Learning is a complex process. All the same, it can be understood by making abroad application of some laws. Generally speaking, some laws have been discovered and explained by Thorndike. His laws, namely Law of Exercise, Law of Readiness and Law of Effect, have been accepted by all. We may discuss here some of common major laws propounded by Thorndike and other psychologists.
Law of Exercise, Primary Laws of Learning:
This law is also called ‘Law of Use and Disuse’.
(i) Law of Use:
When a modifiable connection is made between a situation and a response, that connection’s strength is other things being equal, increased’.
(ii) Law of Disuse:
When a modifiable connection is not made between a situation and a response over a length of time, that connection’s strength, other things being equal, decrease.
In brief, we may say that repetition and drill helps learning, and its absence causes forgetfulness. We also believe in the common proverb, practice makes a man perfect’. Drill is based on the principle that repetition fixes the facts to be learnt. That is the reason why the pupils have to repeat arithmetical tables, formulae, spelling lists and definitions in order to establish these.
In all skill lessons, say handwriting, dance, music, craft and drawing repetition is necessary. Lack of practice or exercise causes the memory of the learned material to weaken. Lack of practice causes forgetfulness. We forget because subsequent experiences tend to rule out what has been learnt.
Educational Implication of Law of Exercise:
(i) We should devote much of our learning time to acquiring all these facts, abilities, arts and skills, which we shall find useful.
(ii) We should have constant practice in what has once been learnt.
(iii) Much time should not elapse between one practice and the subsequent one. Delayed use or long disuse may cause forgetfulness.
(iv) Law of exercise cannot be applied quantitatively, because other factors also come in. So learning is not directly proportional to the amount of exercise. Interest and purpose coupled with repetition make repetition more effective. Thorndike himself revised his views on ‘Law of Disuse’. He finds that disuse may play an important part as dissatisfaction with a particular job. It is interest and satisfaction that comes in the success and repetition of successful response which help in the selection of desired response.
Law of Effect:
Thorndike defines it as follows:
“When a modifiable connection between a situation and response is made and is accompanied or followed by a satisfying state of affairs that connection’s strength is increased, but when made and accompanied by an annoying state of affairs its strength is decreased”.
In simpler words, it means that a response which gives achievement of the goal and thus provides satisfaction, will be stamped in, while those which are accompanied by dissatisfaction will be stamped out. In short, the feeling or the emotional state affects learning.
For instance, when the child solve, questions correctly he feels encouraged to do more. But if he fails repeatedly, he does not make subsequent attempt. Some students fail one or two times in the Matriculation Examination.
The stagnate and do not succeed at all. It is commonly said, ‘nothing succeeds like success’. The boy who stands for school council election and succeeds, gets motivated to stand again and again. Another pupil failing in the elections twice may not stand again. This success and failure condition the learner to a large degree.
(i) As a failure is accompanied by a discouraging emotional state, it should be avoided. The evaluation system should be so modified that nobody is called ‘a failure’. A student may pass in 4 subjects out of 7. He should be given a certificate to that effect, and encouraged to appear again in the other three subjects.
(ii) Reward and recognition play a great role in encouraging the pupil. Due recognition should be given to good achievement, so that the pupil is cheered up to march forward.
(iii) Educational guidance should be provided to all the pupils, so that no pupil become a misfit in any subject or educational course. It is desirable to enable everyone to experience success by guiding him to pursue the course suits him. It should be possible to adjust the pupils and their work so that they will experience an optimum of amount of success.
(iv) Punishments should be avoided as far as possible. Punishment produces a negative effect, and it causes discouragement and it eliminates the response in due course. The most effective and healthful way of establishing desirable behaviour is to reinforce it with a feeling of satisfaction and encouragement.
(v) Interest is directly connected, with law of effect. Pupils get satisfaction in things which interest them. Interest causes satisfaction, satisfaction promotes learning, better learning gives higher satisfaction and thus the cycle goes on. Pupils prefer that which is pleasant and interesting to them, while selecting books, subjects, activities, mates, games, food and clothing. Thus the behaviour is controlled by interest and satisfaction.
(vi) Memory is also directly related to this law. Pleasant things are remembered better than unpleasant things. What interests most, which is vital for us, what gives us great satisfaction, is remembered the most. The pupil forgets the home-task because it is unpleasant job for him.
Limitations of the Law:
In certain cases the law fails. We sometimes remember the most unpleasant incidents of our life most vividly. We are not able to avoid the remembrance, because of the unpleasant nature. Sometimes the punishment given causes better learning. We can stimulate a child to learn the good spellings, but how to curb his bad spellings? If we say that rebuke or punishment will discourage him to learn, then he might not learn the right spellings at all.
Law of Readiness:
“When a person feels ready to act or to learn, he acts or learns more effectively and with greater satisfaction than when not ready’. Before actual learning, one must be mentally prepared; one’s mind, must be mentally-set.
(i) Readiness means desire to do a job. In the absence of desire learning cannot be effective. Hence the teacher must arouse the interest or readiness of the pupils. In teaching any topic, he must tap their previous knowledge, arouse interest for the new topic through suitable questions and then announce the aim of the new lesson. So ‘motivation’ is one of the important step in lesson-planning.
(ii) Curiosity is essential for learning. Hence the teacher should arouse curiosity for learning, so that the pupils feel ready to imbibe the new experiences. Some teachers do not prepare their pupils psychologically for their lessons. They dole out the knowledge they possess in a mechanical way. The teacher should, before taking up the new lesson arouse interest and curiosity by making the problems real and concrete. Abstract elements not connected with real- life situations should be avoided.
Secondary or Subordinate Laws of Learning:
Thorndike gave the following Secondary laws also:
1. Law of Primacy.
2. Law of Recency.
3. Law of Intensity of Stimulus.
4. Law of Multiple Response.
5. Law of Set Attitude.
6. Law of Analogy and Assimilation.
7. Law of Associative Shifting.
8. Law of Partial Activity.
1. Law of Primacy:
‘Learning that takes place in the beginning is the best and lasting’. Usually we say, first impression is the best. Hence the pupils should make the right start, and be most serious even from the first day. The learning on the first day is most vivid and strong. The teacher also should be most serious on the first day of teaching. He must impress his students on the very first day.
2. Law of Recency:
‘Recent acts are lasting’. We remember those things better which are recent. Hence a pupil should revise his entire course just before the examination. Without revision, he is apt to forget even the best assimilated matter. The revision just before the examination helps him.
3. Law of Intensity of stimulus:
‘If a stimulus is strong, the response will be strong, and vice-versa.’ The student who has the dash or the enthusiasm makes a greater progress and achievement. The weak-willed student achieves less. The more serious a student, the greater his achievement. From this point of view, examinations bear a positive effect on learning, in so far as they present an intense stimulus to study. The justification of internal assessment throughout the session is the same. Hence, the pupils must have a stimulus to learn throughout the academic session.
4. Law of Multiple Response:
Confronted with a new situation the organism responds in a variety of ways arriving at the correct response.
5. Law of Set Attitude:
The learner performs the task well if he has his attitude set in the task.
6. Law of Analogy and assimilation:
The organism makes responses by comparison or analogy and assimilation. When learner finds the similarities and dissimilarities in the lesson with daily experiences he earns better. Hence teaching must be correlated with life experiences.
7. Law of Associative Shifting:
According to this law we can get any response, from the learner of which he is capable, associated with any situation to which he is sensitive.
8. Law of Partial activity:
This law states that teaching should be done in parts. It is more true in the case of children’s education.