- Do you believe that learning is observable? Is it characterized by a change in behavior?
In my opinion, learning is observable and can be characterized by a change in behavior. An individual who has obtained additional knowledge undoubtedly behaves more confidently because he is now able to perform many new functions. He might also express interest in new issues and new activities as the result of learning. “Learning [is] that reflective activity which enables the learner to draw upon previous experience to understand and evaluate the present, so as to shape future action and formulate new knowledge.” (Abbot, 2000). Learning shapes all of the future actions of the person and enables him to have a firm base for future learning. Learning always results in certain future action, and thus it is possible to conclude that it shapes individuals’ behavior. Learning is “an active process of relating new meaning to existing meaning, involving the accommodation and assimilation of ideas, skills, thoughts and so on.” (Watkins, Carnell, Lodge, Wagner & Whalley, 2000, p. 4). People’s behavior changes rapidly once they obtain new skills and new ideas.
For example, people in the workplace might be participating in certain kinds of learning programs in order to increase their efficiency at their positions. After going through all of the training, these employees behave different from the way they were behaving in the past. First of all, they have a deeper knowledge of operations which they are performing, and thus they are more confident in their capabilities. They might feel that they are better specialists now and thus have a greater chance of being promoted soon. Second, the learning process has boosted their communication skills and thus they are able to communicate more effectively with their colleagues. Depending on the amount of information which has been learned by an individual, his behavior is going to change to a large extent or only insignificantly. However, in either situation it is possible to notice the difference. In case when it is impossible to notice any change in the person’s behavior, it might be even questionable whether he has actually learned the information which was given to him.
- Do you believe that learning is thinking and/or change in thinking? Do you subscribe to the cognitive-developmental view of learning?
In my opinion, learning can be considered both thinking and change of thinking. On one hand, every person needs to think in the first place, before learning any new information. The whole process of learning can thus be equaled to the process of thinking. Learning also requires some change in thinking because whenever an individual obtains some new knowledge, he re-considers all of the information which he considered valid in the past. For example, whenever an employee learns about some new method of doing his work, he has to re-consider all of the options which he used in the past. He might come to the conclusion that previous options were inefficient and apply only the new method in his further work. Even if the new knowledge which the employee obtains does not change his views radically, it still results in some change of thinking.
According to the cognitive-developmental view on learning, “the educational process is an interaction between the goal-oriented efforts of the learner and external factors that impinge on these efforts.” (Elementary Approach. Psychological Foundations. Accessed on February 23 at URL: http://www.highscope.org/EducationalPrograms/Elementary/philosophy.htm). This opinion states that every person builds the information about the world “by physically and mentally manipulating its objects and events and constructing mental representations of them.” This approach is valid, from my point of view, because learning process is sometimes challenged by external factors over which the individual generally has no control. For example, the learning process can be more complicated for people who experience problems with learning software (when it does not work properly or it takes large amounts of time to perform necessary actions).
It might also be more difficult for people to learn if the qualifications of the training instructor are not high enough. In both of these cases, the person who is learning the material or some special skills is exposed to much more challenge than another individual who does not have external frustrations. However, it is important to mention some of its limitations of this approach. First, since “the goal-oriented individual” puts learning as his/her goal and struggles to achieve it, external factors might not have a strong effect on his learning process. They might have a minimal effect, but they are not going to determine overall results of the learning process. If the individual does not work hard to achieve the goals, he might experience much greater challenge from outside forces. External factors thus have a different effect on the learning process of individuals with different goals.
Can these two views of learning be integrated into one view about learning? How?
It is possible to integrate these two views into one view about learning. The more goal-oriented the individual is, the easier it will be to see the effect of learning on his behavior. If the person seeks to achieve all of the goals of learning fully, he is going to put all of the efforts into the learning process and the results will be easy to observe in the change of his behavior. This person will be more confident in his actions and he will most likely be seeking to obtain more knowledge on the subject. External factors will have only an insignificant effect on such an individual. In the opposite situation, when a person does not set firm goals in learning, he will not achieve outstanding results. Therefore, changes in his behavior will not be noticeable, and he will suffer a lot from the impact of negative external forces.
- Abbott J. Learning Makes Sense: re-creating education for a changing future, Letchworth: Education 2000.
- Carnell Eileen, Lodge Caroline, Wagner Patsy, Watkins Chris, Whalley Caroline. Learning about Learning: Resources for Supporting Effective Learning. Routledge/Falmer. 2000.
- Evensen Dorothy H., Hmelo Cindy E. Problem-Based Learning: A Research Perspective on Learning Interactions Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000.