The Concept and Factors of Learning

Meaning, Definitions & Characteristics

Meaning of Learning: Learning, in psychology, is the process by which a relatively lasting change in potential behaviour occurs as a result of practice or experience. Learning is distinguished from behavioural changes arising from such processes as maturation and illness, but does apply to motor skills, such as driving a car, to intellectual skills, such as reading, and to attitudes and values, such as prejudice. There is evidence that neurotic symptoms and patterns of mental illness are also learned behaviour. Learning occurs throughout life in animals, and learned behaviour accounts for a large proportion of all behaviour in the higher animals, especially in humans.

Some definitions:

Henry Smith: Learning is acquisition of new behaviour or the strengthening or weakening of old behaviour as a result of experience.

Crow and Crow: Learning is acquisition of habits, knowledge and attitudes

Burns: learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour, which includes both observable activity and internal processes such as thinking, attitudes aid emotions.

Characteristics of learning explained by Teacher Training Institute:

  1. Leaning is relatively permanent: What we learn is normally retained for a long time. We may forget something due to disuse, but it is not really forgotten. For e.g.: When we learn cycling, we are unlikely to forget the basic moves.
  2. Learning is goal directed or purposeful: all learning involves some purpose. The learner sets his/her own goals. E.g.: A learner in B.Ed has some goals set for her and all activities are directed toward the goal.
  3. Learning modifies our behaviour: Learning involves a change in behaviour. The learner exhibits some attitudinal, behavioural or skill changes. E.g.: After learning to play football, a boy gets interested in the game, plays the game.
  4. Learning involves adjustment and adaptation: Learning involves adaptation to the environment. The learner adjusts to a situation. A person who has learned driving learns to adapt to the traffic on the road.
  5. Learning is universal and continuous: Learning is shown by all humans, at all stages of life. No one stops learning. It is a continual process.
  6. Learning is closely related to maturation: Maturation is a pre requisite to learning. Only when the basic physical maturation is seen a learner can learn to write or read.
  7. Learning covers many aspects of the human personality: Its scope touches formation of habits development of interests, values as well as thinking, reasoning, acquisition of skills and knowledge. E.g.: We learn to read and write, we learn to respect our elders, we learn to sine or dance.
  8. The process of learning is developmental: We learn differently in our childhoods, adolescence and in adulthood and, perhaps, as we move from novice to expert in particular areas.
  9. It is a process and not a product: When one learns a language, learning is not just the end product; it is the whole process of picking up the language, getting familiar with the structure, the grammar, using it properly. It is a process.

Montessori Courses states that learning does not include changes that occur purely due to maturity. E.g.: A child aged three months is able to balance his neck and head or is able to flip on his stomach due to maturity. Changes occurring due to medicines or drugs are not due to learning.