Concepts of Learning

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The Concepts of Learning

Marissa Finn

Psychology of Learning

July 30, 2010

Concepts of Learning
The concept of learning has been studied and defined in many different ways, and it is complicated to interpret what actually transpires when an individual learns because learning is not directly observable (Terry, 2009). “Learning may be defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior, or behavioral repertoire that occurs as a result of an experience” (Terry, 2009, p. 5). Extensive studies have been done to gain a more definite and concise understanding about the process of learning. Furthermore, gaining more insight about the process of learning will benefit our education system, and therapeutic processes. This paper will address the concept of learning, the four different approaches to learning, and distinguish between learning and performance. Learning is a process of gaining knowledge. “Learning has been defined as a qualitative increase in knowledge, memorizing of facts, skills, and methods, abstracting meaning, relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world” (Behlol M., Dad H., 2010, p. 237). It can be defined as an adjustment, or an adaptation to a situation, the memory, acquired skills, habits, attitudes, and other behaviors (Behlol M., Dad H., 2010, p. 23). It is undeniable that the study of learning has sparked much interest among researchers and educators. Another concern that has brought attention to researchers is the distinction between learning and performance. Is there a difference between learning and performance? As stated above learning is the process of obtaining knowledge. Performance is the challenge of demonstrating the knowledge that one has learned. One would assume that the depth of what one learns can be measured by a performance level, but this is not always the case. For instance, sometimes after an individual learns there is no observable behavioral change, which is known as latent learning (Terry, 2009, p. 10). The knowledge learned remains hidden until the individual is presented with a reinforcement or incentive to perform. The idea of latent learning poses as a roadblock when trying to measure and determine what has or has not been learned, which then leads us to the conceptual approaches to learning. Throughout the years, the curiosity of how an individual learns has led to many different theories and approaches (Terry, 2009). Conceptual approaches to the study of learning are functional, behavioral, cognitive, and neuroscience. Each approach brings to light different theories, concepts, and approaches, but their shared goal is their thirst to gain a better understanding of the learning process to better serve a population educationally and therapeutically. The functional learning approach focuses on making learning relevant to the life experiences, present knowledge, and memories of the individual. “The functional approach studies how learning and remembering aid survival” (Terry, 2009). The learning of new information is facilitated by allowing the learner to relate it to old knowledge and then translate that into new knowledge (Sticht, T.G. 1975). The functional approach stresses the idea that the learner builds new ideas and solutions based upon past experiences, situations, and knowledge. The functional approach can be associated with the philosopher John Locke who referred to knowledge as the notion of empiricism; origins of knowledge are derived from our experiences (Terry, 2009). We can adapt and survive new situations by reflecting or reasoning with our past experiences and knowledge. The behavioral approach focuses on the specific behavior, what causes the behavior, and what are the consequences that affect the behavior. “It emphasizes the relationship among, first, observable behaviors, second, the antecedent stimuli that precede behavior, and, third, the consequence that follows behavior” (Terry, 2009, p.20). This...
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