Sunday, April 1, 2012

Learning (A Psychological Perspective)

In Psychological perspective learning is viewed as follows:
Learning is defined as a change in behaviour resulting from repeated practice, and both the environment and the behaviour interact to produce the learned change. It is acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.

Learning and performance are related but should not be confused; when performance is adversely affected by insufficient motivation or by anxiety, learning that has occurred may not be demonstrable.
To assess learning, an aspect of performance, such as the accuracy of a motor skill or the ability to recognize and repeat words, is measured. (A bad result might not necessarily indicate poor learning??? Einstein never got good grades!)

There are three major theories of learning as follows:

• Classical conditioning: as a result of the contiguity of environmental events
• Operant conditioning: consequences of a person's actions.
• Social learning: reciprocal interaction between the person and the environment.

Classic (also called respondent) conditioning results from the repeated pairing of a neutral (conditioned) stimulus with one that evokes a response (unconditioned stimulus), such that the neutral stimulus eventually comes to evoke the response.
The time relation between the presentation of the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli is important and varies for optimal learning from a fraction of a second to several seconds. (e.g. Pavlov's famous bell and food experiment on dogs, where dogs started salivating on sound of bell only, when bell sound and food was closely given)

Operant conditioning (first theorised by B. F. Skinner): Whereas in classic conditioning an animal is passive or restrained and behavior is reinforced by the experimenter, in operant conditioning the animal is active and behaves in a way that produces a reward; thus learning occurs as a consequence of action.

For example, a rat receives a reinforcing stimulus (food) only when it correctly responds by pressing a lever or a good report card for student, incentive for employees acts as reinforcer for further performance.
Food, approval, praise, good grades, or any other response that satisfies a need in an animal or a person can serve as a reward.
Operant conditioning is related to trial-and-error learning.
In trial-and-error learning, a person or animal attempts to solve a problem by trying different actions until one proves successful.
A freely moving organism behaves in a way that is instrumental in producing a reward.

Social learning theory relies on role modeling, identification, and human interactions.
A person can learn by imitating the behavior of another person, but personal factors are involved.
Persons learn by observing others, intentionally or accidentally; this process is described as modelling, or learning through imitation.
When a person dislikes a role model, imitative behavior is unlikely.
If a chosen model reflects healthy norms and values, the person develops self-efficacy, the capacity to adapt to normal, everyday life as well as to threatening situations.

It is possible to eliminate negative behavior patterns by having a person learn alternative techniques from other role models.
• Phobias in children.
• weight reduction
• smoking cessation programs
• group treatment plans in which members of the group learn from one another.

Learning changes brain structures
The neurobiological basis of learning is located in the structures of the brain involved in forming and storing information, which include the hippocampus, the cortex, and the cerebellum.

One hundred billion neurons in the brain are involved in forming memories, including a layer of 4.6 million cells in the hippocampus.

How leaning causes changes in brain?
Learning begins with the senses taking in an environmental stimulus that is eventually transformed into a memory trace or memory link.

  1. An electrical or chemical impulse, passing through a neuron when the brain receives information, triggers the formation of connections between synapses.
  2. Increase in synaptic connections when learning occurs.
  3. Long-term memories have increased time to link with many locations in the cortex and, thus, are retained longer than short-term memories.
  4. The more connections, the better the chance of contacting a neural pathway leading to the memory.
  5. Repeated reliving of a memory enhances its permanence

Storage is the key to a good memory. Relating material to something that is already known creates more pathways and increases the storage power.
Processing information at a semantic level involves more of the mind than does rote memorization.
Semantic information decays at a slower rate than information superficially memorized, without meaning and comprehension.

You learn what you want to =Motivation
Motivation is a state of being that produces a tendency toward action.
The state may be one of deprivation (e.g., hunger), a value system, need for money or a strongly held belief (e.g., religion).
Biological mechanisms play an important role in motivating behavior.
Social motives, such as the need for recognition and achievement, also account for behavioral patterns (e.g., studying hard to get good grades).

Practical Tips for students to improve learning:
Select the field that you really like, then motivation is inherent in the job.
Make small achievable targets...organise your time and resources
Dont compare too much with others, focus on self.
Link informations to one another...creating a sort of network in mind
Reward & praise yourself, others for good work
Practise and revise... Start short cuts!


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