Foundations of Learning Theory

April 10, 2019

Scholars studied the mind since classical times. Philosophy, Greek for love of knowledge, brought forth theories and ideas on self, the individual, the citizen, and the city. From the study of knowledge comes psychology, the study of the human mind. From psychology comes learning theory. As societies grew, even in those ancient times, the state thought it a necessity for some form of education or school for citizens. What keeps societies afloat is innovation, creativity, medicine, technology. So why not encourage Learning is acquiring knowledge of the mind and of these skills , it was essential to extend knowledge to the populace. To haved a healthy wealthy populace. As time progressed, schools have been studied and assessed to make sure the minds of the youth are being taken care, which led to high stakes accountability on teachers end. Woolfolk, Davis, and Anderman (2013), “Contributors to TIP in the 1970s (e.g., [33]) and 1980s (e.g., [50]) argued that learning theories should make sense of the ways in which the learner contributes to his or her own learning process.” So over time scholars eventually got to the point where they are applying learning theories became the four pillars of teaching, so policy makers can require assessments to make sure teachers are accountable in educating the posterity. Students can be assessed in divergent and teachers should be accountable in divergent ways as well. One solution for all of the issues and disagreements between theory would not suffice, there are several theories of learning. Means when practiced, accountability should take into account learning theory. The decisionmakers who make education policy may have divergent learning theories, as administrators and teachers do as well, so the most important stakeholder in the education process, the student should

Foundations and Philosophies of Teaching and Learning Theory

According to Gould (2012), “The early 1880s, however, saw a move towards a more structured approach to unraveling the mystery of the mind with the introduction of a technique known as introspection.” From the study of the mind, studies expounded, but the dilemma between theory and practice is studying introspection did not allow for any measurements, because only the individual can measure their thought process. American psychologist John B. Watson (1919) disagreed with introspection because to advance the study of psychology, studies should be precise and rigorous to be taken seriously. Instead, Watson stated behaviors should be studied to notate establish patterns. 

Although Watson started these ideals, Ivan Pavlov (1927) is credited as the Father of Behaviorism (Gould 2012). His notable study of the response between the chow bell and the salivary glands in dogs laid the groundwork for behavior studies and conditioned learning. Pavlov would ring the bell, and then observed the food, the unchanging or unconditioned stimulus, led to reflex or reaction, the saliva. Eventually, the dog salivated at the sound of the chow bell. If any other dog heard the bell, the reaction would not be salivation. Thus, Pavlov concluded learning is change in behavior. If Pavlov’s study laid the foundation for the study of learning, the work of B.F.Skinner (1953) led to the study of teaching. Skinner’s study of rats provides the basis of behaviorist theory that influence many of the strategies employed by teachers today. Skinner took Pavlov’s experiment a step further. In addition to teaching the rat to attain the unconditioned stimulus: food, Skinner added an additional conditional, the rat could only access food when the light came on. Eventually the rat learned to press the lever to get food when the light was on. Skinner studies became prolific, and ultimately led to teaching pigeons how to play a form of table tennis (Gould 2012). Skinner’s research led the way for cognitive studies to emerge on how operant conditions, also known as environmental conditions, shape learning. Like Skinner highlighted, behaviorist noted learning should be done in small stages to achieve a desired result. In relation to teaching and learning, implementing behaviorist theory elevated the study of knowledge to the study of learning and knowledge. 

Theories of Learning 

According to Woolfolk, Davis, and Anderman (2013), “Because learning is a complex cognitive process, there is no single best explanation of learning.” From behavioralism, emerged different theories of learning, collectively known as the four pillars of teaching: cognitive, constuctivism, and socioculturalism. To excel as an educater, one has to align theory to the condition to eliminate the variances in learning outcomes. Behavioral theory focuses on action rather than internal thought process. Once Skinner’s theory was translated to the school systeh, behavioralism once implemented in the school system turned the students to robots. 

Cognitive process when applied in a learning situation is how students think. Which is important, but opponent’s state. Even though discussions of the nature of knowledge, the value of reason, and the contents of the mind date back at least to the ancient Greek philosophers, from the late 1800s until several decades ago, cognitive studies fell from favor and behaviorism thrived (Woolfolk 2013). 

More modern theory would be constructivist, how students add their experience to the learning process. As identity politics have emerged, focus on has been on inclusion, so it is no surprise sociocultural perspective came about. Although the later theories constructivism and socioculturalism are more student centered, teachers who employ this can connect to students. How teachers apply these theories is how this relates to their teaching style. 

The learning process, like the mind, is complex, so how a teacher employs the four pillars of teaching will allow them shape his or hers leadership skills in the classroom. Not only that, 

Due to these philosophers of teaching and learning, philosophers of leadership came about from teachers identifying with their role in relation to their students and education. Adminstrators implement policy.

Theories of Leadership 

Theory aligns with identity. Whatever theory of learning a teacher aligns with is what they will manifest. 

Formative and transformative

Leadership effects classroom practice because as the leader of the class, the teachers personal philosophy will dictate decision-making. 

Students need to see teachers that they can relate to for intrinsic motivation. 

Theory aligns with identity. Whatever theory of learning a teacher aligns with is what they will manifest. 

Theory and Practice

Theory aligns with identity. Whatever theory of learning a teacher aligns with is what they will manifest. Puts forth a situation where a principal had to make a decision to allow an undocumented student into her school, which is illegal. After the mother begged and pleaded with the principal she was here for her child to have a better life, the author does not state what decision the principal made. Understand how cultural context, experience, and identity can influence on the Principal’s decision. 

Assessment and Accountability 

The relationship between assessment and accountability is based on assessments, usually standardized tests administered to the students that allow the states to judge teachers performance. 

Accountability has resulted in high stakes subjects. To make the cut, schools have rigged the system so some low performing students are deemed special education, essentially exempt from testing. 

Accountability has effected teaching and learning in a negative way. 

In all of the philosophies of leadership, cheating has never been a way to success. 

Integrity is expected in education and from a leader, so something has to be done that will allow students to have positive efficacy, teachers to lead, administrators to organize, and policymakers be effective. 

Everyone needs to be accountable. 

The issue with the education system today is the stress on general assessments for students, when teachers, administrators, and policy makers theories on learning may diverge. Due to the emergence of identity and social cultural theories the education should reflect the diversity amongst all stakeholders.


Brennan, R. L. (2015). Testing for accountability: A balancing act that challenges current testing practices and theories. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives13(1), 35-38. doi:10.1080/15366367.2015.1016329. Retrieved from:

Collinson, V., Cook, T. F., & Conley, S. (2006). Organizational learning in schools and school systems: Improving learning, teaching, and leading. Theory Into Practice45(2), 107-116. Retrieved from:

Gould, J. (2013). Learning theory and classroom practice in the lifelong learning sector (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. ISBN-13: 9780857258175

Retrieved from:

Heilig, J. V., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Accountability Texas-Style: The Progress and Learning of Urban Minority Students in a High-Stakes Testing ContextEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis30(2), 75–110. Retrieved from:

Witcher, A. E., Sewall, A. M., Arnold, L. D., & Travers, P. D. (2001). Teaching, leading, learning: It’s all about philosophy. The Clearing House74(5), 277-279. Retrieved from:

Woolfolk Hoy, A., Davis, H. A., & Anderman, E. M. (2013). Theories of learning and teaching Retrieved from:
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