This paper seeks to compare between the learning theories of Jean Piaget and Gagne with a view to determining their various contribution to nursing education and research.
Jean Piaget propounded a cognitive perspective which was described as the basis of the constructivist theory. He developed a model of development of the child and also about child development. His theory centered on the fact that depending on the level of development of the child, the child creates cognitive structures or mental maps that allow them to comprehend their environment. If new information is presented to the child, the child determines if the information fits into the existing structure. If this is true, the child accommodates the information. However, if the information does not fit into the structure, the child tries to accommodate the information by creating new mental structures which the information fits into.
When this theory is applied practically to child learning, the instructor teaches the child information which they are developmentally ready for and subsequently the previous knowledge of the child is used to help the child comprehend new information.
Gagne's theory, on the other hand believed that learning leads to change in behavior and the behavioral changes are observable. These behavioral changes were termed outcomes. These outcomes, according to him, can be regarded as educational goals which need to be accomplished through the laid down learning activities. In practical terms, these performance behaviors are goals which the instructor can observe and thereafter perform an evaluation with the aim of determining the achievement of the student. Moreover, Gagne maintained a perspective of cognition in which he propounded that learning is a product of the effort of the individual to construct their personal knowledge.
A look at both theories would reveal that both theories of learning agree on one issue, which is that the individual is trying to construct their own personal knowledge. Both theories also agree on the opinion that the individual seeks to achieve a goal which is the acquiring of knowledge.
However, there is a slight difference in the way in which they both theorists propounded different theories. Jean Piaget favors the method in which the individual tries to understand the information and incorporates it into mental structures.
Also, according to Piaget, the instructor helps the student get by, by trying to impart knowledge based on the student’s level of development and also by presenting subsequent knowledge based on previously learned information. However, according to Gagne, the instructor uses a feedback mechanism to determine how much the student has been able to assimilate through their behavior with the aim of determining the progress of the individual.
In the area of practice, Piaget's theory exemplifies the importance of the Nurse understanding the basic principles of the profession upon which other knowledge is built in order to exude a high level of professionalism. the same goes for research, in which the individual discovers improved methods of achieving result by comparing current ways of doing these things which new methods.
A look at Gagne's theory will show that it has a lot of application in the area of education because the instructor determines how well the student has been able to assimilate information that would translate to the ability to perform professional duties. Also, in the area of research, the theory can be applied in the area of peer-review of research articles so that the quality of practice can be upheld. Also, in the area of administration, the theory can be applied to the process of performance reviews of nursing staff with a view to determining the level of professionalism of the staff.
Piaget, J. 1952. The origins of intelligence in children. New York: International Universities.
Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning (4th ed.). Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
M McWen & E Wills (2010). Theoretical Basis of Nursing. Lippincott Willams & Wilkins.