In this article we will discuss about:- 1. The Nature of Learning 2. Characteristics of Learning 3. Types 4. Theories.
The Nature of Learning:
A new born child is helpless at birth. He depends upon others. But in due course, he learns a number of things. He learns to crawl, stand, walk, run, eat, speak, dress etc. The process of learning continues till death. Even an adult during the course of his daily routine goes on learning and adding to his experience. Why does a person learn? He learns because he has to make adjustment in the changing environment. The stimulus from the environment is there on the one hand.
On the other hand, there are innate dispositions – instincts and emotions. Guided by these dispositions a person goes on learning i.e., constructing and reconstructing his experience throughout his life, at all its stages.
Definitions of Learning:
1. Gales and others:
“Learning is the modification of behaviour through experience and training.”
2. J.P. Guilford:
“Learning is any change in behaviour, resulting from behaviour”.
3. Charles E. Skinner:
“Learning is the process of progressive behaviour adoptions.”
“Learning is the modification of our ready made behaviour due to experience”.
5. Crow and Crow:
“Learning is the acquisition of habits, knowledge and attitudes”.
6. E.A. Peel:
“Learning is a change in the individual following upon changes in the environment”.
7. H.J. Klausmeir:
“Learning is a process whereby a change in, behaviour results from some of experience, activity, training, observation and the like”.
8. Morgan and Gilliland:
“Learning is some modification in the behaviour of the organism as a result of experience which is retained for at least certain period of time.”
9. R.S. Woodworth:
“Learning consists in doing something new provided the new activity is reinforced and can reappear in later activities.”
“Learning is the process by which an activity originates or is changed through reacting to an encountered situation provided that the characteristics of the change in activity cannot be explained on the basis of native responses, tenderises, maturation or temporary, states of the organism like fatigue or effect of drugs.”
So, learning is something outside the domain of inner dispositions. No learning can take place in the absence of environment.
Kingsley and Garrey emphasise the act of adjustment to environment in the process of learning. According to them learning, “is a process by which an organism, in satisfying his motivation, adopts or adjusts to a situation in which it must modify its behaviour in order to overcome obstacles or barriers.”
It represents progressive change in behaviour as the individual reacts to a situation or situations in an effort to adopt his behaviour effectively to demands made upon him. It enables him to satisfy interests or to attain goals.
Characteristics of Learning:
On the basis of analysis of various definitions of learning Yokam, Simpson and Mursel have given the following characteristics of learning:
1. Learning is Growth.
2. Learning is Adjustment.
3. Learning is Intelligent.
4. Learning is Active.
5. Learning is the product of Environment.
6. Learning is both Individual and Social.
7. Learning is Purposeful.
8. Learning is organising Experience.
9. All living is Learning.
10. True Learning affects the conduct of the learner.
11. Learning is Universal.
12. Learning is Change.
13. Learning is a Process not a product.
14. Learning is transferable.
15. Learning is total reaction of the individual to total situation.
In brief, we may enumerate the following facts about the learning process:
1. In its simplest form, learning means acquisition of experience.
2. In its complex form, it means acquisition, retention and modification of experience.
3. It means establishing new relationship between stimulus and response.
4. It means development of method of problem solving.
5. It is motivated by adjustment to environment.
6. It includes all activities which leave a permanent effect on the individual.
7. The process of learning includes the following:
(i) Acquisition of new experiences,
(ii) Retention of new experiences in the form of impressions or engrams or skill,
(iii) Development of the experiences, step by step,
(iv) Synthesis and organisation of the old and the new experiences, resulting in a novel pattern.
8. Learning is possible both on the cognitive, affective and conative side. Acquisition of knowledge is cognitive, modification of emotions is affective, and acquisition of skills and habits is conative.
Types of Learning:
Learning is of the following types:
(a) Skill Learning:
Right from the birth, the child acquires skill. His bodily organs learn to handle the things. He moves his legs and begins to crawl. In source of time, he learns other motor, skills, like walking, speaking, drawing, writing, reading, playing music, cycling and swimming etc.
(b) Perceptual Learning:
The child gets sensations through his organs of sense, and he attaches meaning to each sensation. The earliest sensations of the infant are undifferentiated to the extent that he cannot differentiate between one object and another. In course of time, he recognises specific objects, and perceives these separately.
Indian psychologists have given explanation of perceptual learning its types and processes. They define conceptual learning as sense object contact. Pure sensation is indeterminate perception, and is the first stage in perceptual learning. The second step is determinate perception, where in the object is revealed as endowed with its attributes and characteristics.
(c) Conceptual Learning:
As concrete thinking leads to abstract thinking perceptual learning is followed by conceptual learning. A concept is a general idea, universal in character. A child sees a particular cow, and forms some ideas of a cow, with some particular characteristics Here the ideation is on the basis of one particular cow.
This is the particular percept but when the a child sees number of cows, with some common characteristics, he locates certain general qualities in all the cows, and on the basis of these he forms a conception of ‘cow’. This is on the basis of percept which is made general.
Thus the child proceeds from particular to general and forms, in course of time, innumerable concepts, sometimes concrete and sometimes abstract. This is the basis of all thinking and ideational learning. When a few concepts are learnt, this forms the basis of raising the super-structure of knowledge and education, through association and assimilation.
(d) Associative Learning:
Conceptional learning is helped by associative learning in amassing a wealth of knowledge. New concepts are tagged with the past concepts through association, and as such knowledge.
(e) Appreciational Learning:
While conceptual learning is on the affective side. A child, from the very beginning, utilises his inborn trait of aesthetic sensibility, and acquires concepts coloured by appreciation.
(f) Attitudinal Learning:
Attitudes are generalised dispositions for certain particular concepts, things, persons or activities. A child develops an attitude of affection towards his mother, an attitude of reverence towards the teacher, and an attitude of belongingness towards the family. His attitude towards play is most favourable. All this he learns and adopts gradually.
Theories of Learning:
In order to explain the process of learning various theories have been put forth by psychologists.
Classification of Theories of Learning:
Learning theories may broadly be classified into following two categories:
1. Stimulus Response:
(S – R) Theories
A. S- R Theories with Reinforcement:
i. E.L. Thorndike’s Theory
ii. Hull’s Theory
iii. Skinner’s Theory
B. S – R Theories without Reinforcement:
i. Pavlos’s Classical Conditioning Theory of Learning.
ii. Watson’s Learning Theory.
iii. Guthrie’s Learning Theory.
2. Cognitive Field Theories:
i. Insight Theory of Learning (or Gestalt Theory of Learning).
ii. Lewin’s Field Theory of Learning.
iii. Tolman’s Sign Theory of Learning.
The Trial and Error (or most appropriately Trial and Success) Theory was put forward by an American psychologist Thorndike. According to his learning is a matter of bond-connections, i.e., the formation and strengthening of neural connections between situations and response. The bond connections are formed through trial and error. We learn by making trials, making mistakes during the trials, discovering the mistakes, noting this experience for future, making further trials eliminating the wrong responses.
Thus learning takes place gradually and not suddenly. The person who begins to learn swimming makes a number of wrong trials, and by practice he maintains balance in water. The cyclist has learnt cycling after a good amount of trial and error for maintaining balance. He has made a number of attempts wherein he loses the balance and falls down.
It is only after a number of unsuccessful attempts that he maintains balance controls the handle and later on drives through crowded streets. Similar is the case with a typist, a mechanic, a car- driver etc. Even the school-by makes a number of attempts in solving arithmetical sums before he arrives at the correct answer.
The behaviourists give an altogether different explanation of the process of learning. According to them learning is habit formation resulting from conditioning or the associating of a stronger stimulus with a weaker stimulus. The process of substitution of the weaker (or artificial) stimulus for natural and stronger (or unconditioned) stimulus is called conditioning. This theory is further explained below.
The Gestalt psychologists refute the piece-meal learning method, and advocate the whole-learning process. According to the Gestalt point of view, learning is connected with the whole individual and arises from the interaction of the individual with the environment through insight. It is insight that operates when an individual attempts to find solution to problems.