Learning is a process of storage of knowledge (knowledge construction process) in our memory. “Learning is a process as well as an outcome” (Zuber-Skerritt1992). Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience ( Kolb 1984).Learning is the major process of human adaptation. Learning is ‘sense making’. All learners are meaning makers. Learning is the process that underlies and gives birth to change. Change is the child of learning (Friedlander,1983). Learning is a cognitive process of acquiring new skills, knowledge and attitude. Learning is repeated experience, modulated by attention and weighted by emotional relevance. Different people learn information in different ways. There are 4 requirements of learning: motivation, time, preparation and method. All human beings are born with an astounding capacity to learn, both in amount that can be learned in one domain and in the variety and range of what can be learned. Learning is a multi-step process such as acquisition, retention and retrieval. Learning is an ongoing and never ending process. It begins at the moment of birth and continues through an entire lifespan. Learning is the act of interpreting experience and the interpretation is based on the individual’s process of sense making.
There are 3 stages in learning such as registering the item, filing the item and retrieving the item. The learning involves techniques, motives, attitudes and definitions.
Learning depends upon priority, intensity and duration.
There are four elements that constitute successful learning.
Learning depends upon priority, intensity and duration.
There are four elements that constitute successful learning.
- Wanting – motivation
- Doing – practice, trial and error
- Feed back – seeing the results; other people’s reactions
- Digesting – making sense of it; gaining ownership.
According to holistic learning theory, an individual personality consists of many elements such as the intellect, emotions, the desire, intuition and imagination. All require activation, if learning is to be more effective.
Basic views about learning
Learning is a natural process. The natural tendency of the brain is to learn, however not everyone learns in the same way. Learning is a social process. Students learn best in collaboration with peers, teachers, parents and others. Learning is an active process. Learning is an activity in which learners participate and are directly involved. Learners must be actively engaged in learning process. Learning can be either linear or non-linear process. Learning is a reorganization of knowledge structures. Mind is a wonderful parallel or serial processor. Learning is integrative and context –based. Learners themselves see relations and make connections. Teachers can help learners to make connections and to integrate knowledge. Learning is based on a strength model of student abilities, interest and culture. Learning causes a relatively permanent change in the behaviour –attitude, interest or value. The change may be an improvement of a skill or process. It may be a modification where old knowledge, skills and abilities or attitudes are adjusted to cope with new circumstances.
Characteristics of learning
Pedler (1997) identified 4 different aspects of learning. Students can learn about things. Students acquire and understand the knowledge. Students can learn to do things. Students acquire new skills, abilities and competencies. Students can learn to achieve full potential in their lives. Students want personal development involving intellectual growth and skill acquisition. Students can learn to achieve things together which Pedler calls collaborative enquiry – to do things together.
Learning- based changes in the brain
Learning takes place in the brain in three major stages:
Some of the brain's 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) sprout branching fibres (axons and dendrites). All learning enters through our senses/emotions. This is the first stage of learning. As these neural fibres grow, they construct electrically and chemically activated connections (synapses) with other neurons and communicate, neuron to neuron, at these synapses. The brain patterns and constructs mental maps of information. The brain actively binds ideas together through neural networking. This second stage of learning is more productive. As this neural growth continues, ever-more neural pathways and synaptic connections are constructed until there is a complex network of connections between many neurons for that particular object of learning. This is complex, high-level and in-depth learning. According to Jeannett Vosss and Gordon Dryden in their book ‘the learning revolution’ stated that learning to store information in patterns and with strong associations is probably the first step in developing our brain’s untapped ability.
Kinds of learners
Researchers and educators categorised learners into three types like lookers, listeners and movers. The lookers are visual learners who rely on the sense of sight, when absorbing information. Text, diagrams, photograph, charts, graphs and maps are all tools that aid visual learning. The listeners are auditory learners with a preference for sounds and words over information taken in by either sight or touch. The movers are tactile (kinaesthetic) learners preferring hands-on learning through both touch and movement. It emphasizes the need to touch objects and move one’s body.
Principles of learning (Svinicki, 1991)
If information is to be learned, it must first be recognized as important. During learning, learners act on information in ways that make it more meaningful by using examples, images, elaborations and connections. Learner store information in long – term memory in an organized fashion related to their existing understanding of the world. Learners continually check understanding, which results in refinement and revision of what is retained. Transfer of learning to new contexts is not automatic but results from experience to multiple applications. Learning is facilitated, when learners are aware of their learning strategies and monitor their use.
Categories of learning
Formal learning – takes place in educational institutions.
Non – formal learning – takes place outside and through the activities of civil society, groups and organizations.
Informal learning – is a natural accompaniment to everyday life.
Lifelong learning – is learning throughout life either continuously or periodically.
Life wide learning – can take place across the full span of our lives at any one stage in our lives.
Social learning – can take place in a social setting or context. Social interaction allows learners to relate or mirror their ideas, insights, experiences and feelings to those of others.
Kinds of learning systems
Natural learning system- the brain has natural learning systems such as emotive, cognitive, physical, social, and reflective.
Cognitive learning system – cognition interprets, stores and retrieves information via pattern and pictures. It establishes integrated circuits of knowledge and skills.
Physical learning system – it gathers information through all senses. It distributes information throughout the brain and the body. It converts inputs into action.
Social learning system – it governs interactions and communications with others. Team work and team accomplishment are integral to integrated system. People works together in pairs or small groups to solve problems.
Emotional learning system – involves personal meaning and its relevance. It accelerates learning.
It empowers or energises or depresses or stifles all other learning systems. It manages a learner’s motivation, demeanour and creativity.
Reflective learning system – it weighs past, present, and future projections. It interprets verbal and non-verbal cues. It is a monitoring mechanism and it metacognates information.
Knowledge dissemination tools – are systematic attempts to identify and distribute knowledge and ideas.
Instructional tools – teaching methods used to share knowledge and ideas.
Research and development tools – are designed to generate new discoveries through organized inquiry.
Diagnostic tools are designed to evaluate the learning that takes place in a learner.
Learning how to learn (individual learning) – may be defined as the capacity to build knowledge on their own. Learning is an individual process. It takes place inside an individual’s brain.
Kolb’s Learning cycleKolb's four-stage model is a simple description of the learning cycle which shows how experience is translated through reflection into concepts, which in turn are used as guides for active experimentation and the choice of new experiences. Kolb refers to these four stages as: concrete experience (CE), reflective observation (RO), abstract conceptualization (AC) and active experimentation (AE).
1. Concrete experience (CE)–having a new experience of situation or reinterpretation of existing experience.2. Reflective observation (RO) – reviewing/ reflecting on the experience.
3. Abstract conceptualization(AC) –formation of abstract concepts (analysis)by reflection and generalization (conclusion)
4. Active experimentation (AE) – planning and trying out what one have learned.
Kolb’s learning style
Diverging (feeling and watching - CE/RO) -The people with diverging abilities are able to look at things from different perspectives. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use imagination to solve problems. They have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. They are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be strong in the arts. They prefer to work in groups, to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.
Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO)
People with an assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts. They are more attracted to logically sound theories rather than approaches based on practical value. These people are important for effectiveness in information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think things through.
Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE)
People with a converging learning style can solve problems and they prefer technical tasks. They are less concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. People with this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding solutions to questions and problems. People with a converging style like to experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
Accommodating (doing and feeling - CE/AE)
The Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on', and relies on intuition rather than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and experiences, and to carrying out plans. This learning style is prevalent within the general population.
Effective learning tips from theories of learning
- Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception. People learn best when solving realistic problems. Learning involves search for meaning and patterning. Learning is influenced by emotions, feelings and attitudes (Brain-based learning).
- Learning is based on neuro-sensation (smell, sight, taste, hearing and touch) and occurs in stages, steps or levels and is most effectively stored, recalled and utilized. Learning is strengthened by rich sensory, emotive and kinaesthetic association (Neuro-biological learning theory).
- Learning new knowledge is dependent on what is already known. New knowledge gains meaning when it can be largely related to a framework of existing knowledge (Meaningful learning theory).
- Verbal learning is most effective when accompanied by visual learning (Dual coding theory).
- Learning can be achieved more as a direct participation and reflection of every day experience (Experiential learning).
- Learning is centred around the need to find a solution to real problem (Action learning)
- Learning occurs more when actively searching for information (Discovery learning).
- Optimum learning occurs when the load on the working memory is kept to a minimum to facilitate the changes in long term memory (Cognitive load theory).
- A learner is able to use prior knowledge and experience to interpret the content. New information is compared to existing cognitive structures called schema (Schema theory of learning). Learning is much easier if connections are made between ideas and facts.
- Learning can be maximised by learning of rule –based or information – based categories or exemplars or prototypes. (Category learning).
- Learners actively construct and reconstruct knowledge out of their experience in the world. Reflection and metacognition are essential aspects of constructing knowledge and meaning (Constructivist learning theory).
- If learning is to be effective, it should involve all aspects of an individual’s personality such as the intellect, emotions, the desire, intuition and imagination (Holistic learning theory).