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Learning Theory

Table of Contents

  • Epistemologies
    • Behaviorism
    • Cognitivism
    • Constructivism
  • Cognitive Psychology
    • Neuroscience
  • Conditions of Learning (Gagné, 1965)

When it comes to the number of published theories on how humans learn, you will find that there are about as many theories as there are people with Ed.D.’s and Ph.D.’s. Most of those learning theories can be organized into three epistemological camps, behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Based on the meta-analysis I have conducted on learning theories over the past five years, empirical evidence appears to strongly favor the theories based on Cognitivism which is supported in evidence by studies derived from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Backed by mounds of neuroscientific proof the cognitive theories on learning have been shown time and time again to have a causal effect both physiologically and psychologically in the development of the human brain. Although many will argue otherwise, those arguments really have no merit when you consider that cause and effect are the basic tenants of the scientific method and learning theories based on cognitive psychology overwhelmingly have empirical evidence that incontrovertibly make the connection between cause and effect. This is not to say that the other two epistemological views of learning have no merit at all, in fact cognitivism has many roots which were derived from behaviorism and you will find many cognitive principles are the basis for many of the theories offered by constructivism.

According to Confucius, I hear and I forget ; I see and I remember ; I do and I understand.


Behaviorism has a long history in the field of education and is based on the work of Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, Paivio, and Thorndike, just to name a few.

Cognitive Psychology

In many ways behaviorism is a pre-cursor to cognitive psychology as cognitive psychology has adapted many of the theories which were first presented by behavioral psychologists.


Constructivism is the newest of the three major schools of thought on learning and has very little empirical evidence behind it. In fact much of the empirical research that has been done on constructivism has been shown to be flawed and is very much in question as to its validity.