Principles of Learning: Overview of Theories

Yesenia Zuniga

Learning Principles

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Telling a child to do something is never an easy thing to do because most of the time they won’t listen to their parents. During the age of four to eight years old the only thing a child wants to do is play and bond with other kids. Parents are affecting a child’s academic performances if the only thing a parent is doing is letting their child play and not having any reading time before they start elementary school. There are three learning principles a parent should use to help their child enjoy to read and enhance their academic performances while in school; classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning is what parents can use to motivate their child to read. Although a child might find reading boring if a parent uses the three learning principles a child can adapt to reading and find their child to have cognitive development.

The first learning principle is classical conditioning. Classical conditioning is learning to link two stimuli in a way that helps us anticipate an event to which we have a reaction (Psychology book). Parents are going to learn the best method to link two stimuli and help their child learn that reading is a wonderful pastime. During classical conditioning parents are going to have to learn also how to identify the following; neutral stimuli (NS), unconditioned response (UR), unconditional stimuli (US), conditioned response (CR), and conditioned stimulus (CS). Many parents may think how do I know that classical conditioning works? An example of classical conditioning is the experiment of “Little Albert” led by John B. Watson, during this experiment little Albert had no fear of anything. When he was presented a rat he had no fear, when little Albert heard the noise of the steel bar hit with a hammer he would start crying, after when they combined the rat and the hammer hit the steel bar little Albert became afraid of the rat. The US, was the loud noise, the UR, was the fear response, the NS was the rat before it was paired with the noise, the CS was the rat after pairing; the CR was fear (psychology book pg.247).

A classical conditioning strategy a parent could use for their child is for the parent to create a child’s library room in their home, in the wall they could have a painting of their child’s favorite cartoons character reading, have classical music while the child is reading, and also have a comfortable sofa. A child will see that when he or she starts reading is a place they could escape to, is somewhere they could be comfortable and relax and through time the child would think of reading is something peaceful, delighted, and a de-stress zone. In this case the US will be the painting of the cartoon, the UR is listening to the music while the child is reading, the NS is the book, after condition the CS would be the book the child is reading and the CR is the child actually enjoying reading a book. There are many strategies one can use but this would be the best, for a child to want to hear and learn how to read but a parent has to make it fun for them. Making it fun for the child to read is important because if it is fun then the child will find it amusing.

The second learning principle is operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is changing behavior choices in response to consequences (Psychology book). During operant conditioning a parent can use a positive or a negative reinforcement. A parent should use both reinforcement and the parent is going to use fixed-interval schedule which is in operant conditioning, a reinforcement schedule that reinforces a response only after a specified time has elapsed (psychology book pg.279). A strategy a parent could use is read a book to their child, sit them down and make them listen without having any disturbances but the child should understand that it could be rewarding or there could be consequences if they do not listen. When the parent finishes reading the book to their child, the child must explain what the parent has read to them. When the child is not able to explain what they were just read to the parent should take away an hour of playtime and make them read a book on their own. In this case this would be a negative reinforcement but through time the child would understand that when they are read to they should listen so they could understand and be able to explain what other people are reading to them which would help them when the child is in school because it would also teach them to listen to their teachers. A positive reinforcement could be, if the child is able to explain what the parent just read to them the parent should reward the child with a small dessert. The child will see that paying attention while someone is reading to them it can be rewarding and they will also see that through time reading can be rewarding.

The third learning principle is observational learning. Observational learning is acquiring new behaviors and information through observation and information, rather than by direct experience (Psychology Book). This learning principle has a modeling and a vicarious learning; a modeling is the process of observing and imitating a specific behavior (psychology book 290) and a vicarious learning our choices are affected as we see others get consequences for their behaviors. The best decision a parent should use while trying to teach their children that reading is fun would be modeling. Kids tend to copy one another and if a parents teaches their children to sit down for an hour and read to him or her they could be an influence to other children. Not only will this strategy be helping their academic performance it will help other kids with their performances as well. Kids tend to learn so much by observing other people and kids, parents could use that advantage to help their child be an influence to other kids and tell them that reading is something enjoyable. Parents need to teach their children that reading is fun that is something enjoyable so their child could be an influence to other kids and his or her friends.

Parents could have difficulties with their children to get them to read but with classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and with observational learning it is possible. The parents have to start taking action because they are the ones that can help improve their child’s academic performance. Instead of letting their children play and waiting for them to start school so they could start learning how to read parents should be reading to them when they are three to four year old so they are used to it. Parents need to expose their children to books at a young age because at a young age a child may listen and through time they get used to reading but if they want to get their child to get used to reading in their teenage years is more difficult. Academic performances are very important in a child’s life because it determines their capability in school and in the world, and if by teaching a child to read at a young age helps them improve then that is what a parent should be doing.

Reference Page

David G. Myers, D,B. (2013). Psychology 10th Edition, New York: Worth Publishers

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