Unit 1: Basic Concepts
Most of us think of learning in terms of traditional schooling and
education. While learning theory includes educational learning,
“learning” as psychologists know it is much broader in scope. For them,
learning refers to the way in which an individual’s interaction with his
or her environment results in specific behaviors. For psychologists,
“learning” references the knowledge of human interaction with the
environment to cause human behavior.
This unit will introduce you to the basic concepts and theoretical underpinnings of learning theory and behaviorism. In particular, rationalism and empiricism are philosophical approaches to knowledge development and provided the launching pad for future dialogue on learning and thought.
Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit will take approximately 10 hours to complete.
☐ Subunit 1.1: 2.0 hours
☐ Subunit 1.2: 5.0 hours
☐ Subunit 1.3: 3.0 hours
Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Outline the beginnings of the psychological study of learning.
- Describe the role of evolution in the process of learning.
- Identify the difference between learning and change.
1.1 Rationalism and Empiricism
- Reading: Garth Kemerling’s Philosophy Pages: “René Descartes”
Link: Garth Kemerling’s Philosophy Pages: “René
Instructions: Rationalism embodies the idea the knowledge derives from reason alone. Thus, the senses are not primary factors in knowledge development. The rationalist doctrine was espoused by René Descartes during the mid 1600s. His primary methodology included doubt, and he gave us the famous phrase, “I think, therefore I am.” Review this history of Descartes’ life and discover the foundations of “thinking about thinking.”
1.2 Natural Selection
- Reading: North Carolina State University: Professor John R.
Meyer’s “Elements of Behavior”
Link: North Carolina State University: Professor John R. Meyer’s
“Elements of Behavior”
Instructions: This reading comes from notes in Entomology, but the concepts are equally applicable to the behavior of humans.
1.3 Learning and Change
- Reading: CkBooks Online’s “Learning: Definition of Learning”
Link: CkBooks Online’s “Learning:
Definition of Learning”
Instructions: Along with definitions of learning, this resource also touches on topics we will discuss in subsequent units (e.g., habituation). Please read this article in its entirety.
- Web Media: YouTube: Consortium for School Networking’s “Learning
to Change-Changing to Learn”
Link: YouTube: Consortium for School Networking’s “Learning to
Change - Changing to
Instructions: Please view the entire video (5:37 minutes). Be sure to take notes as you view this video. This is a great take on learning and change as it applies to our current educational climate.