Course: Postgraduate Certificate - Tertiary Level Teaching
Module: How Students Learn - A Review of Some of the Main Theories
Page: 3 - Different psychological approaches to learning

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Different psychological approaches to learning

Psychology is the branch of science that is concerned with the study of behaviour and experience. It is one of the largest and most ubiquitous of all the sciences, and, given its concern with human behaviour and methods of changing same, has had an enormous influence on educational thinking.

Although psychology is undoubtedly a well-established and universally-recognised scientific discipline, it is still in many ways an 'immature science', in the sense of the term used by the historian and philosopher of science Thomas S. Kuhn. In a seminal book published in 1962, Kuhn presented the thesis that a branch of science only reaches true maturity when it acquires a paradigm - a generally-accepted underlying model, set of beliefs and methodology. By Kuhn's criterion, psychology has certainly not yet attained such a status, since it is still characterised by several different approaches, or schools, none of which has gained universal acceptance among practitioners. The most important of these are psychoanalysis, behaviourism, humanistic psychology, the neurobiological approach and cognitive psychology. Let us now take a look at each of these approaches, and see how they have influenced our ideas about the nature of the learning process.

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