This article throws light upon the three important theories of learning. The theories are: 1. Trial and Error Theory of Learning 2. Conditioned Response Theory 3. Learning by Insight Theory.
Theory # 1. Trial and Error Theory of Learning:
E.L. Thorndike, an American Psychologist was the pro-pounder of this theory. It is the theory of connectionism. To Thorndike the basic unit of behaviour is S.R. Connection. Learning is forming of bonds (connections) between S (Stimulus) and R (Response).
This S-R connection depends on recently, frequency, intensity and vividness of the experiences, capacity and readiness of the learner. These bond connections are formed through Trial and Error.
It means one learns by making trials, making errors or mistakes during the trials and making further trials, eliminating the wrong responses. So learning takes place, slowly by the process of trial and error. In order to learning something a learner makes several trials where some responses do not give satisfactory results, but he goes on making further trials till he gets satisfactory responses.
A hungry cat of 24 hours was placed inside a Puzzle box or iron cage. Where a liver was connected to open the door. A fish was placed outside the box. Seeing the sight of fish the cat made several trials in-side the cat in order to get the fish.
After making several jumping or trials her leg was put on the liver. As it is connected by liver which helped the cat to open the door. The door was opened and the cat came to outside and ate the fish. Again the same cat was put inside the cage that was 24 hours hungry on the next day. She took less time and put the leg on the liver and door was opened.
Then he came out and ate the fish. After doing one after one day then the cat within no moment he put his leg on the liver and the door was opened. He came out suddenly and ate the fish. This is his learning which is made on trial and error method.
On the basis of the data gathered by him from his experiments on the learning of animals formulated certain laws of learning. Thorndike has highlighted three important laws of learning.
A brief summary of these laws is given below:
(i) Law of Readiness
(ii) Law of Exercises
(iii) Law of Effect
(i) Law of Readiness:
It emphasizes on readiness to learn. The law of readiness states that “When any conduction unit is not in readiness to conduct, for it to conduct is annoying. When any conduction unit is in readiness to conduct for it not to do so is annoying.
On the other hand it means, when a learner is ready to get (learn) he can learn quickly and effectively. This implies that the learner must be mentally prepared to learn. Readiness means preparedness both physical and psychological.
Physical readiness is closely related to the physical growth and sound health free from diseases. Psychological readiness refers to the interest, zeal, inclination, enthusiasm and willingness to learn.
Readiness depends on three main factors such as:
(b) Experiences—training or previous learning and
(c) Favourable physical, psychological and environmental elements conducive for learning.
The law of readiness has a number of educational implications:
a. Curriculum, syllabus are to be prepared as per the learner’s age, ability, standard.
b. Appropriate methods of teaching are selected suiting to the mental maturity of the students.
c. Teacher has to use audio-visual aids in teaching learning when learners are ready to learn.
d. Teachers and parents should not be over ambitious; rather they should wait till the child becomes ready to learn.
e. Teacher is to motivate the child before starting this teaching work.
f. Learners should be engaged in curricular activities observing their readiness and curiosity for new things.
(ii) Law of Exercise:
Law of exercise tells that learning takes place by doing or by actively participating or by exercising any work. In actual practice a man learns when he does and one does not learn, if he does not do. Learning is permanent. When one does drill, practice or repeat through exercise This law is divided into two parts such as law of use and law of disuse.
Law of use:
It is called law of practice. This gives emphasis on practice which makes a man perfect. This is associated with intensity and recently.
Law of disuse:
When a thing is not repeated or practiced over a long time it is slowly forgotten because the strength of the connection between S and R decreases. It has negative value of lack of practice.
a. This law creates interest with pleasant result among the students.
b. Problems related to behaviour can be solved easily by this law.
b. It gives reward and punishment.
d. Undesirable behaviour or attitude can be removed by associating with this law.
e. Students from good habits after getting reward and punishment.
f. It makes learning functional and permanent.
g. Learning is more effective through drill, repetition, review, discussion, practice revision etc.
h. Forgetting can be diluted.
i. Bad habits can be removed.
(iii) Law of Effect:
As per the view of Thorndike law of effect is “When modifiable connection is made between a situation and a response and is accompanied or followed by a satisfying state of affairs the strength of connection is increased and when such a connection is made and accompanied or followed by an annoying state of affairs its strength is decreased.”
This law says that if our efforts are accompanied by a feeling of achievements or satisfaction, we are further inspired to learn and therefore, effective learning takes place. If our efforts are not accompanied by a feeling of satisfaction, not much of real learning will take place.
In other words it is said that a response which gives achievement of the goal will give pleasure and thus provides satisfaction, will be stamped in, while those which are accompanied by dissatisfaction will be stamped out. This law has an important bearing on learning.
a. The learning situation provided by the teacher is enjoyable.
b. It creates school activities interesting.
c. Each practice will definitely gives result.
d. Good practice will give good effect and bad practice will give bad result.
e. Without seeking incentives, repetition and motivation. Learning is ineffective.
Theory # 2. Conditioned Response Theory:
This theory was advocated by Pavlov, a Russian doctor and psychologist. For his contribution Pavlov was placed a prominent place of fame. Conditioning implies modification of natural response. Natural stimulus comes in a natural process.
But in absence of natural stimulus if artificial stimulus is given then natural response comes out which is known as S.R. Theory of Stimulus Response Theory of Learning. So that when
natural stimulus is substituted by an artificial stimulus, then a new connection between artificial stimulus and natural response is created. In this way, conditioning learning takes place.
a. Sound proof room having a small hole
b. Hungry dog of 24 hours
d. Ringing Bell
A dog of 24 hours hungry was put inside a sound proof room having a small hole where the dog could see the outsiders. At a particular time when meal was brought to serve the dog then the dog saw the sight of food from a high distant through the hole.
Seeing the sight of meat/food, dog started salivating and the salivating responses were recorded. On the next day when meat/food was supplied at that time a bell was rung. Listening the sound of the bell and sight of food the dog began to salivate.
In the third day the food was supplied with ringing bell and showing a torch light. Seeing this torch light, listening the ringing bell sound with the sight of food the dog began to salivate. After a number of repetitions of it the dog’s salivation was made conditioned to bell, light and food. Next the food was not supplied but it was found that simply by ringing of the bell and light the dog responded to it by secreting saliva.
From this experiment Pavlov came to conclude his opinion that food (meat) is the natural stimulus and salivation is natural response. It is natural that a dog would salivate when food is served to it. Salivation comes automatically through a natural process which is known as natural responses.
It is innate and reflex action. Ringing of bell and torch light both are artificial or unnatural stimulus. In absence of natural stimulus i.e. food when unnatural stimulus, i.e., ringing bell and showing a torch light were served then the dog naturally expressed his natural responses, i.e. salivation.
This could be possible by associating Cs1 (bell) + Cs2 (light) with unconditioned stimulus or natural stimulus i.e., food for a number of time. Then dog begin to salivate in a natural way. Thus conditioning is a process by which the natural stimulus (UCS) is substituted by an artificial stimulus (Cs) to create same response.
The Figure Reflects the Same Picture:
NS/UCS = Unconditioned stimulus/Natural stimulus
NR/U.C.R. = Unconditioned Response/Natural response
(a) U.C.S./N.S. (Meat) -> UCR/NR Salivation
(b) U.C.S. (Food) + CS1 (Bell) UCR/NR — Salivation
(c) U.C.S. (Food + CS1, (Bell) + CS, (Light) —–à UCR/NR — Salivation
(d) CS1 (Bell) + CS2 (Light) -> UCR/NR — Salivation
(e) CS1 (Bell) ——à UCR/NR — Salivation
(f) CS2 (Light) ——-à UCR/NR — Salivation
This theory of classical conditioning or conditioned reflex is known as conditioned response because the response of the organism is conditioned by a new stimulus or conditioned stimulus.
Important points to be noted:
Conditioned Stimulus Proceeds Towards Unconditioned Stimulus:
a. No wide gap is seen is presenting C.S and U.C.S.
b. Conditioning depends upon the intensity of the stimulus.
c. The environment for conditioning is appropriate.
a. Conditioned response theory has some educational implications. The following points are noted in this connection.
b. Conditioning learning helps in developing desirable habits and interest of the children.
c. It removes fear and phobias among children.
d. The use of audio-visual aids makes better responses of students through conditioning learning.
e. The repeated use of any learning materials/teaching helps in positive conditioning.
Theory # 3. Learning by Insight Theory:
This insightful learning theory is known as Gestalt theory. M. Wertheirmer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Kohler are the chief exponents of Gestalt theory by rejecting S.R. theory and Trial and Error theory of learning. Gestalt psychologists are of views that human mind is not the connecting system but a transforming system.
Responses are not mechanical in nature bent they are adoptive because mind is the organism part where stimuli is created. Reaction comes automatically. When one faces a problem in his daily life. So Gestalt psychology gives emphasis on totality of the situation. Gestalt is a German word which means ‘whole’ or ‘total pattern’ or configuration or total form.
Gestalt Psychologists are atone that configuration of experience is more important than division of elements. Seeing the flag of a temple from a long distance can conceive the idea of a temple which is the whole thought process of human being. In this connection whole is more important than the parts. So learning takes place as a whole.
This theory is the modern theory which tells that whole is grasping knowledge is the real learning. So man/learner should try to grasp and understand the whole situation-first by utilizing his intelligence and insight.
Thus learning by insight implies sudden grasping of the solution, a flash of understanding without any process of Trial and Errors. It is seen that almost all discoveries and inventions have taken place all of a sudden through insight. Of course the inventor bears a complete knowledge of the whole situation.
b. Two sticks
A Chimpanzee was kept in a cage. He was given two sticks of bamboo, one of which could be fitted into the open end of the other to make a long stick. A banana has hanged in the roof of the room at such a distance that it could not be reached with single stick. The Chimpanzee first extended his hands and one stick but could not get the banana to eat.
He brought the another stick and played with the sticks. After sometime, by chance he put the two sticks end to end, pushed the smaller one into the longer and made a long stick. Then he stretched the joining stick to the banana. He brought the banana and ate it.
In another experiment a banana was hung from the top of the cage. One small box and big box were there. A banana was hanged in the roof. The Chimpanzee could not get the banana by stretching his hands. After a few attempts it could put the boxes one upon another to reach the banana. He learnt the trick by insight.
The following steps are connected in insightful learning:
a. The organism reacts the situation as a whole and not merely a part.
b. The organism perceives the whole situation.
c. The goal in this theory is clearly visible.
d. It establishes relationship between whole and part.
e. It brings quick solution of any problem through insight.
Following one some factors which are responsible for insightful learning:
a. It depends on age and mental ability of the learner.
b. Clarity of zeal.
c. It depends on previous experiences of the learner.
d. Initial efforts helps the learner to reach the final goal.
e. It brings clear understanding of the whole situation.
f. It determines the relationship between means and end.
a. It proceeds from whole to part.
b. It is an intelligent way of learning.
c. It helps the children to acquire knowledge by using understanding, intelligence and insight.
d. Meaningful material is better retained and learnt.
e. It helps to solve the problem easily.