What Are the Different Approaches to Learning?

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The three most common approaches to learning are the behaviorist, cognitive and humanist approaches. Additional modern approaches to learning include a focus on technology, social media and diversity and problem-based or competency-based learning.

The behaviorist approach relies on providing stimuli for student to respond to in the classroom. In this approach, the instructor provides the materials, guides the students through a series of lessons with repetition as a primary goal and allows the students to respond to the material presented. This learning approach includes continuous positive feedback and reinforcement.

The cognitive learning approach is one of the most traditional, with the teacher as the primary authority and provider of information, whereas the students are passive and not actively engaged in activities. Class lectures in which the teacher talks while students listen and take notes are a prominent aspect of the cognitive learning approach.

The humanistic approach to learning relies on active participation from students, and the students are responsible for their own learning and interpretation of class materials. With this approach, students develop a course of self study and progress based on need, desire and motivation. The humanistic approach caters to what the students want to learn and how willing they are to achieve the knowledge.