Principles of Learning

The learning of our students is our foremost concern. By knowing some principles on how learning takes place, we will be guided on how to teach. Below are some principles of learning from Horne and Pine (1990):

1. Learning is an experience which occurs inside the learner and is activated by the learner.

The process of learning is primarily controlled by the learner and not by the teacher (group leader). Changes in perception and behavior are mere products of human meaning and perceiving rather than any forces exerted upon the individual. Learning is not only a function of what a teacher does to, or says to, or provides for a learner. More significantly, learning has to do with something which happens in the unique world of the learner. It flourishes in a situation in which teaching is seen as a facilitating process that assists people to explore and discover the personal meaning of events for them.

No one directly teaches anyone anything of significance. If teaching is defined as a process of directly communicating an experience of a fragment of knowledge, then it is clear that little learning occurs as a result of this process and the learning that does take place us usually inconsequential. People learn what they want to learn, they see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear. When we create an atmosphere in which people are free to explore ideas in dialogue and through interaction with other people, we educate them. Very little learning takes place without personal involvement and meaning on the part of the learner. Unless what is being taught has personal meaning for the individual, he will shut it out from his field of perception. People forget most of the content “taught” to them and retain only the content which they use in their work or content which is relevant to them personally. Then it must be wise to engage the learners in an activity that is connected to their life experiences. It is unwise to impose learning on our students. No amount of imposition can cause student learning.

2. Learning is the discovery of the personal meaning and relevance of ideas.

Students more readily internalize and implement concepts and ideas which are relevant to their needs and problems. Learning is a process which requires the exploration of ideas in relation to self and community so that people can determine what their needs are, what goals they would like to formulate, what issues they would like to discuss, and what content they would like to learn. Within broad programmatic boundaries what is relevant and meaningful is decided by the learner, and must be discovered by the learner. It is necessary that teacher relates lessons to the needs, interests, and problems of the learners.

3. Learning (behavioral change) is a consequence of experience.

People become responsible when they have really assumed responsibility, they become independent when they have experienced independent behavior, they become able when they have experienced success, they begin to feel important when they are important to somebody, they feel liked when someone likes them. People do not change their behavior merely because someone tells them to do so or tells them how to change. For effective learning giving information is not enough, e.g., people become responsible and independent not from having other people tell them that they should be responsible and independent but from having experienced authentic responsibility and independence.

If experience is the best teacher, then teacher should make use of experiential learning. Experiential learning makes use of direct as well as vicarious experiences We have not to experience everything in order to learn. We learn from other people’s experiences, too. good as well as not so good experiences. 

4. Learning is a cooperative and collaborative process.

Cooperation fosters learning. “Two heads are better than one.” People enjoy functioning independently but they also enjoy functioning interdependently. The interactive process appears to “scratch and kick” people’s curiosity potential, and creativity. Cooperative approaches are enabling. Through such approaches people learn to define goals, to plan to interact and to try group arrangements in problem solving. Paradoxically, as people invest themselves in collaborative group approaches they develop a firmer sense of their own identification. They begin to realize that they count, that they have something to give and to learn. Problems which are identified and delineated through cooperative interaction appear to challenge and to stretch people to produce creative solutions and to become more creative. Teacher should make use more of cooperative and collaborative approaches. This way, students are taught to live together and learn interdependently.

5. Learning is an evolutionary process.

Behavioral change requires time and patience. Learning is not a revolutionary process. When quick changes in behavior are demanded, we often resort to highly structured procedures through which we attempt to impose learning. Whether such learning is lasting and meaningful to the learner is doubtful. Implicit in all the principles and conditions for learning is an evolutionary model of learning. Learning situations characterized by free and open communication, confrontation, acceptance, respect, the right to make mistakes, self-revelation, cooperation and collaboration, ambiguity, shared evaluation, active and personal involvement, freedom from threat, and trust in the self are evolutionary in nature. Change takes time. Let us not expect results overnight. Rome was not built in one day. Then as teachers and learners, let us learn to be patient. Things that are worthwhile in life take time.

6. Learning is sometimes a painful process.

Behavioral change often calls for giving up the old and comfortable ways of believing, thinking, and valuing. It is not easy to discard familiar ways of doing things and incorporate new behavior It is often “downright” uncomfortable to share one’s self openly, to put one ideas under the microscope of a group, and to genuinely confront other people. If growth is to occur, pain is often necessary. However, the pain of breaking away from the old and the comfortable is usually followed by appreciation and pleasure in the discovery of an evolving idea of a changing self. It may be good to make our students realize that learning is a difficult task. It is accompanied by sacrifice, inconvenience and discomfort. But it leads to inner joy.

7. One of the richest resources for learning is the learner himself.

In a day and age when so much emphasis is being placed upon instructional media, books, and speakers as resources for learning, we tend to overlook perhaps the richest source of all — the learner himself. Each individual has an accumulation of experiences, ideas, feelings, and attitudes which comprise a rich vein of material for problem solving and learning. All too often this vein is barely rapped. Situations which enable people to become open to themselves, to draw upon their personal collection of data, and to share their data in cooperative interaction with others maximize learning. As a teacher, you must draw these learners’ ideas, feelings and experiences You midwife the birth of ideas.

8. The process of learning is emotional as well as intellectual.

Learning is affected by the total state of the individual. People are feeling beings as well as thinking beings and when their feelings and thoughts are in harmony learning is maximized. To create the optimal conditions in a group for learning to occur, people must come before purpose. Regardless of the purpose of a group it cannot be effectively accomplished when other things get in the way. It the purpose of the group is to design and carry out some task, it will not be optimally achieved if people in the group are fighting and working against each other if the purpose of the group is to discuss current problems in a given field with reason and honestly then it will nor be achieved if people are afraid to communicate openly. Barriers to communication exist in people and before we conduct “official business” we need to work with the people problems that may exist in a group. It might be said that in any group regardless of the people problems which exist, enough group intellectual capacity remains intact for members of the group to acquire information and skills. However, to maximize the acquisition and internalization of ideas it seems reasonable that the people problems would have to be dealt with first. As teachers, let us appeal to our students’ intellect as well as to their emotions.

9. The process of problem solving and learning are highly unique and individual.

Each person has his own unique styles of learning and solving problems. Some personal styles of learning and problem solving are highly effective, other styles are not as effective, and still others may be ineffective. We need to assist people to define and to make explicit to themselves the approaches they ordinarily use sa that they can become more effective in problem solving and learning. As people become more aware of how they learn and solve problems and become exposed to alternative models used by other people, they can refine and modify their personal styles so that these can be employed more effectively. (Source: Gerald J. Pine and Peter J. Horne, (1990).