Concepts and Theories of Learning (part 1)

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By Chief Ankama

THE theory of learning is among fields that received keen interest from sociologists and psychologists and anthropologists.

Researchers like Bredo look, for example, at the social construction of learning from the behaviourist and cognitivist points of view. The behaviourist theory concerns itself with the bodily movements or behaviours, while the cognitivist theory concentrates mostly on mental processes as in human symbolic problem solving. Since the two are seen to work independently from each other, they appear irreconcilable and thus practically counter productive.

Psychologists for example focus on individuals while sociologists focus on groups or larger social units (Bredo, 1997, p. 4). A learning theory that focusses on a “lone organism “excluding others is doom to zero, says Bredo. It is because of these individualistic focussed theories that a third area theory was eventually developed – that of the situated learning.

Bredo draws these three theories together through the nozzle of Functional Psychology, which is aligned with the pragmatism concepts. The two are a blend between the tough-minded – materialists and empiricists versus tender minded – idealists and nationalists. The first group views the mind as a mechanism – a unit like a car, and then explains how this unit consists of parts that are in synchrony with each other (how a theory of the mind works). The second group explains how parts construct the whole, assembling the finished product from single parts.

In essence the brain (as material on its own) without the mind is dysfunctional just as a car is unable to drive itself in the absence of related materials (including the driver) which form part of the synchrony, ie minding which is not (physically) tangible as well as drive in the example of the car, are mechanisms that enable functions to be performed (Bredo 1997, p. 7).

Here the bone of contention between the two opposing camps is a rationale to view the mind as a mechanism, which enables a function rather than it being regarded as a function. This according to Bredo, has mobilised other researchers to get involved in the analyses of how the mind works and to probe to whether behaviour is innate or not. ?

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