What Is Learning
Learning is a process by which an individual, as a result of interactions in a situation, modifies his/her behaviour. It helps in bringing desirable changes in behaviour attaining proper adjustment, and attaining proper growth and development.
What Is Not Learning
In previous section, we have discussed that a modification or change in behavior is called ‘learning’. However, there are some types of behavior which are due to one or other kind of modifications yet; these are not termed as ‘learning’, e.g.: when a pin pricks our finger, we withdraw it from the pin. Similarly, when a very bright light falls on our eyes, we immediately close our eyelids. Such behavior is instant and we even do not feel that we are putting in any special effort. This behavior does not fall under the learning category; rather these are called ‘reflex actions’.
There is another category of behavior commonly known as ‘biological instincts’. e. g.: a child start crying when s/he feels hungry, we feel like resting when tired, we are attracted towards opposite sex, etc. Such behavior is natural and not learned; therefore we do not call it learned behavior.
Sometimes, modifications or change in behavior takes place due to accidents or psychological defects, for example, limping of a person after an accident or stammering in speech due to some defect in tongue. We again exclude such behavior from the category of learned behaviour. Similarly, there are some motor actions which a child can perform only at a certain age. For instance, to sit in a proper posture, to walk with steady steps, etc., are attained after a specific age. The behavior which is the outcome of maturity of the child, is not called learned behavior. However, in most of such cases, maturity and learning both play their role simultaneously and therefore, it becomes difficult to determine which of the two is responsible for the behavior.
Nature Of Learning
This discussion and the definitions given in the first section‘What is learning?’ of this unit, reveals the nature of learning as follows:
• Learning is a process and not a product: Learning is a fundamental and life-long process. Attitudes, fears, gestures, motor skills, language skills, etc. are the products of learning. They are not learning themselves. Whereas, when learning is viewed as a process, it is viewed as something internal or personal. It is something that a child does in order to understand the real world and uses it as a tool for survival.
• Learning is purposive or goal directed: Learning is not an aimless activity. All true learning is based on purpose. We do not leam anything and everything that comes in our way in a haphazard manner. However, some experts argue that sometimes learning is unintended.
• Learning generally involves some degree of permanence:Activities bringing temporary change in behaviour and not lasting do not come under learning. For example, cramming the content matter by a learner for examination and forgetting it after sometime does not bring any change (to some extent to permanence) in the total behaviour pattern of the learner and thus this type of learning cannot be said as true learning.
• Learning is universal and continuous: Every creature till it lives, learns. In human beings it is not restricted to any particular age, sex, race or culture. It is a continuous never-ending process which starts from birth and continues till death.
• Learning prepares for adj ustment: Learning help s the individual to adj ust herself/himself adequately and adapt to the changes that may be necessary to the new situations. We meet with new situations which demand solutions. Repeated efforts are required react to them effectively. These experiences leave behind some effects in the mental structure and modify our behaviour.
• Learning is comprehensive:The scope of learning is spread over each and every dimension of life. It is a very comprehensive process which covers all domains – Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor- of human behaviour.
• Learning is change in response or behaviour may be favourable or unfavourable: Learning leads to changes in behavior but this does not necessarily mean that these changes always bring about improvement or positive development. There are chances to drift to the negative side too.
• Instincts and reflexes are not learning: Changes in behaviour on the basis of native response tendencies like instincts and reflexes (e.g. infant’s sucking behaviour, blinking at bright lights)cannot be attributed to learning.
• Learning does not include changes in behaviour on account of maturation, fatigue, illness, or drug etc.
Relationship Between Development And Learning
Thus, development is directly related to learning and both are life-long processes. Learning affects development, and development also affects learning. As a child grows, he/she learns about his/her surroundings and interacts with new environment.
This helps in learning and developing his/her mental and behavioural abilities to adjust or survive in his/her life. We can justify the relationship between development and learning on the basis of following points:
► Learning helps in creative development of a child.
► Learning ability of problem solving helps in logical development.
► Intellectual development helps to learn how to adjust in the world.
► Learning in context of language helps to develop various language skills.
► Physical development of a child effects his/her learning and vice versa
What Is Required For Effective Learing
Five dimensions a child must have for effective learning are:
a) Attitudes and Perceptions
b) Acquire and Integrate Knowledge
c) Extend and Refine Knowledge
d) Use Knowledge Meaningfully
e) Habits of Mind
a) Attitudes and Perceptions
A key element of effective teaching is helping learners to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the classroom and about learning because these affect learners’ abilities to learn.
If learners find the classroom as an unsafe and disorderly place, their learning will be negatively affected. Also, learners’ positive attitude about classroom tasks helps in learning.
b) Acquire and Integrate Knowledge
Providing new knowledge by integrating the previous knowledge helps in learning. When learners are learning new information, they must be guided in relating the new knowledge to what they already know, organizing that information, and then making it part of their long-term memory.
c) Extend and Refine Knowledge
Learning does not stop with acquiring and integrating knowledge. Learners develop an in-depth understanding through the process of extending and refining their knowledge (e.g. by making new distinctions, clearing up misconceptions, and reaching conclusions). Various reasoning processes, like: comparing, classifying, abstracting, inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, constructing support, analyzing errors, analyzing perspectives, etc. are used by learners to analyze forextending and refining their knowledge.
d) Use Knowledge Meaningfully
The most effective learning occurs when we use knowledge to perform meaningful tasks. So, making sure that learners have the opportunity to use knowledge meaningfully is one of the most important parts of planning a teaching activity. For this, reasoning processes, like: decision making, problem solving, invention, experimental inquiry, investigation, systems analysis, etc. may be used.
e) Habits of Mind
A learner becomes an effective learner by developing powerful habits of mind that enable her/him to think critically, do thing creatively, and regulate her/his behaviour. The mental habits for critical thinking are being accurate and seeking accuracy, being clear and seeking clarity, maintaining an open mind, restraining impulsivity, taking a position when the situation warrantsit and responding appropriately to others feeling and level of knowledge.
Habit of preserving, pushing the limits of own knowledge and abilities, generating, trusting and maintaining own standards of evaluation enable in thinking creatively. Self-regulated thinking is enabled by the habits of monitoring own thinking, planning appropriately, identifying and using necessary resources, responding appropriately to feedback and evaluating the effectiveness of own actions.
These five dimensions of learning do not operate in isolation but work together. All learning takes place against the back drop of learners’ attitudes and perceptions and their use of productive habits of minds. Having positive attitudes and perceptions and using productive habits of mind makes learning easier and helps in learning more. When positive attitudes and perceptions are in place and productive habits of mind are being used, learners can more effectively do the thinking required in the other three dimensions- that is, acquiring and integrating knowledge, extending and refining knowledge, and using knowledge meaningfully.
How Children Learn: Children’s Strategies Of Learning
After discussion about principles of the teaching-learning process, it is quite essential to know about the student’s strategies of learning. Within teaching-learning process, the active involvement of students is very remarkable for best results. Thus, here we discuss about some of the most important strategies which help a teacher as well as a student to make the teaching-learning process effective and permanent.
There is a model in the field of education, i.e. 6-Es and one S Model of Learning. This model tells us about the things which help a teacher to make his/her students active during class teaching. On the other hand, this model also tells about the student’s strategies of learning; how they learn things in best way or manner. These 6-Es and one S are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate, Extend and Standards. The 6-Es and one S Model of Learning is known as ‘5-Es Model of Learning’ in its earlier days. ‘Elaborate’ and ‘Standards’ are added recently. A brief description of this model is as follows:
► Engage (make curious): The term ‘engage refers’ to make students busy within learning process. For this purpose of engagement a teacher only provides an introduction or an overview of the topic deliberately and make students curious. This kind of behaviour of teacher forces students to know more about the topic. In this way, students try their best for the solutions of thier curiosity regarding the topic. In short, ‘engage’ is designed to stimulate thinking and access prior knowledge of the students. Thus, it is a strategy which automatically motivates students for more study.
► Explore (freedom to investigate): The term ‘explore’ motivates the students to investigate the content part more deeply. This is the next stage after ‘engage’ which also helps in solutions of students’ curiosities. Another important thing regarding exploring stage is that teacher provides full freedom to the students in searching or finding out the more and more information of the subject matter.
This stage also provides an opportunity to students to construct their own understanding in context of content or subject matter. Thus, it is a strategy which affects students learning capability and also increases their rate of learning.
► Explain (analysis of explore stage): This stage provides a summary of what students have learned while exploring the subject matter. This stage also includes involvement of students in clarification as well as analysis of facts or information which they had got in exploring phase. This stage includes the definitions, principles and theories of the related topic. In short, ‘explanation’ is a stage of analysis. Thus, it is a strategy of learning process which enables students to explain the exploring ideas.
► Elaborate (application of knowledge): ‘Elaborate’ stage is also known as ‘extension’ stage. Within this stage, students come to know about how to apply their conceptual knowledge and understanding in new situations. In this stage, students have an opportunity to express their own views, concepts, points, etc., which are related to subject matter or given task.
► Evaluate (assessment, i.e. FA and SA): The evaluation stage refers to a stage of assessment in which the evaluation of both teachers and students is included. In general terms, we know that evaluation is a continuous process. On the other hand, measurement and evaluation both are closely correlated with each other.
This stage also provides a way of self-evaluation or assessment to the students. This assessment has two types, i.e., Formative Assessment (FA) and Summative Assessment (SA). These assessments require students’ involvement during teaching-learning process. Thus, it is a very useful strategy which makes students active while learning.
► Extend (suggestions beyond the lesson): The ‘extend’ contains suggestions for the learners. These suggestions are beyond the given syllabus. This is a strategy through which teachers develop interest of students in teaching-learning process.
► Standards (norms set by authorities): Standards are considered as norms. They are set by the authorities. In the field of education, the major authorities are: NCERT, NCTE, NPE, CCE Manual, State Boards, etc. On the other side, school curriculum also lies under the standards because schools have also authorities to set their own norms according to requirement. These norms and standards are followed by the students as well as teachers during teaching-learning process.
The term ‘learning styles’corresponds to the understanding that every individual leams differently. Learning styles define the way how people leam and how they approach information. It is a pattern of behaviour that human beings use for new learning. You may recall that sometimes you feel like you cannot learn something important even if you use the same method which has been suggested by your parents, colleagues or teachers. But, then you tried to learn that in your own way and succeeded. It indicates that you may have different learning style.
An individual’s learning style refers to the preferential way in which the learner absorbs processes, comprehends and retains information. Different learners learn in a variety of ways, by seeing and hearing, working alone and in groups, reasoning logically and intuitively and sometimes by memorizing or visualizing. Thus, since, everyone is different, it is important for teachers to understand the differences in learners’ learning styles, so that they can implement best practice strategies into their daily activities, curriculum and assessments.
Fleming’s VARK model of learning is a very commonly accepted model.
VARK Model Of Learning
VARK is an acronym that refers to the four types of learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing Preference, and Kinesthetic.
• Visual learners prefer the use of images, maps and graphic organizers to access and understand new information.
• Auditory learners best understand new content through listening and speaking in situations such as lectures and group discussions.
• Learners with a strong reading/writing preference learn best through words. These learners are able to translate abstract concepts into words and essays.
• Kinesthetic learners best understand information through tactile representation of information. They leam best through figuring things out by hand.
Teachers should assess the learning styles of their learners and adapt their classroom method to best fit each learner’s learning style. Thus, according to ‘meshing hypothesis’, they learn better. Meshing hypothesis means a learner/ learns better if taught in a method deemed appropriate for her/him.
Pace Of Learning
Concepts like ‘Learning Styles’, ‘Pace of Learning’, etc. are related to individuality. Considering these concepts indicates the understanding of individual differences by a teacher. Every individual is unique and has his own learning style and pace of learning. The general meaning of pace of learning reveals about at what rate an individual learns.
Every learner does not learn at the same pace. If you present any new concept and explain it in the classroom, some of your learners may grasp it immediately. For few of them, you may have to explain again with help of some examples. For some, you may design certain activities so that while doing those activities, learners can understand the concept, even for some, you may require repetitive drill and exercises and such learners can take mush time. In earlier days, we used terms like fast learners and slow learners but now days such words are not being used anymore. A learner is a learner; his/her pace may vary. Pace of learning is a kind of individual difference
Learning As A Psychological Construct
As a psychological construct, learning is defined as any activity that develops an individual, irrespective of being good or bad. Early schools of thought like behaviourist and cognitivist established learning as a psychological construct.
Behaviorist perspective focused on observable behavior whereas cognitivists concentrated on role of internal cognitive processes in learning. Behaviorists believed that education is a mean to train individuals for desired behavior. Cognitivists were concerned with internal processes of the brain and nervous system for learning. Internal mental processes include inputting, organizing, storing, retrieving, and finding relationships between information are important for learning. Their focus was on how information is processed. Gestaltists also emphasized on learning a psychological construct however they were of a different viewpoint. Gestalt theorists focus on role of perception, insight, and meaning as the key elements of learning. They perceived individual as a perceptual organism that organized, interpreted and gave meaning to the events.
Learning As A Social Construct
However, learning as a social construct is characterized by development of socially desired behaviour, generally developed in a social environment by observation and self-regulation. Learning as a social construct is the outcome of interaction between people. These theorists believe that learning is based on observation of others in a social setting. In the 1960’s, Bandura postulated that an observer can leam by observing without having to imitate what is being learned. He proposed four processes for observational learning i.e. attention, retention (memory), behavioral rehearsal, and motivation.
Learning As A Social Activity
According to Kolesnik, “The modern teacher realises that the amount and quality of learning which takes place is determined to a considerable extent by the pupils’interactions.” It is known that learning is a life-long process and it takes place within each and every individual of the world. On the other hand, according to Aristotle, Man is a social animal. An individual learns all his/her activities or daily life routine through society or within a social context. For example, when a child is born, his/her home is considered as the first school for him/her from where he/she learns many things. At this stage, a child learns to behave through imitation. In the process of imitation, a child learns behaviour by copying someone else behaviour such as; his/her father, mother, uncle, brother, sister, neighbours, etc. After some years, when he/she enters a school, his/her social span area is increased because here he/she joins the company of peers and teachers. Both also work as a source of learning to the child.
On the other hand, a child also makes a group of his/her friends at this stage. From this peer group, emotional development takes place within a child. Here a child also comes to know about social values, cultures, traditions, etc. Thus, we can say that a child learns most of the things from the society.
Social Context Of Learning
Social context of learning refers to the means which help the students during the learning process. These means work as a source of information for the learners. The following figure shows the rate of learning percentage from various resources:
► Self-study: The very first way of learning in the social context is self-study. It is considered under social context because it is inspired by social behaviour of a person. Motivation is a major factor which affects the rate of self-study. An individual is motivated through two ways, i.e. internally motivated and externally motivated. Internal motivation is always goal-centred. For example, if a student works hard to pass an exam or to obtain good marks in his/her exam, it is considered as internal motivation. Students are also internally motivated towards learning by reading some inspirational stories of famous personalities and their life struggle. On the other hand, when a student works hard due to someone else, it is considered as external motivation. Both types of motivation increase the rate of learning.
► One-to-one learning: One-to-one learning includes learning with the help of only one instructor. This instructor may be a coach, subject expert or a mentor who provides guidelines or subject knowledge to the student. Learning with the help of a tutor is also a part of one-to-one learning. In this type of learning, thoughts or concepts are transferred through interactions between teacher and students.
One-to-one learning makes a reliable and valid contribution to the teachinglearning process. If your instructor is a tutor, then it is a costly process of learning and sometimes when the instructor is not capable to handle the subject, this learning process loses its importance. In such a condition, there is no other option except to change the instructor or the learning method. A peer, friend, any relative, etc. may also be your partner in one-to-one process of learning.
► Group discussion: Group discussion is also a part of learning in the social context. It includes two or more than two persons who gather at one place either formally or informally to bring up ideas, solve problems or share experiences among the people. It is considered as the best way to learn from the social context. It is a useful method in terms of collecting or gathering more and more information at one time on a given topic. Due to this method, students learn a lot about the content within a short time.
Basic Processes Of Teaching And Learning
Teaching involves interaction between teacher and students to understand a given concept. The main motive of this interaction is to modify or bring change in the behaviour of students. In educational psychology, this newly modified or acquired behaviour is considered under the term ‘learning’. Learning is a life-long process which never ends. Thus, we can say that learning and teaching both are two sides of one coin. There are so many basic processes of teaching. They are principles of teaching, teaching maxims and teaching tactics which make the teaching as well as learning effective.
Principles of Teaching-Learning Process
There are many principles of teaching-learning process suggested by various educationist as well as psychologists. Some of them are as follows:
1. Principle of definite aims: Before teaching, it is essential for a teacher to define his/her teaching aims. In other words, teaching should always be followed by a set of goals or purposes. In teaching-learning process, each and every subject has its own aims of teaching. These aims are of two types, i.e., ‘General aims’ and ‘Specific aims’. General aims are related to subject of the given topic. On the other hand-specific aims are directly related to the topic or the teaching content.
For example, a social science teacher plans to teach the topic ‘Democracy’ in his/her class. Here, the general aims are related to the subject, i.e. ‘Civics’ and the specific aims are related to the topic ‘Democracy’. A teacher should always keep in mind that both aims are obtained by the students after class teaching.
2. Principle of correlation: This principle emphasises on teaching with the help of correlation method. In other words, we can also say that this principle follows the inductive to deductive rule of teaching. For example, if an English teacher plans to teach the topic ‘noun’ in his/her class, he/she can connect or correlate the topic ‘noun’ with the present/available objects of the class such as chairs, chalkboard, students, teacher, fan, school name, etc. Thus, this method not only makes teaching effective, but also makes it permanent for the students.
3. Principle of revision, practice and exercise: There is a very famous proverb, i.e., Practice makes a man perfect. This proverb is closely related to this principle of teaching-learning. It is a very important aspect of teaching that a teacher should provide exercises and practice work for the students. This practice or exercise work enables students to revise the content part and it can also be used in the evaluation process of students. In evaluation process, it helps in formative assessment of the students.
4. Principle of motivation: Motivation also plays a remarkable role in teachinglearning process. There are mainly two types of motivation, i.e., internal motivation and external motivation. Internal motivation is driven by internal rewards and is related to a behaviour that arises from within the individual. On the other hand, external motivation is provided by the teacher to the students.
Both types of motivation are essential not only for the students, but also for the teacher because both are the pillars of teaching-learning process. Both processes of teaching and learning are affected if any one (either teacher or students) is not motivated and it also decreases the rate of teaching-learning process.
5. Principle of reinforcement: This principle is based on the concepts of behavioural psychology. There is also a theory related to reinforcement in behaviouristic school of psychology. This reinforcement theory was propounded by the famous behaviouristic psychologist named B. F. Skinner. According to this theory, the human behaviour is governed by two types of reinforcements. The first one is positive reinforcement which increases the rate of teaching-learning process. On the other hand, second one is negative reinforcement which decreases the rate of teaching- learning process. Positive reinforcement is related to ‘award’ which inspires an individual for hardwork. On the other hand, sometimes negative reinforcement also acts as positive reinforcement when it is in the form of ‘punishment’ to reform an individual. In such types of situation, negative reinforcement acts in the same way as a positive reinforcement.
6. Principle of stimulation: The term ‘stimulation’ refers to a state of arousal within an individual. According to this principle, when an individual is stimulated, he/she is more active and creative during his/her learning process. The factors which play an important role to stimulate someone are environment, personal interest, teaching technology, teaching-learning material, etc.
Teaching Maxims Used in Teaching-Learning Process
Generally, teaching maxims are related to the universal facts of teaching-learning process. These maxims are given by famous educationists and scholars. Teaching maxims are very useful to teacher as well as students. Teaching maxims also help the teacher to handle the teaching-learning process systematically. There are some famous teaching maxims which are used by the teacher to make his/her teaching effective, impressive and systematically. They are as follows:
► Simple to complex: It emphasises on teaching from easy to hard.
► Inductive to deductive: It emphasises on teaching where examples are provided first before rules.
► Deductive to inductive: It emphasises on teaching where rules are provided first before examples.
► Known to unknown: It emphasises on teaching which is followed by student’s knowledge and preceded by new knowledge.
► Whole to part: It provides an overview or summary of whole content to the students before teaching the each and every concept of the topic or subject matter.
► Concrete to abstract: It emphasises on teaching with the help of materials or topics that have physical existence (such as plants, animals, vehicles, etc.) before those topics or teaching materials which we can only feel or assumed (such as air, temperature, light, wave, etc.).
Teaching Tactics Used in Teaching-Learning Process
The term ‘teaching tactic’ is a type of strategy which is used by a teacher to check either his/her students are actively involved in class teaching or not. There are some tactics which enable a teacher to check either his/her student’s takes interest in teaching or not. It can be checked by asking the following points to the students within the teaching-learning process:
► Summarise the theme, story, plot of chapter in your words.
► Give some other examples which support the content part.
► Tell the positive (merit) or negative (demerit) aspects of this lesson.
► Describe the message or motive which the writer wants to convey.
► What do you do if you were the in the story or poem?
► How this lesson relates to our daily life routine?
Child Failure In School Performance
Some students fail primarily because they are afraid, bored or confused. Many a time, ineffective teaching methods used by teachers also lead to the failure of children at school. Let us discuss some of the main reasons for the failure of children at school.
1. Fear: In a classroom, sometimes there is an environment of fear. This fear can be in terms of failure, humiliation and disapproval. Such environment adversely affects the performance of children and their capability of intellectual growth to a large extent. In some cases, external motivational forces such as rewards, develop the fear of failing exams and getting disapproval from adults. Such fearful environment not only suppresses a child’s natural curiosity but demotivates him/her to take risks.
2. Boredom: Boredom is another factor that suppresses a child’s internal motivation and his/her passion for learning. Before attending school, children explore things freely and indulge in activities that interest them. But when they become part of a school system, their capabilities and potential usually remain untapped. This is because schools demand children to perform repetitive tasks which may or may not match their interests and needs.
3. Confusion: There is always a contradiction between what a child is taught at school and what he/she learns at home before entering the school system. The child is treated differently by adults at school than the ones at home. In addition, a child may not always get a satisfactory answer at school for the question raised by him/her as compared to what the child gets from his/her parents. Sometimes the child develops the fear of facing mockery and contempt in the classroom for asking a question. It has been observed that many a time children stop asking questions at school because of the fear of being ridiculed.
4. Ineffective teaching strategy: Sometimes teaching strategies used by instructors are not as per the children’s interests and capabilities. These strategies cultivate the fear of humiliation among children. As a result, children form various defence mechanisms. For instance, they may pretend that they do not understand or act overly enthusiastic so that they will not be called upon.
John Holt, an American psychologist and educator, views that there is a large difference between what children actually know, and what they only appear to know. Instead of understanding a subject, children learn how to perform, or how to survive by avoiding the teacher’s questions with the least possible amount of embarrassment. This deprives children of the skills and abilities required for a better future.
5. Lack of motivation: Children feel demotivated at school due to various reasons such as lack of communication between children and teachers, little interest in academics, incoherent environment in the classroom, and so on.
6. Peer pressure and absence of social skills: Children face many social difficulties with their peers at school. These difficulties can take place in the form of teasing and bullying, loneliness, ostracism, gender issues, poor performance, etc. Such social challenges make a child disconnected from school.
Solutions and Strategies
Nelson Mandela quoted, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” However, educating children in a natural way, issues related to school dropouts, lack of interest in education shown by children cannot be tackled by the school alone.
1. Involvement of parents: Parents play a major role in keeping a constant tab on a child’s performance and their success at school. Although a few children succeed without having a strong family atmosphere, most students want a stable home environment and a parent who constantly supports their child in education. Parents should maintain the lines of communication with teachers regarding the performance of their children; ensure that homework is completed on time; appreciate when a child achieves something; provide opportunities to learn outside the classroom, etc. This will create zeal among children to attend school.
2. Development of skills: Parents and teachers should focus on developing various skills among children such as reading, writing, mathematics, organisational, social skills, etc. These skills help children to meet the challenges that they may face at school.
3. High motivation level: Increased motivation drives a child to perform better at school. Academic success and parental support are vital to a child’s self-esteem.
A child can go an extra mile by participating in additional credit assignments and extra-curricular activities and can be willing to take risks if he/she has been motivated ceaselessly by his/her teachers and parents. Teachers and parents can motivate a child by providing him/her with constant feedback.
Child As A Problem Solver And A Scientific Investigator
Many psychologists and educators have performed research on children’s thinking.
However, over the years, cognitive and development researchers have become more focused on the objectives of science educators and the updated educational standards. These standards focus on inculcating scientific reasoning among children.
Scientific reasoning can be defined as an ability of children in conceptual understanding and inquiry. It involves a number of procedural and conceptual activities, such as asking questions, hypothesising, designing experiments, forecasting, observing, being concerned with accuracy, precision and error, verification and so on.
Child As A Problem Solver
Problems in a child’s life can be due to any unresolved dilemmas or mental conflicts that require designing and executing of an appropriate solution. The problems faced by a child can be simple or complex. Irrespective of the type and intensity of a problem, parents should strive to develop problem-solving skills among children.
However, problems can be different in different situations and it is not possible for parents to teach all problem-solving skills to their children. But, parents can use some simple strategies to train their children in the domain of problem solving.
Problem solving skills can be developed among children not only by their parents but also by their teachers. Teachers should lay emphasis on problem solving in the early childhood classroom. Children get opportunities for problem solving in their day-to-day life. Teachers must observe children’s social and cognitive actions and emotional experiences and form strategies to promote problem solving skills accordingly.
In addition, teachers should identify problems faced by children and discuss all possible solutions with them so that the children can perceive the importance of problem solving. A teacher is primarily responsible for two things, which are as follows:
► To value the problem-solving process and trust the learner
► To create a classroom environment that promotes problem solving techniques Apart from being an instructor, a teacher should also become a good learner, observe children’s response in different situations and focus on child-centric curriculum. This automatically facilitates the problem-solving environment in the classroom.
Problem Solving Planning
An ideal problem-solving environment is one that considers individual differences of children and focuses on integrated learning. Problem solving can be successful if it is planned by a teacher after considering these five essential elements, which are as follows:
► Time: Teachers should provide ample time to children to identify their problems and reach out to the best possible solution. This is because solving a problem requires generating alternatives, evaluating those alternatives, keeping a constant tab on errors and selecting the best course of action that would eliminate the cause of distress. All these activities require an adequate amount of time.
► Space: Teachers have to engage children in group activities in order to solve a particular problem. For this, they have to apply various techniques, such as moving desks and tables in order to facilitate smooth communication among children. This can only be done if there is enough space in the classroom.
► Materials: Children need a variety of materials to solve a particular problem, like building blocks, pens, pencils, papers, colours, etc. These materials should be safe and durable. Moreover, these materials should be stored at a place that can be accessed as and when required.
Problem Solving Process
Group problem solving is usually preferred for children as it helps in generating a number of ideas to solve a single problem. An effective problem-solving process in the classroom follows a series of steps, which are as follows:
1. Identifying the problem: This step involves recognising the problem area faced by children in the classroom. For example, there are some children in the classroom who bully other children. In this case, the problem to be identified is the reason why these children actually create difficulty for other children in the classroom. Identifying the problem accurately is of paramount importance for teachers. This is because the wrong identification of the problem may lead to the failure of the entire problem-solving process.
2. Generating a variety of alternatives: This step requires creating all possible ideas for a problem. In this step, children are required to get involved in interactions with other children in the classroom with the help of their teacher.
This helps in developing communication, negotiation and cooperation skills among children.
3. Selecting the best solution: In this step, children choose the solution that best meets the requirement. This makes them learn empathy towards others and share a responsibility of the decision.
Selecting Good Problems
Stacie G. Goffin, a recognised leader in early care and education, has suggested a few questions that must be considered by a teacher in order to identify appropriate problems for young children. Some of these questions are as follows:
1. Is the problem meaningful?
2. Does it draw children’s interest?
3. Can the problem be solved at various levels?
4. Should a new decision be made?
5. Can the actions be evaluated? By involving children in problem solving in the early childhood classroom, a teacher can help the children to develop life-long skills that are useful in all areas of learning.
Child as a Scientific Investigator
To understand the difference between the thinking of younger children and adolescents, Piaget studied how the capacity of logical thought is developed among adolescents by focusing on physical sciences. To analyse the differences between the thinking process of younger children and adolescents, Piaget conducted a number of activities, which are as follows:
1. He found that younger children think differently as compared to adolescents.
Younger children react to what comes in front of them while adolescents strive to assess all possible solutions and select the best course of action.
2. He observed that adolescents are able to hypothesise and deduce, analyse the problem and come up with an alternative hypothesis.
3. He noticed that adolescents judge the truth of the logical relation between propositions.
Apart from Piaget, many other psychologists have found that the main difference between children’s and adolescent’s reasoning is in information processing. Some psychologists have observed that children do not keep on seeking possible solutions because their memories become overloaded while adolescents can keep more information in their short-term memory which they use for solving problems.
There were so many psychologists who propounded their theories of learning. They presented their views on the behalf of their experiments and researches. Mostly theories of learning are based on the concept, i.e., ‘Learning as a process’. Here we will discuss some of the most important theories of learning. Let’s discuss about these theories and their educational importance in respect of a teacher as well as a student.
Classical Conditioning Theory
1. Classical conditioning theory of learning: This theory was propounded by I.P. Pavlov who was a famous Russian psychologist. Classical conditioning theory of learning is also known as, Response Stimulus (R-S) Theory.
Pavlov studied the relationship between the stimulus and response. He was keen to study about the reflex response of a particular stimulus that characterises the behaviour of an individual or animal. He wanted to check the reflexes of dogs when they saw bones. He observed that dogs used to drool or salivate whenever they saw bones. Pavlov wanted to make the dogs salivate without even seeing the bones, i.e. he wanted to generate the response of the dogs, without the actual stimulus. For this, Pavlov tried to understand what events can be linked to make dogs salivate without even seeing the bones with the help of an experiment. He rang the bell and then gave the bone to the dog to eat. He kept on repeating the act. After some time, he observed that the dog used to salivate when the bell was rung, without even seeing the bone. He had now found the relation that the dog was conditioned that when the bell will be rung, the food will be provided, which in turn caused it to salivate. The dog learned to relate the ringing of bell with food. Thus, Pavlov had found the reason of generating a response, even when actual stimulus is not given, as shown in the following figure Fig.: Classical Conditioning of the Dog
Stage-I: Before conditioning
Phase-I Unconditional stimulus (US-Food) => Unconditional response (UR-Saliva)
Phase-II Natural stimulus (NS-Bell) => No response
Stage-II: During conditioning
Natural stimulus (NS-Bell) + Unconditional stimulus (US-Food) =>Unconditional response (UR-Saliva)
Stage-III: After conditioning
Conditioned stimulus (CS-Food) => Conditioned response (CR-Saliva) Educational importance of classical conditioning theory of learning: Following is the primary importance of the classical conditioning theory:
i. Classical theory of learning emphasises on the use of teaching-learning material (teaching aids) while teaching in a classroom. A teaching aid works a stimulus if a teacher wants response from his/her students.
ii. This theory emphasises on activity, conditioning and reinforcement. A teacher should use them at the time of teaching. It makes the teaching effective and permanent for the students.
iii. Classical theory of learning is very useful in teaching small children because this theory is based on stimulus and its response. When a child sees a stimulus (object), he/she surely responds to that stimulus. It is due to the curiosity of the children.
iv. This theory can be used to replace the bad habits of the children with good habits. Their mental illness, such as fear can also be eliminated by this theory. It can be done by conditioning method with respective phobia of the students.
Operant Conditioning Theory
Operant conditioning theory of learning: This theory was propounded by B. F. Skinner who was a famous American psychologist. Operant conditioning theory of learning is also known as, Theory of Reinforcement. Skinner proved this theory on the behalf of his experiment in which he used a hungry pigeon. In his experiment, he found that the pigeon which was caged in a special type of box named Skinner’s pigeon box, trying to get food (grains) with its beak. Skinner put the pigeon in the box and supplied the lightest colour light in the key. The pigeon was attracted by the light and it struck its beak here and there. Once its beak struck the lighted key it got grains to eat. The same experiment was repeated six times with different colours. Skinner found in this experiment that there was a change in the response of the pigeon with each type of light, but reinforcement was supplied each time when it struck the right place with its beak. Finally, such a condition arrived when the pigeon was put in the box after keeping it hungry.
This time pigeon struck the right key to get the food. In other words, we can say that pigeon learnt to press the right key in order to get the food. Skinner also conducted another experiment on a ‘rat’ in respect of his operant conditioning theory of learning.
Educational importance of operant conditioning theory of learning: The significance of this theory in education is as follows:
i. Operant conditioning helps a teacher to remove the hesitation and shy nature of students. It can be removed by providing the proper guidance and counselling to the shy students.
ii. A positive reinforcement plays a remarkable role in teaching-learning process. A child is motivated with the effect of a positive reinforcement and it increases the rate of his/her learning.
iii. A negative reinforcement plays a remarkable role in teaching-learning process, because it develops the habit of discipline within the students. As a result of negative reinforcement, students can avoid any kind of mistake.
iv. Skinner developed ‘programmed instruction’ method of teaching on the basis of this theory. Programmed instruction is very helpful in teachinglearning process. In this process the teaching material is divided into small steps. Teaching with the help of small steps is considered as the best method of teaching.
Trial And Error Theory Of Learning
Trial and error theory of learning: This theory was propounded by E.L. Thorndike who was a famous psychologist of America. Trial and error theory of learning is also known as, Stimulus Response Theory (S-R Theory) and Bond Theory.
Thorndike proved this theory on the basis of his experiment, in which he used a hungry cat and a fish. In his experiment, he found that the hungry cat which was caged in a puzzle box was trying to get her food (fish). After making so many trials and errors, she succeeded in catching the fish. For her further attempts, the cat modified her behaviour to catch the fish easily. On the basis of this experiment, Thorndike propounded the following laws of learning:
(a) Law of Effect: According to the law of effect, if an individual’s behaviour is followed by something positive, it will get repeated and strengthened. On the other hand, if an individual’s behaviour is followed by something negative, it will get weakened and will not be repeated.
(b) Law of Readiness: In words of Thorndike, the law of readiness occurs, “When any conduction unit is ready to conduct, for it does so is satisfying.
When a conduction unit is not ready to conduct for it to conduct is annoying.
When any conduction is ready to conduct, for it not to do so is annoying.”
(c) Law of Frequency: In this law of learning, Thorndike emphasised on the relationship between stimulus-response (S-R) which are enforced through repetition or weakened through lack of repetition. An activity or learnt behaviour which is practiced so many times; became permanent automatically for an individual.
(d) Law of Exercise: Law of exercise is a practice that helps in increasing efficiency and durability of learning. The connections are strengthened with the practice. When this practice is discontinued, the connections get weakened. For example, learning to drive a car and singing requires repetition of various movements. Educational importance of trial and error theory of learning: The primary importance of this theory in education is as follows:
i. Thorndike’s laws of learning make the teaching-learning process permanent, effective and useful for the students.
ii. This theory provides a motivation to the students and enables them not to lose confidence as a result of failed attempts.
iii. Trial and error plays a remarkable role in the process of a child’s learning phase. A child learns so many new things or behaviours with the help of his/her errors.
iv. This theory also provides the opportunities for the students to learn new things or behaviours with their self-effort. Knowledge and skills which are obtained or gained by one’s own self-effort is more stable than any other method of learning.
According to the behaviour of students, their IQ level or their interest areas, a teacher has to deal with students with diverse backgrounds and knowledge. This diversity is due to the individual differences which are the unique characteristics of every student and it affects the student’s learning and understanding. The rate of learning also depends on the background and existing knowledge of the student and motivation level. Thus, we can say that motivation and learning are the two sides of one coin.
The term ‘motivation’ can be defined as encouragement for performing a task and increasing the rate of learning. This is also called positive motivation. But sometimes when it is negative, it decreases the rate of learning. Thus, we can conclude that motivation is not only considered as a process but also as a product.
Nature of Motivation
Motivation is a state within an individual which drives one’s behaviour towards a goal.
The main features of motivation are as follows:
► Motivation keeps an individual active till the objective is not achieved.
► Motivation not only works as the ‘end’, but it also works as a ‘means’ because it provides the way to the goal.
► Motivation is the complementary part of teaching-learning process because it helps a teacher to encourage the students within a class.
► An individual is motivated either internally or externally. On the other hand, it is also affected by an individual’s mental and physical level.
► An individual can be motivated with internal motives (that comes from inside) or external motives (drive by external rewards such as rewards, money, fame, etc.
Motives are those factors which create motivation within an individual.
► Motivation encourages an individual either directly or indirectly. If a student wants to be an IITian but he/she is not interested in physics, even then he/she can make an effort to learn and practice physics concepts. This is an example of indirect motivation.
► Motivation enables an individual to achieve his/her desired goal and also to fulfill his/her drives. Drive is a psychological term, related to motivation. Drive means “excitatory state produced by a homeostatic disturbance”. A ‘drive’ indicates a need of something which has a power to drive an individual’s behaviour according to his/her need.
Theories Of Motivation
1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory: This theory was propounded by Dr.
Abraham Maslow in 1943. In this theory, Maslow described a need-based framework for an individual. Maslow described this need-based framework in a form of hierarchy. So, this theory is also considered as theory of ‘Hierarchy of Need’. This hierarchy of need is shown in the following figure:
Fig.: Hierarchy of Needs Theory A brief description of stages is as follows;
Stage Stage Name Needs:
Stage I Physiological Needs Air, water, food, sleep, etc.
Stage II Safety Need Protection, stability, financial reserve, etc.
Stage III Social Needs Family, affection, friendship, groups, etc. Stage Stage Name Needs:
Stage IV Esteem Needs Achievements, recognition, reputation, etc.
Stage V Self-Actualisation Truth, wisdom, justice, satisfaction, etc.
All these stages represent the life path of an individual from his/her birth to death in a chronological order from Stage-I to Stage-V.
2. Stimulus-response Theory of Motivation: This theory was propounded by Behavioural Psychologist. It emphasised on explanation or description of human behaviour. It states that all the behaviours of human beings are based on physical stimulation. This theory also denies the concept of internal motivation, i.e. it refuses the motivation concept by conscious or unconscious motivation.
Behavioural psychologists were the followers of stimulus and response which occured as the result of that stimulus. This theory helps to explain or examine a human behaviour in the context of different situations.
3. Drive Theory of Motivation: This theory is also considered as the ‘Push Theory of Motivation’ because according to this theory, behaviour is pushed towards a certain goal with the help of drives. When an internal drive is aroused within an individual, he/she is forced to fulfil the requirement of that particular drive to reduce its intensity. The following figure describes the drive theory of motivation:
For example, if a child is thirsty, it means his/her internal thirst motives start working till he/she does not drink the water. That child’s behaviour also changes or drives towards the fulfillment of that need.
Motives Of Motivation
Motives are those factors which create motivation within an individual. On the other hand, an individual can be motivated with the help of internal motives or external motives. So, it is essential to know about the primary motives of motivation. Some of the main motives for motivation are as follows:
1. Biological motives: These motives are related to various physiological states of an individual. All these motives are related to individual’s daily life routine.
Mainly, these motives are as follows:
a. Hunger b. Thirst c. Body temperature d. Sleep e. Pain f. Avoidance g. Need for oxygen
2. Social motives: Motives which are acquired by an individual within a society are called social motives. These motives are more complex and extensive in comparison to biological motives. Time, space and opportunity determine the intensity of these motives. According to Murray, et al. the main social motives are shown in table as follows: