Skinner and Bandura developed the learning theories widely applied in modern teaching processes. Skinner contributed to the development of Behavioral theory, first discovered by Pavlov, who based his experiments on placing the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli and recording the responses. Thorndike, another behavioral theorist, broadened the idea by incorporating two significant rules: reactions to the stimuli can be reinforced with rewards and become stronger by exercise and repetition (Most influential theories of learning, 2020). Finally, Skinner introduced the ‘operant conditioning’ concept implying that rewarding the right parts of complex behaviors makes them more likely to reoccur. Since the rule of reinforcement works both ways, proponents of the behaviorist theory also believe that punishment or the absence of reward makes unwanted behavior less likely to reoccur.
Skinner’s theory is mostly focused on parts of human behavior. It can be best applied in sports, since in this field there is often a need to hone certain skills, such as hitting the ball in tennis or football. This theory can be successfully applied to younger students when there is a need to acquire specific skills. Skinner’s theory can also be used in organizational training, for example, for fire units (Donohue, 2020). Despite its practical advantages, this theory is often perceived as too primitive to be the only theory used in the educational process since it does not contribute to holistic cognitive thinking.
Social learning theory was developed by Albert Bandura and is based on the concept that people learn from other people, especially from role models with higher social status. The scientists also presented the idea of ‘reciprocal determinism,’ meaning that an individual’s behavior, environment, and personal qualities all reciprocally influence each other. Bandura determined that social learning requires four components – the learner’s attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. The strongest side of this theory is allowing learners to understand the skill and the context where skill is applied.
The most important similarity between the two presented theories is the presence of the external stimuli and the influence of the environment on the learning process. Both approaches imply that the student will react to the actions or words of a third person who will have some authority in the student’s eyes. Besides, theories consider the possibility of demonstrating both desirable and undesirable behavior. Nonetheless, the two views provide different answers to how to respond to unwanted behavior. Finally, both theories are results-oriented: they focus on acquiring specific skills or patterns of action by learners, although using different ways to achieve this.
The most crucial difference between the first and second theories is that behavioral theory focuses on studying certain parts of the whole skill. In contrast, social learning theory implies a holistic approach. Noteworthy, behavioral theory suggests reducing the likelihood of unwanted behavior by introducing punishments or canceling rewards. In contrast, social learning theory pays more attention to the personality of the role model. The approach indicates that people are more inclined to take an example from others with whom they have more in common, like their classmates, colleagues, or friends, and from the role models with higher social status. Therefore, unwanted behavior can be avoided by not demonstrating it, and a good example can introduce positive changes. The behavioral theory also suggests that stimuli’ repetition is the most effective way to achieve the desired result. On the contrary, social learning theory sees reinforcement in improving learners’ attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation.
Donohue, D. (2020). Learning theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism. Web.
Most influential theories of learning. (2020). Web.