Home 5 Educational Learning Theories

The Five Learning Theories in Education

Reviewed by Jon Konen, District Superintendent

While studying to become a teacher, whether in a bachelor’s degree or alternative certificate program, you will learn about learning theories. There are 5 overarching paradigms of educational learning theories; behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, design/brain-based, humanism and 21st Century skills.

female teacher in classroom with young students

Below, you will find a brief outline of each educational learning theory, along with links to resources that may be helpful.

1. Behaviorism is a view in which behavior can be explained by external factors and behavioral conditioning can be used as a universal learning process. In behaviorism, the ideas of positive and negative reinforcement are effective tools of learning and behavior modification, as well as a punishment and reward system.

2. Cognitivism is a learning theory developed by Jean Piaget in which a child develops cognitive pathways in understanding and physical response to experiences. In this theory, students learn most effectively through reading text and lecture instruction.

3. Constructivism is the idea that people are responsible in creating their own understanding of the world and using what they know based on previous experiences in the process of linking new information to these experiences. People use these experiences and new information to construct their own meaning.

4. Humanism focuses on the individual as the subject and asserts that learning is a natural process that helps a person reach self-actualization. Scenarios and role modeling are important factors in humanistic learning, as are experiences, exploring and observing others.

5. Connectivism is a relatively new learning theory, developed and based upon the idea that people process information by forming connections. This theory has developed with the digital and technology age, adapting to advances in these arenas. This new theory suggests that people no longer stop learning after formal education and continue to gain knowledge from other avenues such as job skills, networking, experience and access to information with new tools in technology.

As you progress through your educational career, we aim to provide you with the resources you need to succeed. Feel free to check out the full list of programs on our site to learn more about all of your options for becoming a teacher and expanding your education.