Sample Education Essay Paper on Learning Theory

Learning Theory


Learning theories are conceptual frameworks laid down by experts to guide others in understanding how humans understand, process, and retain information during learning process (Gaines, 2012). These theories are based on the influences such as environmental, emotional, and cognitive, which major players on acquisition of information and understanding how the world operates. This paper would look at the cognitive theory and how it affects learning among high school students. The main focus would be on ability grouping of learners, which has been adopted by many high schools especially during transitions to secondary school.

Social Learning Theory

The theory is widely used in communication, education, and psychology and it states that acquisition of knowledge among human beings is related how he or she interacts with others within a certain social context of experiences, interactions, and the influences of the media. Learning among high school students is also affected by behavior and the environment in which they are, and Albert Bandura stressed that observational learning is very important in acquiring new skills, attitudes and behaviors (Castelfranchi & Falcone, 2010). Whenever a teacher has identified a behavior or ability he or she wishes to foster, he could group students with the same ability that he wishes to promote. The proponents of this strategy have stated that it enables the teachers to appropriately tailor content and pace of delivery better and according to the needs of the students. For example, when a teacher recognizes that his or her class needs more re-enforcement, he or she can opt for repetition to help the weak students who are in the same group

Social cognitive learning theory is very important in learning among students. Some of the advantages of social cognitive theory include the following:

  • Enables the teacher to reinforce the desired behavior
  • Helps the teacher to explain variety of behaviors among learners
  • The teacher can easily reduce the inconsistencies observed on the behavior to be fostered
  • The teacher is able to integrate  cognitive and social theory

Ability grouping of students has received both shares of negative and positive criticism. Critics argue there is no single criteria of grouping that would benefit students adequately. While grouping students, those in lower groups would be disadvantaged and are vulnerable to many mistakes as compared to those who are in higher groups (Gaines, 2012). These students are prone to developing anti-school attitudes and are more likely to be de-motivated. Evidence also points out that the students may be exposed to poor quality teaching and hence goes through unlimited curricular contents. These experiences in such groups would most definitely affect them later in life.

In many situations, the grouping may continue from one grade to another and the students would be given labels to help them identify their groups throughout their high school education. The gradual sense of lower expectation from the weak students would lead to lack of motivation in the long-run.

Effective Teacher and Learning Environment

Organizational grouping that applies within class grouping has the potential of raising performance standards of through the personalized learning experiences for the learners. It can be more effective where learners are mixed and not of the same abilities (Snowman, McCown, & Biehler, 2012). During class transition, role of friendship is essential in grouping of students but does not form the single basis on which the selections should be done.

The teacher should be aware that issues that may inhibit or enhance effectiveness of the primary to secondary transition (Järvelä, 2011). The gifted children have shown much improvement whenever they are grouped according to their talents and giftedness. Construction of separate groups in a heterogeneous class instructed by a trained professional would be effective and is bound to attain academic gains from the students (Gaines, 2012). Other students in the same group would not have substantial gains. The gender consideration is another factor that has proved that boys are more likely to benefit when are placed in lower groups than girls. Single-sex teaching where boys are grouped together, the benefit more in English lessons than girls who are selected for single-sex lessons on mathematics and sciences.

Within-class grouping has the main objectives of addressing quality of teaching pedagogy and endeavors to use the most informed interventions that have stood the test of time. These interventions aim at supporting the teachers in how to improve their group works and training students skills needed in group works (Snowman, McCown, & Biehler, 2012). These interventions have succeeded in registering improved performance among students and changing of behaviors form negative ones to those that promote learning

Theories behind Ability Grouping

The major explanations given for ability grouping include the possibility of enhanced learning among students when grouped together and the socialization impacts that help the teacher to limit the effects of society stratification along the lines of ethnicity, gender, classes and race. The teacher must understand that an effective group is more important than having groups that are dominated by people of the same abilities (Kincheloe, & Horn, 2006). The teacher must therefore have deeper underlying factors to consider when grouping students and not entirely rely on the students’ abilities. This would in the long-run help the teacher to understand relationship between students and the social and learning outcomes of the classroom. When this is followed, the teacher would also understand why some recommendations are preferred to others.

The social cognitive theories that explain the ability grouping have shown that social development remains consistent throughout the sessions while the cognitive development is never consistent. The social theories focus more on the interdependence and interpersonal development of the students while cognitive theory focuses more on the academic attainment of the group members. The social cognitive theory therefore would help the teacher understand while the outcomes of cooperative programs such as the ability grouping are never record consistency in the academic differences.

Teachers who decide to apply ability grouping are advised to ensure that sensitivity and trust form the basis of communication in the groups and in development of the cognitive skills (Järvelä, 2011). There must be democratic participation in the groups and each group must overcome aspects of prejudice that might affect negatively on the outcomes of the group. Most of the groups that fail are mainly because students lack the cognitive and social skills required for group works.

Socio-cognitive and cognitive theory are the main theories that are associated with the development of understanding and knowledge among children. Curriculum design and knowledge is one of the factors that influence cognitive development and theory. These theories because they have led to understanding that cognitive development occurs in social context of student-student and teacher-student interaction. The quality of such interactions would inhibit or promote cognitive development of students

Within-class grouping has a higher chance of improving the performance of learners through the personalized class experiences (Prain, Waldrip, & Lovejoy, 2015). The grouping is however mainly done for class work and seating arrangement and does not necessarily translate to small groups. It could mean the whole classroom seated and working together as one group, it could be a small group, individuals, or pair of students working on an assignment

The group formation is usually done through the historic attitudes and procedures. The teacher has the general of ensuring that the class is order and performs the expected tasks but students would always spend majority of their time next to their peers (Järvelä, 2011). The teacher would be able to notice this trend among learners and hence group them together to enhance cohesiveness within the groups while also considering other underlying factors which the groups are expected to achieve in the long-run.

Apart from the friendship, areas with large number of schoolchildren such as the urban areas could also require the teacher to use other factors like their performances on various subjects (Hallinan, 2013). The teacher must acknowledge that students have so much time for student-student interaction than student and therefore he or she should create more time for student-teacher interaction whenever possible.

Learning Characteristics

The main characteristics of socio-cognitive learning attention from the learners, complexity, distinctiveness, functional value and the prevalence of the learning experiences. The learner must be motivated, aroused and ready to retain what he or she is capable of during the lesson. In short, the learners would be observers are expected to note whatever is displayed by the teacher or other students (Frontier, & Rickabaugh, 2014). Another characteristic is the acquisition of the observed behavior. Others characteristics are retention, attention, production and motivation by the observer

Personalized Reflection

I learn better when with others especially the technical subjects. Further readings alone may follow but the important concepts looks easy when discussed in groups and the experiences shared in a group. Almost all my skills have been developed through socialization and hence my methodology of learning leans more to socialism


Socio-cognitive learning theory is very important in education .The teachers would do much better if they know all the activities and strategies that would bring out the best form their learners by applying this theory. Ability grouping is an example of socio-cognitive theory-based learning. It could make the difference between poor and high grades if used well, but it can also make some students score lower when they are not exposed to the same experiences and teaching-learning activities as other upper groups. Generally, the strategy does not only fail to cater for the benefit of all the students but it also leads poor students to more poorer results due to the low teaching quality and resources accorded to them. The method therefore ends up widening the gap between bright students and the struggling ones. Teachers should therefore ensure that they eliminate these groups from their classes as the long term outcomes are far worse than the short term gains, especially on the struggling students


Castelfranchi, C., & Falcone, R. (2010). Trust theory: A socio-cognitive and computational model. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Frontier, T., & Rickabaugh, J. (2014). Five levers to improve learning: How to prioritize for powerful results in your school. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.

Gaines, K. L. P. D. (2012). Why are students not learning on the school bus? The future of learning outside the classroom in. Place of publication not identified: iUniverse Inc

Hallinan, M. T. (2013). The Social organization of schools: New conceptualizations of the learning process. New York: Plenum Press.

Kincheloe, J. L., & Horn, R. A. (2006). The Praeger handbook of education and psychology. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Järvelä, S. (2011). Social and emotional aspects of learning. Oxford: Elsevier.

Prain, V., Waldrip, B., & Lovejoy, V. (January 01, 2015). “They Can’t Just Google the Correct Answer”: Personalizing Science Learning in an Open-Plan Secondary School.

Snowman, J., McCown, R. R., & Biehler, R. F. (2012). Psychology applied to teaching. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.