Monday, September 13, 2010

Nature of Learning or characterisitics of Learning

 Firstly, All Living is Learning i.e, the individual is in active relation with his environment.
Secondly, It results in Change in Behaviour. We note a change in the planarian’s response to the light. It is a change of behaviour influenced by previous behaviour. It is any activity that leaves a more or less permanent effect on later activity.
Thirdly, Learning is an Adjustment. Most learning in children consists in modifying, adapting, and developing their original nature. In later life the individuals acquire new forms of behaviour.
Fourthly, It comes about as a result of practice. This characteristic eliminates sources of change such as illness and maturation. Potent effects of motivation on behaviour are worth considerable here.
Fifthly, Learning is Universal. Every creature that lives learns. Man learns most. Human children have the longest period of immaturity and helplessness and hence the longer period for opportunity for learning. The human nervous system is very complex, so are human reactions and so are human acquisition.
Sixthly, Learning is a relatively Permanent Change. After a rat wake up from his nap he still remembers the path to the food. Even if you have been on a bicycle for years, in just a few minutes practice you can be quite proficient again.
Seventhly, Learning is Growth. It is never ending growth. At reach stage the learner acquires new visions of his future growth and news ideals of achievement in the direction of his effort. Each achievement forms are basis of a fresh endeavor and thus the constant urge of his soul to newer and higher ideals of work and achievement is progressively fulfilled.
Lastly, Learning is not directly observable. The only way to study learning is through some observable behaviour. Actually, we cannot observe learning; we see only what precedes performance, the performance itself, and the consequences of performance.
Learning is a comprehensive process. The success of this process depends not only upon the effective teaching but also upon so many group factors. The factors related with the learner, the teacher, and the environment are seen responsible as a determinant of quantity, nature and speed of learning. The main factors that affect learning may be mentioned as below-
A)    Factors belonging to the learner.
B)     Factors belonging to the teacher.
C)     Environmental Factors.

A)    Factors belonging to the learner
   The factors affecting learning related with the learner may be specified as under:-
1)      The Child Himself:
    Child is the pivot of any learning activity. All activities rotate around him. As the aim of education is all round development of child’s personality, from this point of view, the activities based and carried on account of child’s needs, interests, attitudes, aptitudes, potentialities, capabilities, individuality, intelligence, etc. may be effective and of immense importance. Child is the basis of teaching- learning process, hence, ignorance of child at any stage will make all the learning process futile and more imagination, nothing else. Hence, it is suggested that each and every activity related with the learning should be carried out in accordance with child’s interests, needs and his physical and mental capacity. This all is possible only when the teacher has a deep insight to understand his pupil thoroughly.

2)      His Intelligence: 
     Intelligence has been found to be one of the main factors that influence learning. The proof for this factor is very commonly found in the class-rooms. The schools which are meant for children of average ability usually are not able to help a retarded child. The teacher does not have the time to spend on this child who needs more help than an average child. Similarly, these schools are of no help to a child who is more intelligent than the average one. Cases have been found of a child indulging in delinquent acts simply because they are far above average in intelligence but the school that they attend is poor in stimulation. As a result these children satisfy their intellectual curiosity by indulging in delinquent and thrilling tricks. So we may say that holding the conditions of learning constant, the level of intelligence of a child makes a difference to the amount of their learning output on the class-room.
1)      His Age:
                   The test of learning given to subjects of a wide range of ages have shown that learning efficiency increases with age to a certain extent after which it stays stationary for some time and ultimately tends to decrease. This phenomenon can be understood easily if we keep in mind the developmental curves. Maturation of individual, experience also accounts for a difference both of which are linked up with age. So we find that children are speedier and more efficient at learning tasks as they grow older. As we get into adulthood and old age we find the output of the subjects going down because of the fact that though their experience has increased they cannot keep up the speed. So that when the tasks have a time limit on them, the older subjects cannot do so well as the younger subjects can. However, the experiment on learning is a continuous process and it spreads order the whole life with a desire in the individual to learn more and more. The only difference that exists is caused by the type of tasks given for learning.
2)      His Will to Learn:
     The will to learn is always labelled as a factor determining the amount of learning. It is believed that in order to be able to grasp and retain a certain material the individual must have an inner urge to learn, a drive that can motivate him into learning. This motivation is determined by the interests, desires and the purpose of a particular individual. All these three are more or less developed with the help of a teacher. An intelligent and effective teacher teacher helps his pupils in developing wide interests and habits, desire to pursue certain activities and at large a purpose in life. If a teacher is successful in helping his pupils to develop worthwhile interests and habits and a desire to understand things, he has helped them in becoming good learners.
3)      Guidance:
     Usually trial and error is considered to be the method of learning. When faced with a new task an individual attempts it, in case it is a failure, he tries again, perhaps using a different technique this time. After a few trials and errors he evolves the correct method of tackling the task. In practice we find that it allows the hit and miss method, a pupil wastes a great deal of his time and while facing failure, he goes through a certain amount of tension and frustration. A teacher, through his guidance, can save his pupils a lot of frustration. He can help the child in making the right trials and avoiding the ones which would not yield any fruitful results. In the initial stages of learning, a limited amount of guidance can help the student avoid unnecessary errors. The word “limited” is mentioned here because very often teachers are found to indulge in too much of guidance as far as the learning is concerned. The usual result of excessive guidance is failure of the purpose. Proper guidance should aim at developing initiative in the learner and discourage the tendency to seek ready made solution.

4)      Educational Background:
    Educational background of the learner is an important factor that affects his learning. Student may be backward from educational point of view as a general case or specific one. Some of the students are week in most of the subjects while some students are week in one or two particular subjects. The first category of the students is termed as general backwardness. While second category of students is known as specifically backward. Educational background of generally backward students is more challenging than the educational background of specifically backward children. It is vey common that if a particular student is week in any subject, he will feel difficulty in learning new knowledge of that subject. On the contrary if one possesses superior ability, beyond normally, it will be easier for him o gain new knowledge in a very comfortable and effective manner. Thus, educational background contributes a lot in further learning. 
5)      Health Status of Child:
    The health of the student should be very sound. A mal-nourished, ill or otherwise physically handicapped, cannot realize his potentialities as a learner. A pupil who is unhappy, discouraged or otherwise does not possess the balanced emotional tone is sure to be handicapped in his learning attempts. It is the rightly said that “a sound mind rests in a sound body” from this point of view a student should be physically and mentally fit so that he may learn easily and comfortably. Child’s attention, interests, concentration etc. have direct link with the physical and mental health level of the students. Any sort of mental illness or deficiency or abnormality, physical illness or mental tension and frustration will affect directly students learning. Students who are physically and mentally feel tired very easily. They fail to concentrate upon their studies for a long and get easily disturbed and depressed. They feel boredom and make very few efforts to get success in any activity. They feel complex and always complain of headache and other poor bodily symptoms. Thus, it is the first and foremost duty of the parents and the teachers to take note of their ward’s physical and mental health seriously.

6)      Motivation:
     Motivation is one of the basic principles for effective teaching, because no purposeful learning can take place apart from it. The human mind cannot absorb knowledge like a sponge. In order to learn, a person must do some activity. The urge to activity shows itself along different instinctive tendencies. Successful motivation depends on the successful use of these natural powers and tendencies to action. The teacher who identifies and intensifies motives in learners, is able to arouse interest in them. He succeeds in setting up an excellent learning situation. It is said that “as is the motivation, so is the learning”, or “learning will proceed best, if motivated”. These sentences clearly depict the importance of motivation in the process of learning. Thus, it is the first and foremost duty of the teacher to create interest in the child before starting anything new. Because, in the absence of motivation all the efforts made by the teacher will go waste. Proper motivation helps in making the desire for learning strong.
1)      Attitude of the Learner:
       Learning has ever been the chief activity of man. Each generation after something new to cultural heritage hands it down to the succeeding generation. For several centuries the heritage has been so large and so important that society has given primarily to the school the task of selecting, organizing and presenting to the children the most valuable situation possible. Life pattern of an individual in adulthood, his attitudes, habits, mental, moral and physical well being is largely determined by the forces which were prevalent in childhood.
                            Pope’s couplet says----
                            Tie education forms the common mind;
                            Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.
Favourable or positive attitude is must to get success in any field of endeavour. Favourable attitude towards the job or work makes one more active and enthusiastic. The same is related with the students’ class- room activities. If the student has positive attitude towards any subject he will grasp the knowledge imparted by the teacher interestingly and whole heartedly and on the contrary, if he in not involved in the subject he will hate the subject, as well as the teacher of that subject. Liking for anything is must in learning. The same view is supported by Thorndike’s law of learning namely, ‘ law of use or dis-use’. If the student has negative attitude towards the subject all efforts made by the teacher will go in vain. Thus, it is the first and foremost duty of the teacher to make positive attitude of the student towards his entire academic activities.
Factors belonging to the teacher:
1.                  Knowledge of subject:
Teacher’s knowledge related with his subject, his experience and ability has a direct bearing on the learning of the students. If a teacher does not possesses deep knowledge of his subject he can’t give much enough to his students. On the contrary if a teacher has full command over his subject and has a mastery over the subject matter, he will be capable in giving new knowledge to his student with full confidence and his teaching will be effective undoubtedly. Generally student like those teachers on the other hand, face very few disciplinary problems. On the other side, teachers who lack competency on their parts deal students in a negative manner and indulge themselves in non-academic activities or cheap politics in the college campus. Good teachers are praised by their students like anything.
2.                  Teacher’s Behaviour:
Teachers behaviour influence the learning of students directly. A teacher should inherit all essential qualities of a good teacher. Sympathy, co-operation, objectivity, sweet tempered, polite etc. are all such traits that should reflect in teacher’s behaviour always. These traits will help in making the environment of the school congenial and praise worthy. Student will feel relaxed in the company of such teachers and face with them difficulty in discussing their personal problems. Apart from it, if a teacher is rough and tuff in his behaviour, the students will not like his subject, his company and will be compelled to leave the class and moreover they may turn to be truants. Also, the teacher should be objective in his dealing with his students. He must be impartial, no subjective attitude. Because, if it all happens, the student will start hating their teaching and may develop a hatred attitude for him permanently in the near future. Thus, the teacher should not be biased while dealing so many activities related with school and class-room teaching.
3.                  Knowledge of psychology:
Every teacher must have extensive knowledge of psychology without which he can neither know the student nor set the stage for learning. The elementary and secondary school teachers are most concerned with the psychology of childhood, psychology of adolescence and educational psychology. The latter deals with the application of psychological facts in such a way that the educational growth of the individual is efficiently directed and controlled. So it is rightly said that knowledge of educational psychology is must for a teacher. In this context it is quiet apparent that until a teacher does not acquire proper understanding of the principles of psychology, it is very difficult for him to make use of these principles in the field of education. Hence it is quiet justified that he should have a deep knowledge of most common concepts of psychology such as process of child development, heredity, individual differences, motivation, theories of learning etc. Making use of all these a teacher can make his teaching effective. Further, in the classroom situation he has to deal a variety of students at the same time. To gain mastery over such situations and to handle problems of individuals it is unavoidable for a teacher to have a detailed knowledge of educational psychology otherwise he will be utmost failure with regard to so many classroom complex situations. It is only knowledge of psychology that makes teacher fully competent and enthusiastic in dealing with his students.
4.                  Methods of Teaching:
The traditional methods of teaching were more formalized, conservative, teacher dominated as opposed to modern, more flexible pupil involved, learner centered methods. In modern era it is now recognized that the subjects should be taught as activities. This activity principle was sponsored by Dewey. Teaching methods have a direct link with learning process. Consequently each teacher has a unique method of teaching. Similarly, all the students cannot be taught by a single method. If the method of teaching is scientific in nature, if will help in making the teaching effective. Also the learning process will be easier and purposeful. Realizing this very need of the students educationists have developed modern methods and techniques of teaching. Methods are Playway method, Learning by doing, Learning by observation, Project method, Heuristic method, Discovery method etc. Apart from above methods a teacher has to adopt his unique teaching style. It is commonly seen that a teacher is academically and professionally sound but his teaching is not effective in the classroom. There may be so many reasons behind the same but the most sensed factor is teacher’s personal problem orientation technique, in the absence of which a student does not keep pace with the teacher and hesitates in sharing his personal problem with the teacher. Hence, personal rapport which the teacher is also needed for the success of teaching.
5.                  knowledge of individual differences:
Knowledge of individual difference is must for a teacher. Each students has his own interests, attitudes, aptitudes, needs, potentialities, capabilities, values etc. and on account of these some students grasp the knowledge imparted by their teachers easily while some grasp with some difficulty and some of the students totally fail to grasp anything given by the teacher. Generally a teacher has to face three types of students in his class- backward,  normal, and gifted children. To plan teaching accordingly the needs of these students or to satisfy the needs of all these students at the same time is really a difficult and challenging task for the teacher. To keep pace with this problem the teacher plans his teaching strategies keeping in mind the average children. This helps a bit to backward as well as to the gifted children. Though both of these categories seem to be dis-satsfied with this approach of the teacher. But, apart from it there is no proper channel for the teacher that he may try. To go through such channels only knowledge of individual differences can help him to some extent.
6.                  Personality:
Good and appealing personality is the basis of successful and effective teaching. From this point of view the personality of the teacher must be very attractive and influencing. He must create an impression or put a stamp on his students keeping appropriate balance between his deeds and actions. Students learn so many things indirectly from the teacher. It is thus that teacher is said to be the best motivator for his students. He forms an idol for his students. Students imitate his each and every part of his behaviour gladly. So it is on the part of the teacher how he creates an example for others. For this he has to be very much cautious in his behaviour and has to exhibit all those traits through his personality that are welcomed most by most of the societal members. Personality should be viewed as the entire qualitativeness of a person or as an integrated pattern of traits. Teacher should keep in his mind that personality is shaped by and inter –woven with the social environment and culture is the ground from which personality emerges. To shape students’ personality he should always borne in his mind that personality which is just a bundle of ideas, attitudes and intelligence depends a good deal on the people with whom the individual constantly associates.
7.                  No care to foster individuality:
The aim of education should be to develop to the full of potentialities of every child in school in accord always with the general good of society. It is also to develop each individual into a happy well co-ordianted personality with socially desirable qualities. It is to produce good citizens who will have sense enough to judge of public affairs, discernment enough to choose the right officers, self control, enough to accept the decision of majority, honesty, enough to seek the general welfare rather than his own at the expense of the community, public spirit, enough to face trouble or even danger for the good of community. It would be no exaggeration if we call traditional school a prison, the pupils prisoners and the teacher superintendent of the prison where every thing was teacher centered and subject centered, where no attention was paid towards the psychology of child. The children, in the schools were just like parrots in the cage who were just like parrots in the cage who were made to cram certain bits of dis-organized, dis-connected facts of knowledge which had no value in their later life.
8.                  Lack of personal contact between teacher and taught:
The size of classes in our schools is too large to permit close pupil and teacher contacts. Therefore teacher cannot look towards the individuals habits, attitudes aptitudes personal traits needs potentialities etc. The increase in the size of classes has considerably reduced personal contacts between teacher and students. Thus the training of character, inculcation of proper discipline have been seriously undetermined. Teaching in our schools had an aim of imparting only factual knowledge through certain exercises in which the teacher was an expounder, drill master and a disciplinarian and the child a passive recipient of verbal and visual impressions. It was assumed that the natural inclination of the child were against such subject matter. The intermediary factor which was used to bridge the gap between the teacher and taught was discipline, an external force that made the child to memories that subject matter. There was nothing that could cater the intellectual, emotional and physical growth of the child. The child could not develop into anything but a suppressed personally in the absence of proper rapport between the teacher and the taught.
9.                  No emphasis on Co-curricular Activities:
The purpose of traditional school was to import certain fragments of isolated knowledge through different subjects of the curriculum. All other activities were regarded as something for which the school was not legitimately responsible hence, were called extra curricular activities. But the modern school aims at all round development of the child. The school is responsible for the education of the whole individual, his physical, mental, emotional, moral and social self. To realize this aim the importance of introducing certain activities having relation to different subjects of curriculum become clear and hence named as co-curricular activities. Secondary Education Commission observes that, “The school has to formulate a scheme of hobbies, occupations and projects that will appeal to, and draw out, the powers of children of varying temperaments and aptitudes.” The co-curricular activities satisfy the needs of young people, promote meaningful learning and develop them into good citizens.
10.              Narrow Curriculum Approach:
Previously education in India was under foreign patronage. So it was divorced from our cultural, social and economic life. Secondary Education Commission writes – “The curriculum as formulated and as presented through the traditional methods of teaching does not give the student insight into everyday world in which they are living. When they pass out of school they feel ill-adjusted and cannot take their place confidently and competently in the community.” The education given in our schools is purely of academic nature. It could contribute towards the development of cognitive aspect of personality only whereas the non-cognitive aspect was altogether ignored. The seconday Education commission observes that, “Education given in our schools is narrow and one sided and fails to train the whole personality of the student. For many decades it has provided only academic instructions. The non-cognitive aspects of his personality – his practical aptitudes, his emotions, his tastes were largely ignored.”


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