Chapter 3 - The nature of learning

Consider the following statements and click to reveal the answer.

1. Consider the following scenarios, in each of which something has clearly been learnt. In each case, identify the theory of learning which best explains the way learning has taken place.

a. A two year old is playing in the kitchen of his house. He accidentally touches a hot part of the oven. He burns his fingers and learns not to do that again.


This is a classic example of stimulus-response learning. The child finds the stimulus painful, and his response is to avoid it in the future. This would fit a behaviourist theory of learning.

b. A five year old is painting using a selection of coloured paints. He wants to paint something green but there is no green paint. He mixes paints together and learns that blue and yellow make green.


In this scenario the child has constructed a new understanding by himself, in this case through discovery. It would fit a constructivist account of learning.

c. An eleven year old goes to a football match for the first time with his father. During the match the home team score three goals and win. His father gets extremely excited and hugs the boy every time a goal goes in. By the end of the match the boy has learnt to be a fan of this particular football team.


Here the child has made a link between an action/state of mind and the emotional bond he feels with his father. His learning involves the identification of a set of social actions from his experiences. It would fit a social constructivist model of learning.