The Nature and Importance
of Learning
• Learning – refers to the relatively permanent change in
behavior that occurs as a result of practice, experience
or training.

• Correct responses and proper or appropriate
behaviors are the result of effective and good training
or learning. On the other hand, incorrect responses
and misbehaviors are products of bad training or
Three Essential Elements of Learning
A. Learning is a change in behavior, for better or for worse.

B. It is a change that occurs through practice or experience;
changes in behavior due to maturation, sickness, accidents,
fatigue, drug intake are not learning.

C. The change in behavior must be relatively permanent, that is,
it must last for a considerable amount of time.
Educational Psychology
• Educational Psychology –
branch of psychology which is
concerned with the application of
psychological knowledge,
principles, and processes to the
study of development, learning,
motivation, instruction and other
related issues that occur in the
educational setting.

• The immediate focus of
educational psychology is to solve
students’ learning difficulties.
• Transfer of learning – the application
of whatever knowledge, theories,
principles or laws an individual has

• Educational psychologists are very
much interested in studying learning
for they believe that learning is the
key to the betterment of the lives of

• Well-educated individuals are in a
better position to solve problems of
everyday living in a scientific manner.
Theories of Learning
• Psychology has proposed a number of
theories which attempt to explain why and
how people learn:

1. Connectionism
2. Classical Conditioning or Respondent Conditioning
3. Operant Conditioning
4. Observational or Social Learning
5. Insight Learning
6. Cognitive Learning
I. Connectionism
• Proposed by Edward Lee Thorndike
• Claims that all learning is explained by
selection and connections or bonds
formed between stimuli and responses.
• It is the process through which
associations take place through trial
and error.
• Applied through the laws of learning:
(1) law of readiness, (2) law of exercise
and (3) law of effect.
A. Law of Readiness
– Learning occurs when the learner is physiologically
and psychologically prepared.
– Examples:
• A five-year old kid cannot be expected to compete in a
15-kilometer run because he is not yet mature for the
• A student who keeps on thinking on how to pass his/her
algebra subject cannot be expected to give full
concentration to his/her psychology class.

B. Law of Exercise
– Mastery learning can take place
through repetitions and rehearsals.
– Review is important to easily learn
new concepts, principles and rules.
– Practice makes perfect.
– Examples:
• A student who answers the activity
questions after each chapter will most
likely remember important information
and get higher grades.
• A taekwondo subordinate might be able
to beat his/her master if he/she would
continuously practice his/her skills.
C. Law of Effect
– Learning easily takes place if the consequence of a
certain response is favorable and satisfying.
– Examples:
• A child who was given a reward for returning the wallet of a
stranger would feel good about him/herself and would
maintain honesty.
• A student who gave the correct answer during recitation and
was commended by the teacher (e.g. saying “Very Good!” or
“That’s correct!”) would most likely recite again and would
study harder.

II. Classical Conditioning
• Proposed by Ivan Petrovich
• Also known as Respondent
• A neutral stimulus gradually
gains the ability to a elicit a
response because of its pairing
with the unconditioned
• There are four variables used in classical conditioning:
– Unconditioned Stimulus – a natural stimulus which
automatically elicits a response.

– Unconditioned Response – the automatic response to the
unconditioned stimulus.

– Conditioned Stimulus – a neutral stimulus which at first
cannot elicit response but after pairing with the
unconditioned stimulus is able to elicit conditioned response.

– Conditioned response – the learned response to the
conditioned stimulus.
• Concepts used in classical conditioning:
– Stimulus generalization – refers to giving similar
response to stimuli that resemble the original

– Stimulus discrimination – refers to giving different
responses to different stimuli.

– Extinction – the disappearance of learned response
or simply known as “unlearning”.

– Spontaneous Recovery – return of the conditioned
response or simply known as “relearning” which
occurs after extinction.
III. Operant Conditioning
• Proposed by Burrhus Frederic
• Puts emphasis on the
consequences or outcome of
• There is a need for a performance
of task before reinforcement is
• Also known as Instrumental
Learning because the task becomes
an instrument or tool to receive
• Reinforcement – a stimulus that tends to maintain or
increase the strength of a response. In simpler terms,
it is a form of reward that is given to increase the
probability that a certain behavior or response will be

• Repetition of behavior or response is an indication
that learning has taken place.

• Rules in giving reinforcements:
1. It should be given immediately, without delay to avoid
reinforcing incorrect responses.
2. It must be contingent upon behavior.
• Types of reinforcement according to
– Positive reinforcement – a stimulus, which when
presented, increases the chance that the response
will be repeated.
• Example: The professor gave plus points to students who
got a perfect score in the quiz.

– Negative reinforcement – a stimulus that has to be
terminated or withdrawn to increase the likelihood
that the response will be repeated.
• Example: The professor exempted the students who got
an excellent grade in quizzes and other requirements from
taking the major exam.
• Types of reinforcement according to hierarchy:

– Primary reinforcer – a stimulus that is naturally
• Example: Food satisfies hunger.
Sleep relieves us of stress.

– Secondary reinforcer – a stimulus that becomes
rewarding because of its association to a primary
• Example: Casino token or chips can be exchanged for
money. With money, you can buy food.

• Schedules of reinforcement can
be either continuous or
– Continuous – reinforcement is given
after every response.
– Intermittent – reinforcement is
given in an irregular or alternating
pattern; can be classified as interval
or ratio.
• Interval reinforcement – a scheduled
reinforcement that takes place at
definite established time intervals.
• Ratio reinforcement – a scheduled
reinforcement which occurs after a
certain number of responses.
• Four Classes of Schedules of Reinforcement

1. Fixed Ratio – a schedule anchored on a specific
number of responses.
– Example: Car salesmen get additional 5%
commission when they are able to sell 10 cars.

2. Variable Ratio – a schedule in which the
number of responses varies from one
reinforcement to the next.
– Example: It is unpredictable when you can hit the
jackpot prize in a slot machine in a casino.
3. Fixed Interval – a schedule in which a response
leads to reinforcement only after a specific
length of time.
– Examples: Students' visits to the university library
show a decided increase in rate as the time of final
examinations approaches; Salaries are given every
and 30
of the month.

4. Variable Interval – a schedule in which the time
between reinforcement varies.
– Examples: Checking your email, fishing, pressing of
redial button when the other line is busy.
• Operant Conditioning Concepts
– Extinction – unlearning in which the learned
response would disappear if not reinforced.

– Shaping behavior – involves the gradual or the step-
by-step procedure in pursuing a target behavior or
the desired response.

– Behavior modification – eliciting change in an
existing behavior through reinforcements.
IV. Observational or Social Learning
• Proposed by Albert Bandura
• Focuses on how humans learn
through observation
• A form of learning that
develops through watching
others – it does not require the
observer to perform any
observable behavior or receive
a reinforcement.
• Learning may take place but may not be immediately
demonstrated in performance.

• Four Processes involved in Observational Learning:
– Attention – the observer should focus attention to what
distinctive features of the model he/she wants to imitate.
– Retention – The observer should remember the observed
behavior of the model.
– Motor reproduction – The observer is able to perform the
task of imitating the model.
– Motivation – If the result of imitating the model is
pleasurable, such pleasant feeling serves as motivation itself
to continue imitating the model.
V. Insight Learning
• Insight – the sudden realization of
the solution to a problem;
restructuring of the world by
recognizing relationships of various
elements in a situation.

• Aha Experience – human beings
who solve a problem insightfully
usually experience a good feeling;
we utter the word “aha” as we
suddenly see the answer to a
• Three Characteristics of Insight
– The solutions comes suddenly.
– The reality is organized into a new
– The solution can be generalized
easily to similar problems.

• Not everyone can easily
develop insight. Intelligence and
experiences are factors that
contribute to the development
of insight.

Can You Solve This Problem?
You have 5 pieces of chain. Each piece has links
as shown in the drawing. You wish to have
them welded together to form a single chain.

The blacksmith tells you that he charges $5 to
cut a link and $10 for welding it together.

“Fine,” you say. “The whole job will cost $60.”

“No,” says the honest blacksmith. “I can do the
job for only $45.”

How can the blacksmith maintain his prices and
still do the job for $45?
VI. Cognitive Learning
• Form of learning which is concerned with the
mental processes involved in learning.
• Focuses on how information is obtained,
processed and organized.
• Examples: latent learning and learned
• Latent learning – a.k.a. hidden learning is said
to occur but is not shown in the behavior until a
later time, when conditions for its emergence
are favorable. Edward Tolman performed an
experiment involving latent learning.
• Learned helplessness – a condition in which due to
repeated failures in attempting to control a situation,
the individual gives up, becomes helpless as he/she
becomes convinced that situation is uncontrollable no
matter how hard we tries.

• Martin Seligman believes that learned helplessness is a
major cause of depression. He believes that people
who become unable to control the events in their lives
learn to respond in any or all of the following ways:
– They lose their motivation and therefore stop trying.
– They experience lower self-esteem.
– They feel depressed.
Thinking and Language
• Thinking and language are interrelated
because we use words as symbols in our
thinking process. We also use images as

• Concept – a symbolic representation of
common and general feature of objects and
events. Its functions are to group things into
categories and identify things without
Types of Thinking
A. Problem Solving
• Problem – an unresolved conflict or the non-
satisfaction of need or the inability to achieve a
certain goal.

• Whenever we look for a solution to a problem,
we refer to the information stored in our
memory and follow rules that gives us an idea
to whether we can solve it or not:
• Algorithms
• Heuristics
• Algorithm – a set of rules, if
observed correctly, will lead
to the solution of a

• Heuristics – shortcuts or
general strategies in solving
problems. These permit us
to make quick decisions but
when misused, it could lead
to unwise or bad decisions.
• Functional Fixedness – inability to see an object as
having different function from its usual one or
simply the inability to think “outside the box”.

• To solve certain problems, it pays to be open-
minded and innovative.
• Scientific Procedures in Problem-Solving:

1. Preparation – the thinker identifies the problem
and gathers data necessary for the solution.

2. Incubation – the solver, realizing that the
problems cannot be solved immediately, keeps
the problem at the freezing stage.

3. Illumination – occurs with its “aha” insight
experience. There is a sudden flash of solution
to the problem.
4. Evaluation – the application of
the solution to the problem.

5. Revision – if the solution does
not fit the problem, meaning the
conflict remains unresolved,
there is a need to think of
another possible solution or
there could be a need only for
certain modification or change
in one aspect of the solution.
B. Creative Thinking
• It is a combination of flexibility in thinking and
reorganization in understanding to produce
innovative ideas and solutions (James Greeno,
• Divergent thinking – the emergence of a variety
of thoughts about a problem; equivalent to
creative thinking.

• Convergent thinking – opposite of divergent
thinking; concerned with a particular solution to
a problem and the solution may be have been
already tried in the past.

• One approach to encourage creativity is brainstorming
which involves attempting to solve a particular problem
by observing the four basic rules:
a. Do not criticize the suggestions of
other people.
b. Generate as many ideas as possible.
c. Attempt to be original.
d. Build on other’s suggestions.
Characteristics of Creative People
1. They are sensible people; when you listen to them you
learn a lot from them.
2. They accept the challenge of solving difficult or complex
3. They go for objectivity to test creative ideas.
4. They are not afraid to take risks or live in a new and
uncertain world.
5. They are flexible to adjust to an ever-changing society.
6. They do not resist change, if the change is for the better.
7. They are happy individuals because they solve many
problems more easily.

• Noam Chomsky – a linguistics
professor who claimed that all
humans have an innate capacity to
acquire language as a product of
biological factor or inheritance;
considered as a psycholinguist.

• Language Acquisition Device (LAD)
– refers to our innate knowledge
of language.
• Linguistics – study of rules of any language and it
postulates that the rules of language are part of our

• Psycholinguistics - study of the psychological and
neurobiological factors that enable humans to acquire,
use, comprehend and produce language.

• Children have the inborn competence for language
acquisition. No one has to tell children how to talk.
Children do their talking without consciously knowing
how they do so.
• Pragmatics – refers to speaking or writing in
such a way as to have an effect on others.

• Factors affecting the way we use language:
– Context in which we are speaking
– Status of the person or identity of the speaker
– Conversational rules
– Intention of the speaker