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Verbal learning processes

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

In the previous section we identified the conditions which appear to be necessary for the acquisition of completely new behaviours, motor skills, procedures, and other types performances (including speech). In addition to acquiring a wide variety of performance skills, human learners also acquire a wide variety of verbal and conceptual behaviours and skills.

Just as we distinguished between two major types of performance learning outcomes (the acquisition of new behaviours and the acquisition of new procedures) so we must distinguish between several types of verbal and conceptual learning outcomes.

The first of these, the acquisition of equivalence relations described in Section 1, covers the case where there is a stimulus-response relationship to be learned and there is a one-to-one correspondence between the stimulus and the correct response.

The second of these, the acquisition of generalised correct responding described in Section 2, covers the case where the learner has to learn to respond correctly to a class of stimuli or events and where there is but a single response which is conventionally considered to be correct.

The third case, the acquisition of new knowledge responses described in Section 3, covers the case where the stimulus can take a variety of forms and correct responses can take a variety of forms also. These three types of learning outcomes must always be distinguished during both teaching and research because the conditions which are necessary for acquisition differ in each of the three cases.