Thursday, 29 April 2010


Is it a change in behaviour or understanding?

Is it a process?

So I've decided to have a bit more insight into learning theories.


In 1960s and 1970s mostly learning was defined as a change in behaviour, learning was approached as an outcome - the end product of some process. This approach has a crucial aspect of learning - change.

·Does a person need to perform in order for learning to have happened?

·Are there other factors that may have caused behaviour to change?

Questions such as these have lead to to qualification. Some have looked to identifying relatively permanent changes in behaviour (or potential for change) as a result of experiences (behaviourism).

However, not all changes in behaviour resulting from experience involve learning.

Many theorists have been concerned with changes in the ways in which people 'understand, or experience, or conceptualise the world around them' (cognitivism)

The focus is gaining knowledge or ability through the use of experience.

Some years ago Säljö (1979) carried out a simple, but very useful piece of research. He asked a number of adult students what they understood by learning. Their responses fell into five main categories:

  1. Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or ‘knowing a lot’.
  2. Learning as memorising. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.
  3. Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.
  4. Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.
  5. Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge. (quoted in Ramsden 1992: 26)

LEARNING AS A PROCESS - task-conscious or acquisition learning and learning-conscious or formalised learning

In the five categories that Säljö identified learning is appearing as a process - there is a concern with what happens when the learning takes place. In this way, learning could be thought of as a process by which behaviour changes as a result of experience. One of the significant questions that arises is the extent to which people are conscious of what is going on. Are they aware that they are engaged in learning - and what significance does it have if they are?

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