Meaning and Definitions of the term "Concept of Learning"
Learning situations are most natural and common in life and everyone of us is learning one thing or the other, although he may not necessarily be aware of it. An individual starts learning immediately after his birth. While approaching a burning match stick the child gets burnt and he withdraws. Another time, when he faces a burning match stick, he takes no time to withdraw himself away. He learns to avoid not only the burning match stick but also burning things. When this happens we say that the child has learned that if he touch a flame, he will be burnt.
In this way the behaviour of an individual is changed through direct or indirect experiences. This change in behaviour brought about by experience is commonly known as learning. This is very simple. explanation of the term learning. But a complete understanding of the term needs more clarification and exact definition. Some well known definitions of the term 'learning' are given below:
1. According to Gardner Murphy, "The term learning covers every modification in behaviour to meet environmental requirements."
2. According to Henry P. Smith, "Learning is the acquisition of new behaviour or of the strengthening or weakening of old behaviour as the result experience."
3. According to Woodsworth, "Any activity can be called learning so far as it develops the individual (in any respect, good or bad) and makes him alter behaviour and experiences different from what that would otherwise have been."
4. According to Kingsley and Carry, "Learning is the process by which behaviour (in the broader sense) is originated or changes through practice or training."
Type of changes brought out by factors in our behaviour
1. Changes Brought Out by Maturation:- Maturation is a biological mechanism is related with the process of natural growth and development. Therefore, it is responsible for bringing only those changes that are purely associated with the natural process of growth and development. Changes brought out in the behaviour of the individual through maturation does not necessarily need any type of learning or training. The blue prints of these changes are infact heralded in the genetic inheritance of the child. As an example, we can take the changes occurred in the voice tone of the male and female children as soon as they are approaching the age of adolescence. While in the case of girls it is characterized by shrillness and becomes sweet (i.e., acquiring the quality of musical sound), in boys it gets depend and becomes harsher. Such distinct changes in voice among the two sexes at the onset of puberty are simply the result of the process of maturation (natural process of growth and development).
In this way, maturation is found to be credited for bringing enduring and permanent changes in the behaviour.
2. Factors Associated with Temporary Changes in Behaviour:- Fatigue, illness, medicine, and intoxicating objects, fear, anger etc. cause serious and quite effective changes in one's behaviour. The person who happened to be quite right when leaving home to his office in the morning may be seen to be quite fussy and irritable after returning home in the evening. This change in his behaviour is the consequence of his getting mentally and physically fatigued. However the change is quite temporary as the behaviour may turn again into a normal behaviour after taking some rest or refreshment. The same is true with the behavioural changes introduced on account of taking drugs, alcohol and other intoxicating objects. The behaviour becomes normal as soon as one gets rid of the intoxication influences. The changes in behaviour automatically vanish as soon as the impact of the factors or forces responsible for introducing such changes come to an end.
On the other hand, the changes brought about by maturation are quite permanent like chemical changes e.g., burning of the piece of a paper, conversion of milk into curd, etc.
3. Relatively permanent changes through experience and training:- The third category of changes in behaviour are neither too temporary nor too permanent (as brought out by maturation). They somewhat lie between these two and are therefore may be termed as relatively permanent or enduring changes in one's behaviour. The factors or forces responsible for bringing such changes are named as experiences-direct or indirect, involving training, practice, and formal as well as informal education attempts. Only such type of relatively permanent charges in our behaviour brought out through experience may be associated with the process and product of learning.
The characteristics of being neither too permanent nor too temporary is a boon to the system of education. Imagine if the results of our learning i.e., changes in behaviour might have been too temporary, then the strenuous efforts for making the students learn, remember and utilise the results of learning would have been too futile. Being temporary and transitory changes, all what was learnt by a child could have vanished in no time. The done could not be made undone and thus picking up of the bad habits on account of any learning might have ruined the future of ill-fated learners. In this way, it is quite a welcome sign that changes introduced only through experience are termed as learning.
In this way, if we attempt to analyse the nature of changes introduced in our behaviour in reference to the factors responsible for such changes, a proper definition of the term learning may be evolved in the following words. Learning is a process of bringing relatively enduring or permanent changes in behaviour through experience or training.
Nature and Characteristics of Learning
The changes brought out in our behaviour through learning by all means are accounted as an acquired phenomenon. Learning in this way can't be attributed to some or the other hereditary influences. It is earned and acquired by us like other attributes or our personality and that is why learning of all types is given a common name i.e., acquired behaviour. It has its special nature and characteristics:
1. Learning is the Change in Behaviour:- Learning in its any form or shape is always associated with some or the other changes in learner's behaviour. That is why learning is always directed or aimed for bringing changes in learner's behaviour. However, these changes in learner's behaviour should always be desirable ones as the undesirable changes, if these are allowed to happen, prove detrimental to the welfare of the learner as well as to the society.
2. Change in Behaviour caused by Learning is Relatively Enduring or Permanent:- Change in behaviour caused by learning is neither too permanent (as caused through maturation) nor too temporary (as caused by the factors like fatigue, illness etc.). They lie between these two states and are usually referred to as relatively permanent changes implying that although frequent on unwanted changes in the learned behaviour can't take place, yet the needed changes can be introduced in the manner such as getting rid of the bad habits or unlearning a wrong method of doing things etc.
3. Learning is a Continuos Life Long Process:- Learning is, although not inherited, yet its beginning can be very well made right from the conception of the child. The environment available in the womb of the mother may work as facilitator for such learning. We have Abhimanyu before us as an example who was able to learn the art of 'Chakravuel Bhedan' from his father 'Arjuna' in the womb of his mother 'Shubhadra After birth the process of learning picks up a greater speed with th constant interaction and stimulation received from the physical, social and cultural environmental forces and it does not stop till one's death.. Regarding its continuity we have enough evidences that one activity leads to another and the individual engages himself to learn more and more. Every day new problems are faced, new situation are created and the individual has to face these situations and bring essential changes in his behaviour. Thus, it is a never changing process and it is why we refer that it goes from womb to tomb.
4. Learning is a Universal Process:- We, all the living creatures on this earth have the abilities and capacities for learning irrespective of the nature of our species, caste, colour, sex, geographical location or some other such individual differences. Therefore, the myths like that members of the upper castes especially Brahmins have more capacity of learning than the members belonging to the lower castes and untouchables, women have inferior learning capacity than men, or the blacks possess sub normal capacities for learning in comparison to whites, etc. have no substantial ground. On the contrary, the truth remains that every living being on the earth has been favoured by the nature to possess the capacity to learn according to the species specific characteristics and environment as well as opportunities available for learning.
5. Learning is Purposive and Goal Directed:- All learning is goal-directed. It is the definiteness of the aim and clear understanding of the purpose which makes an individual learn immediately the techniques of performing a particular task. It is the purpose or goal which determines what he sees in the learning situations and how he acts there in Therefore, the purpose or goal is the pivot, around which the entire system of learning revolves. In case where there is no purpose, definitely there would, hardly be any learning.
Types of Learning
1. Motor learning:- Most of our activities in our day-to-days life refer to motor activities. The individual has to learn them in order to maintain his regular life, for example walking, running, skating, driving, climbing, etc. All these activities involve the muscular coordination.
2. Verbal learning:- This type of learning involves the language we speak, the communication devices we use. Signs, pictures, symbols, words, figures, sounds, etc, are the tools used in such activities. We use words for communication.
3. Concept learning:- It is the form of learning which requires higher order mental processes like thinking, reasoning, intelligence, etc. we learn different concepts from childhood. For example, when we see a dog and attach the term ‘dog’, we learn that the word dog refers to a particular animal. Concept learning involves two processes, viz. abstraction and generalisation. This learning is very useful in recognising, identifying things.
4. Discrimination learning:- Learning to differentiate between stimuli and showing an appropriate response to these stimuli is called discrimination learning. Example, sound horns of different vehicles like bus, car, ambulance, etc.
5. Learning of principles:- Individuals learn certain principles related to science, mathematics, grammar, etc. in order to manage their work effectively. These principles always show the relationship between two or more concepts. Example: formulae, laws, associations, correlations, etc.
6. Problem solving:- This is a higher order learning process. This learning requires the use of cognitive abilities-such as thinking, reasoning, observation, imagination, generalization, etc. This is very useful to overcome difficult problems encountered by the people.
7. Attitude learning:- Attitude is a predisposition which determines and directs our behaviour. We develop different attitudes from our childhood about the people, objects and everything we know. Our behaviour may be positive or negative depending upon our attitudes. Example: attitudes of nurse towards her profession, patients, etc.
Functions of Educational Psychology with Regard to Learning
Learning is very much helped and facilitated by the knowledge. principles, theories and techniques of Educational Psychology. In other words, Educational Psychology many prove quite beneficial to the learners in the realization of the learning objectives in the manner summarized below:
1. Through the study of mechanism of heredity and environment they may get acquainted with true roles of the hereditary and environmental forces in shaping and moulding their ways of learning and behaving, growth and development etc. They must thus protect their self from being damaged with the rumours and incorrect information spread in the society in the name of perpetuation of caste, cared, colour and blood theories. As a result, a child born in the deprived section of the society may also acquire enough confidence to learn whatever he decides in the course of his life.
2. Educational Psychology may help the learner in the task of knowing one's self. They may thus be acquainted with their abilities and capacities, interests and aptitudes, likings and dislikings, attitudes and dispositions etc. related to the various aspects of their curricular courses and co-curricular means. Such knowledge of their strength and weaknesses may go a long way and adjust their level of aspiration and mode of working in getting desired success in their learning attempts.
3. How much is essential to remain adjusted to one's self and the environment? The knowledge and techniques helpful in seeking such harmony and enjoying better mental health can be better acquired through the applied aspect of Educational Psychology. It is no denying of the fact that those who remain adjusted and enjoy better mental health can be better learners and successful individuals in their lives.
4. The theories, principles used techniques related to motivation, ways of learning and remembering may help them well in their tasks of learning.
5. The knowledge of the processes and factors helpful in paying attention and remaining away from the forces of distraction may help them in attending to their studies and learning processes as effectively as possible.
6. The knowledge of the facts and principle related to group dynamics and group behaviour may help them to adjust and merge their behaviour according to the needs of the group learning situations-classroom and other cooperative ways of learning.
7. The knowledge of educational psychology acquaints the learner with the developmental stages of human life, the needs and characteristics of the learners of these specific stage of life. Accordingly the learner may direct and structure his path of learning and learning objective according to the needs and structure his path of learning and learning objectives according to the needs and characteristics f his developmental stage. It may on the long run help him to make hi learning attempt and situations well within tune of his developmental characteristics and thus be able to seek harmony in terms of hi adjustment to self and the environment.
8. A students after learning the role of favourable and unfavourable factors, conditions, situations and resources may be benefitted to utilize or make full advantage of the better learning environment on one hand and on the other hand avoiding the situations or factors that may prove detrimental to his learning success.
9. The knowledge of educational psychology may also equip them with the facts and principle of behaviour modification and other therapeutic techniques. How to acquire desirable habits and proper ways of learning ad how to break the bad habits and unlearn the improper ways and means of learning can thus be better acquired through the study and practices of educational psychology.
10. The theory and mechanism related to remembering and forgetting may help the learner to learn retain, reproduce and thus utilize fully the fruits of learning as effectively as possible.
11. The knowledge of the mechanism of transfer of learning or training may provide them desired skill for getting proper help from their past and related learning in their present learning assignment as well as utilize their present learning stock in almost all the possible ways in the learning or problems solving behaviour of the future.
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