The following points highlight the four main factors influencing learning. The factors are: 1. Physiological Factors 2. Psychological Factors 3. Environmental Factors 4. Methodology of Instructions.
1. Physiological Factors:
The physiological factors are sense perception, physical health, fatigue time and day of learning, food and drink, age and atmospheric conditions.
Sensation and perception are the basis of all cognitive learning. Weaker the power of perception, lesser the amount of learning. A blind man learns far less than a normal person. Impairment of sense organs is a handicap in the process of learning.
2. Physical Health:
Ill health hampers learning. Sound mind is only in a sound body. Sound physical health gives vigour and vitality to pursue learning activities for a longer education. A diseased person is handicapped by the normal physical strength necessary for any mental activity.
Muscular or sensory fatigue causes mental boredom and indolence. A number of factors in the home and school environment may cause physical and mental fatigue, such as lack of accommodation, bad seating arrangement, unhealthy clothing, inadequate ventilation, poor light, noise over crowdingness, and pure nutrition. Longer homes of study also cause fatigue which affects the learning capacity.
4. Time of Learning:
Morning and evening hours are the best periods of study. During the day, there is decline in the mental capacity. Experiments on children have shown that there are great variations in learning efficiency during the different hours of the day.
5. Food and Drink:
Nutrition is responsible for efficient mental activity. Poor nutrition adversely affects learning. The type of food also has some effect. The alcoholic drinks, caffeine, tobacco and such addictive items have adverse effect on neuro-muscular system, and consequently upon the learning capacity.
6. Atmospheric conditions:
High temperature and humidity lower the mental efficiency. Low ventilation, lack of proper illumination, noise and physical discomfort (as we find in factories and overcrowded schools) hamper the learning capacity. Distractions of all sorts affect power of concentration and consequently the efficiency of learning.
Learning capacity varies with age. Some subjects can better be learnt at the early age, and some during adulthood. On the evidence of experiments conducted. Thorndike says that mental development does not stop at 16 or 18 but increases upto 23, and halts after 40. Learning proceeds rapidly between 18 and 20, remains stagnant till 25, and declines upto 35. Age accompanies mental maturation. So some complex problems cannot be solved till the person is sufficiently mature.
Children learn the school subjects more easily than uneducated adults can learn. This is perhaps because the children’s minds are not burdened with worldly problems, and they have more flexible nervous system. But there are instance when person of 50 made remarkable progress in learning new subjects like music, a foreign language. Mahatma Gandhi studied Hindi at the age of 40. Tagore began study fresh scientific subjects even after 50.
2. Psychological Factors:
1. Mental Health:
Mental tension, complexes, conflicts, mental illnesses and mental diseases hamper learning. A maladjusted child finds it difficult to concentrate. Concentration needs mental poise and absence of mental conflict or complex. Some pupils find it difficult to prepare for the university examination, simply because of fear of the examination and anxiety neurosis. A calm, serene and balanced mind her the power to concentrate and learn better.
2. Motivation and Interest:
No learning take place unless it is motivated. Purposeless learning is no learning at all. Every child is impelled by some motive to learn new things. In the absence of motivation, can he does not feel interested in the act of learning. A child’s behaviour in learning is energised by motives, selected by motives and directed by motives.
(i) Motives energise behaviour:
Hunger and thirst induce acquisition of food. Reward induces further success. Punishment or failure induces action for achievement.
(ii) Motives select behaviour:
Only those acts of learning are selected which are supported by some motive. A boy visits a village fair. He sees only those toys, objects or things that interest him.
(iii) Motives direct behaviour:
These activate the person, enthuse him and impel him to do the desired action. These direct his energies to reach the desired action. These direct his energies to reach the desired goal. Sultan of Kohlar was directed by hunger to reach the bananas, and that way he strived and learnt the way.
It will be desirable to create motivation in the instructional programme of the school. Children find their studies dull and boring without motivation. Hence learning should be made purposeful and meaningful. In words of Gates “Learning experiences are meaningful when they are invoked in his living, when they not only contribute to the purposes at the time but enable him to more intelligent adjustments in the future, when they invoke discovery and problem solving rather than formal drill or mere memorisation and when they result in satisfying social relationship.”
It does not mean that the teacher should always present false incentives for learning. False incentives prove harmful in the long run. What is needed is presentation of motives at the right moment and in the right way.
3. Success, Praise and Blame:
Nothing succeeds like success. Thorndike’s law of effect, is applicable most commonly. Experimental evidences show that praise stimulates small children to work and learn, although it does not produce much effect on superior and elder children. Elder children are more sensitive towards reproof and blame, than younger children are.
4. Rewards and Punishment:
Rewards of all sorts are powerful incentives to learn. But these days in India school rewards are more abused than used properly. A first division of distinction in the examination is a false reward. Work is its own rewards. Pupils forget this point. They become over-dependent on rewards. They refuse to work without any incentive of reward. All learning should not be and cannot be rewarded immediately.
Punishments, arousing fear in anticipation, may influence the pupil to work and learn, but not in all the cases. Sometimes punishment creates bad reaction, retaliation, hatred and disgust. Experimental studies show that punishment interfere with complex learning activities, when punishments become frequent. Absence of punishment becomes a basis of low activity on the part of the pupil. In the absence of fear, they disobey and waste time.
3. Environmental Factors:
1. Working conditions:
Learning is hampered by bad working conditions such as distraction, noise, poor illumination, bad ventilation, overcrowding, bad seating arrangement, and uncomfortable stay both at home and school. The location of the school, the internal set-up, the accommodation, decoration and healthful and sanitary conditions are very important for efficient learning.
2. Organisational set-up:
The organisational set-up of the school also influences learning.
(i) The time-table must be drawn, in accordance with the psychological principles. It should avoid fatigue and boredom. Difficult subjects should be taught in the morning. There should be interval after some periods.
(ii) The democratic organisation promotes a healthy atmosphere for learning.
(iii) The teacher-pupil relations should be healthy, so that there is mental cooperation and the pupils are motivated to learn.
(iv) There should be some sort of competition. The inter-class or inter- house competitions will stimulate the pupils to work more in order to outshine others. Rivalry and jealousy should, however, be avoided. Group emulation should be strengthened.
(v) The participation on the part of the pupils should be active. The pupil should not act as a passive learner.
(vi) Guidance in the selection of subjects and activities in accordance with age and ability and aptitude of the pupils should be provided. Unguided children may oscillate from one subject to another, and thus gather no mass.
4. Methodology of Instructions:
1. Presentation and Organisation of Material:
The learning material should be properly planned and organised. It should be graded to suit the mental level of the pupils. It should be presented in a meaningful and interesting manners.
2. Learning by Doing:
Practice makes a man perfect. Repetition and practice is important for learning. The pupils must be encouraged to learn through activity. Theoretical teaching should be replaced by practical application of knowledge, experimentation and personal application. Children learn better through personal experience. Verbalisation should be reduced to minimum.
3. Special Methods of Learning:
It has been found that some special methods give better results. In learning a piece of poetry, learning by the whole method, and by the part method have been advocated. Sometimes it is helpful to recall what is learnt and to recite by memory. Gestalt psychologists do not approve of ‘trial and error learning’. They advocate learning by insight. They discourage mechanical repetitions without understanding.
4. Timely Testing:
Through tests, the learner knows his exact achievement, and there is no scope for over-estimation or underestimation. Occasional and periodical testing motivates the pupil to be regular in his studies.