In education and psychology, learning theories help us understand the process of learning.
There are basically two main perspectives in learning theories:
Constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts based upon current and past knowledge. Constructivist learning, therefore, is a very personal endeavor, whereby internalized concepts, rules and general principles may be consequently applied in a practical real-world context. According to J. Bruner and other constructivists, the teacher acts as a facilitator in order to encourage students to discover principles for themselves and to construct knowledge by working to solve realistic problems, usually in collaboration with others. Cognitive theorists such as Piaget and Ausubel, and others were concerned with the changes in a student's understanding that result from learning, and the fundamental importance of the environment. Constructivism itself has many variations, such as Generative Learning, Cognitive Apprenticeship, Problem-Based (Inquiry) Learning, Discovery Learning, and others. Regardless of the variety, constructivism promotes a student's free exploration within a given framework or structure.
Behaviorism in an educational theory grounded on the seminal works of B._F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov, both scientists well known for their studies in animal behavior. Behaviorists believe that organisms need reinforcements to keep them interested, and the use of stimuli can be very effective in controlling behavior. For the behaviorist, environment directly shapes behavior, and complex learning requires a series of small, progressive steps. It can be said that the behaviorist theory of education is by far the most commonly practiced because the behaviors of the learners can be easily viewed and therefore measured, which is itself a basic premise in the scientific method.
About accelerating the learning process:
- mnemonic techniques: mind mapping, peg lists, loci
- formulating knowledge for learning
- spaced repetition
- incremental reading
- neural networks in the brain (see also: neural networks)
- hippocampus vs. neocortex
- sleep and learning
- memory consolidation
- short-term memory vs. working memory
- long-term memory
- declarative memory vs. procedural memory
- molecular mechanisms of memory