Theories of Learning

Theories of Learning

In the book “Employee Training and Development” authored by Noe and Winkler (2012), a set of theories of learning have been presented. These include the reinforcement theory, holistic learning theory, the facilitation theory, adult learning, and action learning. Action learning defines an approach that often associates or links learning and action, however through a reflective process within action learning sets, which are small cooperative learning groups. These groups often meet regularly with the aim of working on the real life issues of different members, one at a time, in order to learn not only with but from each other. The action learning theory could be used to facilitate or assist in realizing the best learning outcomes for adults in an organizational environment (Kozlowski & Salas, 2009). In an organization, work processes are undertaken through team work. These are what the theory acknowledges as small cooperative learning groups. It is common that groups meet each day prior to starting the daily tasks and during these meetings; any noted issue with the performance of an individual members is raided. However, the members are usually encouraged to mention any perceived issue, whether work related or not. From this, the group members work together towards improving or finding the appropriate solution through collective decision-making. In this way, it could be said that the group members have learned from the experiences of others, and together as a team. As such, if a similar problem faces a member of the team, in future, he or she will be in a good position to solve it (Noe & Winkler, 2012).

The second theory discussed in the said book is experiential learning. According to the scholars, this model is based on Kolb’s four stages of the learning process. The central premise is that learning is not limited to the number of cycles that an individual can make in a learning situation. The theory often holds out that in the absence of reflection, it follows that the likelihood of continued repetition of past mistakes would be a commonplace. According to the model, learning occurs through a concrete experience, an observation and reflection, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation Ormrod and Davis (2004). This theory also relates to adult learning within the organizational context. The employees are often encouraged to reflect on their past experiences in the organization focusing on the issues and problems that they have experienced. In other words, the employees are encouraged to reflect on their past (Kozlowski & Salas, 2009). After doing this, with the help of the management, the employees are then encouraged to establish a range of measures and strategies that could help in coping with the problem suppose it happens in the future. Where a given strategy fails to handle a given challenge, the employee is encouraged to try others until the one that provides the most desirable outcomes is reached. In this way, employee learning has occurred (Noe & Winkler, 2012).

The reinforcement theory has also been discussed. According to the model, behavior exists as a function of its outcomes. As such, a learner is likely to repeat a desired behavior provided that the reinforcement is positive. While this is the case, the theory names negative reinforcements as essential as they play a role in strengthening a behavior, especially those that seeks to stop a condition for a given outcome of the tendency. The reinforcement theory could also be applied within an organizational context to facilitate adult or employee learning. A good account of a positive reinforcement is promotion. Where an employee performs beyond expectations, he or she is rewarded through promotion (Noe & Winkler, 2012). For instance, the employee may become a supervisor. Other employees learn through this in that, they tend to achieve the idea that if they perform better, they are likely to get promoted. The negative reinforcement also comes into play in a similar fashion.  If a given employee is punished for a given attribute, which give rise to undesirable consequences such as poor performance, other employees becomes aware that the attribute is not encouraged in the organization. As a result, they will strive to alleviate it in their personalities (Kozlowski & Salas, 2009).