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Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

Juan Bautista-Cruz
James Madison University

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

Learning theories are conceptual frameworks that serve to explain how information is
absorbed, process and retained during learning. There are many different characteristics of
individual learners such as the way that information is encoded varies from one group to another
as well as from within the same age groups. One of the major elements that learning theories
contribute to is that it helps to understand human behaviors, emotions, thoughts and overall, to
some extent, how learning occurs, (Gredler, 2009). Many organizations have started to
incorporate learning theories into their workplace because in order to stay competitive, they have
to consistently modify and change their work practices. In the last few decades, the workplace
has been increasingly recognized as a legitimate environment for learning new skills and
knowledge, which in turn enables workers to participate more effectively in ever-changing work
environments, (Clus, 2011). Learning, especially for adults, involves different strategies and
methods has become important for organizations to know because of the amount of adult learners
delaying retirement and staying in workforce longer. Furthermore, there are two types of learning
in organization, formal and informal, while most organization try to make all learning formal, the
majority of learning occurs informal. Informal learning occurs whenever people have the need,
motivation or opportunity for learning and is often linked to the learning of others, (Clus, 2001).
Certain theories are better suited for organizations because it allows for effective learning in the
workplace for adults, but also provides structure to the training such that activities are guided by
experts and by interacting with other co-workers through mentorship programs.
The strengths of learning theories is that it allows for change in behavioral and cognitive
in the individual as well as for changes to ones perspective. In return, this helps allows for
growth and improve to skills. This is especially true when the tools that are being use to measure
if learning has occurred is being used effectively and reinforced. Also, an important strength that

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

learning theories provides is that while the individual can learn from the environment, they also
act as the creators of knowledge from their interacting with it, so the relationship is reciprocal.
Learning theories allows for instructor to have control over how and what the individual will
learn by conditioning the environment. With that said, give the right environment, any behavioral
can be changed because the individual will have proper modeling of desired changed. Another
strength of learning theories is that many learning outcomes occur through the consequences of
the individuals behavior such as operant conditioning, the theory incorporates vicarious and
self-administered consequences.
The relationship between theories of learning and educational practices is complicated by
the reality that there is more than one type of learning, (Erlich, & Russ-Eft, 2011). The means
that no one theory is capable of explaining the complexity of the human brain and the behavioral
that they exhibit. Moreover, learning theories cannot account for all learning since thoughts and
feelings are influenced by many internal and external factors as well as inherited and maturation
factors. For example, behaviorist provide a very good explanation of certain kinds of learning but
poor explanation for other types of learning. One example of this is that although some children
are exposed to certain environments growing up, they do not turn out necessarily bad or good,
each is affected differently. As mentioned earlier, the problem is with prior theories that address
learning is that they failed to grasp the diversity and complexity of the activities that set humans
apart from other species (Gredle, 2009)
The theory that I picked to use for instructional design is Albert Banduras SocialCognitive Theory and Robert Gagnes Conditions of Learning. The reason as to why I picked
these theories for the instructional design is that Social-Cognitive Theory allows for the adults to
observe and learn from the behavior of another employee modeling the desired behavior that the

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

organizations is seeking. Gagnes conditions of learning allows for specific steps to take when
creating the training design that will make learning for the adults more effective. The nine steps
of instructions and Social-Cognitive Theory together makes the training more effective because
they both are based on the assumption that people are purposeful, goal-directed beings who are
primarily motivated through their beliefs of self-efficacy and outcome expectations stemming
from their actions within specific contexts, (Khadjooi , Rostami,& Ishaq,2011). Moreover,
Observational learning could not occur unless cognitive processes were at work which is why the
9 steps of instructions makes this training is appropriate because it provides a means pf provide
informative feedback to the learner.
Albert Bandura was the theorist who developed Social-Cognitive Theory which
encompasses traditional learning theories and the operant condition of Skinner. Social-Cognitive
Theory serves in explaining how people can learn new things and develop new behaviors by
observing other people. While Social-Cognitive Theory may build upon Skinner behavior,
Banduras theory goes beyond just the behavior aspect, Bandura believes that humans are
active information processors and think about the relationship between their behavior and its
consequences (Gredle, 2009). One of his most famous experiment that Bandura conducted was
with children using Bobo Doll. This experiment serve to explain the degree to which children
imitate behaviors that they observe. The point was to see if children would inmate the behavior
of someone who they saw as a model, in this case, it was the adult in the room. Although on the
surface, it looks as if the children are just copy what the adults are doing, the roots geos more in
depth. A big component as to whether people will inmate others behavior is based on what
happens after to the individual. This is where reinforcement takes hold, the reinforcement can be
external or internal as well as positive or negative. Reinforcement can be positive or negative,

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

but the important factor is that it will usually lead to a change in a person's behavior (Gredle,
2009). The tenets of Social-Cognitive Theory are attention, retention, motor process, and
motivational process.
Robert Gagnes Conditions of learning Gagnes model is based upon the informationprocessing model of mental events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli
(Buscombe, 2013). Although the instructional events themselves do not produce learning, it
supports the learner's process since everyone has a different learning style, each step highlights a
form of communication that aids the learning process, (Gredle, 2009). Gagne identified nine
stages of processing that are essential to learning and that must be executed in sequential order. A
list of the nine instructional steps are shown in Table 1 with a description alone with the stimulis
effect. The nine steps can be broken down into 3 board stages, 1) Preparation for learning, which
encompass attending, expectancy, and retrieval. 2) Acquisition and performance, which includes
presenting the stimulant, semantic encoding, elicit performance, and reinforcement. 3) Transfer
of learning, which allows for assessing the performance and transfer of knowledge. Initially, the
learner attends to the stimuli for learning, establishes an expectancy for the learning goal, and
retrieves relevant information and/or skills from long-term memory, (Gredle, 2009). The last
phase is crucial because it allows for feedback as to how the learner is doing, the feedback either
conforms or reinforces the learners expectancy.
The specific instructional setting that I will focus on applying Social-Cognitive Theory
and Gagnes nine steps of instructional learning is in the workplace. The challenge that the
company faces is that it has recently switched out all of their old equipments and have replaced
them with new up-to-date ones. The problems is the most of the adults in the workplace were
used to the old machines and have not become accustomed to using the new equipment.

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

Moreover, when they are using the new equipments, they are not following safety procedures as
established by the company and as of results of this, the company has experienced a rise in injury
reports. Social-Cognitive Theory works as a solution to solve the issue that the company is
having because, 1)the learning cognitive processes and decision making are important factors in
learning, 2) the three-way interaction between the environment, personal factors and behavior is
responsible for learning, 3) the outcomes of learning are visual and verbal codes of behavior,
(Gredle, 2009). Gagne conditions of learning helps guide the training by providing specific
instructions that helps facilitate training of the adults in the workplace. While SCT helps when
the training is occurring, Gagne purpose of the preparatory phase is to set the stage for learning,
this is a critical part in learning for adults, which is to explain how the training material benefits
them in the long run. Furthermore, since most of the training on the new equipments will be
hands-on or on-the-job, acquisition and performance will be important. By incorporating SocialCognitive Theory and Gagnes nine steps of learning, it will help establish a solid foundation that
allows for behavioral change with a structure to follow.
The learning objectives are:

Learn how to use new equipments properly.

Comply with companies best practices.
Reduce the amount of injuries reported
Change the company work culture.
As stated above, the training that I will create and implement will incorporate Banduras

Social-Cognitive Theory and Robert Gagnes conditions of learning. The training will focus on
the proper use of new equipment and allow for the adults in the workplace hands on experience
and exposure of modeling done by a trainer. More importantly, since the learning will occur in a
social context, Social-Cognitive Theory is the best fit in this situation because the environment or

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

workplace will serves as the classroom. The four main components of Social-Cognitive Theory
are attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. The training program will help teach the
adults in the workplace how to use the machine by observing the behaviors of the trainers,
moreover, verbal instructional will be given to facilitate the learning process. This is will the nine
steps of conditions of learning will take hold. The first part, which overlaps with SocialCognitive Theory is to gain the learners attention. Which as stated above, is to teach the adults in
the workplace best practices which will be demonstrated by the team trainers in the company.
The training will be designed intentional and with purposeful actions to help the adults encode
the information as specified by the condition of learning. This provides cues in the way that
behaviors are learned because you can break down task in to small component that allows for the
individual to learn step by step process in that the adults can later recall, (Gredle, 2009). This
allows for direct contact with the desire behavior that you want the individual to exhibit,
additionally, this helps the adults to distinguish what is good performance and what is bad from
self-regulating his or her actions based in the feedback from the environment and reinforcement
responses to their actions.
The training will be as follows:
The first step of the program will be to create a mentorship program that will pair the adults with
a trainer who will serve as the model of to use the machine properly as well as give a short
lecture on guidelines and provide a flow chart of the process. This part of the program will
incorporate the behavioral model. One of the effects of modeling is to strengthen or weaken the
learners existing restraints against the performance of particular behavior, (Gredler, 2009). The
objective of the first step is to get the adult learner to change their behavior towards the use of
the new equipments. Also, the way in that Gagne conditions of learning will be used is by

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

severing as a means to build up expectancy of what the adults will gain in the training. The
learner expectancy is important because it leads to selecting appropriate output at each
subsequent stage of processing information, (Gredle, 2009).
Step two will involve attaining the adults attention. This is crucial part of the learning as most
adult learners do not pay much attention to individuals that are younger than them, this is an
important factor in the learning process. This is why the models that will be doing the training
are employees that have become trainer in the company as a result of their performance. In order
for social learner theory to be effective, it is important that the models to be viewed as
prestigious, appear to serve trust, portray consensus in a group, offer believable standards to
guide observes aspirations, or provide realistic reference figures for observers comparison,
(Gredle, 2009). Under conditions of learning, this part falls under acquisition and performance.
At this stages, the adult will be provided with guidance as it relates to the encoding process. The
repetition of learned concepts is an effective mean of enhancing retention, especially with adults,
(Khadjooi, Rostami, & Ishaq, 2011).
Step three will focus on the motivation and engagement of the adults in the workplace because
this is how the problem occurred in the first place. Lack of engagement and motivation can lead
to organization disengagement by employees and the adults in the workplace are not exception to
this. The adults in the workplace were not motivated to learn how to use the new equipment. An
explanation to this could be that the adults had low self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is defined as,
personal beliefs about ones capability to perform particular behaviors necessary to achieve
valued school or work goals or, more generally, to perform tasks requisite to success in ones
work or school context, (Foley & Lytle, 2015). By taking into consideration the self-efficacy of
the adults, these phases of the training will focus on building the confidence of the adults by

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

letting them try the equipments after being shown the proper use. This will help them build high
efficacy. One of key elements in building the individuals self-efficacy is with the presentation of
a video. So before operating the new equipment, they will watch videos that shown them proper
use and the safety procedures when using the equipment. This will allow them to develop a
conceptual representation of what the desire behavior should be. Moreover, reinforcement from
conditions of learning will take place at this stage as well. After watching the video, the next
focus is to return stored information to the individuals response generator and activates
responses, (Gredler, 2009). This part would be the retrieval and responding element of conditions
of learning.
Step four is the last part of the training program. Step four will focus on the consequences if the
adults behavior have not changed. Since Social-Cognitive Theory allows performance to be
measure directly because the change can be visually seen, this is a key assessment features.
Moreover, Gagnes conditions of learning provides opportunities to apply the learning in new
situations and to construct additional cues for later recall, (Gredler, 2009). The type of
reinforcement that will be used is vicarious reinforcement. This is to convey information about
which behavior is appropriate when using the equipments. The most effective way to achieve
psychomotor objectives is to get the learners to perform and practice the activity after preparing
them with some lectures or demonstrations, (Khadjooi, Rostami, & Ishaq, 2011).
Overall, using Social-Cognitive Theory and Gagnes nine steps of instructions will help to
assess the learning of the adults in the company. The way in which assessment will be done is
through conducting simulation training in order to see if the objective of the training were met.
During the simulation, a check list will be provided to the team trainers as a means of grading the
performance of the adults. To further demonstrate mastery of using the new equipment, the

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

adults will roleplay with another employee and act as the trainer, which is part providing practice
of the learned skill to diverse situations in the nine steps of instructions. Moreover, by including
these two theories into the training program, it will have significant impact of not just the adult
learner in the workplace, but also to the overall environment of the company as it puts the
individuals needs first. This is where the cultural aspect of the company comes in to play, a
significant factor in employees choosing to participate in training programs is the culture that the
company fosters. At the end of the day, do they see the benefit of participating in the training?

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

Table 1:
Instructional Event
1) Gain attention
Giving learners a stimulus to ensure reception of
coming instruction.

Internal Mental Process

Stimuli activates receptors

2) Inform learners of objectives

Telling learners what they will be able to do
after the lesson

Creates level of expectation for learning

3) Stimulate recall of prior learning

Asking for recall of existing relevant knowledge

Retrieval and activation of short-term memory

4) Present the stimulus

Displaying the content

Selective perception of content

5) Provide "learning guidance"

Supplying organization and relevance to
enhance understanding

Semantic encoding for storage long-term


6) Elicit performance (practice)

Asking learners to respond, demonstrating

Retrieval, responding

7) Provide feedback
Giving immediate feedback on learners

Reinforcement and assessment of correct


8) Assess performance
Providing feedback to learners more
performance for reinforcement

Retrieval and reinforcement of content as final


9) Enhance retention and transfer

Providing diverse practice to generalize the

Retrieval and generalization of learned skill to

new situation

Reference: Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Goals, K.C., & Kelle, J.M. (2005). Principle of Instructional
Design (5th Edition). Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning, Inc

Learning Theories and Critical Analysis and Application

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Foley, P. F., & Lytle, M. C. (2015). Social Cognitive Career Theory, the Theory of Work
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