What is learning?

We explain what is learning and what learning in psychology refers to. In addition, how it is classified and learning theories.

  1. What is learning?

Learning is understood as the process through which the human being acquires or modifies his abilities , skills , knowledge or behaviors , as a result of direct experience, study, observation, reasoning or instruction. In other words, learning is the process of forming experience and adapting it for future occasions : learning.

It is not easy to talk about learning, since there are various theories and approaches to the fact. What is clear is that human beings and higher animals are endowed with a certain capacity for adapting behavior and solving problems that may be the result of environmental pressures or accidental events, but also of a voluntary process (or not ) of teaching .

Human learning is linked to personal development and occurs in the best way when the subject is motivated, that is, when he wants to learn and strives to do so. For this, he uses his memory , his attention span, his logical or abstract reasoning and various mental tools that psychology studies separately.

As more is known about the dynamics of learning, on the other hand, better educational strategies can be designed and a better advantage can be made of the innate mental abilities of the human being . Those in charge of it are the  pedagogues .

  1. Learning in psychology

Cognitive psychology deals with the processes behind behavior.

In psychology , learning as a process is of great interest. In fact, there is a whole branch of psychology in charge of it: the psychology of learning. Its approach is divided into two opposing slopes: behavioral and cognitive.

The first part of the observable perception of behavioral changes in the individual after perceiving certain stimuli, and the subsequent  analysis of whether such changes are transient or permanent. The second, however, deals with the processes behind the behavior, which have to do with the processing of information by the individual.

Together with pedagogy , the psychology of learning is part of the main disciplines of school and academic application , guiding its processes and defining the  objectives to be achieved, as well as an assessment criterion to be able to define how close it is to do it.

  1. Types of learning

In discovery learning, the subject learns according to his cognitive scheme.

Pedagogy, as a science of the study of learning, distinguishes between the following types of learning:

  • Receptive learning . Those dynamic learning in which the learning subject must only understand, understand, the content to be able to later reproduce it, without any kind of personal discovery.
  • Learning by discovery . Otherwise, it implies that the learning subject does not receive the information passively, but rather discovers the concepts and relationships according to his own cognitive scheme.
  • Repetitive learning . It is based on the repetition of the content to be learned, to fix it in memory. It is known as “caletre” or “learn to the letter”.
  • Significant learning . The one that allows the subject to relate the new content to what he already knows, incorporating it and ordering it to make sense as he learns.
  • Observational learning . It is based on the observation of the behavior of another, considered a model, and subsequent behavioral repetition.
  • Latent learning  . In this case, new behaviors are acquired that remain hidden (latent) until a stimulus is received to manifest it.
  • Learning by trial and error . The behavioral learning par excellence, in which an answer to a problem is tested as many times as necessary to vary and find the right one.
  • Dialogic learning . Held in the dialogue between equals, as did the ancient Greek philosophers (  hence the  Plato Dialogues ).
  1. Learning theories

Behavioral theories take stimulation and reaction as the basis of learning.

There are many theories about learning, because it is a field in continuous development. However, the main and best known are:

  • The behavioral theories . Such as Pavlov’s classical conditioning, Skinner’s behaviorism or Bandura’s social learning, it is a set of different theories that have in common the consideration of stimulation and reaction as the basis of learning. A negative stimulus will dismiss a behavior, while a positive one will reinforce it.
  • Cognitive theories . Subsequent to the behaviorists, they share with them some of their principles, but emphasizing the much more active role of those who learn, since they use their mental schemes and their encyclopedia of the world, based on what is meaningful to them. Examples of them are Piaget’s constructivism, the significant learning of Ausubel and Novak, Merrill’s cognitivism, or Gagné’s learning Topology.
  • Theories of information processing . Such as Siemens connectivism, it offers an explanation of the internal learning processes based on interconnection and the idea of ​​networks.

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