Although learning does not necessarily depend on teaching. It is important that those who are primarily preoccupied with teaching possess a body of knowledge on the concept of learning and the conditions which favour or impede learning. To a considerable degree, this body of knowledge, it is hoped, will provide the requisite guidance to teachers to enhance their bid to promote learning through teaching. This presentation, therefore, takes a quick look at what learning is and discusses some theories which give wider perspectives on it.
What Is Learning?
To an ordinary man, the word ‘learning’ simply means the acquisition of knowledge (body of facts, principles, ideas and concepts) and skills. This definition is not very accurate as it leaves a lot of unanswered questions in the mind of the teachers and the educational psychologist both of whom see learning as being much more than acquiring ideas and skills. They view learning as a process of change in behaviour resulting from the experience and interaction of an individual with his environment.
The process of learning is aimed at achieving a goal (product). A process is a means through which a goal is achieved or attained. For example, learning to acquire a particular skill is considered a process because several experiences and activities are provided for the purpose of enabling the pupil to acquire that specific skill. When this skill has been acquired and used, the themes or tools that are produced as a result of the skills used in producing them are the product.
For instance, a ball is a product of learning while learning to make it is a process. For an expert to produce a ball, he/she has to acquire a certain experience that enables him/her to learn the skills necessary to produce the ball. Therefore to learn is to adopt a new response to a situation as a result of experience or education. This definition has three elements:
a) Learning is a change in behaviour, for better or worse.
b) It is a change resulting from experience or education.
c) The change in behaviour is relatively permanent, that is, must last for a fairly long period. Therefore, change in behaviour resulting from fatigue, drugs, alcohol and disease is not considered as learned.
Kinds of learning
The following are some of the Kinds of learning some psychologists have given:
a) Psychomotor learning: This is concerned with behaviour that deals with skills and manipulation of equipment. The learning of psychomotor skills has three main stages namely, low, middle and higher levels of performances. This is the learning that involves muscular coordination and physical skills e.g. learning to type, drive a car, dance, swim, write and walk.
b) Affective learning: This deals with learning objectives that pertain to the feelings, attitudes, emotions and values of the pupil as a result of experience. It is also concerned with changes in interest, attitude, values and the development of appreciation and judgement. One can achieve best affective learning goals through discussion, role-play or case study methods.
c) Cognitive learning: This is learning involving information or ideas. It embraces or is concerned with the recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of intellectual abilities and skills. Again in the cognitive learning, teachers require pupils to use their brains to tackle and solve problems. It has a classification with six levels, which are in hierarchy arranged from the lowest to the highest level of thinking. Knowledge is the lowest. These levels are:
Simple recall or knowledge
The objective here is to help pupils to acquire the ability to recall previously learned materials like simple definitions, facts, rules, procedures conventions and principles. This objective is particularly valuable at the early stages of schooling when pupils have barely reached the stage of explaining facts.
Comprehension or understanding
Objectives formulated at the level of comprehension require the ability to explain or translate ideas or concepts from one level to another. They involve the ability to grasp the meaning of a concept or problem.
Pupils are expected to acquire the ability to use concepts and principles in new and concrete situations. The objective of teaching them therefore is to help pupils to use basic principles to make generalizations.
The objective is to help pupils acquire the ability to break down materials into their component parts and understand their organizational structure.
This deals with the ability to produce something unique and puts parts together to form a new whole. This objective is to help pupils to assemble a variety of concepts or use elements from different subject matters to form new concepts.
Pupils at this stage are matured. The objective in teaching therefore is to help them make valued judgements about issues in order to make a decision. In the above processes students use mental faculties in learning the subject matter planned and organized for them.
This is the sudden appearance of a solution to a problem.
Trial and Error learning
This is the kind of learning based on the idea that when placed in a problem situation the individual will make a number of variable responses but will eventually learn the correct one as a result of reinforcement.
In summary, we can say learning is the acquisition, retention and application of attitudes, skills and knowledge. This means there is effective learning if the pupil has clearly defined objectives of his/her study, focus attention on the task at hand, understands the material learned, has greater retention of material learned and can apply materials learned to other situations.