Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Theories of Learning and Its Educational Implications

Learning as a process focuses on what happens when the learning takes place. Explanations of what happens constitute learning theories. A learning theory is an attempt to describe how people and animals learn; thereby helping us understands the inherently complex process of learning. Learning theories have two chief values according to Hill (2002). One is in providing us with vocabulary and a conceptual framework for interpreting the examples of learning that we observe. The other is in suggesting where to look for solutions to practical problems. The theories do not give us solutions, but they do direct our attention to those variables that are crucial in finding solutions.
The three main categories or philosophical frameworks under which learning theories falls are behavioral, cognitive, and constructivism. Behaviorism focuses only on the objectively observable aspects of learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. In addition, constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts.
We will discuss the behavioral theories under two broad categories:
A.   S-R (Stimulus-Response) theory with reinforcement
v E.L Thorndike- Trial and Error theory.
v B.F Skinner- Operant Conditioning    
B.   S-R (Stimulus-Response) theory without reinforcement
v Pavlov- Classical Conditioning
A) E.L Thorndike- Trial and Error Theory of Learning:
Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949) was the first American psychologist who put forward the Trial and Error Theory of learning. According to Thorndike, all learning takes place because of formation of bond or connection between stimulus and response.
He further says that learning takes place through a process of approximation and correction. A person makes a number of trials, some responses do not give satisfaction to the individual but he goes on making further trials until he gets satisfactory responses.
Thorndike conducted a number of experiments on animals to explain the process of learning. His most widely quoted experiment is with a cat placed in a puzzle box. Thorndike put a hungry cat in a puzzle box. The box had one door, which could be opened by manipulating a latch of the door. A fish was placed outside the box. The cat being hungry had the motivation of eating fish outside the box. However, the obstacle was the latch on the door. The cat made random movements inside the box indicating trial and error type of behavior biting at the box, scratching the box, walking around, pulling and jumping etc. to come out to get the food. Now in the course of her movements, the latch was manipulated accidently and the cat came out to get the food. Over a series of successive trials, the cat took shorter and shorter time, committed less number of errors, and was in a position to manipulate the latch as soon as it was put in the box and learnt the art of opening the door.
Thorndike concluded that it was only after many random trials that the cat was able to hit upon the solutions. He named it as Trial and Error Learning. An analysis of the learning behavior of the cat in the box shows that besides trial and error the principles of goal, motivation, explanation and reinforcement are involved in the process of learning by Trial and Error.

Laws of Learning
Based on Trial and Error Learning Theory, Thorndike gave certain laws of Learning. We shall discuss three fundamental Laws of Learning in this section. These laws are:
1. Law of Readiness
This law refers to the fact that learning takes place only when the learner is prepared to learn. No amount of efforts can make the child learn if the child is not ready to learn. The dictum that ‘you can lead a horse to the pond but you can’t make it drink water unless it feels thirsty’ goes very well with this law. In other words, if the child is ready to learn, he/she learns more quickly, effectively and with greater satisfaction than if he/she is not ready to learn. In the words of Thorndike the three stages of this Law of Readiness are:
• For a conduction unit ready to conduct, to conduct is satisfying.
• For a conduction unit ready to conduct, not to conduct is annoying.
• For a conduction unit not ready to conduct, to conduct is annoying.
Thus, the Law of Readiness means mental preparation for action. It is not to force the child to learn if he is not ready. Learning failures are the result of forcing the learner to learn when he is not ready to learn something.
Educational Implications of Law of Readiness:
The law draws the attention of teacher to the motivation of the child. The teacher must consider the psycho-biological readiness of the students to ensure successful learning experiences. Curriculum / Learning experiences should be according to the mental level of maturity of the child. If this is not so, there will be poor comprehension and readiness may vanish.
2. Law of Exercise
This law explains the role of practice in learning. According to this law, learning becomes efficient through practice or exercise. The dictum ‘Practice makes a man perfect’ goes very well with this law. This law is further split into two parts — Law of use and Law of disuse. The law of use means that a connection between a stimulus and response is strengthened by its occurrence, its exercise or its use. In other words, the use of any response strengthens it, and makes it more prompt, easy and certain.
Regarding the law of disuse, it is said that when a modifiable connection is not made between a stimulus and a response over a length of time, the strength of that connection is decreased. This means that any act that is not practiced for some time gradually decays. Anything that is not used exercised or practiced for a certain period tends to be forgotten or becomes weak in strength, efficiency and promptness.
Educational Implications
Exercise occupies an important place in learning. Teacher must repeat, give sufficient drill in some subjects like mathematics, drawing, music or vocabulary for fixing material in the minds of the students. Thorndike later revised this law of exercise and accordingly it is accepted that practice does bring improvement in learning but it in itself is not sufficient. Always practice must be followed by some reward or satisfaction to the learner. The learner must be motivated to learn.
3. Law of Effect
This is most important of Thorndike’s laws, which state that when a connection between stimulus and response is accompanied by satisfying state, its strength is increased. On the other hand, when a connection is accompanied by an annoying state of affairs, its strength is reduced or weakened. The saying ‘nothing succeeds like success’ goes very well with this law. In other words, the responses that produce satisfaction or comfort for the learner are strengthened and responses that produce annoyance or discomfort for the learner are weakened.
Thorndike revised this law in 1930 and according to this revision, he stated that reward strengthened the response but punishment did not always weaken the response. Then he placed more emphasis on the reward aspect than on the punishment aspect of Law of Effect.
Educational Implications
This law signifies the use of reinforcement or feedback in learning. This implies that learning trials must be associated with satisfying consequences. The teacher can use rewards to strengthen certain responses and punishment to weaken others.
However, the use of reward is more desirable than the use of punishment in school learning. The teacher for motivating the students for learning situations can exploit the use of reward.
B) B.F.Skinners- Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.
Behaviorist B.F. Skinner coined the term operant conditioning, which is why it is also referred as Skinnerian conditioning. As a behaviorist, Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior.
Instead, he suggested, we should look only at the external, observable causes of human behavior. Skinner used the term operant to refer to any "active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences" (1953). In other words, Skinner's theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day.
Skinner is regarded as the father of Operant Conditioning, but his work was based on Thorndike’s law of effect. Skinner introduced a new term into the Law of Effect - Reinforcement. Behavior that is reinforced tends to be repeated (i.e. strengthened); behavior that is not reinforced tends to die out-or be extinguished (i.e. weakened).
Skinner studied operant conditioning by conducting experiments using animals, which he placed in a “Skinner Box” which was similar to Thorndike’s puzzle box.
The Skinner box involved placing an animal (such as a rat or pigeon) into a sealed box with a lever that would release food when pressed. If food was released every time the rat pressed the lever, it would press it more and more because it learnt that doing so gives it food. Lever pressing is described as an operant behavior, because it is an action that results in a consequence. In other words, it operates on the environment and changes it in some way.
The food that is released as a result of pressing the lever is known as a reinforcer, because it causes the operant behavior (lever pressing) to increase. Food could also be described as a conditioned stimulus because it causes an effect to occur.
Note: There is an important difference between a reward and a reinforcer in operant conditioning.
• A reward is something, which has value to the person giving the reward, but may not necessarily be of value to the person receiving the reward.
• A reinforce is something, which benefits the person receiving it, and so results in an increase of a certain type of behavior.
Skinner identified three types of responses or operant that can follow behavior.
I.      Neutral operants: Responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated.
II. Reinforcers are any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows. There are two kinds of reinforcers.
1. Positive reinforcers are favorable events or outcomes that are presented after the behavior. In situations that reflect positive reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by the addition of something, such as praise or a direct reward.
2. Negative reinforcers involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior. In these situations, a response is strengthened by the removal of something considered unpleasant. In both of these cases of reinforcement, the behavior increases.
III.Punishment is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. Punishment weakens behavior. There are two kinds of punishment:
1. Positive punishment sometimes referred to as punishment by application, involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows.
2. Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when a favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs. In both of these cases of punishment, the behavior decreases.
Schedules of Reinforcement:
v Intermittent reinforcement - reinforcement is given only part of the times the animal gives the desired response.
v Continuous reinforcement - reinforcement is given every time the animal gives the desired response.
v Ratio reinforcement - a pre-determined proportion of responses will be reinforced.
v Fixed ratio reinforcement - reinforcement is given on a regular ratio, such as every fifth time the desired behavior is produced.
v Variable (random) fixed reinforcement- reinforcement is given for a predetermined proportion of responses, but randomly instead of on a fixed schedule.
v Interval reinforcement- reinforcement is given after a predetermined period of time.
v Fixed interval reinforcement - reinforcement is given on a regular schedule, such as every five minutes.
v Variable interval reinforcement - reinforcement is given after random amounts of time have passed.
In animal studies, Skinner found that continuous reinforcement in the early stages of training seems to increase the rate of learning. Later, intermittent reinforcement keeps the response going longer and slows extinction.
Skinner specifically addressed the applications of behaviorism and operant conditioning to educational practice. He believed that the goal of education was to train learners in survival skills for self and society. The role of the teacher was to reinforce behaviors that contributed to survival skills, and extinguish behaviors that did not. Behaviorist views have shaped much of contemporary education in children and adult learning.
Implication of the theory of operant conditioning:
1. Conditioning study behavior: Teaching is the arrangement of contingencies of reinforcement, which expedite learning. For effective teaching teacher should arranged effective contingencies of reinforcement. Example: For Self learning of a student teacher should reinforce student behavior through variety of incentives such as prize, medal, smile, praise, affectionate patting on the back or by giving higher marks.
2. Conditioning and classroom behavior: During learning process child acquire unpleasant experiences also. This unpleasantness becomes conditioned to the teacher, subject and the classroom and learner dislikes the subject and a teacher.
Suitable behavioral contingencies, atmosphere of recognition, acceptance, affection and esteem helps child in approaching teacher and the subject. If student is not serious in study, teacher make use of negative reinforcement like showing negligence, criticizing student etc. but if student is serious in study, teacher make use of positive reinforcement like prize, medal, praise and smile.
3. Managing Problem Behavior: Two types of behavior are seen in the classroom via undesired behavior and problematic behavior. Operant conditioning is a behavior therapy technique that shape students behavior. For this teacher should admit positive contingencies like praise, encouragement etc. for learning. One should not admit negative contingencies. Example punishment (student will run away from the dull and dreary classes – escape stimulation.
4. Dealing with anxieties through conditioning: Through conditioning fear, anxieties, prejudices, attitudes, perceptual meaning develops. Examples of anxiety are signals on the road, siren blown during wartime, child receiving painful injection from a doctor. Anxiety is a generalized fear response. To break the habits of fear, a teacher should use desensitization techniques. Initially teacher should provide very weak form of conditioned stimulus. Gradually the strength of stimulus should be increased.
5. Conditioning group behavior: Conditioning makes entire group learn and complete change in behavior is seen due to reinforcement. It breaks undesired and unsocial behavior too.
Example: Putting questions or telling lie to teachers will make teachers annoyed in such circumstances students learn to keep mum in the class. Asking questions, active participation in class discussion will make the teacher feel happy – interaction will increase and teaching learning process becomes more effective.
6. Conditioning and Cognitive Processes: Reinforcement is given in different form, for the progress of knowledge and in the feedback form. When response is correct, positive reinforcement is given. Example: A student who stands first in the class in the month of January is rewarded in the month of December. To overcome this Programme instruction is used. In this subject matter is broken down into steps. Organizing in logical sequence helps in learning. Each step is built upon the preceding step. Progress is seen in the process of learning. Immediate reinforcement is given at each step.
7. Shaping Complex Behavior: Complex behavior exists in form of a chain of small behavior. Control is required for such kind of behavior. This extended form of learning is shaping technique. Smallest Behavior is controlled at initial stage. On behalf of different contingencies, next order of chain of behaviors is controlled. Example: Vocabulary in English. Teaching spelling is mainly a process of shaping complex form of behavior.
Pavlov- Classical Conditioning (1849-1936)
Classical conditioning is a term used to describe learning which has been acquired through experience. One of the best-known examples of classical conditioning can be found with the Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov and his experiments on dogs.
In these experiments, Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate when they heard a bell ring. In order to do this he first showed them food, the sight of which caused them to salivate.
Later Pavlov would ring a bell every time he would bring the food out, until eventually, he could get the dogs to salivate just by ringing the bell and without giving the dogs any food.
In this simple but ingenious experiment, Pavlov showed how a reflex (salivation, a natural bodily response) could become conditioned (modified) to an external stimulus (the bell) thereby creating a conditioned reflex/response.
Components Involved In Classical Conditioning
We can gain a better understanding of classical conditioning by looking at the various components involved in his experiment;
• The unconditioned stimulus. (UCS)
• The conditioned stimulus. (CS)
• The unconditioned reflex/response. (UCR)
• The conditioned reflex/response. (CR)
So let’s look at each of these classical conditioning components in more detail now.
Note: In its strictest definition classical conditioning is described as a previously neutral stimulus which causes a reflex (stimulus means something which causes a physical response).
The Unconditioned Stimulus (food): (UCS)
An unconditioned stimulus is anything, which can evoke a response without prior learning or conditioning.
For example, when a dog eats some food it causes his mouth to salivate. Therefore the food is an unconditioned stimulus, because it causes a reflex response (salivation) automatically and without the dog having to learn how to salivate.
Unconditioned Stimulus– This causes an automatic reflex response.
Conditioned Stimulus (bell): (CS)
The conditioned stimulus is created by learning, and therefore does not create a response without prior conditioning.
For example, when Pavlov rang a bell and caused the dogs to salivate, this was a conditioned stimulus because the dogs learnt to associate the bell with food. If they had not learnt to associate the bell with food, they would not have salivated when the bell was rung.
Conditioned Stimulus– You need to learn first before it creates a response. It is an acquired power to change something.
Unconditioned Reflex/Response (salivation): (UCR)
An unconditioned reflex is anything that happens automatically without you having to think about it, such as your mouth salivating when you eat.
Unconditioned Reflex – Reflex that happens automatically and you did not have to learn how to do it.
Conditioned Reflex (salivation in response to bell): (CR)
A conditioned reflex is a response which you have learnt to associate with something.
For example, the dogs salivated when Pavlov rang a bell, when previously (without conditioning) the bell would not cause the dogs to salivate.
Conditioned Reflex– A conditioned reflex that can evoked in response to a conditioned stimulus.
Basic concepts in classical conditioning:
There are several principles that are associated with classical conditioning, some of these are:
v Extinction: a conditioned response will disappear over time when the conditioned stimulus is no longer presented.
v Spontaneous recovery: sometimes there is the weak appearance of a previously extinguished response.
v Stimulus generalization: this is when individuals respond in this same way to experience stimuli. For example, all fuzzy animals scaring a young child instead of just a fuzzy cat.
v Stimulus discrimination: organisms can learn to discriminate between various stimuli.
v Higher order conditioning: this is when a neutral stimulus can cause the conditioned response sense if it had been associated with the conditioned stimulus.
Types of classical conditioning
1.     Forward conditioning: Learning is fastest in forward conditioning. During forward conditioning the onset of the conditioned stimulus (CS) precedes the onset of the unconditioned stimulus (US). Two common forms of forward conditioning are delay and trace conditioning.
2.     Delay conditioning: In delay, conditioning the conditioned stimulus (CS) is presented and is overlapped by the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus (US).
3.     Trace conditioning: During trace conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (CS) and US do not overlap. Instead, the conditioned stimulus (CS) is presented, a period is allowed to elapse during which no stimuli are presented, and then the unconditioned stimulus (US) is presented. The stimulus-free period is called the trace interval. It may also be called the conditioning interval.
4.     Simultaneous conditioning: During simultaneous conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (US) are presented and terminated at the same time.
5.     Backward conditioning: Backward conditioning occurs when a conditional stimulus (CS) immediately follows an unconditional stimulus (US). Unlike traditional conditioning models, in which the conditional stimulus (CS) precedes the unconditional stimulus (US), the conditional response (CR) tends to be inhibitory. This is because the conditional stimulus (CS) serves as a signal that the unconditional stimulus (US) has ended, rather than a reliable method of predicting the future occurrence of the unconditional stimulus (US).
6.     Temporal conditioning: The unconditioned stimulus (US) is presented at regularly timed intervals, and CR acquisition is dependent upon correct timing of the interval between unconditioned stimulus (US) presentations. The background, or context, can serve as the conditioned stimulus (CS) in this example.
7.     Unpaired conditioning: The conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (US) are not presented together. Usually they are presented as independent trials that are separated by a variable, or pseudo-random, interval. This procedure is used to study non-associative behavioral responses, such as sensitization.
8.     CS-alone extinction: The conditioned stimulus (CS) is presented in the absence of the unconditioned stimulus (US). This procedure is usually done after the conditional response (CR) has been acquired through “forward conditioning” training. Eventually, the conditional response (CR) frequency is reduced to pre-training levels. Essentially, the stimulus is presented until habituation occurs.
Implications of Pavlov’s Theory to Classroom Situations
1.     The theory believed that one must be able to practice and master a task effectively before embarking on another one. This means that a student needs to be able to respond to a particular stimulus (information) before he/she can be associated with a new one.
2.     Teachers should know how to motivate their students to learn. They should be versatile with various strategies that can enhance effective participation of the students in the teaching learning activities.
3.     Most of the emotional responses can be learned through classical conditioning. A negative or positive response comes through the stimulus being paired with. For example, providing the necessary school material for primary school pupils will develop good feelings about school and learning in them, while, punishment will discourage them from attending the school.
It is believed that the learners and more importantly the teachers have greatly benefited from all the theories. The teachers should be familiar with this theory and apply it to teaching-learning activities where applicable.
Wolfgang Kohler, a psychologist trained at the University of Berlin, was working at a primate research facility maintained by the Prussian Academy of Sciences in the Canary Islands when the First World War broke out. Marooned there, he had at his disposal a large outdoor pen and nine chimpanzees of various ages. The pen, described by Kohler as a playground, was provided with a variety of objects including boxes, poles, and sticks, with which the primates could experiment.
Kohler constructed a variety of problems for the chimps, each of which involved obtaining food that was not directly accessible. In the simplest task, food was put on the other side of a barrier. Dogs and cats in previous experiments had faced the barrier in order to reach the food, rather than moving away from the goal to circumvent the barrier. The chimps, however, presented with an apparently analogous situation, set off immediately on the circuitous route to the food.
It is important to note that the dogs and cats that had apparently failed this test were not necessarily less intelligent than the chimps. The earlier experiments that psychologists had run on dogs and cats differed from Kohler's experiments on chimps in two important ways. First, the barriers were not familiar to the dogs and cats, and thus there was no opportunity for using latent learning, whereas the chimps were well acquainted with the rooms used in Kohler's tests. Second, whereas the food remained visible in the dog and cat experiments, in the chimp test the food was tossed out the window (after which the window was shut) and fell out of sight. Indeed, when Kohler tried the same test on a dog familiar with the room, the animal (after proving to it that the window was shut), took the shortest of the possible indirect routes to the unseen food.
The ability to select an indirect (or even novel) route to a goal is not restricted to chimps, cats, and dogs.  At least some insects routinely perform similar feats. The cognitive processing underlying these abilities will become clearer when we look at navigation by chimps in a later chapter. For now, the point is that the chimpanzees' abilities to plan routes are not as unique as they appeared at the time.
Some of the other tests that Kohler is known for are preserved on film. In a typical sequence, a chimp jumps fruitlessly at bananas that have been hung out of reach. Usually, after a period of unsuccessful jumping, the chimp apparently becomes angry or frustrated, walks away in seeming disgust, pauses, then looks at the food in what might be a more reflective way, then at the toys in the enclosure, then back at the food, and then at the toys again. Finally the animal begins to use the toys to get at the food.
The details of the chimps' solutions to Kohler's food-gathering puzzle varied. One chimp tried to shinny up a toppling pole it had poised under the bananas; several succeeded by stacking crates underneath, but were hampered by difficulties in getting their centers of gravity right. Another chimp had good luck moving a crate under the bananas and using a pole to knock them down. The theme common to each of these attempts is that, to all appearances, the chimps were solving the problem by a kind of cognitive trial and error, as if they were experimenting in their minds before manipulating the tools. The pattern of these behaviors--failure, pause, looking at the potential tools, and then the attempt--would seem to involve insight and planning, at least on the first occasion.


Biological motives are those that are "wired into the nervous system." They include hunger, thirst, the pursuit of pleasure, and the avoidance of pain. Most living creatures do what they must to obtain food and water. That is why these are termed primary reinforcers.
Hull's theory was one of the first systematic attempts to explain motivation. Hull thought he would explain all behavior of all organisms. It was a very ambitious undertaking. Few theories in the history of psychology have soared so high or fallen so low. Hull's theory once dominated American psychology; now it has all but disappeared.
Research on Hull's theory is largely responsible for an old stereotype of experimental psychologists as lab-coated figures watching rats run through mazes for cheese reinforcement. Hull and other researchers performed many thousands of experiments with rats in mazes, trying to discover basic laws of motivation.
For beginning students, Hull's theory remains relevant in several ways. First, the story of its rise and fall is a case study in scientific research. Second, Hull's emphasis on homeostasis is echoed in present day studies of biological motives as regulatory systems. Third, understanding a little about Hull's theory helps one understand the motivational theories that came later, many of which arose in response to deficiencies in Hull's theory. In this respect, Hull's theory is like Freud's: one must know about it in order to make sense of what came after it. It was a very influential theory.

The Hullian Approach

In the 1930s, Clark Hull undertook to construct a grand theory that he thought would unite all psychology. He based his theory on the concept of homeostasis, which he borrowed from biology. Homeostasis is a word that refers to the active regulation of critical biological variables. For example, your kidney regulates the salt and water balance in your body, and your pancreas regulates blood sugar. To Hull, behavior was another way the organism regulated itself or kept itself alive and healthy, so to him it made sense that a theory of motivation would borrow from scientific knowledge about homeostatic processes.
Scientists knew about biological regulation as early as the mid-1800s, but the concept of homeostasis was not widely discussed until Walter B. Cannon's 1932 book The Wisdom of the Body. Cannon pointed out that organisms work to keep biological variables within a healthy or normal range. There are many homeostatic systems in the body. Levels of blood pressure, salt, glucose, water, and carbon dioxide (among other things) must be maintained within normal ranges, for the health of the organism.
Hull reasoned that homeostatic mechanisms might provide a scientific explanation of motivation. Behavior could be regarded as an outward expression of the organism's pursuit of biological health. For example, you shiver to get warm. That is a homeostatic mechanism built into the body. If that fails, you are motivated to carry out a behavior such as putting on a sweater or finding a heater. Many behaviors are extensions of homeostatic mechanisms. Think how many human behaviors are related to eating, which is itself aimed at maintaining glucose and fat levels in our bodies.
Hull conceived of all motivation as coming originally from biological imbalances or needs. The organism was thrown into movement (was motivated) when it needed something that was not present at its current location. A need, in Hull's system, was a biological requirement of the organism. Hunger was the need for more energy. Thirst was the need for more water. Motivation, to Hull, was aimed at making up or erasing a deficiency or lack of something in the organism.
Hull used the word drive to describe the state of behavioral arousal resulting from a biological need. In Hull's system, drive was the energy that powered behavior. But drive was not pleasant. Drive was an uncomfortable state resulting from a biological need, so drive was something the animal tried to eliminate. The animal searched for food in order to reduce the hunger drive. Hull believed the animal would repeat any behavior that reduced a drive, if the same need occurred again. Therefore Hull's theory was called a drive-reduction theory of motivation.
Hull's theory inspired an enormous amount of research. No other psychological theory was so daringly precise. Hull used specific formulas to predict the likelihood of specific behaviors. He specified that the probability that a particular stimulus would lead to a particular response (the "excitation potential") using a formula. You do not have to memorize this; it is offered as an example of the precision to which Hull aspired:
Excitation potential = S H R [D x K x J x V]...where....
S H R was the number of reinforced training trials
D was the amount of biological deprivation or drive
K was the size or magnitude of the goal
J was the delay before the animal was allowed to pursue the goal
V was the intensity of the stimulus that set off the behavior
Each variable was given a precise operational definition, to aid research and replication. Hull hoped to make psychology as scientific and precise in its predictions as physics or chemistry. However, things did not work out that way. Many predictions based on Hull's equations did not come true. Researchers responded by altering the system, adding variables or subtracting others, adjusting parameters, trying to make it all work. Finally researchers began to realize it was never going to work. There could not be such a simple system for predicting animal behavior.
The abandonment of Hull's theory occurred about 30 years after he proposed it. An entire generation of researchers had followed a false lead! By the early 1970s journal articles contained bitter references to "30 years of fruitless Hullian research." The study of learning veered off into different directions. Bolles (1990) commented, "Hull would have been unable to read a present-day research paper; none of it would have made any sense!"
Hull's theory may have disappeared from present day motivational research, but not before it had a big impact on the field. Many motivational theories of the 1950s and 1960s were reactions to then-dominant Hullian theories. These included the proposals for cognitive motives as well as Maslow's motivational psychology, both discussed later in this chapter. All were conceived as alternatives to Hull's drive-reduction approach.
The ability of the individual to apply the previous experience on the new related experience is what we call transfer of learning. Except students are able to transfer prior skills and knowledge on new ones, the continuity of learning will be difficult. This chapter will explain how old learning can be transferred to a new one. You will know what the classroom teacher needs to do in order to facilitate transfer of experiences among his/her students.
The essence of learning is that a previously learnt fact should be linked with a present experience. This is because human being must be dynamic and that the prior experience will make them to develop the new skills and knowledge. The influence the past experience has on the succeeding experience is called transfer of learning.
Cormier and Hagman, (1987) define transfer of learning as the application of skills and knowledge learned in one context being applied in another context.
Oladele (1998) defines transfer of learning as the effect of prior learning on the present. Learning is meaningful when the past learning smoothens the progress of something else. For example, if a learned experienced refuses to aid the new learning, the goal of training has seized to be accomplished. In the school, the teacher teaches some subjects in order that the experience gained in those subjects could be transferred into another.
Charham (1987) affirms that human and animal learning is normally affected by the past experience, and that the various subjects are included in the school curriculum because of their utility and wide application to real life situations.
 For instance, the teacher who has taught his/her students some skills in Mathematics would believe that such skills be transferred to related subjects like Physics or Accounting. If the students fail to apply these skills in their subsequent learning, it means that the students have not been successful in transferring the learning.
The above example gives us clues into the different types of transfer of learning that we have. These are explained below:
(a) Positive Transfer:
This is a situation whereby a previously learnt fact or information aids in the understanding of a new task. Aside from aiding the learners in their subsequent learning, it also helps the learners to learn better and effectively the new task.
(b) Negative Transfer:
This is a type of learning in which prior experience imparts negatively on the new one. In this case, the understanding of past skills inhibits the mastering of new ones. For example, if a student wrongly connects information, it can lead to negative transfer.

(c)  Zero Transfer:
This type of learning reveals no link between the previously learnt task and the recent one. The evidence of zero transfer is hardly seen, it reveals no clear positive or negative effect.
Theories of Transfer of Learning
                  I.      Theory of Mental Faculties:
This theory was propounded by the Greek Philosophers, notable among them was Aristotle. The basic tenet of the theory is that human mind is sub-divided into different powers of faculties like memory, judgment, reasoning or thinking. It is therefore believed that each of these faculties is reinforced and developed by cast and continuous memorization of poetry/poem and similar works. This theory believes that exercises and regular practice will strengthen the mental faculties. The theory therefore dismisses the concept of transfer of learning, to it a well-trained and disciplined mind is the ingredient needed for understanding of new information.
               II.      Theory of Identical Elements:
The theory which was developed by the duo of Thorndike and Woodworth (American Psychologists) indicates that it is possible for an individual to transfer the prior skills and knowledge to recent ones because both experiences are identical (share things in common). This theory suggests that a successful or effective learning will happen if there are connections or interrelatedness between the old and the new experiences.
For example, it is expected that a student who has learnt about anatomical parts of human being in a Biology lesson, should be able to do well when he/she is asked to name anatomical parts of a goat during Agriculture lesson.
           III.      Theory of Generalization:
This theory was advocated by a Psychologist named Charles Judd. The assumption of the theory is that general principles aid transfer of learning better than segregated facts. This theory believes in Gestalt, an assertion which views learning from a whole or complete form rather than in isolated form.
For example, the theory of generalization indicates that a learnt experience should be useful in other day-to –day related activities.
Classroom Implications of Transfer of Learning
1.     The teacher should know that transfer of learning will not take place when both the old and new are unrelated. Hence, the teacher should endeavor to teach his/her subject-matter in a more meaningful and detailed way rather than by rote.
2.     The teacher should provide the opportunity for his/her students to practice a subject-matter being discussed along with him/her. When the learners are allowed to take active part in teaching learning activities, they will be able to repeat the task at another time.
3.     For a transfer of learning to take place, the teacher should always emphasize the relationship that exists between one subject matter and another.
4.     The teacher should endeavor to develop positive attitudes towards a learning task so that the students can be motivated to like the task rather avoiding it.
5.     It is believed that what students see, touch, feel or manipulate will be better remembered than the one they are not familiar with. Hence, for a meaningful transfer of learning to take place, the teacher should incorporate exercises that task the various senses of learners in the learning process.


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