rather than try to avoid
it.

We are more likely to be successful in


our efforts to educate if we recognize
this principle rather than try to avoid
it.

Learning is contextual:
we do not learn isolated facts and
theories in some abstract ethereal
(delicate/light) land of the mind
separate from the rest of our lives:
we learn in relationship to what else
we know, what we believe, our
prejudices and our fears.

On reflection, it becomes clear that


this point is actually a corollary
(direct/formal) of the idea that
learning is active and social. We
cannot divorce our learning from our
lives.

One needs knowledge to learn: it is


not possible to assimilate new
knowledge without having some
structure developed from previous
knowledge to build on.

The more we know, the more we can


learn.
Therefore any effort to teach must be
connected to the state of the learner,
must provide a path into the subject
for the learner based on that
learner's previous knowledge.

It takes time to learn: learning is not


instantaneous.
For significant learning we need to
revisit ideas, ponder them try them out,
play with them and use them. This
cannot happen in the 5-10 minutes.

Reflect on anything you have


learned, you will soon realize that it
is the product of repeated exposure
and thought.
Moments of profound insight, can be
traced back to longer periods of
preparation.

Language Learning
Theories

HUMANISM AND
LANGUAGE LEARNING

Preliminary Discussion
In a language course, success
depends less on materials, techniques
and linguistic analysis, but more on
what goes on inside and between the
people in the classroom.
Teachers can affect the lives and
personal growth of learners of any
age by what transpires in the
classroom.

Whats Humanism?
APPROACH WHICH STUDIES THE
UNIQUENESS, EACH PERSONS
INDIVIDUALITY, AS WELL AS
THOSE PROCESSES WHICH MAKE
US MORE HUMAN.

Humanism focuses on;


Students uniqueness: personality,
behaviour, learning styles,
motivation, self-esteem and
autonomy.
Teachers attitude towards students.
Learning atmosphere

Humanism - concerned with human


worth, individuality, humanity,
freedom for the individual to
determine personal actions.
Development of human potential is
highly valued; the attainment of
material goals is emphasised.
Self-actualisation - the end toward
which all humans strive.

Humanism would concentrate upon the


development of the child's self-concept.
If the child feels good about him or
herself then that is a positive start.
Feeling good about oneself would
involve an understanding of ones'
strengths and weaknesses, and a belief
in one's ability to improve.

Learning is not an end in itself; It is


the means to progress towards the
pinnacle of self-development, which
Maslow terms 'Self-actualisation'.
A child learns because he or she is
inwardly driven, and derives his or
her reward from the sense of
achievement that having learned
something affords.

Humanistic approach is where


education is really about creating a
need within the child, or instilling
within the child self-motivation.
Behaviourism is about rewards from
others. Humanism is about rewarding
yourself!

Tutorial task
Group Discussion: Share experiences
in learning English and link it to
constructivism and cognitivism.
Describe ones commitment,
involvement and effort to learn for
each learning theory.

ISL

week 3

Source for and do extensive reading


on Maslows idea of the selfdevelopment which he terms as selfactualisation and relate it to English
language learning.