Sei sulla pagina 1di 48

Language Learning

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

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

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

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
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

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.


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
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
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

Piaget (1970) proposed that children

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

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

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

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

Equilibration: it is the master

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

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

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

What is meant by
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

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
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

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

We are more likely to be successful in

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whats Humanism?

Humanism focuses on;

Students uniqueness: personality,
behaviour, learning styles,
motivation, self-esteem and
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

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.


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.