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Definition of Learning as a Process (Definition 1)

Effective Way of Learning as a Student. Learning is defined as a process in which behaviour can be initiated for the first time in the life of a person, an old or existing knowledge can be modified (as when a person is given correction)  or an old behaviour is completely changed or wiped out (as in the case truly born again Christian).

Definition of learning as an end product of instruction (Definition 2)

Here, learning is defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour as a result of practice and reinforcement “(Decoco 1963. p243).

My Personal Definition of Learning (Definition 3)

Learning can be defined as the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge behaviours, skills, values, attitudes & preferences. The ability to learn is processed by humans animals some machines.

Learning can also be defined as an active process of appropriation (making one’s own) of knowledge, abilities, and skills in order to enhance the personal or collective control of the potential (competence) of shaping reality in a given context or situation. However, learning can take place in the following styles, visual, auditory & kinesthetic.

Firstly: Learning theories are said to be a set of provisional explanatory propositions or sets of propositions pertaining to learning problems and they are based on empirical observations. They explain events in the learning process, including, associated rules and principles.


The Following are all the Learning Theories to be critically examined showing their merits and demerits and showing the educational implications of the theories.

  1. Thorndike’s Theory of Learning

(Edward Lee Thorndike 187-1949).

2. Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning

(Ivan Petrovich Pavlov 1849-1936)

3. Operant Conditioning Theory of Learning

(Skinner, Burrhus Frederick 1904-1990)

4. Cognitive/ field Theory of Learning

(Insightful Theory)

(Kurt Koffka 1886-1941)

5. Jean Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Mental Intellectual Development

(Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

advantages and disadvantages of online learning

Five (5) Definitions of Learning

  1. According to Ekeruo, Ikediashi, ekwe, and Nwanuo (19897)

Learning may be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour as evidenced by a change in performance through practice, training, or experience.

  1. Learning is a process by which it results in a more or less permanent behaviour traceable to exposure to conditions in environment, experience, or practice (Oladele, 1989:73)
  2. Learning refers to the change in the subject’s behaviour to a given situation, provided that the behaviour change cannot be explained on the basis of negative response tendencies maturation or temporary state of the subject (e.g fatigue, drugs, etc).
  3. Learning may be defined as a process by which behaviour can be initiated for the first time in the life of a person, or an old or existing behaviour can be modified as when a person is given correction) or an old behaviour is completely changed or wiped out (as in the case of truly born-again Christians.
  4. Learning can also be defined as a relatively enduring change in behaviour which is a function of prior behaviour.

Examine critically all the theories of learning showing their merits and demerits and their educational implications 

  1. Thorndike’s theory known as connectionism: This theory links sensory activities (events) stimulus in this context refers to the source of energy that is capable of activating sensory organs.

          Thorndike believed that stimulus and response are connected by neutral bonds. He was of the view that learning occurs through trial and error. Hence this constitutes the basic form of learning. In his experiments, he conducted his experiments using animals, Thorndike confined a hungry cat inside a puzzle box and food (fish) was placed outside the box. This theory links sensory activities (events) to behavour. It postulates that there exists a formation of bonds or connections between stimulus and responses (S-R)


  1. Repetition should be the best thing that teachers have to do in a classroom
  2. Practice is emphasized therefore, teachers should give learners exercises assignments, homework, and projects.
  3. Continuous assessment opportunities should be provided to make learners answer to problems.
  4. The reward is even important because it promotes learning the other hand, the teacher should avoid punishments or making students embarrassed.
  5. Preparation for learning may be the most important. A teacher should wait until students is ready to learn and he should give those experiences that can help students to improve their readiness
  6. Learning materials should be presented from simple to complex and from complex to super.
  7. Materials taught should be relevant to real-life situations and not just.


  1. Learning is a continuous process and not a discrete as Thorndike visualized
  2. Problem-solving learning does not depend on trial and error as Thorndike demonstrated
  3. Remembering and forgetting are neglected
  4. Transfer of learning cannot be enplaned by the theory
  5. Practice or excessive drilling of the same thing may lead to functional fixedness and one’s ability to solve problems.


  • With the help of this theory, the wrong habits of the children can be modified and the good habits strengthened the effects of rewards and punishment also affecting the learning of the child. Thus, the theory lays emphasis on the use of reward and punishment in the class by the teacher.
  • The implication of the cognitive implication of learning to the development of teaching. Teachers should organize the teaching materials in a way that the concept in them can easily be acquired and processed by the learner’s mind.
  1. Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning Pavlov,  Theory

Classical conditioning theory involves learning a new behaviour through the process of association. In simple terms, two stimuli are linked together to produce a new learned response in a person or animal.

Classical conditioning was first described in 1903 by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist. He used Pavlov’s Dogs experiments, while doing research on the digestive system of dogs, Pavlov, encountered a phenomenon he labeled psychic reflexes” His experiment involved the use of a buzzer or metronome and the subsequent presence of the meat powder. He would ring the buzzer, and then observe the dog’s saliva production at the presence of the food, over time, however, Pavlov,  noticed that the dogs would salivate even before the meat powder was presented, as a reaction to the Buzzar’s sound.


  1. Classical conditioning can be applied in the classroom, for the creation of a pleasant environment that can make school a positive experience for students.
  2. Classical conditioning can be used to make learners favorably disposed to a subject by presenting subjects or tasks in a non-threatening manner.
  3. The principle of classical conditioning can be used to help learners develop good habits


  1. Problem-solving has no explanation from the theory of classical conditioning
  2. Remembering and forgetting have no explanation for classical conditioning
  3. Rewards, punishment, and its effects on learning have not been satisfactorily explained

Implication Of Pavlov’s Learning Theory

  1. The training of animals in zoological gardens and those used for arcus shows are based on the classical conditioning procedure.
  2. Classical conditioning can be used to make learners be favourably disposed to school subjects, teachers,s and the school in general.
  3. The teacher should endeavor to judiciously use reward in classroom activities because the removal of this implies that the response of the organism is extinguished or extraction takess place.


B.F Skinner a renowned American psychologist is regarded as the founder of Operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning is a method of learning that takes place through rewarding or punishing a certain behaviour.

Skinner (1948) studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals, which he placed in a Skinner Box which was similar to Thorndike’s Puzzle box. Skinner identified three types of responses or operants that can follow behavior.

  • As neutral operant: Response from the environment that neither increases nor decrease the probability of a behaviour being repeated.
  • Reinforcer: Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavoiur being repeated.

Reinforcers can be either positive or negative.

  • Punishers: Responses from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated punishment weakens behaviour

Merits  of operant’s conditioning of learning

  • Operant conditioning is a vehicle for teachers to achieve behaviour modification in order to improve classroom management and facilitate learning.
  • Learning complex behaviour can also be facilitated through operant conditioning.

(3)It provides teachers with a set of tools for improving classroom management and student learning


  1. Operant conditioning does not explain the transfer of learning apart from the fact that it explains stimulus generation
  2. It neglects innate endowment.
  3. It is superficial and does not deal with the depth of the mind.
  4. It dehumanizes the learning process.
  5. It fails to account for spontaneity, curiosity, and creativity among learners.

Implications of Skinner’s operant conditioning theory

  1. The objective of teaching should be defined in measurable and observable terms such that the extent of goal achievement can be evaluated.
  2. The teacher should endeavor to praise or acknowledge correct responses from the student’s applause should be given for good behavior.
  3. The Insightful learning theory:

The contribution of gestalt psychologists is the theory of learning by a is Gestalt insight term derived from the German word “ Gestalten” which means pattern, shape, form, wholeness organization, or configuration. He passed the time conducting experiments on chimpanzees, many of these experiments were investigations into how the animals learned to solve problems.


Insight therapy would safely attempt to bring those childhood memories to the surface in order to promote further understanding of who you are and why you do the things you do.

  1. Helps in solving problems through one’s own efforts.
  2. The teacher should make use of problems solving approach for better learning.

Demerits of Insightful Learning Theory

  1. Insight theory makes less emphasis on past experience
  2. Understanding of does not always come suddenly.
  3. The theory does not emphasize the importance of exercise and learning.

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Educational Implications of Insightful Learning Theory

  1. Project method, heuristic and discovery methods should be introduced to the teaching/learning activities
  2. The teacher should expose the learner to the problem-solving method of learning.
  3. The learner should be assisted to develop a scientific attitude and use the scientific method of inquiry.
  4. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive mental intellectual development (Jean Piaget 18 96-1980)

Piaget researched children’s cognitive development, Piaget studies the intellectual development of his own three children and created a theory that described the stages that children pass through in the development of intelligence and formal thought processes.

Merits of Cognitive Learning

  1. Cognitive learning theory enhanced lifelong learning
  2. In this process, children build their own way of learning
  3. From children’s errors, teachers can obtain insights into the child’s view of the world and can tell where guidance is needed


The main disadvantage of the cognitive approach is that it refers to cognitive processes that we cannot directly observe.

  1. It ignores other factors towards behavior that have been shown to affect behavior.
  2. It relies heavily on inference.


Piaget’s Theory describes the cognitive development of children. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive processes and abilities.

In Piaget’s view, early cognitive development involves processing based upon actions and later progresses to changes in mental operations.

Demerit Piaget’s Theory

  1. Doesn’t take into account a child’s upbringing
  2. Doesn’t consider that children learn at different rates.
  3. Doesn’t take learning disabilities into consideration.
  4. Based on a small number of children.
  5. Both under and estimate children’s cognitive abilities.



  • Manipulation of materials should be encouraged in recognition of the concrete thinking of a child below the stage of formal operation.
  • Pupils interaction should be encouraged in order to permit children at the same level of cognitive development to explain things to each other in terms that are mutually understandable.
  • Teachers’ interaction with individual children should be encouraged to allow for the fact that different children in a class are certain to be at different levels of cognitive development.

(b)     Choose the most relevant theories to Nigeria education and the reasons

Skinner’s operant conditioning theory of learning


  • Skinner’s operant conditioning theory explains why reinforcements can be used so effectively in the learning process, and how schedules of reinforcement can affect the outcome of conditioning.

It encourages positive reinforcement which can be applied in the classroom environment to get the good behaviour you want and need from your pupils.


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