Table of Contents
Adolescence can be considered as a stage of life where the development leads to maturity and adulthood. It is the time when adolescents undergo various changes in their lives due to social development, emotional development, and physical development, intellectual and spiritual development. Learning is crucial to the development of the children and it is not only limited to the classroom learning needs of the individuals. Therefore, the learning process is required to be integrated for the adolescent learners. In doing so, cognitive and behavioural learning perspectives will be discussed in this study and implication of one of those perspectives on productive adolescent learning will also be discussed as well.
Comparison between behavioural learning theories and cognitive learning theories
According to the behavioural theories learning is dependent upon the environmental stimulus to which a person responds and behaviour that results due to this interaction are needed to be measurable and observable (D’Oca et al., 2017). On the other hand, cognitive theories focus on the cognitive process such as mental representations, processing of information, expectations, interests and other factors that are working behind the behaviour learned by the individual.
The classical condition theory of learning proposed by Pavlov can be highlighted here, where it is accepted that learning and behaviour of a person is controlled by the environmental events and can be explained independent of mind or consciousness. A more concise view has been presented by the Operant Conditioning theory of learning. As mentioned by (Berk, 2012), operant conditioning only focuses of repetitive behaviour based on what those behaviours brought to the individual. It can be both negative and positive through which behaviour of the learners is reinforced. This theory mainly focuses on reinforcement or reinforcers that drive a person to behave in a certain way. Reinforcers can be considered to the result of behaviour that likely to occur after behaviour is demonstrated (Christiano et al., 2017). Therefore, implying the same into the adolescent learning context, it can be stated that classroom behaviours that are dependent upon consequences mainly positive, may increase based on rewards or reinforcement given to the learners. For instance, if an adolescent is praised in front of the classmates for effective performance that learned behaviour will be persistent.
The learning theory proposed by behaviourist Thorndike also demonstrated a similar understanding where it is mentioned that behaviours that is followed by a positive consequence are likely to occur repeatedly, whereas behaviours that is followed by a negative consequence is less likely to occur repeatedly (Duchesne et al., 2012).
On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, cognitive learning theories do not deny the behaviourist perspective of learning, it only try to investigate the role of cognition on learning of individuals. As per the Theory of Cognitive Development proposed by Jean Piaget individuals undergo different developmental stages through which they acquire their knowledge, construct and use the same. As mentioned by McInerney (2014), every individual is striving for maintaining a cognitive equilibrium and try to make cohesive, what they actually know and what they see. As per this theory, the new learning material is absorbed by the learner if it fits into the existing mental framework or schema. The cognitive development of a person is dependent upon several stages that include sensory motor stage that lasts for 0-2 years of age, preoperational stage that lasts for 2-7 years of age, concrete operational stage that lasts for 7-11 years of age. However, in the adolescent stage, individuals are required to use their abstract reasoning and hypothetical thinking through which they can develop critical understanding of their surrounding stimuli (McLeod, 2018).
Therefore, based on this, learners demonstrate introspection of one’s thoughts and feelings and relate to the materials that are capable of stimulating regarding thoughts and feelings. David Elkind also expanded the theory of Piaget where he emphasised upon the egocentricity of the adolescent learners. Adolescent learners generally provide importance to the thinking about others regrading them and their emotional reactions changes based on that. Therefore, working on these learning characteristics, the learning environment is required to be interactive and encouraging so that adolescents may learn well (Woolfolk & Margetts, 2013).
Another cognitive theorist is Lawrence Kohlberg that mostly worked on the moral development of individuals which is build upon the core theoretical concepts of Piaget. As per this theory, moral development occurs in adolescence and is dependent upon thinking and reasoning of a person. Therefore, implementing this theoretical concept, it can be stated that adolescents are more likely to learn well if the surrounding environment is social contract oriented and universal ethical principles are also learned based on understanding (Ashrafi et al., 2020). Therefore, the base for cognitive learning approaches is how the adolescents utilise their personal schema and outside circumstances to learn things.
Implications of cognitive learning theory on productive adolescent learning
Cognitive learning theories have arguably played the most instrumental role in bringing about a greater sense of clarity when evaluating their implications on productive adolescent learning. It is important to note that Piaget’s theory comprising of the four developmental stages was the most significant in terms of how theoretical progressions in cognitive learning have gone on to evaluate learning within adolescents (McLeod, 2018). In terms of the implications, the ability to think logically and scientifically was the cornerstone of Piaget’s work as well as other studies that followed suit. The staircase model of development as established by Piaget was fairly constant in most of the cognitive learning theories that went on to discuss productive learning within adolescents. For instance, David Elkind’s work on adolescent learning has been widely acknowledged in terms of identifying the different implications in a relatively accurate manner (Tyler, 2020). While egocentrism was prevalent within Piaget’s work, Elkind focused on how adolescents tend to emphasize on the imaginary audience. The implications in this regards was the concept of self consciousness, a distinct desire for privacy and a tendency to limit the sharing of personal information.
The concept of formal operational thoughts is also a key implication within cognitive learning theories and is also based on the work published by Piaget. Introspection was the underlying principle in this regard; as most cognitive learning theorists opine that most individuals transition into thinking abstractly and hypothetically at the beginning of adolescence (Podgurski, 2016). It inherently leads to greater levels of introspection and idealism and may even push adolescents in taking on a critical outlook towards the actions and opinions of others. Pseudo-stupidity is also a major implication of cognitive learning theories in the context of adolescents, whereby several theorists have stated how adolescents may approach overly complex problems and fail, following which the failure is mistaken for stupidity. Most of the teaching directives and guidelines stress of reassuring adolescents in case of failures as a measure to boost self esteem and confidence, and it largely steps from the concept of pseudo-stupidity developed by cognitive learning theorists.
The implications of cognitive learning theories are also aligned with the aspect of moral development within adolescents as highlighted in the work of Kohlberg. A staircase model is evident in Kohlberg’s work, where he states that adolescents learn to understand morality in three distinct segments comprised of pre-conventional morality, conventional morality and post-conventional morality (Markova & Nikitskaya, 2017). Similar implications are observed in the work published by the widely reputed Gilligan regarding the morality of care. Both the cognitive learning theories emphasize on how children develop a sense of consideration for others as they transition into adolescence. Cumulatively, the cognitive learning theories fundamentally stress on how adolescents develop thinking abilities, and it can be broken down into five key areas. The foremost among them relates to the aspect of attention, where both selective attention as well as divided attention witness improvements (Lau & Waters, 2017). Memory and the ability to process information have also been crucial implications within cognitive learning theories, where the idea has generally been to quantify the improvements in both the areas within adolescents when compared to children.
In addition, organization and meta-cognition have also been important developmental areas, especially depicting the use of mnemonic devices such as alphabetical and numeric patterns to organize information. Meta-cognition refers to the aspect of monitoring cognitive capabilities, and this has also been a major implication as to how cognitive learning theories have incrementally developed the modern day understanding of learning and knowledge acquisition in adolescents (Cikrikci & Odaci, 2016). The aspect of deliberation within the thinking process has also been another key implication where cognitive learning theorists tend to differentiate between intuitive thought and analytic thought. Logical progressions are far more likely to be observed within adolescents as compared to children, and cognitive learning theories emphasize on exactly that when discussing the various implications on productive learning in adolescents.
In conclusion, it can be stated that behavioural learning theories and cognitive learning theories work parallel for explaining learning. However, the behavioural perspective mainly focuses upon the stimulus and reaction to the stimulus, whereas cognitive theorists focus upon the underlying mental processes of a particular behaviour and explanation for the same. The study found that adolescent learners are mostly dependent upon intuitive learning and implement analysis over different learning materials. The learning of adolescent learners is dependent upon the deliberation of thoughts and it is required that the learners need to perceive the moral correctness of the information.
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