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B.F. Skinner is known as the father of operant conditioning, which is learning through the consequences of behavior. He studied operant conditioning through studying animals and their responses to stimulus. He then decided to try relating this concept to humans, which lead to his theory of operant conditioning. B.F. Skinner believed that the goal of psychology was to predict and control a person’s behavior, and also that a person’s behavior could be controlled through the use of stimuluses and reinforcements. Based on his principle of operant conditioning, behavior that is accompanied by pleasant consequences will be repeated, and then behavior that is followed by unpleasant consequences will not be repeated as often. B.F. Skinner’s theory of operant conditioning relates to the field of education in that it is a method of learning and studies how people learn through their behaviors. His theory of operant conditioning can be related to the field of education in regard to discipline. Teachers could definitely apply his concepts of positive and negative reinforcement to either encourage good behaviors or deter bad behaviors. For example, a teacher can praise her students for listening and paying attention while she reads a book. Another instance of negative reinforcement is the teacher taking away homework for one night if the students are quiet during the assembly program. Overall, operant conditioning has been proven to be very effective for the classroom environment and has been very influential in aiding students in their development.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist and genetic epistemologist from Switzerland (Cherry). He is most recognized for his theory of cognitive development that was based on how children develop intellectually throughout their childhood years. After getting married and having three children, he began to really study his own children and how they thought. His observations of his children influenced many of his theories later on. Ultimately, with his theory of cognitive development, he believed that the way children think is significantly different than the way adults think. He also felt that children take a very active role in the learning process, as they observe and experiment to learn about the world around them (Cherry). Therefore, Piaget’s theory suggests that children move and develop through 4 stages of intellectual development, which include the Sensorimotor stage, the Preoperational stage, the Concrete operational stage, and the Formal operational stage. Each of these stages helps the child develop and mature into an individual who can think and reason on their own. Ultimately, the goal of his theory was to explain the necessary processes by which the infant, and then the child, grows and matures into an adult who can reason and think using hypotheses. Plus, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development has been very influential in helping to create educational policies and teaching practices. One concept in education that has really been shaped by Piaget’s theory is the concept of discovery in learning, which is just the idea that children learn best through doing and actively exploring. This concept has really transformed the primary school curriculum in recent years to add more active methods to really get the students up and active about learning, and to get them out discovering and exploring the world around them. Another way that his theory can be applied in the classroom is through the teacher creating situations that present problems to get the students engaged and to critically think, such as with brain teasers or logic problems. Essentially, Jean Piaget desired for learning to be student-centered and for the teacher to be more of a facilitator.
Lawrence Kohlberg was a psychologist known mainly for his research and work in moral psychology and development. Kohlberg’s work revised and extended Jean Piaget’s work to form a theory that emphasized how children develop moral reasoning (Cherry). Lawrence Kohlberg strongly believed that individuals develop through six stages of moral development, in which each new stage replaces the reasoning found in the earlier stage. Overall, Kohlberg claimed that correct moral reasoning was the most important factor in moral decision-making, and that correct moral reasoning would lead to ethical behavior. Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was based on a progression of moral reasoning through six stages, which starts with children first learning about obedience and punishment and ends with individuals developing their own set of moral guidelines to follow. In his stages, as children advanced from one stage to the next, they were improving their moral reasoning and becoming more morally mature, which would aid them in making wise decisions. His theory of moral development relates to the field of education in that his theory helped to shape how morals should be implemented and taught in schools. Most children when they first start school already know the basics of morality, which is that good is rewarded within our societies and that the “bad guys” are always punished. Still, in Kohlberg’s opinion, trying to explain to children why something is right and then why other things are not morally right can be very difficult, so that is why he created his theory. Thus, his theory helps teachers to explain to their students why something is morally right or wrong. Overall, this theory can help teachers to guide the moral characters of their students and to help their students become the best versions of themselves that they can be.
Lev Vygotsky was a Russian psychologist who was best known for his sociocultural theory. He strongly believed that social interaction played a huge role in children’s learning and cognitive development. Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of development explains and emphasizes the importance of society and culture in promoting cognitive development. He believed that adults could help promote and support children’s cognitive development by leading them in challenging, but meaningful, activities (“Lev Vygotsky’s Theory of Cognitive Development”). For example, a father can model for his child how to fit blocks into the correct holes, because without his assistance, his daughter would continue to be unsuccessful. Also, a very important concept of his theory is the Zone of Proximal Development, which is the tasks that children can perform with the help and guidance of others, but not on their own. Thus, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory relates to the field of education in that he believed that learning is a social process that occurs through social interactions with others. Also, his concept of the Zone of Proximal Development has been put to use in many schools today, especially in younger grades since they are learning new skills and concepts that they have never been exposed to. One other idea that schools use of Vygotsky’s is that students learn more when they receive guidance from someone with more skills and experience in the subject that they are learning about. For example, many teachers model behaviors that they want their students to learn how to do on their own, such as learning how to add and subtract in math or learning how to sound out letters in phonics. Overall, Lev Vygotsky’s theory can be used as a teaching method that can help students learn more by working more with a teacher or interacting with a more advanced student to achieve their learning goals.
Albert Bandura is a social cognitive psychologist who is best known for his social learning theory, as well as his concept of self-efficacy (Cherry). His social learning theory focused on observation, modeling, and imitation in learning. According to InstructionalDesign.org, “Albert Bandura’s social learning theory stresses the significance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others” (“Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura)”). Basically, his theory works by children observing individuals, known as models, which can be their parents, teachers, friends, etc. Then, children will begin to watch these models closely and encode their behavior into their minds. The children may then imitate the behavior they observed later on. This theory can be used in the field of education to teach students positive behaviors. Teachers can be positive role models for their students to help increase desired behaviors they wish to see in the classroom. Plus, Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy, which is the belief in one’s capabilities to achieve a goal or complete a task, is often used and encouraged in the classroom. For instance, if a teacher is very positive with his or her students and encourages them while they work and complete tasks, then it will help build self-efficacy in their students. Overall, Bandura’s concept and theory of social learning not only helps teach students, but aids them in successfully understanding, retaining, and applying their learning to their lives, so they can learn and achieve even more.
B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura were alike in that they both believed that behavior results from what is learned from experience. Still, Bandura and Skinner’s theories differed in that Skinner believed that environmental influences control people, while Bandura felt that people have specific intentions and purposes. Bandura also believed that the foundation of learning comes from observing others, while Skinner believed that learning comes from conditioning and reinforcement. Piaget and Skinner were completely different in their ideas about children’s development. Piaget believed that children learn through a more natural process, while Skinner felt that children learn through reinforcement. Piaget’s theory is different from Bandura’s, in that Piaget focused more on cognitive development and Bandura was more of a behaviorist and focused on observations. For instance, Piaget would argue that language development is developed from our thought processes, while Bandura would say that language is learned from observation. However, they are alike in that they both focus somewhat on social development. Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was similar to that of Piaget’s, since Kohlberg expanded upon Piaget’s theory. Both of these theorists studied how children develop a sense of morality. Still, their ideas differed in the sense that Kohlberg developed a more complex understanding of childhood morality. Also, Kohlberg believed that children’s interactions with parents, teachers, and friends leads to their understanding of what is morally right and wrong, whereas Piaget believed that intelligence and morality does not come from social interactions, but from an individual’s biological development and thought processes. A last comparison and contrast is between Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. These philosophers both believed that children learn complex information and skills as they get older and mature, as well as that children’s cognitive abilities develop in a sequence. However, these theorists differ in a number of ways. One way they are different is that “Piaget believed that children learn through active self-discovery, whereas Vygotsky believed that children learn through instruction and guidance” (“Comparison between Piaget & Vygotsky”). Another difference is that “Piaget argued that cognitive development is the same universally, whereas Vygotsky said that it differs across cultures” (“Comparison between Piaget & Vygotsky”). Lastly, the key difference between Piaget and Vygotsky is that Piaget felt that learning is done through a child’s own self-discovery, while Vygotsky believed that learning is done through children being taught by someone who is more knowledgeable than them, such as a parent or teacher.