Why’s and How’s of LEARNING

Posted on : October 25th, 2007
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Ever wondered when your teacher asked you to draw a house on a sheet of paper, why you drew a small or a big one? Think Ever wondered why even at the age of 70 you don’t forget the name of the person you once loved at 17; but you forget the name of your uncle whom you met 10 years ago? Think Ever wondered how you used to learn rhymes by repetitive recitation and still remember few of those d'oh!. Is ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star’, memories of your lover, and the house flashing across your mind?

Answers to all the questions lie in two simple words – Learning and Experience. Theorists proposed three approaches to learning that explains the phenomenon of Learning. Let us have a brief overview of these interesting theories that answers our intriguing queries.

1. Behaviorism
According to this theory, learning is about change in behaviour.
1.1 We learn by repetition – repetitive recitation of rhymes.
1.2 We learn faster when awarded or appreciated. This is known as Positive Reinforcement
1.3 We avoid repeating the act for which we are punished. This is known as Negative Reinforcement.

2. Cognitivism
According to this theory, all learning takes place initially in mind. When we learn driving, we concentrate on the road, get distracted by music or talking. But as we become expert drivers, driving becomes a psychomotor skill rather than cognitive skill.

One very important and fascinating theory is The Schema Theory given by Jean Piaget. This theory states that our mind is a lattice of related information a dynamic changing mass of knowledge. Related concepts are connected to each other. When we learn a new concept, say ‘animal’, we begin to classify or store it in one part of our brain. When we learn about ‘lion’, we connect this with the existing information ‘animal’. When we learn about carnivorous and herbivorous animals, we again connect this with the ‘lion’ and ’animal’ information stored in our brain. In this manner, the schema grows in our minds.

If we leave a schema for a long time, by not associating it with new information or by not recalling, it gets lost. This explains why we forget the name of our uncle. d'oh!

If we constantly add new information in schema, it grows and does not get lost –as explained in the above animal example.

If we leave a schema for a long time, it sometimes does not get lost because we didn’t let it go. This explains why we remember the name of the person we loved. Angel

3. Constructivism
This is an extension of the theory of Cognitivism. According to the theory of constructivism, based on our experiences, the environment we live in, we construct our own perspectives of life; we create our own world; we give our own meanings; we fill in our own colours. That’s why we think, learn, act, and behave differently. This answers why we draw different houses.

I hope this article instilled some curiosity in you to explore the working of human mind and lets find out if our explorations are convergent or divergent or both.

(Amita Tomar is an Instructional Designer at G-Cube)

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is the Marketing Head at G-Cube. She loves exploring and blogging about innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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