What are the 17 Learning Theories in Education?

The learning theories are the 17 different approaches that have been developed to help understand how children learn, how adults learn, and how both learn together. This article will answer “what are the 17 learning theories in education?” and explain the 4 main categories to help you understand how they work.

What are the 17 Learning Theories in Education?

The 17 learning theories are the following:

  • Constructivist Theory
  • Multimodal Learning Theory
  • Gestalt Theory
  • Social Constructivist Theory
  • Cognitive Constructivist Theory
  • Kolberg’s Stages Of Moral Development
  • Classical Conditioning Theory
  • Operant Conditioning Theory
  • Self-Determination Theory
  • Flow Theory
  • Psychosocial Theory
  • Social Learning Theory
  • Critical Theory In Education
  • Experiential Learning Theory
  • Multiple Intelligence Theory
  • Play-Based Learning Theory
  • Poststructuralist Theory

What is Education?

Education is a process of acquiring knowledge and skills through teaching, learning or studying. It is generally meant to enhance the abilities and widen the scope of knowledge of the students. The word “education” is derived from the Latin ēducātiō, which literally means “to draw out” or “to lead out”.

What are the 4 main categories of Learning Theories in Education?

The 4 main categories of Learning Theories in Education are the following:

  • Cognitive Learning Theory
  • Behavioral Learning Theory
  • Motivational Learning Theory
  • Psychoanalytic Learning Theory

What is the Cognitive Learning Theory?

The cognitive learning theory was first introduced in the late 1970s by Jerome Bruner. Bruner was an American psychologist who is best known for his contributions to the study of cognition. 

The cognitive learning theory is the idea that learning is a process of creating mental representations. This process is the result of a series of cognitive operations that are performed on the information. 

These operations are thought to be the mental representations that are created. The cognitive learning theory is important because it helps to explain how children learn, how they learn better through experience, and how trial-and-error, and thinking through ideas develop learning.

One example of cognitive theory is the Constructivist Theory. The constructivist theory is a learning theory that is focused on the cognitive development of children and their ability to construct their own knowledge and understanding of a given topic. 

The learner is the center of the learning process, not the teacher. This theory is very popular in the educational field, with many educators taking it to heart and incorporating it into their classrooms.

Another example is the Multimodal Learning Theory. Multimodal learning theory is a learning theory that suggests that learning is best achieved when learners are exposed to various types of learning. 

This theory is based on the idea that learning is a process of acquiring knowledge, skills, and abilities that occur in different modalities. This theory was developed by the American educational scholar, Howard Gardner.

And one of the most prominent cognitive theories is the Gestalt Theory. It is the idea that a person’s experiences are what shape their understanding and how they learn. This theory is also referred to as the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” 

It means that the meaning of a person’s environment is more than just the individual parts. For example, one person might learn better from a teacher who is physically present in the classroom, while another person might learn better from a teacher who is online.

What is the Behavioral Learning Theory?

The behavioral learning theory is based on the idea that learning is a function of the interaction between the learner and the environment. There are four principles that are used to make this theory work. 

These principles are individual variation, the law of effect, the law of use, and the law of change. They are used to create a theory that is unique to each individual learner. This theory is a major aspect of the progressive education movement.

One example of behavioral theory is the Classical Conditioning Theory.  The Classical Conditioning Theory is the first theory of learning that was developed in the 1800s. 

It was created by Ivan Pavlov and is the first theory of learning to be based on the concept of conditioning. The classical conditioning theory is based on the idea that learning occurs through stimulus-response. In other words, the theory says that when you provide a stimulus (e.g., a sound), a response is created (e.g., a dog salivating). 

Another example is the Operant Conditioning Theory. It is a learning theory that emphasizes the role of consequences in learning. It also refers to the learning that people do in response to a stimulus.

What is the Motivational Learning Theory?

The Motivational Learning Theory is a learning theory that explains how people learn best. It was developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. 

This theory states that people learn best when they are intrinsically motivated. This means that they learn best when they experience the activity from an internal drive. 

One example of the motivational theory is the Self-Determination Theory. Self-determination theory is one of the leading theories in the field of educational psychology. It was introduced by Julianne Hough and Richard Ryan in 1985. 

According to this theory, the best way to teach students is to give them the opportunity to develop their own learning styles and interests. For example, if a student likes to learn how things work, he or she should be able to do so in a hands-on way.

This theory also suggests that teachers should not be giving students the answers to problems and should not be giving students grades. Instead, teachers should be giving students feedback on how to improve their work so that they can reach their full potential.

Another example is the  Flow Theory. It is based on the idea that learning is an active process that involves an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Furthermore, it is a theory that states that learning is not just something that occurs in the classroom. 

Learning can also occur outside the classroom and in a variety of settings especially when an individual is motivated to learn. For example, if you find something interesting or challenging, then you are more likely to be motivated to learn about it. If you are motivated to learn, then you are more likely to be successful and learn more quickly.

What is the Psychoanalytic Learning Theory?

The Psychoanalytic Learning Theory was developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s. It is a theory that explains how people learn and change. It is a continuous process that, like life, never ends. This theory is based on the idea that people are born with the ability to learn but they are limited by the environment they are in. 

This theory is based on the idea that people are like sponges because they absorb what they learn and it affects their behavior. One example of the psychoanalytic theory is the  Psychosocial Theory.

The psychosocial theory in education is about the social and emotional development of children. It is about the relationship between a child and their parents, teachers, and other family members. 

It is also about the relationship between a child and the world outside of their homes. The psychosocial theory is about the idea that our understanding of the world comes from our relationships.


The learning theories in education explore the multifaceted aspects of how people learn from childhood to adulthood. These theories have been the basis of many educational institutions to help them inculcate learning in a deeper sense. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What are the 17 learning theories in education?

Who are some of the most famous learning theorists?

These are the following:

  • Lev Vygotsky
  • Jean Piaget
  • B.F. Skinner
  • Jerome Bruner
  • Benjamin Bloom
  • Howard Garnder
  • David Kolb
  • John Dewey
  • Kurt Lewin

What is the most popular learning theory?

Cognitive Learning Theory is the most popular learning theory.

What is the oldest learning theory?

Behaviourism traces its beginnings back to Aristotle making it the oldest learning theory.


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15 Learning Theories in Education (A Complete Summary). Retrieved from https://www.educationcorner.com/learning-theories-in-education/

Learning theories | EdApp. Retrieved from https://www.edapp.com/blog/learning-theories/