An Educational Psychology for Schools in Africa by Al Behr, Vi Cherian and TS Mwamwenda (Auth.)

By Al Behr, Vi Cherian and TS Mwamwenda (Auth.)

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On the basis of these experiments two main groups of learning theories, ie the association (also called stimulus-response (S-R) theories) and the cognitive theories, have been developed. Each of these theories will be discussed. 1 The association or S-R theories These theories fall into three categories, namely trial and error learning, respondent conditioning and operant conditioning. 1 Trial and error learning EL Thorndike (1874 - 1949) of the USA was the protagonist of this theory. He devised an experiment in which a young, hungry cat was placed in a cage from which it could escape to reach food.

It ' is important to separate the effects of maturation from those of learning. A useful definition of learning for teachers is that given by Bugelski (1956: 5): 'Learning is that mental activity by means of which knowledge and skills, habits, attitudes and ideals are acquired, retained and utilized, resulting in the progressive adaptation and modification of conduct and behaviour'. However, learning can also be seen from another point of view - as a change in human disposition. Gates (1963: 326) states that when the individual learns new patterns of behaviour as a means of attaining his goals, it affects his whole organism so that 'he changes as a person'.

Now children judge behaviour in terms of its underlying intent. Whereas the first stage is referred to as heteronomy, the second stage is that of autonomy. There is a gradual transition from heteronomous to autonomous moral judgement, which is based on personal convictions. This phase usually begins between seven or eight years of age and extends until children are 12 years old and older. The adolescent with autonomous moral judgement understands principles underlying norms. The spirit and letter of the law are observed through conviction, not through coercion or threats.

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