PSYCH305: The Psychology of Learning and Behavior

Course Syllabus for "PSYCH305: The Psychology of Learning and Behavior"

Please note: this legacy course does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

This course introduces learners to the principles of learning and behavior by surveying relevant theoretical and empirical approaches within psychology.  The overall emphasis is on the theoretical foundations of psychology as they relate to human learning and behavior.   The following topics will be reviewed: historical perspectives of early learning theories, prevailing theories of human development, classical and operant conditioning, effects stimuli have on learning and behavior, social learning, motivation, cognitive developmental theory in the context of learning stages and processes, memory and human information processing models, and problem-solving methods.  Understanding these human processes is an integral part of psychology and other domains of human behavior, such as marketing, sports, health, education and relationships. Learning theories are an outgrowth from philosophies of thought.  The philosophical approaches of rationalism and empiricism, and the works of Plato and Descarte form the underpinnings of learning theory.  However, developments in psychology added an interest in objectivity and scientific research to demarcate the psychological approach to learning.  From this impulse stemmed the classical conditioning of Pavlov and the operant conditioning of Skinner.  These early theorists formed the foundation from which we view learning theory today.  Although the early work of the behaviorists demonstrates a strong emphasis on objective measurement of behaviors during the learning process, these observations cannot always fully explain human learning.  In other words, human learning cannot be fully captured by assessment of observable behaviors.  Thus, the integration of internal cognitive processes and external social contexts provide a more accurate depiction of the full learning process.  Learning theory captures the integration of all these perspectives and a full understanding of human learning necessitates a review of all these domains, which we will seek to do in this course.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify major historical timelines and perspectives associated with learning theory.
  • Explain foundational concepts associated with learning theory.
  • Integrate common principles of learning theory into larger domains of psychology.
  • Align major theorists with specific contributions to psychology of learning and behavior.
  • Analyze and describe empirical research as it relates to effectiveness of learning and behavior management techniques.
  • Identify the utilization of psychology of learning and behavior in domains outside the field of psychology. 

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language

    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following courses from “The Core Program” of the Psychology discipline: PSYCH101 Introduction to Psychology, PSYCH202A Research Methods, and PSYCH202B Research Methods Lab.

Course Information

Course Designer: Nick Affrunti and Trista Huckleberry

Primary Resources: History.com, YouTube, Shippensberg University, Animal Behavior.com

Requirements for Completion: Passage of Final Exam at 70%.

Time Commitment: 93 hours

Tips/Suggestions: This course draws on a wide and diverse set of resources.  As such, the ability to integrate diverse sources of information will be key.  As always, good note taking and highlighting are strongly encouraged.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.