You are on page 1of 8

遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

成人學習理論綜述

A SUMMARY OF THREE ADULT LEARNING THEORIES


杜約翰(John Duxbury) 美國南達科塔大學 教育博士

李分明 遠東科技大學應外系 副教授

摘 要

本文主要探討三種成人學習理論-行為主義學派、認知學派和人本主義學派。
行為主義學派是以 John B.Watson 以及 B.F.Skinner 等人的主張為主,此外行為
主義學派的新近理論也被論述。認知學派包含 Gestalt 完形學派、Jean Piaget、
Ausubel &Bruner、Gagne 等人的主張、及強調 Vygotsky 的時間序列發展學派
(Zone of Proximal Development)
。人本主義學派主要是論及 Abraham Maslow 和
Carl Rogers 等人的主張,他們的主張不同於行為學派,而認為人類可以控制自
己的命運。本文以人本主義學派以及作者的立論基礎作為結論。

關鍵字:行為主義學派、認知學派、人本主義學派

I-221
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

John Duxbury, of Applied Foreign Language, Far East University

Fen-Ming Lee, Dept. of Applied Foreign Language, Far East University

ABSTRACT
This article presents three adult learning theories-behaviorist, cognitive, and
humanist orientation. The behaviorist orientation is concerned mostly with the
work of Jonn B. Watson and B.F.Skinner some current practices which incorporate
behavioristic models ave mentioned. The cognitive orientation is then discussed
with mention of the Gestalt psychologists, with Jean Piaget, Ausubel &Bruner,
Gagne, and finally with the emphasis of Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal
development”. The humanist ovientation talks mostly about the work and theories
of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers which differs from the behavioral
predetermined orientation by asserting that people can control their own destinies.
The article concludes with the author’s humanistic orientation and the rationale for
this position.
Keywords:Behaviorist Orientation、Cognitive Orientation、Humanist Orientation

I-222
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

BEHAVIORIST ORIENTATION a better society. Skinner reasoned that we needed to


Of all the disciplines in psychology, behaviorism give up our personal freedom, including its
has had the most impact on general and adult accompanying sense of dignity and personal worth, to
education (Elias, Merriam, 1980). This system of improve our world.
psychology is concerned with the overt, observable He was concerned with preventing our self
behavior of an organism. John B. Watson is destruction. It was important we understood people’s
considered the founder of Behaviorism because of lack of free will - it was all an illusion; the
1
two texts he wrote in the 1920s. He believed that environment shapes and maintains people’s behavior.
people could be understood solely through their He advocated engineering a safe society before it was
behavior, not through their mind and emotions. too late. His book Walden Two (1948) is a fictional
Emotions, he insisted, were “a hereditary pattern of account of a utopian society based on behavioral
response in which implicit visceral and glandular engineering. He saw schools as a good way to
responses were predominant” (Keller, 1977). He condition citizens and he outlined who and what
rejected the idea of instincts completely, ascribing to should be taught, and the administrative control of
the Pavlov’s principle of conditioning. Watson students in his book The Technology of Teaching
claimed he could take an infant and through (1968).
environmental conditioning, produce either a doctor Because of the work of these behaviorists,
or a beggar (Watson, 1919). educational settings now use behavioral objectives
For the next 30 years behaviorists continued the for implementation, measurement, and accountability.
work of Watson by concentrating on more complex There are three components of behavioral objectives:
behaviors such as the effects of contiguity, (1) the conditions or stimuli the schools employ to
intervening variables between a stimulus and a teach; (2) the expected student behavior; and (3) the
response, and habits and motivations. B. F. Skinner criteria by which the behavior will be judged.
brought Behaviorism to its hiatus of popularity with A few of the conditions or stimuli being used
his concept of operant conditioning. In operant now-a-days are programmed instruction, computer
conditioning the behavior is “strengthened by its based instruction, teaching machines, and contract
consequences and for that reason the consequences learning. Malcolm Knowles maintains that contract
themselves are called ‘reinforcers’ … one is learning is the single most potent tool he has come
voluntary and the other involuntary” (Skinner, 1974, across in more than half of a century. He now uses
pp.39-40). In other words, the behavior itself is contracts in all of his academic courses (Knowles,
rewarding. Since humans are controlled by their Holton, Swanson, 2005).
environment, science can study that environment, For the second component, the student’s
specify that environment, and finally manipulate it. expected behavior is determined by a
Controlling human behavior, he asserts, can result in competency-based education. The learner’s progress
or accomplishments are compared to a fixed standard
1
Behavior – An Introduction to Comparative or criterion of mastery rather than compared to other
Psychology (1914) and Psychology from the students. Hence all students can accomplish the
Standpoint of a Behaviorist (1919).

I-223
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

objectives if they are given sufficient time and COGNITIVE ORIENTATION


reinforcement. Our class text dates the beginning of Cognitive
The third component is the criteria by which theory back to a publication in 1929 when a Gestalt
the schools will be judged. Elias and Merriam’s in psychologist criticized behaviorists for being “too
their 1980 book, Philosophical Foundations of Adult concerned about single events” and “too dependent
Education, say that “performance contracting and on overt behavior” (Merriam, Caffarella, 1999, p.
educational vouchers are two of the more intriguing 253).2 The Gestalt psychologists suggested looking
ways in which school systems have sought to deal at the whole, not the parts; seeing the patterns, not the
with accountability” (p.91). “Performance isolated events. Perception, insight, and meaning
contracting” sounds a lot like the No Child Left were necessary to understand people. A person
Behind Act of 2001 and, of course, educational needed to reorganize incoming stimuli to make sense
voucher would now be the school voucher programs. of the world. This would sometimes be perceived as
In adult learning, the tenets of Behaviorism flashes of insight.
are manifested in the different starting points as well In 1966, Jean Piaget proposed a theory of
as the flexibility of time needed to master a task. This neurology maturation. According to Piaget there are
is particularly important in vocational education four stages of cognitive development which
where it is important to “identify the skills needed to correspond to two factors: (1) an individual’s age;
perform in an occupation, teaching those skills, and and (2) their interaction with the environment.
requiring a certain standard of performance” (Elias, David Ausubel and Jerome Bruner emphasized
1980, p.95). mental structures and organizational frameworks.
Current Human Resources practices use basic Ausubel put forward that learning can take place only
elements of behavioral theory. A systems model of when related knowledge was in a person’s cognitive
training involves the four phases: (1) needs structure (brain) and he suggested the use of
assessment; (2) design; (3) implementation; and (4) “advanced organizers” (Ausubel, 1967). His work
evaluation (Bohlander, Snell, 2004, p.235). These predated the idea of “schemata,” a term referring to
bring to mind the behavioral objectives of such things learner’s worldview concerning how they process
as contract learning, implementation, accountability, new experiences. (Merriam, 1999). Bruner talked
and so forth. about learning through discovery. He sees learning as
Arguments about whether or not behaviorism three processes transpiring almost simultaneously: (1)
is valid or appropriate seem absurd since its tenets are acquisition of new knowledge; (2) the translation of
being employed successfully in so many areas of our that knowledge to new tasks; and (3) the evaluation
society. It is a tool that enhances learning and of that information for appropriateness (Bruner,
productivity. However, I do not believe it should be 1965).
used as the main orientation in education and the
workplace because it has such potential to be 2
Bode, B. H. (1929). Conflicting Psychologies of
dehumanizing.
Learning. Boston: Heath.

I-224
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

Gagne’s contributions deal with the concept of HUMANIST ORIENTATION


“learning how to learn.” Within this concept it is The humanist perspective considers the affective
important to consider the learner’s needs, a person’s as well as the cognitive aspects. Perceptions are
learning style, and training. Gagne and two other centered in experience and learning is a growth
colleagues, Briggs and Wager (1992) suggest process. Humanists reject the idea that behavior is
different types of knowledge – signal learning, predetermined. They assert that people can control
stimulus-response, motor training, verbal association, their own destiny and maintain that people are
discrimination learning, concept learning, rule inherently good.
learning, and problem solving. Respected philosophers in history have had
Another man of note in Cognitive psychology is Humanistic ideologies. Confucius talked about the
that of Vygotsky. He emphasized the importance of potential for people to be either “profound” or
the internal and external aspects of learning and he is “small” when he explained his concept of
credited with the concept of the “zone of proximal “self-cultivation” (A Brief view, 2004). Aristotle
development.” This zone concerns the level of believed that the goal of all human striving is the
problem a child can cope with independently as attainment of happiness or supreme good. This, he
opposed to needing help from an adult (Bruning, felt, was synonymous with happiness. Erasmus, a
Schraw, Norby, Ronning, 1999, p. 197). critic of the Catholic Church, suggested that virtue is
In general, Cognitive psychology is concerned the most important quality of humans. Humanism is
with aiding understanding and studying mental also the inherent idea of the Renaissance and
process that will assist learning. Cognitive Existential thinkers (Elias, 1980).
psychology also helps educators to understand Abraham Maslow is considered the founder of
educational goals. My Cognitive Psychology text humanistic psychology. He sees the motivation to
book gives seven Cognitive themes for education: learn as intrinsic – emanating from the learner.
1. Learning is a constructive, not a receptive, According to Maslow, there is a hierarchy of needs
process and the only reason a learner does not try and reach
2. Mental frameworks organize memory and his full potential is because he is dealing with a lower
guide thought level need such as a physiological need (hunger or
3. Extended practice is needed to develop thirst), security and protection needs, or possibly
cognitive skills self-esteem needs. Although self-actualization is the
4. Development of self-awareness and main goal of learning, Maslow cites other goals such
self-regulation is critical to cognitive growth as controlling one’s impulses, grappling with
5. Motivation and beliefs are integral to existential issues, choosing discriminatively,
cognition appreciating the beauty of life, accomplishments,
6. Social interaction is fundamental to peak experiences, morality and values, discovering
cognitive development one’s destiny, and the realization that life is precious
7. Knowledge, strategies, and expertise are (1970, p. 439):
contextual (Brunning, 1999, pp. 6-9). Carl Rogers sees learning as a similar process

I-225
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

to therapy. Both are educational and both involve a family, counselors, teachers). By encouragement I do
growth process. He uses the term “client-centered not mean giving them direction and advice. Although
therapy” which is often equated with student-centered they may need direction and advice at some point, it
learning. Some of the essential characteristics of should only be given when asked for. Unsolicited
humanistic learning, according to Rogers, are that it direction and advice will lead them to a path that is
has personal involvement, it is self-initiated and not theirs. These counselors and teachers, family and
pervasive, the learner evaluates the experience, and friends need to “get out of the way” so a student or
the learner incorporates that meaning into a total client can grapple with their problems, make
experience (1983, p.20). discoveries for themselves, and find their own unique
Within the humanistic setting the students is solutions – not someone else’s solution.
the center. The teacher does not necessarily know Behavioral and the Cognitive psychology are
best, especially when dealing with adult learners. He intriguing and important disciplines, but I see them as
acts as a facilitator or guide. Responsibility for tools which aid learning and the understanding of
learning lies with the student. The learners are people, not as all encompassing philosophies. An all
encouraged to bring all their experiences and encompassing philosophy would have to be a holistic
uniqueness to the learning situation. The educators view. Humanism is. Maslow says that looking at the
strive to have students develop intrinsic motivations world through its parts is a mild form of
for learning, not extrinsic motivations like tests and psychopathology – a schizophrenic notion: “the
certificates. The humanists believe that the most cosmos is one and interrelated; any society is one and
important learning takes place for students through interrelated; any person is one and interrelated, etc.”
discovery in a supportive and socially cooperative (Maslow, 1970, xi). He suggests the metaphor of a
environment. hungry person: it is not just his stomach that is
hunger - the whole person is hungry. When an
MY THEORY OF ADULT individual is motivated, it is the whole individual not
LEARNING just a part (p. 19).
I most align with the humanist theories. When I Maslow’s landmark book about humanistic
read the Humanist Orientation section in our book psychology Motivation of Personality was first
(Merriam, 1999) I thought to myself, “That’s me.” I published a year after I was born (1954) and the
especially identified with the attitude expressed in a second revision came out a year before I graduated
quote from that section: “there is a natural tendency from high school (1970). As I read it for the first time,
for people to learn and that learning will flourish if I am impressed with the positive message and the
nourishing, encouraging environments are provided” hope he offers. His motivation theory came about
(Cross, 1981, p. 228). in1942 in an effort to integrate the truths he found in
Carl Rogers impacted my beliefs about the works of Freud, Adler, Jung, D.M. Levy, Fromm,
education and counseling. I have faith that most Horney, and Goldstein (p. xi). I get the sense that this
people can solve their own problems if they have message and this work is a partial reaction to the
encouragement from significant others (friends, inhumane atrocities committed and justified by

I-226
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

scientist in World War II. On page three of this text directly to education. He includes a section on
he writes: student dissatisfaction. In this section he tells about a
response to a survey where 3,157 students wrote that
It can happen that the pure, objective, school was a “BORE” (p. 15). He also reported the
disinterested non-humanistic curiosity of the results of an interview that took place with 200
pure scientist may jeopardize the gratification of medical students. The message was the same over
other equally important human needs, e.g., safety. and over again – “students felt they were being
I refer here not only to the obvious atom bomb lectured to death” (p.15). Rogers gives this
example but also the more general fact that information as an example of the current state of
science itself implies a value system. After all, teaching in the 80s. I believe it is still relevant today.
the limit to which the “pure” scientist Such learning, he says, is “from the neck up” (p.19).
approaches is not an Einstein or a Newton but He stresses that we need to let the students
rather the Nazi “scientist” of the learn, not dictate the content of what is important.
concentration-camp experiments or the “mad” The teacher’s job is more difficult than the learners
scientist of Hollywood (p. 3.) because they must feed the student’s curiosity so they
are inspired to learn.
Maslow refutes the idea that it is only the Rogers talks about becoming real as a teacher.
scientist who has means to knowledge. He recognizes To do this, a person must understand the “one
the insights from creative artists, philosophers, profound question underlying all the surface talk”
writers, poets, dreamers, and even ditch-diggers (p.33). This is the question all people have and
(Maslow, 1970. p.8). learning must be connected to this question, must be
Rogers’ beliefs and message also appear to be in context to their education for true learning to take
a reaction to certain elements in society – the place. This question is “Who am I?” And it is a
conservatives. He sees the conservative groups as process, not a static condition.
inhibiting the educational process because of their
fear of change and he sees theses groups as REFERENCES
dangerous. The conservatives have the belief that [1]A Brief View of Humanist Philosophers. (2004).
there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong.
Whenever a group in society has proclaimed itself to Retrieved October 2, 2005 from

possess the moral truth and then proceeds to impose http://www.gofigger.org/hphist/hphist15.htm


this truth on others, the result is tyranny. He writes,
“Some of the darkest periods of history are [2]Ausubel, D.P. (1967). “A cognitive structure

characterized by this pattern,” (1983, p. 13). The theory of school learning.” In L. Siegel (ed.),
Inquisition and McCarthyism are some examples he
gives. Instruction: Some contemporary viewpoints. San

Although Carl Rogers’ thoughts originally Francisco: Chandler.


came from the counseling discipline, his ideas relate

I-227
遠東學報第二十三卷第三期 中華民國九十五年九月出版

[3]Bohlander, G., Snell, S. (2004). Managing human [11]Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and

resources. Mason, Ohio: Thomson South-Western. Personality. (2nd ed.). New York: Harper-Collins.

[4]Bruner, J. “In Defense of Verbal Learning.” In R.C. [12]Merriam, S. B, Caffarella, R. S. (1999). Learning

Anderson and D.P. Ausubel (eds.), Readings in the in Adulthood: a comprehensive guide. San

Psychology of Cognition. New Your: Holt, Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rinehart & Winston, 1965. [13]Piaget, J. (1966). Psychology of intelligence.

[5]Bruning, R. H., Schraw, G. J., Norby, M. M., Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams.

Ronning, R. R. (1999). Cognitive Psychology and [14]Rogers, C. R. (1983). Freedom to learn in the 80s.

instruction (4th ed.). Columbus, Ohio: Pearson Columbus, Ohio: Merrill.

Merrill Prentice Hall. [15]Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism. New

[6]Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners: Increasing York: Alfred A. Knopf.

participation and facilitating learning. San [16]Watson, J. B. (1919). Psychology from the

Francisco: Jossey-Bass. standpoint of a behaviorist. Philadelphia:

[7]Elias, J. L., Merriam, S. (1980). Philosophical Lippencott.

foundations of adult education. Malabar, Florida.

Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company.

[8]Gagne, R. M., Briggs, L. J., and Wager, W. W.

(1992). Principles of instructional design. (4th ed.).

Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt Brace.

[9]Keller, F. “Behaviorism.” Collier’s Encyclopedia

(Vol. 4). New York: MacMillan Educational

Corporation, Inc.

[10]Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F., Swanson, R. A.

(2005). The adult learner. Burlington MA, USA

and London UK: Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann.

I-228