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Learning Theories in Language Teaching Curriculum


Learning theories are used to develop curriculums that explain learning models used in education. These models help simplify education from the earliest stages of childhood through formal education. This paper will explore the learning theories and how they can be applied in developing a curriculum for learning and teaching language. The curriculum will include the epistemology, motivation, and methods of learning.

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Jean Piaget and John Dewey helped develop the theory of Cognitive Development. According to them, cognitive development constitutes the sensor motor stage and helps children grow their interaction through this development. For instance, when a child understands about objects, he/she will easily understand words (Piaget, 1970, p. 49). The theory seeks to understand the “black box” that the human mind is. According to cognitivism, knowledge processing is done at different levels.


Under this theory, epistemology assumes that learners are likely to remember meaningful information. Teachers should, therefore, ensure children are imparted with meaningful information that will help in their language development.


Because the process of learning is intrinsic, motivation should come from within the learners. Teachers should, therefore, ensure children do internal processing of information while they engage them in activities that create curiosity.

Methods of learning

Learners’ understanding of the current subject matter must be given consideration. Teachers should put in place structures that support the learning process by helping children relate new information to the current understanding. For example, children can be engaged in a discussion after watching a short story. They will be asked to articulate what they saw and what they think about the story.


Behaviorist theory was developed by B. F. Skinner: the theory emphasizes the “nurture” part of the language. According to Skinner, nurture helps in building responses around stimuli as well as other reinforcements (McCaslin & Good 1996, p. 67). For instance, learning speech and phrases in language development are one of the basic examples of behaviorist approaches to language development. The main point underlying this approach is conditioning that a child’s mind goes through in the process of learning.


This theory emphasizes on the overt way of learning where observation and empiricism play a big role. Teachers should, therefore, be keen to evaluate the changes in the behavior of the learner and relate them to language development.

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Learning is mainly affected by external factors. Teachers are, therefore, encouraged to reward children when they make progress in language development.

Methods of learning

The stimulus is needed for language mastery to take place in children. Teachers are, therefore, expected to identify goals and the stimuli that will help children achieve them to improve their language skills (McCaslin & Good 1996, p. 70). For example, pigeons can learn to press bars that will lead to dropping off food to a dish. Children can also use a food or drink dispenser machine with an automatic voice recording that gives instructions about the action that it will take once a child presses the button.


The theory was developed by Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky developed the theory that also incorporates interactions between a child and fellow children, and adults’ interaction helps children develop language skills and knowledge. Interaction fosters communication and helps children use their skills to develop language (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 49).


Epistemologically, this theory asserts that learning takes place through the construction of knowledge. Teachers of language should help nature language skills based on experiences.


Teachers should help students complete tasks that help them improve their language skills. The task should determine specific goals that a child needs to achieve.

Methods of learning

The methods that are used by teachers here depend on the context of the task or activity that the children are involved in. Teachers should ensure children work collaboratively to develop their language skills. For example, teachers can engage children in dialogues through actions such as skits.


The nativist theory was developed by Jean Lave and Ettienne Wenger. The theorists believe that social interaction is the most crucial part of the development of the child as far as language is concerned. They assert that language learning is best carried out in a community setting where the child learns first hand the culture of the community (Lave & Wenger, 1990, p. 86).

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According to this theory, there is an integral link between context and the social environment that the child learns. Language teachers should, therefore, ensure that children learn in an environment that is similar to the origin of the language.


The motivation here will be both external and collective, and emphasis will be placed on teamwork. Teachers should, therefore, ensure they expose children to tasks that are related to the language’s learning environment (McCaslin & Good 1996, p. 78).

Methods of learning

Teachers should always ensure the learning environment is similar to that of the language’s origin. That way, it’s easier to articulate procedures and structures out of the situation that will help children in learning the language. For example, teachers can urge children to perform a skit set in London or New York, for instance, in the case of English teaching.


Lave, J & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCaslin, M & Good, T.L. (1996). The informal curriculum: Handbook of educational psychology. New York: Macmillan, 1996; 622-670.

Piaget J. (1970). The science of education and the psychology of the child. New York: Grossman.

Vygotsky L.S. (1978). Mind in society Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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