The twentieth century was ground-breaking in a multiplicity of fields, including psychology and education. The attempt to develop the understanding on how humans learn was a challenge upheld by a “huge and diverse cast of characters” (Harré, 2006: p7), with some cast so prolific that they didn’t only affect the classroom but “have left an enduring mark on our understanding of ourselves” (Harré, 2006: p7). For this essay, I will describe and reflect on theories of Burrhus Fredrick Skinner and Jerome Bruner, particularly Operant Conditioning and Cognitive Learning and apply them to an educational setting.
Jerome Bruner (1915-2016) is renowned as one of the most significant and influential cognitive and constructivist theorists of the twentieth century and specifically developed “the study of the mental processes of thinking” (Harré, 2006: p49). His initial focus was the development of human cognition but psychology at Harvard, according to Bruner had become “centrifugal” (Bruner,1983: p252). In turn, this prompted his studies into child cognitive development.