Learning: Concept, Types of Learning and Theories

We explain what learning is and what learning refers to in psychology. Also, how it is classified and the theories of learning.

Learning is the process of forming experience and adapting it for future occasions.

What is learning?

Learning is understood as the process through which human beings acquire or modify their abilities, skills, knowledge or behaviors, as a result of direct experience, study, observation, reasoning or instruction. In other words, learning is the process of building experience and adapting it for future occasions: learn.

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 to adapt behavior and solve problems that can be the result of environmental pressures or fortuitous events, but also of a voluntary process (or not ) teaching.

Human learning is linked to personal development and it occurs in the best way when the subject is motivated, that is, when he wants to learn and makes an effort to do so. To do 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 you can take better advantage of the innate mental capacities of the human being. Those in charge of this are the pedagogues.

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 an entire branch of psychology in charge of it: the psychology of learning. His approach is divided into two opposing aspects: 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 these changes are transitory or permanent. The second, on the other hand, deals with the processes behind the behavior, which have to do with the processing of information by the individual.

Along with pedagogy, learning psychology is part of the main disciplines of school and academic application, orienting its processes and defining the objectives to be achieved, as well as an evaluation criterion to be able to define how close it is to doing so.

Types of learning

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

  • Responsive learning. Those learning dynamics in which the learner only has to understand, understand, the content in order to later reproduce it, without any kind of personal discovery.
  • Learning by discovery. Otherwise, it implies that the learner 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 “learning to the letter”.
  • Significant learning. One that allows the subject to relate the new content with what he already knows, incorporating and ordering it to make sense of it as he learns.
  • Observational learning. It is based on observing the behavior of another, considered a model, and subsequent behavioral repetition.
  • Learning latent. In this case, new behaviors are acquired that remain hidden (latent) until a stimulus is received to manifest it.
  • Learning by trial and error. 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. Sustained in the dialogue between equals, as did the ancient Greek philosophers (hence the Dialogues Plato).

Learning theories

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

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