Learning Theory and Cognitive Developmental Approaches Essay

Learning Theory and Cognitive Developmental Approaches

            The different theories of learning and cognitive development have an essential part in child development. The utilization of these kinds of theory has a vital role in understanding, predicting, and guiding the child’s developmental processes. As such, it is beneficial to understand these theories in order to properly guide the child’s learning.

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            Various theories of learning have aided educational psychologist to comprehend, foresee, and control the behavior of human beings. This is exemplified by the mathematical models of learning that educational psychologist have created in order to predict the probability of an individual to make a correct response. These mathematical theories are utilized to make computerized instruction materials in areas such as reading, mathematics, and language learning (Berliner, 2006).

            The tendencies of children to avert going to schools are also studied through the learning theory by using the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s condition theory. Conditioning theory discussed the effects of stimuli that happened together may trigger same responses. Even the disruptive behavior of children in the classroom could also be analyzed by using the conditioning theory of Thorndike as well as the study of B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist. Their theories explain how the idea of the reward system form and maintain the behavioral patterns of children. Moreover, incidents such as violence and vandalism in school could also be examined by using the social-learning theory of Albert Bandura, a Canadian-American psychologist. His theory emphasizes the situation wherein people pattern their behavior based on models. Furthermore, the capability of children in problem-solving processes by using analogy and metaphor could also be understand by using the information-process theory (Berliner, 2006).

            Cognitive development also has a substantial contribution to child development. It focuses on the development of the mind or mental abilities throughout the life span of an individual, which could also be applied in the situation of children. Studying cognitive development deals with numerous aspects of mental development such as “development of memory, perception, logical reasoning, problem-solving skill, numerical understanding, intelligence, and hypothetical thinking” (Thompson, 2006). Language development is also included in this theory that deals with progress in terms of vocabulary, grammar, pragmatics in the usage of language, as well as bilingualism. Another major subject of study in cognitive development is neuroscience or the development of the brain (Thompson, 2006).

            Cognitive development study tends to vary based on the particular age bracket that is under examination. It could deal with the infant studies wherein young children are analyze with regards  to how they can easily understand the world despite the fact that there brain are not fully mature. The queries that are taken into consideration are identifying the innate learning processes inolved, the effects of rapid brain growth in reasoning, and others. Psychologists involved in child development used creative and sophisticated experiments to understand how and when a child reached the understanding of his/her surroundings. Adults are also examined in terms of how their minds adhere to the variations in sensor and mental ability especially with the effects of aging. Features of mental functions are also considered whether they improved with age or decline as someone gets older. Even the concept of a person’s lifestyle is also taken into account especially in relation to how changes in the mental function due to age could be prevented or avoided based on the way of life of a person (Thompson, 2006).

            The above mentioned discussion of learning theory and cognitive development aid in the comparison of these theories. These fields of study are similar in the sense that they could both be applied in the study of child development. However, they have different means in doing so. More so, they are also dissimilar in the specific aspects that they focus on.

            Learning theory focuses more in the environment of a child and how this affects his/her behavioral pattern. This could be seen in the conditioning theory, which examines how a stimulus in the environment affects a child. The behavior of children is also measured by the influences of other people that are clearly seen in the reward system. By means of the idea of giving reward or punishment the behavior of a child is regulated. A parent could simply give rewards in order to encourage the pleasing or appropriate behavior of a child while punishment could be used to prevent ill conduct to continue. In this case, it is clearly seen that the development of a child is guided or controlled by outside forces, which is the child’s environment and the people in it.

            On the other hand, cognitive development deals with the mental progress of a child. Its main focus is the development of the child mental abilities as he/she expressed and used it. Since it deals with mental intelligence, the studies made tend to measure the individual capabilities of each child.  The methods utilized are creative and sophisticated experiments that provoke the child to show his/her mental capabilities without substantially influencing it. This kind of study aims to know the actual capacity of the child without affecting or controlling it.

            These two theories also differ in the forces they consider as responsible for the development of a child. Since learning theory put emphasis on the external environment it deems that external factors such as the child’s surrounding and the people around him/her are responsible for its development. On the contrary, cognitive development also give importance to the environment but it is more concern on how children acquire knowledge through the learning process. Its primary objective is to measure the mental intellect and capability of a child rather than the environmental factors that influence it. Due to this, the idea of conditioning and reinforcing is not as prevalent in the cognitive development unlike in the learning theory.

            Therefore, it can be concluded that even though both these theories are concerned with child development there are still observable differences in them. The dissimilarities are seen in the main subject studied in each theory as well as the variation in their methods in obtaining its results.


Berliner, D. C. (2006). “Educational Psychology.” In Microsoft® Student 2007 [DVD]. Redmond,         WA: Microsoft Corporation.

Thompson, R. A. (2006). “Developmental Psychology.” In Microsoft® Student 2007 [DVD].      Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.



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