FocusCombining Behaviorisms, Cognitivism, and Gestaltism into a single theory of learning.
Principal MetaphorsSign Learning is a mash-up of Behaviorisms, Cognitivism, and Gestaltism. It thus lacks a focused web of associations, and often falls back on Folk Theories – especially the Acquisition Metaphor:
- Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
- Knowing is … acting framed by coherent mental weave
- Learner is … an information-processing organism
- Learning is … acquisition of knowledge through meaningful behavior
- Teaching is … training; engineering behavior
SynopsisSign Learning was an attempt to bridge Behaviorisms, Cognitivism, and Gestaltism. The theory begins by rejecting the cause–effect dynamics assumed by most Behaviorisms, arguing instead that stimulus–response pairings are actually processed and selected in the mind’s control room to generate a more holistic internal map of the environment. That is, Sign Learning studies learning on the level of purposeful, goal-directed behaviors, rather than on the level of singular responses to singular stimuli. Relevant subdiscourses include:
- Response Learning – contrasted with Place Learning (see below), learning a sequence of actions to accomplish a desired task
- Place Learning – contrasted with Response Learning (see below), creating a cognitive map that enables one to accomplish a desired task
CommentarySign Learning was subjected to criticisms levelled against all of its source domains. From Behaviorisms, it was accused of lacking evidence and explanations for cognitive processes. From Cognitivism, it was accused of being beholden to observation-based research methods that limited its range of analysis. And from Gestaltism, it was seen as seeking to hijack insights of emerging Coherence Discourses, even while maintaining incompatible assumptions of Correspondence Discourses (apparently without awareness).
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesEdward Tolman
Status as a Theory of LearningSign Learning is a theory of learning – or, perhaps more appropriately, a mashup of theories of learning.
Status as a Theory of TeachingSign Learning is not a theory of teaching.
Status as a Scientific TheorySign Learning falls short on all our criteria of scientific theories. Its attempt at a mash-up of different, incompatible perspectives indicates the opposite of critical attentiveness of underlying metaphors and other commitments. As well, its empirical evidence was drawn strictly from experiments on rats.
- Place Learning
- Response Learning
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Sign Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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