understanding learning

a few years ago, i put together this list of definitions to answer the question:

what is learning?

acquisition of knowledge
· gain some understanding that we have been able to commit to memory
· a seal of approval on particular thoughts and feelings that we want to stay with us in the future
· knowledge acquisition or gathering
· reading what others have written
· learning is mastery of practical questions of life
· classical conditioning
· a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience

process / systems
· learning isn’t simply a memory that we label as knowledge; it is also the way we search for understanding.
· discovery of new knowledge
· ability to access and interpret a ‘knowledge base’
· know your knowledge limits and when you need to gather more information than to remember all you have ever learnt
· learning is complex, influenced by many difference factors, from heredity to cognitive abilities to learning styles to environmental factors, etc., etc. these factors present either opportunities or barriers, and are best looked at from a systems perspective.
· learning is/should be learning how to learn and that learning is fun
· engaging in in-depth investigations with objects, materials, phenomena, and ideas and drawing meaning and understanding from those experiences
· ever-expanding connections of ideas that we can link together

attitude
· to welcome diversity of perception
· sense the delight and necessity of juxtaposition
· learning is part of the human condition. “an obvious, but often-overlooked, implication of this capacity is to recognize all situations and events as learning opportunities” (peter t. ewell)

what happens when we learn?
· learning is transformational
· learning is/should be lifelong
· learning occurs on many levels (physical, mental, emotional, social, etc.)
· learning can sometimes be measured, sometimes not

miscellaneous
· improvement at a task
· personal study
· personal skills, interpersonal skills, career management skills
· learning is science
· learning should satisfy the aspirations of society

what do you think?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

7 thoughts on “understanding learning

  1. ashok

    From above:

    · learning is complex, influenced by many difference factors, from heredity to cognitive abilities to learning styles to environmental factors, etc., etc. these factors present either opportunities or barriers, and are best looked at from a systems perspective.
    · learning is/should be learning how to learn and that learning is fun

    Do these two assertions about learning contradict each other in any way, perhaps?

  2. isabella mori

    hmmm … don’t see how these two contradict each other – could you elaborate?

    however, there are a few that, if not contradictory, do not exactly embrace each other. for example, “learning should be fun” vs. “knowledge acquisition and gathering”. for example, a lot of the first year psychology learning that i did was mostly committing a catalogue of factlets to memory. that was not a lot of fun.

    this list is not meant to imply that learning is ALL of this – it just offers a number of possible definitions.

    the one that i think works the best is “a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience” – as long as we interpret the words ‘behavior’ and ‘experience’ relatively broadly.

    under this broad interpretation, behavior is ALL that we do – from thinking to feeling to cooking to performing brain surgery – and experience is ALL that occurs to and within us. and the two are not mutually exclusive. in fact, one could probably say that experience includes behaviour. experience is what happened in the past, behaviour is what happens in the present.

  3. ashok

    Those “environmental” and “hereditary” factors involved in learning can create barriers that are extremely painful, and while learning will occur, I don’t know how much fun it will be.

    I bring this up not to be obnoxious, but I distinctly remember Aristotle saying in the Politics – I do have to get a citation – that learning means pain. That makes a lot of sense to me on a personal level, after a number of failed relationships that have made me more astute, and also makes sense to me when I think about people who really, deeply know. They don’t use pain to say “I had pain, therefore I know,” but know instead that what they went through they wouldn’t wish on anyone, and they work from there, I think.

    There’s an even deeper reason why I bring up pain vs. fun. The issue is how far the idea behind the Enlightenment – that all of us can learn and be smart and figure out the answers to our own problem – can drive therapy. The question behind therapy is that of being happy; that’s a far older concern that that of being intellectually independent, esp. “intellectually independent” in the narrow way our age conceives of freedom. To be educated for us is to be informed for the most part. What’s funny, though, is how far our exams in university went to push us beyond merely being informed – they pushed us to think about the material, and if we remembered the facts more than the thought process or theses behind them, that was an added bonus.

    I think the big question one has to confront when bringing up the topic of learning in the context of therapy is learning for what purpose. Absent that consideration, “learning” could be something very misleading and very dangerous, potentially, for that “pain” will make itself manifest in one way or another.

  4. isabella mori

    ashok, you bring up interesting points – maybe best answered in a new post (and no, i don’t find you obnoxious at all!)

    in the meantime, i’d like to go back to learning as “a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience”.

    this doesn’t say anything about the emotional quality of the experience. you’re saying that your experience was painful – and i agree that this happens frequently. i can’t think of anyone i know who has never learned through painful experiences.

    so – learning can be fun, and it can be painful – it can have a wide range of emotional qualities.

    could you say something more about what you mean by your last paragraph? what would be an example?

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