Associative Associative learning is a form of conditioning,

Associative learning is a theory that states that ideas reinforce each other and can be linked to one another. This lesson will explain the theory of associative learning as well as provide some practical, real-life examples of this type of learning.

Associative Learning

Sit back and close your eyes.

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Relax yourself and get ready to recall some really specific details. Imagine your mother’s left eyebrow. Not her right eyebrow. Not her eyes. Just her left eyebrow. Hard, isn’t it? When you try to envision your mother’s eyebrow, you see her eyes, cheeks, forehead, nose, chin – her whole face! Why is it so difficult to recall just her eyebrow?Associative learning is a learning principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be mentally linked to one another.

In a nutshell, it means our brains were not designed to recall information in isolation; instead, we group information together into one associative memory. That’s why it is difficult to recall just one eyebrow without seeing the whole face.Associative learning can be a powerful classroom management and teaching tool and has many uses in the classroom. It can be used to help students connect with information more deeply and recall that information with greater accuracy.

Associative Learning and Behavior

Associative learning is a form of conditioning, a theory that states behavior can be modified or learned based on a stimulus and a response. This means that behavior can be learned or unlearned based on the response it generates. For example, a student might know that if she misbehaves in class (stimulus), she will not be permitted to go out for recess (response).

This type of learning can be helpful in classroom management.Much like conditioning, associative memory can be called upon based on the relationship between two stimuli. Using both positive and negative reinforcers (stimuli used to change behavior), teachers can help students modify their behavior.

Some examples of positive reinforcement are:

  • Awarding good grades for work that is well done.
  • Allowing students to watch a video for finishing an assignment.
  • Verbally rewarding students for their effort and hard work.
  • Giving students a ‘punch’ in their punch card each time they do something well. When the punch card is full, the student receives a reward.

By using positive reinforcement, teachers can condition students to associate good work and good behavior with a reward.

On the other hand, negative reinforcement can be used to punish students for poor behavior.Some examples of negative reinforcement are:

  • Removing recess from students who ‘act out’ in class.
  • Taking points off of work that is turned in late.
  • Not allowing a student who is misbehaving to sit with his friends.
  • Using a chart to document the number of times a student has misbehaved (using stickers).

    When the chart line is full, the student loses a classroom privilege.

Associative Learning and Teaching

Associative memory can be a powerful teaching tool. Because associative learning relies on the principle that ideas and experience can be linked together and ultimately reinforce one another, association can be used to help students remember information.The keyword method is a form of associative learning that enhances memory. If an object is associated with its attributes, students have an easier time remembering information about the object. For example, if objects are associated with images, students can recall information about the object with greater accuracy.

Additionally, the keyword method works well by teaching students to remember information by associating it with other words that rhyme or have a similar sound. These methods can be combined for the optimum learning experience.For instance, if students were trying to learn the word jarvey (which means carriage driver), they could associate it with a similar sounding word, like jar, and associate it with a picture of a man driving a carriage that is carrying a load of jars.The chunking method is another associative learning strategy. This strategy relies on learning information in chunks – or segments that are related to one another – rather than learning information in isolation. This method makes it easier for students to see how information is related, encourages higher order thinking, promotes greater accuracy in recalling information, and helps students quickly learn large portions of information.

Lesson Summary

Associative learning is a principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be linked to one another, making it a powerful teaching strategy. Associative learning can be used in classroom management techniques. By using reinforcers, like rewards and punishments, teachers can condition student behavior. Using associative learning teaching strategies, like the keyword method or the chunking method, helps students connect more deeply to course material, promoting higher order thinking and more accurate recollection of material.

Learning Outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Describe associative learning
  • Define conditioning and reinforcers
  • Explain how associative learning can be used to instill good behavior
  • List some ideas for positive and negative reinforcers that can be used in the classroom
  • Discuss the two associative learning methods to use in the classroom
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