What is the difference between cognitive learning and conditioned learning (stimulus and response learning)?

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trophyhunter1 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Cognitive learning is an active form of learning. The learner uses various modalities to learn--visual, auditory, touching, experiential and then, the brain processes the information and hopefully stores and retains it. Everyone uses different learning styles to process information in the brain. An example of cognitive learning would be when a teacher presents a new concept in a math classroom. Solving this problem involves cognitive learning, as one goes through the steps after watching a sample problem and then thinks about it, processes it and applies those steps to a different problem.

According to Multiple Intelligences Theory, by Howard Gardner which is so popular in education today, each student has their own way they learn including: visually, verbally, mathematically, kinesthetically, with music, alone, in a group setting, as a naturalist or as an existentialist. If a teacher can identify which one is a student's strength, it could be used in a classroom to help with cognitive learning.

In classical conditioning, a conditioned stimulus is used to signal a second stimulus(unconditioned stimulus). The unconditioned stimulus yields a response, eventually, the conditioned stimulus which at first yields no response, over time elicits a conditioned response. In the famous experiment with Pavlov's dogs, the conditioned stimulus was a ringing bell. Then, food followed the ringing bell,  which is the unconditioned stimulus. The dogs would salivate which was the unconditioned response--a normal biological response to food. Eventually, over many trials, the dogs would eventually just salivate to the ringing of the bell.

An example of conditioned behavior is students getting up to the ringing of the bell at the end of class. The pairing of a bell ringing and the behavior of getting up to leave,  is a conditioned behavior that was practiced many times as young children until it becomes second nature.


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