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A hypothesis of how we absorb, process and remember knowledge is a teaching theory. There are numerous ideas on how we learn, and teachers can utilize these to help them plan and alter their teaching methods. Theories about teaching and learning are taught during education degrees. To qualify as a teacher, all trainees must demonstrate competence in various teaching standards, including knowledge and awareness of different teaching and learning methodologies.

Understanding learning theories enables teachers to interact with a wide range of students. Teachers can target different learning styles to reach different students, resulting in instruction tailored to the student’s needs and abilities. Educators can use five major educational learning theories to improve their classrooms and make them more conducive to learning for all students.

Educational theories

There is a wide range of scholarly approaches to the art and science of teaching. Many of them were pioneered by educational theorists who researched learning science to identify what works best and for whom. Here are the five most popular learning theories adopted by teachers and education institutions today and how they are put into practice.


One of the most adaptable of the five major learning theories is the cognitive learning theory, which focuses on the internal processes surrounding knowledge and memory. Cognitive learning has applications ranging from teaching infants to adult learners picking up new abilities on the job. Understanding cognitive learning can assist educators in developing effective lesson plans. The theory’s concepts are helpful for everyone in understanding how the mind works and how to learn more efficiently.

Cognitive theory helps design learning for students who must cope with challenging activities and desire to learn new things. So, it is critical to consider how the human brain functions in this context.

For example, our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, so teachers should avoid using too much text while teaching students to provide the most effective lessons. Instead, they should incorporate more graphics and, in general, engage more senses.


Behaviorism, often known as behavioral psychology, is a learning theory that holds that all behaviors are learned by contact with the environment via a process known as conditioning. So, behavior is merely a reaction to external stimuli. Behaviorism only studies observable stimulus-response behaviors as they can be researched systematically and visually.

Recognizing the person/environment interaction and changing the variables that influence this dynamic is an effective intervention method for instructors. Factors such as classroom location, features of teaching and learning and peer interaction/relationships, for example, can all impact student behavior and must be considered while planning for students. It is critical to retain a sense of organization in a class by assigning minor tasks and identifying success criteria. Instructions should be unambiguous, using visual aids and checklists as needed.


Constructivism is founded on the premise that people actively construct or create their own knowledge and that your experiences as a learner shape reality. Learners use their prior knowledge as a foundation and build on it with new information. As a result, everyone’s unique experiences shape their learning.

Each constructivist endeavor is an opportunity for exploration, risk and challenge. For example, in a standard classroom, the instructor may provide material knowledge without addressing student-to-teacher conversation; however, a constructivist teacher attempts to create a more creative, spontaneous and interactive classroom environment that encourages discussion and debate. In addition, when a teacher strives to elicit student thought, reflection, interaction and cooperation, active communication may push students and teachers into cognitive, social and behavioral territory that would not have been explored previously.


This educational philosophy and method has its roots in humanistic psychology, with primary notions centered on the premise that children are fundamentally sound, and that education should focus on reasonable approaches to teaching the complete child. According to this view, the student is the authority on how they learn, and all their requirements should be satisfied for them to learn well.

Those who enter this field must trust their instincts when it comes to teaching as there is no definitive approach. It is also necessary to identify and understand one’s own assumptions and ideas about transformative education and its impact. These fundamental factors give meaning to transformative learning by raising awareness and by being able to engage in a reflective manner.


Connectivism is a relatively new learning theory that proposes that students link their thoughts, ideas and general knowledge in a meaningful way. It recognizes that technology is an essential aspect of the learning process and that our constant connectivity allows us to make choices about our learning. It also encourages group cooperation and conversation, allowing for multiple points of view when making decisions, solving problems and making sense of information.

Understanding connectivism is one thing; incorporating it into learning activities in a classroom setting is another. Remember that the new learning obligations transfer from the educator to the student under a connectivist perspective.

In contrast to standard teaching approaches and other methods such as cognitivism or constructivism, the educator’s job is to aid students in becoming successful leaders in their own learning and personal growth. It is the learner’s responsibility to design their learning experience, make decisions and expand their educational network.

Putting the theories together

Educational theory is a field of study that aims to explain how individuals learn, apply what they have learned and how educational systems might be made more efficient. When you major in a Master’s in Education distance learning programme, such as the one offered by the University of Exeter, you will study a variety of themes and disciplines based on the sociology of education, philosophy of education and even the history of educational theories and practices.

Understanding an educational theory enables us to use it as intended. Understanding also allows us to apply a theory critically and comprehend the numerous crucial little modifications that may be required to adapt an approach to local circumstances. Such minor adjustments can elevate a learning experience from routine to remarkable. In such cases, theory informs teaching. In turn, informed education can aid in the refinement of the approach.

Teachers with an understanding of many educational philosophies are better equipped to notice links between them. The capacity to critically integrate different theories allows instructors to creatively mix and use those theories to generate teaching and learning interventions that are truly unique, robust and more likely to succeed.

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