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How the Environment Plays a Role in Learning

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How the Environment Plays a Role in Learning

Introduction
According to the constructivism theory of learning, human beings learn through establishing meaning in their present knowledge structures. According to proponents of this theory, children learn by the process of assimilation and accommodation. Accommodation refers to the process by which failure leads to further learning; where a new experience that is contrary to one's expectations causes one to change their mental representations. On the other hand, assimilation is the process by which a new experience is integrated into an existing framework. The latter occurs in instances where the nature of one' perception of the world is the same as the experiences they go through. Consequently, one cannot ignore the effect that the environment has on a particular individual because it is the basis upon which one gains new experiences. The essay shall examine the influence of particular environmental characteristics on a particular individual. (Piaget, 1950)
We are all a product of our environment
Learning styles differ from culture to culture or from background to background. What may be deemed acceptable in one region may be forbidden in another. For instance, learning in most African & Asian societies is very formal and controlled. Children are normally discouraged from voicing their own opinions. Additionally, most parents, teachers and other mentors enforce strict discipline during the learning process. However, in other developed countries such as the US, learning occurs in a less controlled environment as parents, teachers and other mentors allow children time to participate actively in the learning process.
Learning habits also depend on the nature of a particular environment. For instance, some cultures or areas may have deep respect for acquiring knowledge. It is also common to find that such cultures normally have a better reading culture than others. Additionally, children who come from developed parts of the world are usually at a better position to receive information. Developed countries have more resources than poorer countries; e.g. internet resources, television and libraries.
It should be noted that some of the basics that facilitate learning may be present in one environment and lack in another. For instance issues revolving around language, mathematics and logic largely depend on one's environment. Certain locations may not place too much emphasis on the development of their language, for instance, in Myanmar; it was found that certain tribes had no written account of their languages. Such individuals are highly restricted by their environments because they are bound to experience fewer experiences. D.H. (Jonassen et al, 2002)
Variety of distractions
Certain environments present negative distractions in a child's learning process. One of the most dangerous distractions is a child's family life. If a child grows in a negative environment, then chances are that this will trickle down to their learning. For example, a child may be a victim of abuse from one of their family members. Statistics indicate that children who have been victims of child abuse tend to score lower in their exams than those who were raised normally. This is as result of low self image; an issue that causes children to feel useless thus heavily undermining their ability to learn. On the other hand, families may be a source of positive motivation within a child's life. They can encourage children to believe in themselves and to have the confidence to meet different challenges in their homes, schools or other interaction that facilitate learning.
Sometimes other experiences affect the way an individual perceives new experiences and whether or not they learn from those new experiences. For instance, if someone has been in the military, then chances are that they will have greater levels of discipline. This is an important precondition for learning and will go a long way in enhancing a person's ability to learn. On the other hand, children raised by parents from the military may not get chances to acquire knowledge from that particular parent because most of the time, the parent will be away from his/her child. (Clark, et al, 2006)
Sometimes one's physical environmental conditions may affect their ability to learn. For instance, if one is located in an area that is prone to many weather disasters such as hurricanes, then they may not have the best opportunity to learn. Most of their time may be spent coping with the challenges of poor weather thus making it very difficult for them to concentrate. In contrast, some people may be located in areas that have plenty of geographical, historical and scientific material to learn from. Such natural features make the learning process interesting and this may enhance the learning process. For example, if one is located near the sea, then they can get a chance to learn about marine life.
How different people learn in different environments
If an individual chooses the wrong social grouping and habits, then chances are they will impair their learning. For instance, engaging in anti-social behavior such as drug taking may impair one's learning because it interferes with the mind's ability to process information. It also interferes with normal body functions. Additionally, certain people spend too much time engaging in non-constructive behavior such as gambling and may not learn much in the classroom or otherwise. Additionally, various social circles may impair or encourage learning. For instance, it has been reported that people brought up in poor neighborhoods with high crime levels are likely to remain uneducated throughout their lives due to these negative distractions.
Some factors may remain largely unknown to particular individuals but they can affect learning. For instance, certain individuals may be brought up in the same culture, come from the same income bracket, they may like the same leisure activities and score the same results in an IQ test but one may still be more knowledgeable than the other. This is because every individual has their own uniqueness and they respond differently to different environments. (Wood, 1998)
Some environments may enhance learning experiences in comparison to others. For instance, environments in which there are many knowledgeable people normally encourage others to want to learn more about them. Therefore, such person act as mentors and may boost a learner's morale. Other environments depict the positive results of learning. For instance, if one is exposed to the positive attributes of becoming an engineer at a tender age, then chances are they will be encouraged to learn more in order to become engineers too.
Traditional learning environments
Different classroom settings have different effects on the perceptions of the individuals within the classrooms. For example, online learning may not yield higher results than traditional classroom settings because there is no/little provision for monitoring the moves of the learner. The learning process depends upon the discipline of the recipient and is not reinforced by teachers. Besides this, traditional classroom settings allow educators and recipients to interact directly. Consequently, the teacher may assess other psychological factors affecting a particular student; this is not possible in the online environment
Conclusion
Different environments may boost or distract students from learning. For instance, a child's cultural upbringing is likely to influence their access to resources and also their learning style. If it is a conventional society, then learning may be teacher-centered and students may not take active roles in classrooms. Families play a great role in the learning process because if they do not perform their functions, then children can develop low esteem and this impedes learning. Other issues such as the design of the classroom come into play especially when considering online versus traditional learning.
Reference:
Wood, D. (1998): How Children Think and Learn, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd p 12
Piaget, J. (1950): The Psychology of Intelligence, New York: Routledge, p 35-46
Jonassen D.H., Lowyck, T. & Duffy, J. (2002): Designing environments for constructive learning Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, pp. 231-247
Clark, R., Nguyen, F., and Sweller, J. (2006): Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load; Pfeiffer, p 59
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