Behavioral and Cognitive Learning Theories

Topic: Learning Principles
Words: 907 Pages: 3

Various learning theories are studied in education to understand how students acquire new knowledge and skills and retain that information. Such learning theories are based on the principles of behaviorism and cognitivism. Behavioral learning theories are rooted in the idea that learning processes are more effectively studied with stimuli responses, while cognitive approaches focus on the mental perceptions that are not reflected in external behavior (Ormrod, 2018). Moreover, both systems of ideas have practical applications in the fields of psychology and education. In that way, the central principles of learning theories are reflected in the Bible, emphasizing their importance in studying human learning experiences.

It is essential to clearly define the theories before reviewing their possible applications. Cognitive learning theory is based on the idea that learning requires the ability to think critically while thinking is dependent on the internal and external environment (McSparron et al., 2019). Consequentially, the process is fully affected by one’s mental abilities and is complicated to study empirically. Depending on the direct applications of cognitive learning theory, it includes alternating concepts of knowledge retention and retrieval (McSparron et al., 2019). As the thesis deals with mental operations, a discussion of cognitive load theory is relevant. Traditionally, the cognitive load theory explains the need for learners to be provided with clear instructions before attempting a new task (Kalyuga & Singh, 2016). Cognitive psychology researchers accentuate the concept of simplified knowledge, as the human mind constantly seeks energy-conserving ways of retaining information. Behavioral learning, on the other hand, is focused on the knowledge acquired through external practices. Behaviorally based techniques similarly require set models for imitation (Giambatista & Hoover, 2019). In this way, both theories prioritize models and examples for effective learning.

The applications of cognitive and behavioral learning theories are observable predominantly in the field of education, including institutions of various specializing majors. Cognitive load theory, in this way, can be used to increase productivity for online learners. According to Chen et al. (2017), the theory’s components play a central role in setting clear instructions for students. This fundamental characteristic has direct applications in creating level varying programs for students with different prior knowledge (Chen et al., 2017). Another investigation featuring cognitive theories emphasized the effectiveness of strategies involving planning, note-taking, and self-recording (Li et al., 2021). The study additionally confirmed the importance of structuring knowledge into accessible components, noting no effect of the external environment in this case. Essentially, cognitive processes interact with social and subjective factors, which researchers have also investigated. When combined with group work and interaction with instructors, the student’s cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking skills, improved as well (Wang & Lin, 2021). The study emphasized the importance of using relevant and arguable information for critical analysis. Furthermore, cognitive learning methods are most realistic when utilized with social factors considered.

The role of behaviorism in education is primarily emphasized in subjects directly relating to physical activity. In this case, Kjerland & Annerstedt (2021) demonstrated the effectiveness of incorporating behavioral learning principles into PE teaching. In the process of physical illustration of the various PE techniques, the students learned through their own experiences and the actions of their classmates (Kjerland & Annerstedt, 2021). The ideas of behavioral strategies are reinforced through collaborative work and social influence, as demonstrated by Cianciolo & Hoover (2019). In medical practice, the external informational output provides the basis for theoretical learning (Cianciolo & Hoover, 2019). Although self-analysis and innate abilities determine one’s learning progress to an extent, collaborative working significantly increases productivity.

The mentioned theories apply to the learning processes of children and adults. A study conducted by Şendurur et al. (2018) illustrated the use of multimedia as a limitation for effective learning, as it complicated adults’ mental schema. In multimedia use cases, the cognitive load also acts as a limiting factor, decreasing the amount of knowledge a person can process and retain at once (Şendurur et al., 2018). Research on adult learning accentuates the importance of linking previously learned knowledge with newly acquired information (Chuang, 2021). In this way, adults can improve without large clusters of known information complicating their critical thinking skills.

The main principles of behavioral learning theory are reflected in the Bible as well. According to the idea, specific behavior is learned through reward, punishment, external influence, and other factors. As mentioned in Numbers 6:23-27, Aaron is instructed by Moses to bless the children of Israel: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (New International Version, 1978/2011). Hence, the Israelites were encouraged to follow the Law, otherwise risk being punished. Through assessment of the risks and consequences of disobedience, the people of Israel demonstrated analytical skills through behaviorism. Behavioral learning concepts can be traced in Exodus 18:20 in the line “Teach them his decrees and instructions and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave” (New International Version, 1978/2011). Men learn when given explicit instructions and behavior to imitate. Therefore, the principles of learning theories are reflected in many sources.

An in-depth analysis of behavioral and cognitive learning theories demonstrated their role in education, as well as possible applications in other fields. Cognitive learning strategies are more effective when students are independently engaging with information. Behaviorism cannot be viewed appropriately without acknowledging its link to social influence, as students process information better through models and particular consequences. These ideas are fundamental for planning and organizing productive lessons.


Chen, O., Woolcott, G., & Sweller, J. (2017). Using cognitive load theory to structure computer based learning including MOOCs: Cognitive load theory. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(4), 293-305. Web.

Chuang, S. (2021). The applications of constructivist learning theory and social learning theory on adult continuous development. Performance Improvement (International Society for Performance Improvement), 60(3), 6-14. Web.

Cianciolo, A. T., & Regehr, G. (2019). Learning theory and educational intervention: Producing meaningful evidence of impact through layered analysis. Academic Medicine, 94(6), 789- 794. Web.

Giambatista, R. C., & Hoover, J. D. (2019). Time compression and MBA behavioral skill acquisition. Journal of Education for Business, 94(1), 1-10. Web.

Holy Bible, New International Version. (1984). Zondervan Publishing House. Web.

Kalyuga, S., & Singh, A. (2016). Rethinking the boundaries of cognitive load theory in complex learning. Educational Psychology Review, 28(4), 831-852. Web.

Kjerland, G. Ø., & Annerstedt, C. (2021). Applying learning theories in learning how to teach physical education: A study of teacher education students collaborative learning processes in a project. Sport, Education and Society,1-14. Web.

Li, M., Wang, Y., Stone, H. N., & Turki, N. (2021). Teaching introductory chemistry online: The application of socio-cognitive theories to improve students’ learning outcomes. Education Sciences, 11(3), 95. Web.

McSparron, J.I., Vanka, A. and Smith, C.C. (2019), Cognitive learning theory for clinical teaching. Clin Teach, 16, 96-100. Web.

Ormrod, J.E. (2018). Human learning (8th ed.). Pearson.

Şendurur, E., Doğusoy, B., & Yondemir Çalişkan, N. (2020). Investigation of non-native learners’ informal learning processes from cognitive-load theory perspective. Interactive Learning Environments, 28(1), 95-106. Web.

Wang, W., & Lin, Y. (2021). The relationships among students’ personal innovativeness, compatibility, and learning performance: A social cognitive theory perspective. Educational Technology & Society, 24(2), 14-27.

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