Behaviorism and constructivism in psychology: theoretical bases and differences

Learning is the process by which the body incorporates new knowledge or skills into its repertoire through experience. It is how we acquire, generalize, contextualize or vary our behavior and our way of seeing reality.

There have been many theories and schools of thought that have dealt with the learning process, different paradigms have emerged which have been contrasted throughout history. Two of the most recognized have been and continue to be behaviorism and constructivism..

Behaviorism: learning as an association

Behavioralism is one of the best-known and most extensive paradigms of psychology throughout history, having had a notable influence on various dimensions of psychology such as clinical and educational.

Born at a time in history where currents based on unverifiable theoretical assumptions predominated, behaviorism was born as an attempt to base knowledge of human behavior on empirically contrastable empirical criteria.

This current explains behavior from the learning of behavioral patterns derived from the association between the different possible stimuli, in which elements which by themselves generate damage or well-being are linked to others by being in contact. in space and time, managing to acquire them. the last characteristics of the first and causing in an organism the same reactions. later, the individual can generalize these associations to similar stimuli and situations.

Behaviorism therefore tries to work from totally objective variables, so its methodology is based on collecting information from experiences in which stimuli and response are directly evident as physiological information or even l ‘observation.

Throughout the history of psychology there are many authors who have worked in or have given rise to this current, being some of the major Pavlovs, Skinner or Watson.

The behaviorist model

Behavioralism maintains a strictly mechanistic point of view and proposes that conduct be governed by clear and unaltered laws. The environment is considered solely responsible for human or animal behavior, leaving the individual as a totally passive entity that receives information from the environment and learns to act by associating this information or stimuli with adaptive responses.

The mind, although recognized as part of the learning process, is seen as an inaccessible element that cannot be known. The main elements to consider are the stimuli, the responses, the association between the two and any reinforcements or punishments deriving from the behavior finally performed.

In classical behaviorism, we consider that in the acquisition of knowledge and behavior, the subject will be a passive and reactive being, Capture the stimulation and link it to appetite or aversion to eventually respond to it. Learning is acquired by repeating associations between stimuli, so the emphasis on education will be based on repetitive training and memorization.

As for the world of education, the teacher or educator has a role of great importance, being the one who provides the information by using reinforcements or avoiding punishment. Learning is considered to be established when the responses given by the individual are considered correct to the stimulation given by the environment, having acquired the habit of giving it in the face of appropriate stimuli.

Constructivism: learning as a creation of meaning

While much of behaviorism is based on empirical data, a simple association is not enough to explain how learning occurs and other phenomena such as the importance of beliefs, motivations and emotions in knowledge acquisition, being the mental processes of neglected individuals. That would change with the advent of cognitivism, Which would focus on the analysis of information processing and, over time, constructivism as a different way of understanding learning.

Constructivism views learning as a process of acquiring and consolidating information based on the mental processes of the learner. The subject is an active part of this process, append information or change their mental patterns based on their experiences, trying to make sense of the world around them. As can be seen from its name, through this current theoretical learning is carried out in the construction and reconstruction of structures whose foundations are prior knowledge, and the element of union with new knowledge is the ability to give them a meaning within the system.

Thus, learning is not simply because external information is acquired, but because by examining the characteristics of the novelty, a meaning of its own information will be extracted. Subsequently, what has been understood and what has received meaning can be generalized if

In addition, when learning there are no unique laws, but aspects such as the abilities, level of attention and desire to learn of the learning person or entity must be taken into account, as well as the material to be learned must be adaptive and useful to the subject in question.

The role of context in constructivism

For this current, the environment and the stimuli are indeed important, but it is considered that the essential is the interaction between the external and internal variables of the person. In learning situations it takes into account what is called the interactive triangle, Which refers to the interaction between the characteristics of the learner, the material to be learned and the person or thing conveying the information. These three elements will influence each other and will allow or not the acquisition of material in a significant way by the learner.

The role of the instructor is not management, but must provide a guide for the learner to draw their own conclusions from reality. This guided guide contributes to learning that generates a shared and adaptive sense of the environment. Appropriate assistance adapted to each case should be provided so that anyone who gains knowledge can begin to do so and as they begin to master the materials, these need to be removed (in a process called scaffolding). In this way, the individual can reach his maximum possible potential, going beyond what he can learn on his own through the endowment of external aids.

At present, constructivism is the predominant theoretical current in educational practice, based on authors such as Piaget and especially Vygotsky.

main differences

As seen above, there are multiple aspects in which the two theories differ. Some of the most notable are as follows.

1. Active or passive role

One of the main differences is that while behaviorism views the individual as a passive being when it comes to acquiring knowledge, constructivism considers that in fact the most important thing when learning is the activity of the subject.

2. The importance of interaction

Related to the above, while for behaviorism the most relevant for learning is the environment or the environment as a set of stimuli to which the subject has access to constructivism, all the components of the process and not only you can learn that they are necessary, being the interaction between person and environment what produces learning.

3. Different methodologies

For behaviorism, the goal of learning is to produce an observable change in behavior, while constructivism considers that the achievement to be undertaken is to create new meanings, whether they are directly observable or not.

4. The role of the educator

They also differ on this while for constructivism the role of the educator or the transmitter of information is that of guide and accompaniment for behaviorism, the role must be hierarchical and managerial.

5. Teaching differences

The learning method will also be different: for behaviorism, the ideal is the continuous repetition of the association between stimuli, producing a more memorial learning, while constructivism is based on the creation of meanings. of the union between the old and the new make learning meaningful for those who do.

Common points between the two perspectives

Behavioralism and constructivism still have many elements that differentiate them from each other, they share certain aspects in common.

In both schools of thought, behavior is seen as a product of lifelong learning, centering its methodology on practices that contribute to the acquisition and improvement of individuals’ coping skills.

Further, due to the importance of learning for both behaviorism and cognitivism, both paradigms have been applied at a practical level in the world of education and vocational training.

Finally, in both cases, we work from data and constructs based on empirical data supported by experience.

Leave a Comment