Instructions: Response must be at least 310 words written in current APA format with at least two academic references cited. References must be within the last five years. Response must extend, correct/refute, or add additional nuance.

Learning is defined as gaining knowledge through study, teaching, instruction, or experience (Clark, 2018). Learning theories can be utilized to better understand the way in which people gain knowledge and skills (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 200). They also help to understand how emotions, attitudes and behaviors are obtained and/or modified. The four learning theories are the behaviorist learning theory, the cognitive theory, the psychodynamic learning theory, and the humanistic leaning theory. To highlight a learning theory or principle that is most useful to the advance practice nurse is almost an impossibility since they each contribute to individual learning in different ways. Utilization of multiple learning theories can be more effective in influencing learning outcomes than being dependent on any single learning theory (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 231).

The behaviorist theory stresses that learning simply occurs when individuals respond favorably to a particular type of external stimuli (Clark, 2018).  This theory believes that the focus on learning should be observable actions since there is no way of knowing an individual’s thoughts or feelings. The observable action in any situation is the stimulus in the environment and the individual’s behaviors that are being exhibited would then be the response to the stimuli (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 201). This theory is useful in situations that involve learning simple behaviors, skill learning or nonverbals skills. It is also useful in unlearning unhealthy behavioral habits since behaviorists believe that anything that is learned can be unlearned by changing stimulus conditions in the environment or simply by changing the response to the stimuli (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 202). This theory is utilized almost daily in hospitals for improvement in workplace performance by utilizing positive reinforcement with employees. This means that employees are rewarded for behavior that is seen as favorable. This theory is built on the belief that ‘practice makes perfect’ and that learning is an observable change in behavior because of experience and repetition (Clark, 2018). This serves well in areas of advanced nursing where some things can and will only improve the more the action is done. For example, completing patient assessments will become second nature only after it is conducted numerous times.

The cognitive learning theory highlights that learning comes from within the learner and is based on their individual perceptions, thinking, reasoning, memory, developmental changes, and overall way in which they process information (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 208). This theory believes that unlike the behaviorist theory, reward is not a necessary motivator to learn. It believes also that thinking and reasoning develop in stages throughout an individual’s life from childhood to adulthood. Learning is an active process where individuals perceive, evaluate, and respond to the ways of the world in their own socially influenced manner (Butts & Rich, p. 208). Cognitive theory heavily influences educational practices and works well in situations that require individuals to acquire knowledge through complex learning. It is useful also with processing of memories, problem solving and at the same time allowing room for individual creativity. Advanced practice nursing benefits significantly from this theory since it is well suited for individuals who like challenges, problem solving and creativity. This theory allows some flexibility unlike the behaviorist theory since it allows individuals to learn both by discovery as well as by guidance (Butts & Rich, 2018, p. 230).