The Process of Learning and Memory
Kelli R. Powell
August 17, 2013
THE CONCEPT OF LEARNING 2
The Process of Learning and Memory
The process of learning is a complex one. There are several theories designed to explain the process of learning. Theories developed by Descartes, Locke, and those introduced by Darwin are used to explain how the process of learning originated. The nature of learning originated with the nature versus nurture debate. The purpose of this paper is to describe the concept of learning and to distinguish between the process of learning and performance.
The Concept of Learning
According to Terry (2009) the process of learning began with the debate concerning the nature versus nurture debate. This process has been discussed by psychologist since the notion was brought to the forefront of discussion by major philosophers. The nature/nurture debate is controversial because most psychologist cannot decide whether or not a person's learning process is affected by biology more than the environment. Terry (2009) suggested that Rene Descartes believed in a term known as Nativism. Natvism is a belief that certain skills or abilities are hard-wired into our brains and that people generally have sources of knowledge that do not depend on experience. Meaning that there are parts of a persons intelligence that is apparent since birth. Some psychologist agree that there are parts of an individuals personality that is embedded in a persons genetic makeup. Concepts such as temperament can be inherited so can a persons intelligence quotient, and a desire to acquire knowledge.
The evolutionary theory introduced by Darwin suggest that humans are pre-disposed to learning language. For example, a student first learning English and another first learning to speak Japanese will think about language differently. Experts say that children learning the Japanese language are more comfortable with learning math and rational thought because of the nature of the language. Terry (2009) suggest that the ability to learn language knowing how unstable and immature humans are suggest that the ability to acquire it comes from a biological origin. The evolutionary theory is
THE CONCEPT OF LEARNING 3
reinforced by Darwin's Origin of the Species means learning to adapt to the environment within an organism's lifetime. I am not sure that I believe that theory of evolution can be applied to the concept of learning. I think most psychologist try to apply the evolutionary theory to explain most concepts because the nature of experiments conducted have already been explained, proven, and given credibility to the scientific community. “Contemporary theory involves the nativism of Descartes the empiricism of Locke, and the evolutionary theory of Darwin (Terry, 2009).”
There are theorist who disagree with the evolutionary and nativism theory. John Locke postulates that learning comes from environmental influences (Terry, 2009). Meaning that if a person is surrounded by people in an intellectual environment that that person will be more determined to lead a academic life style compared to those who did not grow up in that type of environment. Lock believed that people also learned in an contiguous manner (Terry, 2009). Meaning that most people associate learning with items that are close together. Either in proximity or associated together in ones mind. This idea is reinforced when studying or taking test such as the standard aptitude test. Answering questions such as a stop is to go as table is to chair. The idea to test the logical thinking and problem solving skills of the test taker. Distinctions Between Learning and Performance
According to Terry (2009) if an experience does not produce a change in behavior we really do not know whether learning has occurred or if it is hidden. Changes in behavior due to learning usually occur because of innate abilities, maturation, or learning ideas that are hidden. This current definition of learning is difficult to determine because performance, or lack there of, does not always co-inside with learning. Terry (2009) talks about an experiment involving rats. Rats within a maze performed better when they were motivated to find the goal box. In the past situations such as operant conditioning (introduced by Pavlov) or positive and negative reinforcement (introduced by Skinner) are the only ways to actually prove that learning has occurred. Now a days memory and retention is a way THE CONCEPT OF LEARNING 4
for most teachers and psychologist to realize that a person has learned something. Memory and retention are necessary during test taking. A positive way to determine if a person has actually learned certain material is to try and find out if the information has entered a persons short or long term memory. For instance when information is first obtained if the person can recall what is happening it is safe to say that the information has entered the short term memory. However, if the information is tested and used over and over again it enters the long term memory and is harder for the person to get rid of.
Compare and contrast the conceptual approaches to learning. The functional approach to learning happens when people must adapt to their environment in order to survive. Functional approaches to learning involves three components: knowledge meaning what a person understands, processing information such as language and problem solving, and the ability to display information (Sticht, 2013).
The behavioral approach involves observing behavior while trying to determine what provoked certain behaviors, and the consequences that follow (Terry, 2009) approach to learning is the process introduced by Skinner. Using positive and negative reinforcement is a process where someone can observe a certain behavior, try to determine what provoked that behavior, and then observe and report on the consequences that follow (Terry, 2009).
The cognitive approach involves computer based information processing designed to guide behavior (Terry, 2009). Mental activity such as thinking, remembering, and learning to use language. If a person can understand the process of connecting concepts, understanding the information and building logical conclusions based on that information in order to retain the material. This process will increase understanding and recognition. Cognitive psychologist believe that how one thinks influences how a person feels and then behaves.
According to Terry (2009) the neuroscience approach involves direct observation of how certain THE CONCEPT OF LEARNING 5
conditions affect the brain. The inclusion of neuroscience involves experiments where the participants were connected to certain machines and the brain waves were observed and recorded. For example a person could be asked to remember a list of words and then placed on an fMRI to show which areas of the brain is stimulated during memory and retention.
The functional, behavioral, cognitive, and neuroscience approach all. However, the behavioral and the cognitive approach to learning is very similar. Both involve observing the participants behavior and trying to determine how a particular learning concept came to fruition. The difference is in the application when the observation is finished. The cognitive perspective requires more of a memory based test to determine the results. The behavioral perspective involves more of a logical test to prove the results of the test. Conclusion
The process of learning involves the theotetical concepts of several philosophers and psychologist. Nativism for example is a practice most endorsed by Rene Descartes who believed that certain skills are hard-wired into a persons psyche. Johh Locke believed that learning comes a persons environment, and some psychologist even go as far as using Darwin’s theory of evolution in order to explain that certain learning concepts are passed from one generation to the next. It is clear that the process of learning and memory is as diversified as much as learning styles themselves.
THE CONCEPT OF LEARNING 6
Sticht, T. (2013). Functional Context. www.instructionaldesign.org Sticht, T. ( 1988) Adult literacy education. Review of Research in Education. American Education Research Association. Washington, D.C. Terry, S. W. (2009). Learning and Memory: Basic Principals, Processes, and Procedures (4th ed. ).