The theories of learning are a set of principles that are organized to explain how an individual can obtain, preserve, and recall knowledge. We comprehend learning better by studying and knowing the different theories of learning. The identification of factors that promote learning – instructional tools, techniques and strategies – can be used as guidelines to help the principles of learning.

The definition of learning and its methods has significant implications for facilitating changes in an individual’s knowledge and actions. Based on learning theories, instructional designers use verified strategies and techniques to facilitate learning and lay a foundation for intelligent selection of strategies. Yet, some designers operate within the constraints of a limited background in these theories.

The three relevant positions – behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist – provide structured foundations for planning and conducting instructional design activities. Our training programs are planned on three different approaches:

Behaviorist approach
To impart intellectual, psychomotor, and interpersonal knowledge and skills through practical training

Cognitive approach
To impart new information, comprehension of various functionalities, and the need to strategize, through theoretical training

Constructive approach
To impart learning through knowledge construction that reflects real-world, case-studies, enabling the learners to enhance their efficiency at work

Learning and its occurrences
The Behaviorist approach equates learning with changes in the form or frequency of observable performance. Learning is accomplished when a proper response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific environmental stimulus. The key elements are the stimulus, the response, and the association between the two.

Behaviorism focuses on the importance of the consequences of those performances and contends that responses that are followed by reinforcement are more likely to recur in the future. The learner is characterized as being reactive to conditions in the environment as opposed to taking an active role in discovering the environment.

The Cognitive approach stresses on the acquisition of knowledge and internal mental structures. Learning is equated with discrete changes between states of knowledge rather than with changes in the probability of response. Cognitive theories focus on the conceptualization of a trainee’s learning processes and address the issues of how information is received, organized, stored, and retrieved by the mind. Learning is concerned not so much with what learners do but with what they know and how they come to acquire it. Knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner. The learner is viewed as a very active participant in the learning process.

The Constructivist approach is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experience. Even though constructivism is considered to be a branch of cognitivism, it distinguishes itself from traditional cognitive theories in a number of ways. According to the cognitive approach, the mind is a reference tool to the real world; constructivist approach states that the mind filters input from the world to produce its own unique reality. The mind is believed to be the source of all meaning, yet like the empiricists, individual, direct experiences with the environment are considered critical. Constructivism crosses both categories by emphasizing the interaction between these two variables.

As one moves along the behaviorist—cognitivist— constructivist continuum, the focus of instruction shifts from teaching to learning, from the passive transfer of facts and routines to the active application of ideas to problems.