A Theory of Learning


Psychological theory of response to stimulus

Concerned with external environment

Edward L. Thorndike's "Law of Effect" and John B. Watson's "Methodological Behaviourism"

Connection to Education?

B.F. Skinner: "The Behaviour of Organisms"

Launches the theory of "Operant Conditioning"

Operant conditioning: stimuli that are present when a behaviour is either rewarded or penalised, can be used to control that behaviour. This is a process of LEARNING!

Behaviourism: A Theory of Learning

Knowledge is a repertoire of behavioral responses to environmental stimuli;
Learning is passive - students absorb a pre-defined body of knowledge;
Motivation is extrinsic - repetition and drills, rote learning
Teaching correct behavioural responses that are absorbed by the students.


The mind as a blank slate or tabula rasa

Teacher-centred view

Learner's mental process disregarded

Behavourism has been over-interpreted!

John Dewey (1859 - 1952) already knew learning is a social, interactive process

B.F. Skinner suggested thinking and feeling can also be conditioned...

..."Radical Behaviourism"


Skinner, B.F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: an experimental analysis. Oxford, England: Appleton-Century.

Stewart M. (2012). Understanding learning: theories and critique in Hunt L, Chalmers D (Eds) University teaching in focus: a learning centred approach, London, Routledge.

Created By
Lyle Gurrin


Created with images by GoodIdeas - "Behaviorism complex like a puzzle - pictured as word Behaviorism on a puzzle pieces to show that Behaviorism can be difficult and needs cooperating pieces that fit together, 3d illustration" • Aaron Burden - "Hornet eating flower" • Kelly Sikkema - "Grid notebook and Muji pen" • K. Mitch Hodge - "Marble sculpture of Galileo Galilei contemplating the nature of the universe Nov., 2019). "