You are on page 1of 9

Connectionism (E.

Thorndike) Overview: The learning theory of Thorndike represents the original S-R framework of behavioral psychology: Learning is the result of associations forming between stimuli and responses. Such associations or "habits" become strengthened or weakened by the nature and frequency of the S-R pairings. The paradigm for S-R theory was trial and error learning in which certain responses come to dominate others due to rewards. The hallmark of connectionism (like all behavioral theory) was that learning could be adequately explained without refering to any unobservable internal states. Thorndike's theory consists of three primary laws: (1) law of effect - responses to a situation which are followed by a rewarding state of affairs will be strengthened and become habitual responses to that situation, (2) law of readiness - a series of responses can be chained together to satisfy some goal which will result in annoyance if blocked, and (3) law of exercise - connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued. A corollary of the law of effect was that responses that reduce the likelihood of achieving a rewarding state (i.e., punishments, failures) will decrease in strength. The theory suggests that transfer of learning depends upon the presence of identical elements in the original and new learning situations; i.e., transfer is always specific, never general. In later versions of the theory, the concept of "belongingness" was introduced; connections are more readily established if the person perceives that stimuli or responses go together (c.f. Gestalt principles). Another concept introduced was "polarity" which specifies that connections occur more easily in the direction in which they were originally formed than the opposite. Thorndike also introduced the "spread of effect" idea, i.e., rewards affect not only the connection that produced them but temporally adjacent connections as well. Scope/Application: Connectionism was meant to be a general theory of learning for animals and humans. Thorndike was especially interested in the application of his theory to education including mathematics (Thorndike, 1922), spelling and reading (Thorndike, 1921), measurement of intelligence (Thorndike et al., 1927) and adult learning (Thorndike at al., 1928).

Example: The classic example of Thorndike's S-R theory was a cat learning to escape from a "puzzle box" by pressing a lever inside the box. After much trial and error behavior, the cat learns to associate pressing the lever (S) with opening the door (R). This S-R connection is established because it results in a satisfying state of affairs (escape from the box). The law of exercise specifies that the connection was established because the S-R pairing occurred many times (the law of effect) and was rewarded (law of effect) as well as forming a single sequence (law of readiness). Principles: 1. Learning requires both practice and rewards (laws of effect /exercise) 2. A series of S-R connections can be chained together if they belong to the same action sequence (law of readiness). 3. Transfer of learning occurs because of previously encountered situations. 4. Intelligence is a function of the number of connections learned.

SELF-EFFICACY (http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/self_efficacy.htm) 1. Mastery Experiences

"The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences," Bandura explained (1994). Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

2. Social Modeling

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers'

beliefs that they too possess the capabilities master comparable activities to succeed (1994).

3. Social Persuasion

Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to belief that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.

4. Psychological Responses

Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations. However, Bandura also notes "it is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted" (1994). By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, people can improve their sense of self-efficacy. Cognitive Strategy Suggestions for Teaching in Your Classroom (http://college.cengage.com/education/pbl/tc/cog.html) 1. Demonstrate a variety of learning tactics, and allow students to practice them. a. Teach students how to use various forms of rehearsal and mnemonic devices. At least two reasons recommend the teaching of rehearsal. One is that maintenance rehearsal is a useful tactic for keeping a relatively small amount of information active in short-term memory. The other is that maintenance rehearsal is one of a few tactics that young children can learn to use. If you do decide to teach rehearsal, we have two suggestions:

First, remind young children that rehearsal is something that learners consciously decide to do when they want to remember things. Second, remind students to rehearse no more than seven items (or chunks) at a time. Upper elementary grade students (fourth, fifth, and sixth graders) can be taught advanced forms of maintenance rehearsal, such as cumulative rehearsal, and forms of elaborative rehearsal, such as rehearsing sets of items that form homogeneous categories. As with younger students, provide several opportunities each week to practice these skills. As you prepare class presentations or encounter bits of information that students seem to have difficulty learning, ask yourself if a mnemonic device would be useful. You might write up a list of the devices discussed earlier and refer to it often. Part of the value of mnemonic devices is that they make learning easier. They are also fun to make up and use. Moreover, rhymes, acronyms, and acrostics can be constructed rather quickly. You might consider setting aside about thirty minutes two or three times a week to teach mnemonics. First, explain how rhyme, acronym, and acrostic mnemonics work, and then provide examples of each. For younger children use short, simple rhymes like "Columbus crossed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two." For older students, the rhymes can be longer and more complex. Acrostics can be used to remember particularly difficult spelling words. The word arithmetic can be spelled by taking the first letter from each word of the following sentence: a rat in the house may eat the ice cream. Once students understand how the mnemonic is supposed to work, have them construct mnemonics to learn various facts and concepts. You might offer a prize for the most ingenious mnemonic.

b. Teach students how to formulate comprehension questions. We concluded earlier that self-questioning could be an effective comprehension tactic if students were trained to write good comprehension questions and given opportunities to practice the technique. We suggest you try the following instructional sequence:

1. Discuss the purpose of student-generated questions. 2. Point out the differences between knowledge&endash;level questions and comprehension-level questions. An excellent discussion of this distinction can be found in the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain (Bloom et al., 1956). 3. Provide students with a sample paragraph and several comprehension questions. Again, good examples of comprehension questions and guidelines for writing your own can be found in the Taxonomy. 4. Hand out paragraphs from which students can practice constructing questions. 5. Provide corrective feedback. 6. Give students short passages from which to practice. 7. Provide corrective feedback (Andr & Anderson, 1978/1979). c. Teach students how to take notes. Despite the limitations of research on notetaking, mentioned earlier, three suggestions should lead to more effective notetaking. First, provide students with clear, detailed objectives for every reading assignment. The objectives should indicate what parts of the assignment to focus on and how that material should be processed (whether memorized verbatim, reorganized and paraphrased, or integrated with earlier reading assignments). Second, inform students that notetaking is an effective comprehension tactic when used appropriately. Think, for example, about a reading passage that is long and for which test items will demand analysis and synthesis of broad concepts (as in "Compare and contrast the economic, social, and political causes of World War I with those of World War II"). Tell students to concentrate on identifying main ideas and supporting details, paraphrase this information, and record similarities and differences.

Third, provide students with practice and corrective feedback in answering questions that are similar to those on the criterion test.

2. Encourage students to think about the various conditions that affect how they learn and remember. The very youngest students (through third grade) should be told periodically that such cognitive behaviors as describing, recalling, guessing, and understanding mean different things, produce different results, and vary in how well they fit a task's demands. For older elementary school and middle school students, explain the learning process more simply, focusing on the circumstances in which different learning tactics are likely to be useful. Then, have students keep a diary or log in which they note when they use learning tactics, which ones, and with what success. Look for cases where good performance corresponds to frequent reported use of tactics, and positively reinforce those individuals. Encourage greater use of tactics among students whose performance and reported use of them are below average. While this same technique can be used with high school and college students, they should also be made aware of the other elements that make up strategic learning. Discuss the meaning of and necessity for analyzing a learning task, developing a learning plan, using appropriate tactics, monitoring the effectiveness of the plan, and implementing whatever corrective measures might be called for.

3. Each time you prepare an assignment, think about learning strategies that you and your students might use. As noted in our earlier discussion of age trends in metacognition, virtually all elementary school students and many high school students will not be able to devise and use their own coordinated set of learning strategies.

Accordingly, you should devise such strategies for them, explain how the strategies work, and urge them to use these techniques on their own. With high school students, you might consider giving a how to study lecture at the beginning of a report period to provide your students with general information about learning strategies. Even if you do give such an orientation, however, it would still be wise to give specific instructions as each assignment is made. In devising learning strategies, follow the procedure that was described earlier in this chapter: analyze, plan, implement, monitor, modify. When you analyze, take into account not only the material to be learned and the nature of the tests you will give but also the cognitive characteristics of the learners. Test ANXIETY Conclusion (http://www.khoaanh.net/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=249&title=How-

Can-Teachers-Reduce-Test-Anxiety-of-L2-Learners?) Depending on the results of the studies presented above, some recommendations on the role of L2 teachers on reducing test anxiety of their students can be presented: First, as Young (1991) states that it is vital to "test what is taught", teachers should be aware of test validity and reflect the course content to tests. The second significant point is the use of objective scoring methods or objective testing to prevent test anxiety. For instance, Alcala (2002) advises that the use of two or three examiners as one is too subjective, and more than three can inhibit the students' performance. This kind of application is also helpful for both inter-rater reliability of test scores and prevention of test anxiety of learners as Speilberger (in Horwitz and Young, 1991) notes that an individual's objectively measured ability to perform the task can determine the effect of anxiety on performance in a test. Third, teachers should inform the students on the aims of the tests, content, test techniques, number of the questions before the administration as Alcala (2002) states teachers should familiarize students with the exam format, the type of rating system. In other words, students need clear explanations and sample items designed in different test techniques. Fourth, creating a low-stress language environment is believed to facilitate language learning by allowing students to concentrate on communication rather than being distracted by test anxiety. Additionally, language teachers should acknowledge students' fears and find ways to evaluate students without inducing high levels of anxiety and while still maintaining a positive, effective climate as

Huelsman (in Phillips, 1991) recommends that "something as simple as an encouraging smile before the test begins might diminish the ominous atmosphere."Namely, good communication and feedback before and after tests is beneficial to decrease test anxiety of learners. Good communication between teachers and learners allows learners to express their feelings and comments as Calvin (in Young, 1999) notes that giving students the opportunity to express how they felt about tests may have an effect on anxiety levels. In this sense, teachers should avoid comments that affect learners' motivation and concentration negatively. Fifth and last, as Alcala (2002) states that the anxious students "frequently fail to reach their potential. ... their marks do not fully reflect their knowledge of second language", teachers have to find ways such as assignments, group works, projects to confirm and compare their students' performance, knowledge and skills. As a result, L2 teachers who are in the center of test anxiety provoking issues also have the key role to decrease the level of test anxiety of L2 learners.

(http://www.emis.de/proceedings/PME29/PME29RRPapers/PME29Vol3MousoulidesPhilippou.pdf) Self-regulation: The model for self-regulated learning described in the present study comprises of two main components. The first refers to self-regulation strategies use and the second to motivational beliefs. In addition, the self-regulation strategies involve cognitive learning strategies and self-regulatory strategies to control cognition (metacognitive learning strategies) (Garcia & Pintrich, 1994). Cognitive learning strategies consisted of elaboration and organizational strategies. Elaboration strategies include paraphrasing or summarizing the material to be learned, creating analogies, generative note taking and connecting ideas in students notes. The organizational

strategies include behaviours such as selecting the main idea from text, outlining the text or material to be learned, and using a variety of specific techniques for selecting and organizing the ideas in the material (Garcia & Pintrich, 1994).