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Journal of Knowledge Management Practice, Vol. 7, No.

2, June 2006

Human Behavior In The Context of Training: An Overview Of The Role of Learning Theories as Applied to Training and Development
ohammed !" Chowdhur#$ onroe College

ABSTRACT: This paper traces the idea from the postulated theories of learning concerning human behavior in the context of training. The study suggests that for effective training learning is a precondition. Many of the theories of learning though derived from investigations carried out in laboratory conditions are substantially different from the practical conditions under !hich human learning ta"es place but have great implications in training and development. #ach of the theories has much to contribute to enrich our understanding of the learning situations though none of them is most appropriate under all the circumstances. The situation is analogous to building a house !here sometimes a hammer is a most effective tool sometimes a scre!driver and at other times a sa!. The training director is li"e a house builder !ho selects different tools as different problems emerge $%ergenhahn &'()*. By and large the theories and principles are the means to achieve an end $e.g. transfer of learning* and not an end in themselves. +ey !ords: learning, transfer of learning, learning theories, training, develo ment



,ollo!ing the increasing role of learning theories in educational psychology there has been an ongoing trend !ith the educators and trainers to highlights the importance of learning theories in training. But as the learning theory is multidisciplinary involving areas such as educational psychology organi-ational behavior training and development and social psychology both academics and practitioners have underta"en diverse studies in different directions. An understanding of these theories is essential to find out their implications in the field of training and development. This paper attempts to examine the learning theories !ith special reference to their roles as applied to training and development. .hat is learning/ To a layman learning refers to "no!ing something. But psychologists do not agree !ith this simplistic layman vie! about learning. Although there is no acceptable definition of learning a generally accepted definition of learning is any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience $Robbins &''0*. This means that an external observer has to recogni-e that learning has ta"en place $e.g. ac1uiring a vocabulary learning to drive a car*. Bel"in and 2ray $&'((* define learning a change in the individual as a result of some intervention. 3t may be vie!ed as

an outcome or as a process. Rogers $4556* vie!s learning as a tas"7conscious or ac1uisition learning $learning involved in parenting or !ith running a home* and. 8n the other hand learning conscious or formali-ed learning arises from the process of facilitating learning. 3t is educative rather than accumulation of experience. ,ormali-ed learning ma"es learning more conscious in order to enhance it. Smith $&'04* vie!s learning as a product $the ac1uisition of a particular set of "no!ledge* process $ho! learners see" to meet needs and reach goals* and a function $ho! learners are motivated !hat brings about change*. Training is an instructor7led content7based intervention leading to desired changes in behavior $C39: 455;*. 3n training learning is vie!ed as an intervening variable to cause behavioral change !hich is a dependent variable and the experience or practice !or"s as the independent variables. T!o processes or stages of learning in the context of training are evident namely the process of ac1uiring s"ills "no!ledge and concepts and the process of putting these into actions. This differentiates training from education. 3n fact training means a !ell set of defined actions underta"en to achieve the predetermined goal !hile in educating neither the ob<ective is given nor is the means of getting it distinct $S"inner= &')0*. 8f course this extreme vie! is one !ith !hich many educators !ould not agree. :espite this the fact remains that training is goal7oriented and unli"e education each action is pre7scheduled. >earning in the context of training therefore is !ell connected !ith the post learning application other!ise "no!n as the transfer of learning. >earning is an integral part of training. >earning is a personal act. .e each place our o!n personal stamp on ho! !e learn !hat !e learn and !hen !e learn. %o! !e learn is a 1uestion that begs the ans!er77based on learning theory. The literature on learning theory provides a po!erful "no!ledge base that offers ans!ers to these 1uestions. This becomes the guidance in the design development and implementation of an effective training and development program. This paper attempts to profile various learning theories and see"s to examine the role of these theories as applied to training and development. '" Theories Of Learning: An Overview

?umerous vie!points concerning learning process exist today. As a context to better understanding all of the theories of learning !e classify learning theories into four paradigms. These are $a* behaviorism $b* constructivism $c* cognitivism and $d* social learning theories $Bandura@s Social >earning and :ouble >oop >earning of C. Argyris*. '"%" Behavioral Theories

A.B. .atson !ho is said to be the father of Behaviorism studied animal@s response to conditioning based on the experiments of 3van 9avlov. .atson $&'&6* concluded learning as a se1uence of stimulus and response actions in observable cause and effect relationships.

Behaviorism focuses on ob<ectively observable behaviors and discounts mental activities. Behaviorists focus on eliminating maladaptive conditional reflexes and developing more adaptive ones often !or"ing !ith people suffering from irrational fears or phobias $Alberto B Troutman : 4556*. They vie! learning as the ac1uisition of ne! behavior and identify t!o different types of conditioning as a universal learning process: These are $a* classic conditioning and $b* operant conditioning. Classic Conditioning: This is a process of learning by temporal association in !hich t!o events that repeatedly occur close together in time become fused in a person@s mind and produce the same response $Comer 455C*. That means learning occurs !hen a natural reflex responds to a stimulus. 9avlovDs theory of classical conditioning is considered a ma<or cornerstone of behaviorist theories of learning. According to 9avlovDs experiment !hen food is placed in a dogDs mouth salivation ta"es place= food is unconditioned stimulus and the salivation the unconditioned reflex. .hen some neutral stimulus such as the ringing of a bell is combined !ith the presentation of food and is repeated for a period of time the dog salivates !ith the ringing of the bell even though food is not given. The ringing of the bell is the conditioned stimulus !hile salivation is the conditioned response or reflex $:embo: &''C*. The result of this experiment led to the formation of 9avlovDs classical conditioning in !hich an individual responds to some stimulus that !ould ordinarily produce such a response. 8perant Conditioning: 8perant conditioning occurs !hen a response to a stimulus is reinforced. 3f a behavior is re!arded that behavior is repeated. B.,. S"inner is considered the best7"no!n behaviorist to use reinforcement techni1ues and is responsible for much of the sophistication of modern training and teaching. The theory of B.,. S"inner is based upon the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individualDs response to events $stimuli* that occur in the environment. According to S"inner voluntary or automatic behavior is either strengthened or !ea"ened by the immediate presence of a re!ard or punishment $S"inner: &')0*. The most important aspect of S"innerDs contribution to training is the significance attached to the organism !hich is essentially active in the environment in the emitting behavior. According to S"inner the <ob of the trainer is to ensure the right behavior is reinforced Thus the trainer should have the clear idea about the terminal behavior of the trainees and the trainer should closely follo! the trainees to appropriately reinforce correct responses. This is the purpose of programmed instruction. Burns $&'';* notes that much Competency Based Training is based on this theory. '"' Cognitive Theories

Cognitive theories vie! learning as involving the ac1uisition or reorgani-ation of the cognitive structures through !hich human process and store information.E $2ood and Brophy &''5*. Cognitive is governed by an ob<ective vie! of the nature of "no!ledge and !hat it means to "no! something= the transition from behavioral instructional design principles to those of a cognitive style !as not entirely difficult. The goal of instruction

remained the communication and transfer of "no!ledge to learners in the most efficient and effective manner possible. $Bender et al &'';* Classical 2estalt Theory and Tolman@s Sign >earning Theory !hich is other!ise "no!n as purposive behaviorism are the most important cognitive theories relevant to training. The gestalt psychologists explain that learning is neither a matter of adding ne! traces nor subtracting old ones but of changing one gestalt into another. They vie! learning as a purposive exploitative imaginative and creative process of developing ne! insights or modifying old ones $Biggie &')C= %ill &')6*. %ill $4554* treats motivation is a crucial aspect of learning process. 3t is closely related to arousal attention anxiety and feedbac"Freinforcement. .einer $&''5* points out that behavioral theories tend to focus on extrinsic motivation $re!ards* !hile cognitive theories deal !ith intrinsic motivation $i.e. goals* TolmanDs theory is an attempt to combine the advantages of cognitive and connectionism theories. Tolman $&'64* states that !hat an individual learns serves as Ethe lay of the land E !hich gradually develops a picture of the environment "no!n as the Ecognitive mapE. 8nce he is given a problem he uses the map to solve it by selecting alternative !ays and means. Three characteristics of Tolman@s theory $%ill &')6= Morea &'(4= %illgard B Bo!er= &'(;* include: $a* it is concerned !ith goal directed behavior not !ith conscious experience= $b* it explains learning in terms of the effects of external stimuli on behavior= and $c* it considers that behavior is changed through an organism@s experience of the environment. The points that assume importance in the context of training and development are $a* individual behavior is goal directed so training should ta"e into account the traineeDs goal= $b* learning is a meaningful process so training must evolve a process !here the learner can understand !hat he learns= and $c* each learner learns through his o!n cognitive map. The trainer should ta"e this into account and organi-e a program on the basis of the cognitive maps of the learners. '"(" Constru&tivism

Constructivism is recogni-ed as a uni1ue learning theory in itself. Behaviorism and cognitivsm both support the practice of analy-ing a tas" and brea"ing it do!n into manageable chun"s establishing ob<ectives and measuring performance based on those ob<ectives. Constructivsm on the other hand promotes a more open7ended learning experience !here the methods and results of learning are not easily measured and may not be the same for each learner. Constructivsts believe that all humans have the ability to construct "no!ledge in their o!n minds through a process of discovery and problem solving. The extent to !hich this process can ta"e place naturally !ithout structure and teaching is the defining factors amongst those !ho advocate this learning theory. Aean 9iaget $&'(5* a S!iss psychologist observed human development as a progressive stage of cognitive development. %is four stages !hich commence at infancy and progress into adulthood

characteri-e the cognitive abilities necessary at each stage to construct meaning of ones environment. 3n this sense 9iaget@s theory is similar to other constructivists@ perspectives of learning $e.g. Gygots"y*. ,undamentally Constructivism is a cognitive learning theory because of its focus on the mental processes that construct meaning. 8ther important learning theories e1uated !ith cognitive psychology are Scaffolding theory of >ev Gygots"y and A. BrunerDs Construtivist theory. >ev Gygots"y@s theoretical frame!or" is that the culture !e live in influences our social and cognitive development. Gygots"y $&'(0* !rites: E#very function in the childDs cultural development appears t!ice: first on the social level and later on the individual level= first bet!een people $interpsychological* and then inside the child $p ;(* $intrapsychological*. %e further adds that the potential for cognitive development is limited to a certain time span !hich he calls the E-one of proximal developmentE $H9:*. The implication of his theory for training purposes is that the <ob of an educator has to identify this -one and to find out !here the child !as situated in this -one and build upon their specific level through a Escaffolding processE. Building from !hat the learner "no!s is in essence anchoring the learning on past experience. A ma<or theme in theoretical frame!or" of A Bruner is that learning is an active process in !hich the learner constructs ne! ideas or concepts based upon their inherent Fpast "no!ledge. Much of the theory is lin"ed to child development research $especially 9iaget*. 3n his most recent !or" Bruner $&'0) &''5* has expanded his theoretical frame!or" to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning. Inder the theory of constructivism trainers can focus on ma"ing connections bet!een facts and fostering ne! understanding in trainees. Trainers can tailor their strategies to the trainee@s responses and encourage trainees to analy-e interpret and predict information. '")" !o&ial Learning Theories

Research on learning process continues and it is impossible to give an integrated summary of them. Therefore some authors gave them a common name of ECurrent >earning Theories SchoolE $This B >ippitt &')) %ilgard B Bo!er &'(;*. These theories include for example modification of behavioral theories improvement upon gestalt theories and integration of gestalt and behavioral theories. Most of the more recent research on learning is carried out in such a manner that they transcend the boundary of one particular discipline. Thus concepts and principles of such areas as biology neurophysiology mathematics statistics physics and chemistry are also being used in learning theories. Some of the learning theories especially the Social >earning Theory of Bandura and :ouble >oop >earning of Argyris have been found to have great relevance in the context of training and development. BanduraDs social learning theory got the !idest acceptance because of its complete but parsimonious interpretation of social learning $:avis B >uthans &'05= Man- B Sims &'0&*. Bandura@s theory explains human behavior in terms of a continuous reciprocal interaction bet!een cognitive behavioral and environmental determinants. >earning ta"es place both as a result of experienced responses $i.e operant vie! of learning* and vicariously through observing the effects on the social environment of other peopleDs behavior. 3n explaining his theory of modeling Bandura $&')' &'() &'((* considers four distinct components or sub7processes: attention retention motor

reproduction and motivational processes. These processes explain the ac1uisition and maintenance of observational learning or modeling $:avis B >uthans &'05* Social learning theory plays an important role in training and development. ,irst the manager by becoming a role model for hisFher co!or"ers can improve their behavior. 3n fact employees are more li"ely to imitate their superiors than their peers because of their status experience and re!ard po!er. Second modeling has a considerable role to play in implementing a self7managed approach through self7observation and self7monitoring $:avis B >uthans &'05*. Third for improving the effectiveness of training a vicarious or modeling principle has been proposed to be used in four stages namely &* presentation of models displaying the desired behaviors 4* imitation or rehearsal by the observer of the modeling behaviors= 6* social reinforcement or favorable recognition for adoption of the modeled behaviors by the observer= and C* transfer of training to encourage the use of learned behaviors bac" on the <ob $2oldstein B Sorcher &'(C= Man- B Sims &'0&*. Argyris $&'()* proposes double loop learning theory !hich pertains to learning to change underlying values and assumptions. The focus of the theory is on solving problems that are complex and ill structures and !hich change as problem7solving advances. 3n single loop learning members of an organi-ation respond to environmental changes by detecting and correcting errors !hich permit the organi-ationDs underlying norms policies and ob<ectives $Argyris &'(0*. 3n recent years Argyris has focused on a methodology for implementing action theory on a broad scale called Eaction scienceE and the role of learning at the organi-ational level $Argyris &''6*. The double7loop learning theory of Argyris is especially relevant to management education and training. 3ndividuals must learn to discriminate the difference bet!een their perceptions and reality $espoused Gs theory7in7use*. Such learning primarily ta"es place through social interactions. Because of the importance in human interaction in management social learning theory $particularly modeling and role7playing* provides general frame!or" for many aspects of management education. Coaching and monitoring are commonly used management development techni1ues that attempt to harness social learning in the !or" place $e.g. Rossett &''5* (" Dis&ussion

>earning theories are the basic ra! materials !hich are applied in training activities. 3t is therefore essential that the trainer understand the learning theories so that he or she can design the effective training program. Schon $&''5* defines design as Jthe process by !hich things are madeK. designers ma"e presentations of things to be builtL $p &&5*. The behaviorists the cognitivists and the humanists emphasi-e different aspects of the teaching7learning process in their approaches. .hile behaviorists focus on external environmental conditions resulting in observations and measurable changes in behavior constructivists believe that all humans have the ability to construct "no!ledge in their

o!n minds through a process of discovery and problem7solving. 8n the other hand the humanists emphasi-e on emotions attitudes of human behavior that influence learning. Although all learning theories permeate all dimensions of training none of them is most appropriate under all circumstances. :epending on the trainees and training approaches different learning theories may apply. The training director as mentioned previously is <ust li"e a house builder !ho selects different tools as different problems arise. Consider the example of three approaches to training !hich are: $a* the traditional approach to training $b* the experiential approach and $c* the performance7based approach $Rama et al &''6*. 3n traditional approach to building a house $training* the training director designs the ob<ectives contents techni1ues assignments plans motivation evaluation etc !hile in experiential approach the training director incorporates the experiences !herein the trainee becomes most active and influence the training process. 3n this approach trainers and trainee <ointly determine the ob<ectives and other of the training. 8n the other hand performance7based approach to training measures goals through the attainment of a given level of efficiency instead of passing grades of the trainees. Therefore different tools are needed in different training styles li"e a house builder needs different tools for different problems. )" Con&lusion

A theory of learning provides a summary of vast amounts of "no!ledge relevant to the la!s of learning in a concise manner. >earning theories not only explain ho! learning ta"es place but also !hy learning occurs. These theories provide us !ith a relevant conceptual frame!or" for interpreting the learning processes and direct our attention to those variables that are crucial in achieving the desired goals. Therefore the training director gets the underlying structures of the learnersD !ay of learning through this theoretical "no!ledge and can identify !hat particular behavior is involved in the proposed training program. Ising "no!ledge about ho! learning is produced $function* and about !hat happens !hen people learn $process* participants in effective training programs develop ne! "no!ledge and s"ills as teachers a managers and administrators $product*. $Smith &'04*. >earning theories provide learning organi-ation necessary s"ills at creating ac1uiring and transferring "no!ledge and at modifying its behavior to reflect ne! "no!ledge and insights. That is learning theories trigger the organi-ational improvement. :ifferent learning theories overlap $the same strategy for a different reason* and learning theory strategies are concentrated along different points of a continuum depending on the focus of learning theory and the level of cognitive process re1uired. A behavioral approach can effectively facilitate mastery of the content of a profession $"no!ing !hat*= cognitive strategies are useful in solving tactics !here defined facts and rules are applied in unfamiliar situations $"no!ing ho!*= and constructivist strategies are suited to dealing !ith ill7defined problems through reflection7in7 action $#rtner and ?e!by &''6*

?one of the various suggestions and guidelines stemming from different learning schools is the most appropriate under all the circumstances but each contributes to enrich our understanding of the learning situations. This situation is analogous to building a house !here sometimes a hammer is a most effective tool sometimes a scre!driver and still at other times a sa!. The training director is <ust li"e the house builders !ho select different tools as different problems arise $%ergenhahn &'()*. Therefore the instructional designer must understand the strengths and !ea"nesses of each learning theory to optimi-e their use in appropriate instructional design strategy. So it seems appropriate to state that learning theories are the guidance in the design development and implementation of an effective training program designed to increase !or"force competence capacity for change and competitiveness. *" Re&ommendation

#xpanded emphasis on adult training as part of a life7long learning philosophy re1uires additional study of the learning process. More adults are enrolled in training courses on a voluntary basis and a significant number are involved in the learning process through mandates from an employer. The goal of all these efforts should be to maximi-e the learning experience. Studies should be underta"en to determine if changes in the population currently engaged in training can best learn through the use of the theories revie!ed in this paper or if there are other more relevant theories that can identify aspects of the learning process in training. +" Referen&es

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Conta&t the Author: :r. Mohammed S. Cho!dhury :epartment of Business Administration Monroe College Bronx ?M &5C)0= #mail: mcho!