4.0 Psychology of learning

MEANING OF LEARNING :- Learning is the modification at behaviour through experience and training.

Features of Learning: -
1. Learning implies modification of behaviour.
2. Learning is the organisation of the behaviour.
3. Learning is the reinforcement of a new pattern of activity.

Learning process depends upon individual’s physical and mental health and his socio-economic conditions, it is also true that every action is not learning. E.A. Peel presented the following about learning.
(i) Learning is not a reflex action. It is acquired in environment, i.e., zipling eyes is not learning.
(ii) Learning is a conscious effort of socio-biological adaptation.
(iii) Permanent and temporary changes are being occurred through learning.
(iv) Learning may be right or wrong.

Learning and Maturation:- The process of learning continues throughout life. Man develops and grows only through learning. The basis of this development is maturation. The term ‘maturation’ implies awareness of a change in capacity or performance. This change depends upon practice or learning. Success in learning demands full physical and mental maturation as a necessary precondition. Maturation is a continuous process in human development. If children are taught any activity before they achieve the necessary maturation, the teaching proves fruitless.

Learning : Influencing Factors :-

  1. Suitable atmosphere
  2. Physical and mental health
  3. Learning method
  4. Motivation
  5. The Teacher’s role
  6. The Will to learn
  7. Maturation
  8. Working time and fatiuge
  9. Distribution of practice
  10. Structure of the curriculum :- If the curriculum is organised on the principle - ‘from simple to complex’ - it will definitely prove helpful in learning.

Learning Curve :- Skinner has used the term ‘learning curve’ for the diagram generated by data plotted on graph paper. In his own words, “A learning curve is a progress representation of person’s improvement (or lack of improvement) in a given activity.”
It clearly implies that the learning curve dist inctly indicates the extent of progress made by the learner in learning a particular activity.

Learning Curve :

Types :-
1. Negative accelerated curve - In this kind of curve, initially there seems to be more progress in learning process, but with increase in practice, the rate of progress slows down.
2. Positive accelerated curve - In this kind of curve, the rate of progress is slower, but, with increasing practice, the rate of progress in learning the given activity increases noticeably.
3. Combination type of curve - This type of curve shows slow learning first, then it shows rapid rate of learning and then progress of learning becomes slow.

Learning :

Plateau:- Defining the nature of the plateau in the learning curve, Skinner, says, “A plateau is a horizontal strech indicative of apparent progress.” This statement clearly indicates that, in the learning process, there comes a stage when it seems that no progress is taking place. This stage or situation is called the plateau.

4.2 Learning Theories and laws


Various schools of psychologists have formulated different principles and laws of learning. At many principles and laws propounded by psychologists in this sphere can be divided into the following two major groups. (1) Associative theories of learning (2) Field theories of learning.
1. Associative Theories of Learning :- By Associative Theories we mean those principles which govern human behaviour. The following theories will be considered and described among the associative theories :-

4.3 Theory of Conditioned Response

(i) Theory of Conditioned Response :- Conditioned response means the generation of natural ultimate from of behaviour in response to an artificial stimulus. For instance a child is going to school taking his school bag through the market, he begins to salivate on seeing the variegated sweetmeats enticingly arranged in the display of a shop. Gradually, this becomes the child’s normal response. But when a natural response of this kind occurs as a result of an artificial stimulus, it is called a conditioned response. Defining this concept, H.W. Bernard has stated, “Conditioning is the automatization of behaviour by repetition of stimuli which accompany a given response and which ultimately becomes causes for the behaviour which formerly they merely accompanied.”

The theory of conditioned response was first propounded in 1904 by the Russian physiologist, LP. Pavlov. In his opinion, the process of learning is influenced by the response. Elaborating this principle. Stimulus - response is a part of the creature’s innate instinct, that is, it constitutes learning. Now, a new stimulus is given along with the original stimulus. After some time, when the original stimulus is removed, it is observed that even the second stimulus produces the same response as was produced by the original stimulus. Thus, the response becomes conditioned to the new stimulus.

Pavlov conducted his famous experiment upon a pet dog. The dog’s salivary glands were operated upon, so as to make it possible to collect the saliva through a glass tube in a vessel outside the dog’s body. When the experiment started, a bell was rung at the moment when the dog was given food. Initially, it who observed that saliva naturally began to flow as soon as the dog saw the food. After sometimes however, it was found that the bell was rung but the food was withdrawn. Even then the dog began to salivate. This indicated that the dog had become conditioned to responding to the sound of the bell. It was in this way that the principle of conditioned response was formulated.

The mechanism of conditioned response operates as shows below.
1. U.S.————UR (Ultimate stimulus and ultimate response)
2. US + CS—UR (Ultimate stimulus and conditioned response)
Food + Sound of bell——Saliva
3. CS—————CR (Conditioned stimulus and conditioned response)

Factors Influencing Conditioned Response :-

Many factors influence the formation of conditioned response. These include :

1. Practical- Experiments on conditioned response have established the fact that the more often the usual stimulus and the conditioning stimulus are repeatedly applied to the learner, the more firm will the conditioned response be.
2. Time- The time factor plays an important role in the formation or establishment of a conditioned response. The differences of time between the usual stimulus and the conditioning stimulus, when the two are applied to the learner, will determine the effect of the stimulus and the response generated by it.
3. Intelligence- Intelligence plays as important role in the functioning or operation of conditioned responses. Intelligent individuals establish conditioned responses more quickly that dull witted persons. The experiment of the Miss Metieres establishes this fact.
4. Age- Young children manifest conditioned responses relatively more quickly, than adults. The person for this is that social controls exercise their influence upon children’s behaviour less than upon adult behaviour.
5. Mental health- If the child is mentally healthy, conditioned response will be established quickly and easily, whereas in the case of an unhealthy persons, conditioning takes time and needs to cross many hurdles before it is established.

Conditioned Response : Criticism :-

1. Emphasis upon mechanical learning - This theory considers man a mere machine, but it is self evident that man is not a machine only, that he carries out his various activities under the spur of rational though, imagination,attitudes, feeling, etc. The theory of conditioned response completely neglects analysis of activities done on the basis of reflection or rational thought.
2. Instability - There is a definite instability in conditioned response. Just as it is generally observed that a conditioned response is reinforced by constant repetition or practice, in the same way, it is seen that the response gradually loses its force if the natural stimulus generating the conditioned response is removed.
3. Experiments only on animals and children - This theory has been propounded on the basis of experiments conducted only upon animals and children. Adult and mature individuals are not as easily influenced by false stimuli as are children or animals, and hence in the former case, conditioned is far less powerful.

Conditioned Response and Education :- Human or animal behaviour is the basis of conditioned response, a fact which encouraged Watson to claim that he could make a child anything he wanted. Watson gives special emphasis to conditioned to conditioned response in the development of skills and abilities. This principles can be adopted and implemented successfully in schools.
1. Habit formation - A conditioned response gradually becomes the individual’s nature, his habitual mode of response. Nature has a very important place in human life.
2. Development of aptitude - With the assistance of this principle, good and desirable aptitudes can be developed in children. Ideals can be presented to the children and they can be inspired or motivated to accept the stimulus and respond in the desired manner.
3. Teaching of the alphabet and multiplication - This principle can be profitably employed in the teaching of the alphabet and multiplication because the theory lays and emotional instability and practice.
4. Cure of mental and emotional instability - This principle provides a cure for children suffering from mental ill-health or from emotional instability. “
5. The teacher’s contribution - In developing the right conditioned responses, the teacher makes a very important contribution in generating a suitable atmosphere. It is desirable for the teacher to institute a system of rewards and punishment because this will help in generating conditioned responses rapidly.

4.4 Skinner Theory

(ii) Operant Conditioning Theory (B.F. Skinner) :- In the series of theories based upon conditioned responses, B.F. Skinner propounded the concept of Operant Conditioning. Its basis is the contention that the learner’s behaviour becomes instrumental in creating reinforcement of the acquired behaviour. This situation arises when the learner becomes active in a particular environment.
B.F. Skinner conducted a number of experiments in the sphere of learping and observed that learning becomes practical and effective due only to motivation. Stimulus is the basis of motivation. A stimulus determines the potential behaviour or activity. For instance, the teacher guides the activity in the class through the use of certain clues or indicative words, for instance, “sit down, take out your books, read, tell, practise,” etc. which condition the students to react in certain specific ways.

Skinner conducted numerous experiments on rats, pigeons, etc., and evolved the concept that creatures exhibit two kinds of behaviour (i) respondent and (ii) operant. Response is connected with stimulus whereas the operant form of behaviour is not associated with any known or obvious stimulus. It is an independent form of behaviour. Since it is not linked with any known stimulus, its power and effectiveness cannot be measured by laws governing reflexive behaviour. The rate of response is the only measure is of operant power.

In 1830, Skinner performed some experiments upon white rats. He constructed a box fitted with a lever which made a striking sound as soon as a rat’s foot fell on it. When the rate moved forward after hearing this sound, it found food lying re^dy for it in a cup. The food performed the function of reinforcement, and it encourages the rats to press the lever. Being hungry, the rat was driven and hence it became active or operant.

Basis of Operant Conditioning: - Reinforcement is the basis of operant conditioning, Explaining the phenomenon of reinforcement, it has been sad that “A reinforcer in operant conditioning is only a stimulus or event which, when produced by a response makes that response more likely to occurs in the future.” And, any reinforcer repeated frequently becomes a determinant of potential behaviour in the future.

Reinforcement:- In the process of operant conditioning as defined by Skinner, there are two kinds of reinforcement - (I) Positive (ii) Negative. In case of positive reinforcement, the individual co-operates in the performance of an activity, whereas negative reinforcement occurs when the individual saves himself from or avoids participating in a particular activity.

iii) Stimulus Response (S.R.) Theory:- The theory of stimulus response is also called connectionism. It is studied as one of the associative theories of learning. Thomdike is held to be the father of this school of thought because he did extensive work in the sphere of learning theories and determination of behaviour. According to Thomdike, learning means connection and man’s mind is nothing more than connection. The process of connection, that is, how and when a connection is formed was explained first on the basis of three laws - (i) law of preparation, (ii) law of practice and (iii) law of effect.

Thorndike’s Experiments :- Thomdike conducted many experiments to establish the principle of connectionism. In one of his experiments, a hungry cat was put inside a box constructed in such a manner that as soon as that cat’s paw fell upon a latch fitted inside it, the box opened at once. A piece of fish was placed outside the box through a slit. On observing the piece of fish outside, the cat became extremely anxious to emerge from the box, gobble the piece of fish and assuage its hunger. In order to get outside, the cat began to jump up and down inside the box. In this vexed jumping and in the process of pressing various knobs fitted in the box, its paw touched the right knob, at which the box opened allowing the cat to emerge and eat the fish.
This experiment was repeated many times. Initially, the number of unproductive efforts made by the cat was very high, but gradually it diminished. Finally, a stage came when the cat managed to open box at the first attempt, without making any false moves.

The knowledge obtained from this experiment can be applied to human life also^For example, when a child is taught cycling at, first he falls a number of times. He makes many attempts, but often forgets either to manipulate the handle or the pedal in the right sequence and hence fails. After some time, however, the child acquires the requisite skill and manages to get astride the cycle without falling and hurting himself.
In both these experiments, the learner made many attempts and errors. They then tried to remove these errors, until all of them were removed and the activity fully leamt. For the reason, this principle is sometimes also referred to as the principle of learning by ‘Trial and Error’.

Criticism of The S.R. Theory

These criticism were based upon the following grounds :

1. Emphasis upon fruitless efforts- This theory lays too much stress upon fruitless efforts in the process of learning any activity. Such activities result in loss of time, expecially where the activity can be leamt through a single effort.
2. Descriptive- The theory describes the process of learning of an activity. It does explain how a particular form of activity is leamt or acquired, but without saying anything about why it is leamt. What this implies is that it does not provide a satisfactory solution to the problem.
3. Mechanical- This theory bases itself upon the functioning of the nervous system and also regards the human individual as a machine. Hence, it has been alleged that it is too mechanistic to explain human behaviour. Had man been a mere machine, he would not have possessed powers of thought and reason and all his activities would have been explicable in terms of casual relations or reactions to actions. In fact, such a simplistic explanation applies to very few human activities.
4. Stress upon learning by rote- Because of its inherent emphasis upon mechanistic modes of behaviour in the sphere of learning, it lays undue stress upon learning by rote. It ignores the fact that this kind of learning is merely temporary and that it does not influence potential behaviour and future life at all.

4.5 Throndike’s Laws of learning

Thorndike’s Laws of Learning - Main Laws :-

1. Law of readiness - Concerning the law of readiness, Thomdike states, “When any conduction unit is ready to conduct, for it to do so is satisfying. When any conduction unit is not in readiness to conduct, for it conduct is annoying.
This law of readiness is related to practice and its effect on result. It implies that an individual can successfully perform a particular activity only when he is mentally and physically prepared to perform it. On the subject of an individual becoming prepared to perform a specific task, Thomdike writes that when an individual is ready to conduct the process of learning, the performance of the activity grants him satisfaction. But if the individual is not ready for the activity, its performance fills him with dissatisfaction.

2. Law of Effect - Thomdike elaborated his view of the law of effect in the following manner. When a variablebond is formed between a given situation and a response and this is accompanied by a state of satisfaction the connection is strengthened. In contrast, when this bond or connection is accompanied by dissatisfaction, irritation or frustration, the connection is weekended.
Thomdike held firmly to the view mat a person tends to perform that activity repeatedly which gives him pleasure or satisfaction and that he avoids activities which arouse displeasure. For his experiments on rats, Thomdike got a puzzle box constructed. In it he placed some food and a few rats. The rats naturally made attempts to find the food, and when their efforts met with success in the puzzle box, they made further efforts. Whenever they failed to get the food, they felt dissatisfaction and their activities slackened noticeably.

3. The law of exercise - This obviously implies that the activity performed repeatedly is the one which leaves a permanent impression upon the mind, implicit in the law of exercise are two sub-laws - (i) the law of use, which emphasises than fact that an individual repeats that activity which he considers useful, and (ii) the law of disuse which clarifies that, other things being equal, the connection between a situation and a response becomes weak if the activity is found be useless.

4.6 Gestalt Theory

(i) Gestalt Theory :- The term ‘gestalt’ means a whole, a total composition. According to this theory, an individual learns an object as a whole, a single entity, not in parts or bits.

Max Wertheimer is regarded as the father of Gestalt theory.

Wertheimer’s theory was further refined and developed by Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Kohler.

4.7 Gestalt Laws

Gestalt Laws and Insight :- Insight is completely implicit in gestalt, and its criterion lies in the manifestation of the full solution to a particular problem in the contest of the total organisation of the field.
Kohler’s Experiments :- In order to establish the existence of insight, Kohler conducted a number of experiments on a chimpanzee named Sultan. Although he conducted a number of other experiments on dogs, hens and other creatures, his experiments with Sultan were the most noteworthy.

Kohler divided his experiments into four steps.

(1) Sultan was placed in a cage. A stick was placed in the cage and a banana just outside the cage, but outside Sultan direct reach. Sultan made many attempts to obtain the banana but it failed. It sat down in despair. But, after some time, it suddenly got up, lifted the stick and used it to draw the banana towards it self.
(2) In the second stage, Kohler placed inside the cage two sticks which could joined to each other. This time the banana was so placed that it could not be drawn by the chimpanzee towards itself with a single stick. After numerous attempts, Sultan joined the two sticks together and succeeded in obtaining the banana.
(3) In the third step, Kohler hung the banana from the roof of the cage at such a height as to ensure that Sultan could not reach it even by jumping upwards. A box was also placed inside the cage. After many attempts, Sultan climbed up on the box and obtained the bananas.
(4) In the final step, Kohler placed two boxes at one place in the cage the banana was placed at an even high level. At first, Sultan kept on trying to reach the banana by standing up on one box, but after numerous failures, it placed on box upon the other and claiming quit obtained the banana.

Kohler’s experiments clearly proved that before insight comes into existence or evolves in the creator, the relationship between all elements in a problem is clearly observed. Only then can the creature reorganises or rearrange these elements and discover a solution. Of course, in the case of animals, it was found that insight was preceded by ‘trial and error’. But even in animals, transfer to experience was found because the knowledge obtained by solving one problem was applied to solving other problems.

Factors Influencing Insight :- Many experiments have thrown light upon and established the various factor which influence insight. These factors are elaborated in the following paragraphs:
1. Intelligence - Insight is directly related to the creature’s level on intelligence. Man being more intelligent than a chimpanzee, displays a higher degree of insight than the chimpanzee.
2. Experience - Experiences prove of great value and assistance is solving any problem. Experience individual invariably make full use of their insight in solving any new problem which confronts them. Experiences are easily transferred from the situation in which they are acquired to a novel situation. Besides, they make invaluable contribution to the development of insight.
3. Perception of a Problem - Insight is neither possible, nor can it become operative, till the whole of a problem is fully perceived. The structure of the problem also has an influence upon insight.
4. Trial and Error - Some psychologists are of the view that the trial and error lies hidden in the root of insight, but it is a generally known fact that whatever an activity may be, attempts or efforts or trial always lie at its root.

4.8 Transfer of training

Transfer of Training — Meaning :- In the class, the teacher imparts information to the child. In this process, the teacher invariable hopes that the child will apply this information or the activity he has learned in other circumstances also. In other words, he hopes that the training imparted by him will be transferred to other spheres. That is exactly what transfer of training of learning means. For instance, a child who has learnt mathematics uses this knowledge to solve many numerical problems in physics and chemistry. This process involves transfer of learning. Transfer means the application of acquired skill and knowledge to situations different from those in which they were acquired by learners.

Types of Transfer of Training

1. Positive transference - Positive transfer of training clearly implies that knowledge or experience acquired in the past assists in the solution of a new problem. For instance, the mathematics we learn in school helps us while we make our routine purchases from the market. Another even more explicit example can be seen when a person having knowledge of driving one kind of car starts driving a different kind of car without any additional training or practice.
2. Negative transfer- Negative transfer of training occurs when some past experience or knowledge creates a barrier in solving some future problem. For instance, a person familiar with one type of key board on a typewriter has to invest substantial effort in making himself familiar with a different kind of keyboard. Boring, Langfeld and Weld have put it in very simple words, “when one learning task makes learning a second task harder, we speak of negative transfer.”
3. Unilateral transfer- When the training imparted to one part of limb of the body proves useful in some future activity, it is a case of unilateral transfer. For instance, the practice of writing with the left hand proves beneficial in case a person injures his right hand.
4. Bilateral transfer- The phrase Bilateral transfer’ refers to the case in which the training imparted to one limb of the body transfers itself to the parallel limb on the other side. For instance, if after being trained in writing or working with the right hand, children learn to write or perform the same activity with the left hand without any additional practice, the phenomenon is called bilateral transfer.
5. Vertical transfer- Vertical transfer can be either positive or negative. The knowledge which the children obtain in one class are employed in their studies in the next higher class. Similarly, the experience obtained in childhood are used by the individuals in performing many activities in adult life.
6. Horizontal Transfer- The term ‘horizontal transfer’ is used when the knowledge acquired in one subject helps the learner in learning another subject. For instance, knowledge of the historical facts of the Gupta period in Indian history helps the learn in understanding the literary and cultural trends of the same period.
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Clear CTET - Coaching Institute for CTET, DSSSB and KVS: Child Pedagogy Notes Psychology of Learning
Child Pedagogy Notes Psychology of Learning
Child Pedagogy Notes Psychology of Learning - Learning is the modification at behaviour through experience and training.
Clear CTET - Coaching Institute for CTET, DSSSB and KVS
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