Applied Linguistics

Behaviorism and Constructivism theoretical bases and differences

Learning is the process by which the body incorporates new knowledge or skills into its repertoire through experience. It is the way in which we acquire, generalize, contextualize or vary our behavior and our way of seeing reality. In this article we will give you the difference between Behaviorism and Constructivism.

There were several theories and currents of thought that dealt with the learning process, emerging different paradigms that were contrasted throughout history. Two of the most recognized were and continue to be behaviorism and constructivism .

Behaviorism: learning as association

Behaviorism is one of the best-known and widely expanded paradigms of psychology throughout history, having had a notable influence on various dimensions of psychology, such as clinical and educational.

Born at a time in history when currents based on unverifiable theoretical assumptions predominated, behaviorism was born as an attempt to base knowledge of human behavior on experimentally testable empirical criteria .

This current explains behavior from the learning of behavioral patterns derived from the association between the different possible stimuli, in which elements that in themselves generate damage or well-being are linked to others because they are in contact in space and time, the latter acquiring the characteristics of the first and causing the same reactions in the body. Subsequently, the individual can generalize these associations to similar stimuli and situations .

Therefore, behaviorism tries to work from completely objective variables, with which its methodology is based on collecting information from experiments in which stimuli and responses are directly evident as physiological information or even observation.

Throughout the history of psychology, there are numerous authors who worked on this current or who gave rise to it, some of the main ones being Pavlov, Skinner or Watson .

The behavioral model

Behaviorism maintains a strictly mechanistic point of view and proposes that behavior be governed by clear and immutable laws . The environment is considered solely responsible for human or animal behavior, leaving the individual as a totally passive entity that receives information from the environment and learns to act by associating this information or stimuli with adaptive responses.

The mind, although recognized as part of the learning process, is seen as an inaccessible element that cannot be known. The main elements to be considered are the stimuli, the responses, the association between the two and the possible reinforcements or punishments derived from the behavior finally performed.

In classical behaviorism, it is considered that, in the acquisition of knowledge and behaviors, the subject will be a passive and reactive entity , capturing the stimulus and linking it to the appetitive or aversive to end up responding accordingly. Learning is acquired through the repetition of associations between stimuli, so that the focus in education is based on repetitive training and memorization.

In relation to the world of education, the teacher or educator has a role of great importance, being the one who provides the information through reinforcements or prevention of punishments. It is considered that learning is established when the responses given by the individual are considered correct to the stimulation given by the environment, getting used to giving the appropriate stimuli.

Constructivism: learn to create meaning

Although much of behaviorism is based on empirical data, mere association is not enough to explain how learning occurs and other phenomena, such as the importance of beliefs, motivations and emotions in the acquisition of knowledge, being mental processes. of the obligated individuals. This would change with the arrival of cognitivism , which would focus on analyzing information processing and, over time, with constructivism as a different way of understanding learning.

Constructivism sees learning as a process of acquiring and consolidating information based on the student’s mental processes. The subject is an active element in this process, attaching information or modifying their mental schemes based on the experiences they live, trying to give meaning to the world around them. As can be seen from its name, for this theoretical current, learning is achieved in the construction and reconstruction of structures whose foundations are previous knowledge, and whose element of union with new knowledge is the ability to provide them with meaning within the system.

Thus, if it is learned, it is not simply because external information is acquired, but because, by examining the characteristics of the new, a meaning will be extracted from that information. Subsequently, what has been learned, what will be understood and what has been given meaning can be generalized if

Furthermore, when learning, there are no single laws, but aspects such as skills, attention level and desire to learn from the person or entity that learns must be taken into account, as well as the material to be learned must be adaptable and useful to the learner. matter in question.

The role of context in constructivism

For this current, the environment and stimuli are really important, but the main thing is considered to be the interaction between the external and internal variables of the person. In learning situations, the interactive triangle is considered , which refers to the interaction between the characteristics of the learner, the material to be learned and the person or thing that transmits the information. These three elements will affect each other and will or may not allow the student to acquire the material in a meaningful way.

The instructor’s role is not directive, but should provide a guide so that the student can draw their own conclusions from reality. This exercise guide helps learning generate shared meaning that is adaptable to the environmentRelevant and case-by-case aids must be provided so that the person acquiring knowledge can begin to do so, and as the material begins to dominate, they must be withdrawn (in a process called scaffolding). In this way, the individual can reach his maximum potential, going beyond what he can learn on his own, thanks to the provision of outside help.

Currently, constructivism is the predominant theoretical current with regard to pedagogical practice, based on authors such as Piaget and, especially, on Vygotsky .

Main differences

As we saw earlier, there are many ways in which the two theories differ. Some of the most notable are as follows.

1. Active or passive role

One of the main differences is that, although behaviorism sees the individual as a passive entity when acquiring knowledge, constructivism considers that, in fact, the main thing when learning is the subject’s activity .

2. The importance of interaction

Related to the above, while for behaviorism the most relevant for learning is the environment or environment as a set of stimuli to which the subject has access to constructivism all components of the process and not just the necessary; interaction between person and environment that produces learning.

3. Different methodologies

For behaviorism, the goal of learning is to produce an observable modification of behavior, while constructivism considers that the achievement to be accomplished is to create new meanings, whether they are directly observable or not .

4. The role of the educator

They also differ because, for constructivism, the role of the educator or information transmitter is to guide and support behaviorism, the role must be hierarchical and directive.

5. Differences when teaching

The learning method will also be different: for behaviorism, the ideal is the continuous repetition of the association between stimuli, producing a more memorable learning, while constructivism is based on the creation of meanings from the union between the old and the old. again making meaningful learning for those who do.

Common points between the two perspectives

Although behaviorism and constructivism have many elements that differentiate them, they share some commonalities.

In both currents of thought, behavior is seen as a product of lifelong learning, focusing its methodology on practices that contribute to the acquisition and improvement of individuals’ adaptive capacities.

Furthermore, due to the importance of learning behaviorism and cognitivism, both paradigms have been applied at a practical level in the world of education and training of skills and knowledge.

Finally, in both cases, we work with data and constructs based on empirical data supported by experience.

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