Learning Approaches

Which is The Best Learning Approach in the Field of Education?

Which learning approach would best suit you? Do you constantly ponder over this question? In the past years, there have been several theories put forth to examine the various learning processes. However, most of the learning theories focus on how the learning is delivered. There are different ways of learning - formal and informal. It may be learning in a group, which we commonly refer to as the classroom setup, or one-to-one, which is the case with mentoring or coaching, and of course self-learning. 

What is a learning approach?

  • The meaning of the term ‘learning approach’ is pretty much self-explanatory.

  • Learning approach means any method of learning that is used to gain knowledge.

  • A learning approach can be categorized on the basis of the goals or objectives it helps to achieve.

  • In the field of education, the learner is expected to adopt the learning approach that best fits the aim or purpose of learning.

For example, if the purpose or aim is to memorize facts and figures, then a learning approach that suits this learning aim needs to be followed.

  • Every learning approach is the perfect fit for a specific aim or objective, and works ideally for the learner, no matter which learning style is followed.

Different types of learning approaches

There are different learning approaches. Most of the learning theories fall under any one or more categories of learning approaches.

Here are the different types of learning approaches in education.

Learning approach ' 1

The behaviourist approach

  • This learning approach is based on the principle that the learners respond to the stimuli in the environment.

  • In the behaviourist approach, the facilitator provides the relevant stimuli that would help the learner respond and acquire knowledge and experience.

  • If the aim of learning is to change the behaviour towards something, it can be best learned by this approach.

  • The behaviourist approach focuses on repetition and reinforcement.

  • Positive feedback from the learning facilitator encourages success, while negative feedback from the facilitator discourages the repetition of a mistake.

Discovery of classical conditioning by Ivan Pavlov

The famous Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov demonstrated that classical conditioning happens through associations between two stimuli, a naturally occurring one (unconditioned) and an environmental one (conditioned).

Ivan Pavlov through his experiments demonstrated that dogs could be taught (conditioned) to salivate on hearing the sound of the bell, if that sound was repeated at the time of their feeding. Later, the food given to the dogs was stopped but they still continued to salivate on hearing the sound of the bell. Classical conditioning could be used to teach repetitive actions during training.

Eight-stage learning model proposed by Gagne

Here are the different types of learning according to Gagne.

  • Signal recognition learning

  • Stimulus learning

  • Motor chain learning

  • Verbal chain learning

  • Concept learning

  • Problem solving

  • Acquisition of rules

  • Multiple discrimination

Social learning theory

It is an extension of the behaviourist approach. However, in the social learning approach, the focus is on direct and indirect learning by observing the behaviour of others. For example, a child learns how to use the smartphone by observing the parent use it.

Learning approach ' 2

Cognitive approach

  • This learning approach focuses on memorization and remembrance.

  • Cognitive approach is a deep learning method that enables the brain to understand and interpret information and remember it for the long-term.

  • Cognitive learning approach is a great one if the objective of learning is to memorize large pieces of information.

  • The cognitive approach to learning is based on knowledge and its retention for a long time.

  • However, while following the cognitive approach it is important to ensure that every piece of information is understood by the learner and then imprinted in the mind.

Learning approach ' 3

Humanistic approach

  • This learning approach focuses on the concept of active learning and goodness for everyone around.

  • In the humanistic approach, there is emphasis laid on valuing diversity in the society.

  • The humanistic approach aims at having a united world which is at peace and there is uniformity in the spread of knowledge to everyone.

  • The humanistic learning approach is best for group learning and group activities.

  • It starts by encouraging the learners to focus on what is right, and differentiate it from what is wrong.

There are two forms of humanistic learning approach. These are:


  • It is based on the transmission of knowledge from the one who knows to the one who does not know.

  • It is the basic type of learning approach in education that is followed in the majority of educational institutions worldwide.


  • In this form of humanistic learning approach, the learning is entirely in the hands of the learner.

  • It is a student-centered learning method in which the learner has complete freedom to acquire knowledge from his/her own learnings and experiences.

  • It is not a subject-oriented learning method, but rather student-centered learning.

A skill or task can be learned using multiple learning approaches. There is nothing right or wrong. It all depends on the learning goal and objective.