Learning Process Research Paper Starter

Learning Process

(Research Starters)

This article focuses on the learning process. The learning process is measured and discussed as an outcome; the end product of the process. The desired outcome is to be able to recognize some type of change. When one focuses on learning as a process, one highlights learning theories. Learning theorists research how and why change occurs. There are four learning orientations: Behaviorist, cognitive, humanistic and social/situation. There is a review of learning process as it relates to learning outcomes.



Educational Psychology >The Learning Process


In the past, many psychologists defined learning as a change of behavior (Smith, 1999). The learning process is measured and discussed as an outcome, or the end product of the process. The desired outcome is to be able to recognize some type of change. The depth or nature of the changes involved is likely to be different. Säljö (1979) conducted a study in which he asked adult students what they understood learning to mean. Their responses fell into five main categories:

* Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or "knowing a lot."

* Learning as memorizing. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.

* Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.

* Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.

* Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge (cited in Ramsden, 1992, p. 26).

One will note that categories four and five are qualitatively different than the first three categories, whereas categories one through three emphasize a less complex view of learning. Learning is viewed as a process that occurs "outside" of the learner in the first three categories, and the last two categories focuses on how learning occurs within the person. In the five categories that Säljö (1979) identified, learning is described as a process. His theory highlights what occurs when learning takes place. Learning can be defined as "a process by which behavior changes as a result of experience" (Merriam& Caffarella, 1991, p. 124).

Four Orientations to Learning

When one focuses on learning as a process, one highlights learning theories. Learning theorists research how and why change occurs. Four types of orientation to learning are the behaviorist, cognitive, humanistic, and social/situation. Merriam and Caffarella (1991) summarize these orientations, and Smith (1999) lists them in a chart that is highlighted below.

Aspect Behaviorist Cognitivist Humanist Social and Situational

Learning Theorists Thorndike, Pavlov, Watson, Guthrie, Hull, Tolman, Skinner Koffka, Kohler, Lewin, Piaget, Ausubel, Bruner, Gagne Maslow, Rogers Bandura, Lave and Wenger, Salomon View of the Learning Process Change in behavior Internal mental process (including insight, information processing, memory, perception A personal act to fulfill potential. Interaction / observation in social contexts. Movement from the periphery to the centre of a community of practice Locus of Learning Stimuli in external environment Internal cognitive structuring Affective and cognitive needs Learning is in relationship between people and environment. Purpose in Education Produce behavioral change in desired direction Develop capacity and skills to learn better Become self-actualized, autonomous Full participation in communities of practice and utilization of resources Educator's Role Arranges environment to elicit desired response Structures content of learning activity Facilitates development of the whole person Works to establish communities of practice in which conversation and participation can occur. Manifestations in Adult Learning Behavioral objectives Competency -- based education Skill development and training Cognitive development Intelligence, learning and memory as function of age Learning how to learn Andragogy Self-directed learning Socialization Social participation Associationalism Conversation


Learning Processes & Learning Outcomes

Bower and Hilgard (1981) describe the relationship between the learning process and learning outcome as "a process to its result, as acquiring is to a possession, as painting is to a picture" (p. 1). However, Shute (1992) indicates that there are differences. Her definition of learning process is that it is "any series of actions or changes that directly impact the learning outcome" (p. 9). This definition is associated with learning processes such as associative learning, procedural learning, inductive reasoning, and metacognitive skills. The first three processes can be placed on a dimension that has increasing complexity where associative learning processes are easier and inductive reasoning is the most complex process. Furthermore, all three of the processes are influenced or controlled by metacognitive skills.

Associative Learning -- Many in the field believe that the processes affiliated with associative learning represent the fundamental learning abilities, which involve the rate and quality of forming associations or links between new and old knowledge. Research shows that associative learning processes are general and important to knowledge and skill acquisition (Anderson, 1983; Underwood, 1975). Processes that use associative learning include encoding, storing, retrieving, and responding to information from the environment. These processes are driven by cognitive and conative factors.

Procedural Learning -- Procedural learning can be defined as the processes related to compiling procedures or rules into efficient skills (i.e., knowledge compilation). According to Anderson (1987), knowledge compilation consists of two processes: proceduralization and composition. Proceduralization takes a general rule and makes it specialized for specific tasks. Basically, the general procedure acts as a template for the formation of more specific rules. On the other hand, composition is a process that collapses a sequence of lower-level rules into larger, more complex rules.

Inductive Reasoning -- Inductive reasoning involves the discovery of rules and principles that require a greater mental effort on the part of the learner rather than simply encoding or proceduralizing knowledge. Although inductive reasoning is viewed as a complex learning process, it represents a primary mental ability. Inductive reasoning...

(The entire section is 2951 words.)