TYPES OF LEARNING

Learning (defined as a process of bringing relatively permanent changes in the behaviour of an organism) may be classified in a number of ways depending on the domain or specific area of behaviour in which changes are introduced or in terms of methods or techniques that are employed for the introduction of behavioural changes. 

If we follow the former criterion learning can be classified as verbal learning (involving verbal expression), learning of motor skills (such as walking, dancing, typing, swimming, etc.), affective learning (learning of habits, interest attitudes, appreciation, etc.) and cognitive learning (learning of concepts, principles, problem-solving, etc.). 

In case of the latter criterion, we may categorise learning as trial and error learning, classical conditioning, operant conditioning, chain learning, shaping, learning through generalisation, learning through discrimination, serial learning, associate learning, insightful learning, etc. 

An alternative basis adopted by Gagne (1970) for the purpose of classifying learning is worth mentioning. By taking into consideration a specific hierarchical order, he has classified learning into eight types as given below: 

(a) Signal learning (classical conditioning) 
(b) S-R learning (instrumental and operant conditioning) 
(c) Chain learning 
(d) Verbal associate or paired associate learning 
(e) Multiple discrimination learning 
(f) Concept learning 
(g) Principle learning 
(h) Problem-solving learning


(1) Verbal learning:
(2) Motor learning: 
(3) Concept learning: 
(4) Problem-solving: 
(5) Serial learning: 
(6) Paired-associate learning: 



(1) Verbal learning:  
Learning of this type helps in the acquisition of verbal behaviour. The language we speak, the communication devices we use are the result of such learning. Rote learning and rote-memorisation which is a type of school learning is also included in verbal learning. Signs, pictures, symbols, words, figures, sounds, voices, etc. are employed by the individual as an essential instrument for engaging him in the process of verbal learning.

(2) Motor learning: 
The learning of all types of motor skills may be included in such type of learning. Learning how to swim, riding a horse, driving a car, flying a plane, playing the piano, hitting a moving target, drawing a geometrical design, adding and multiplying long digits, performing experiments and handling various instruments are the examples of such learning. Acquisition of various skills through such learning helps acquire speed and accuracy in the field of operation of these skills and builds confidence in him to perform the task with great ease and satisfaction. These skills can be acquired through a systematic and planned way of acquisition and fixation of a series of organised actions or responses by making use of some appropriate learning methods and devices. 

(3) Concept learning: 
A concept in the form of a mental image denotes a generalised idea about the things, persons or events. For example, our concept of tree is a mental image that brings to us the similarities or common features of all the different trees we know. We will call a thing tree when it has some specific characteristics the image of which we have already acquired in our mind on account of our previous experience, perception or rich imagination. The formation of such concepts on account of previous experience, training or cognitive processes is called concept learning. Such type of concept learning proves very useful in recognising, naming and identifying the things. Our entire behaviour; verbal, symbolic, motor as well as cognitive, is influenced by our concepts. Thus what we do, say, understand, reason and judge, to a great extent, is controlled by the quality of our concept learning. 

(4) Problem-solving: 
In the ladder of learning and acquisition of behaviour, problem-solving denotes a higher type of learning. Such type of learning requires the use of the cognitive abilities like reasoning, thinking, power of observation, discrimination, generalisation, imagination, ability to infer and draw conclusions, trying out novel ways, experimenting, etc. Based on the grounds of earlier experiences, effect of coaching, training, formal or informal learning and acquisition of knowledge, habits, attitudes, interests, learning sets, etc. an individual may be motivated to reach an unknown target or to unfold the mystery of an unresolved problem. How he can be trained to accomplish such a task is the function of problem-solving. This type of learning has essentially enabled human beings to contribute significantly to the progress and improvement of society. 

In the process of acquiring the above and other types of learning, one has to adopt an adequate technique in the form of some methods or processes. In some cases, connections or associations in the form of stimulus-response mechanism, instrumental or conditioning may help while in other cases organisation of the perceptual field and the use of cognitive abilities may work. The use of special techniques like serial learning, associate learning, etc. developed by the psychologists may also help in this direction. Let us describe what we mean by them. 

(5) Serial learning: 
Serial learning consists of such learning in which the learner is presented with learning material that exhibits some sequential or serial order. Children often encounter such a learning situation in schools where they are expected to master the lists of material such as the alphabet, multiplication tables, the names of all the states in their country, the names of presidents or prime ministers in order, etc. The experimental studies performed in the field of serial learning tell us that out of the serial learning material, the items presented in the beginning and the end of the list are easier to remember than those in the middle. This appears true whether the items are nonsense syllables, actual words or longer passages such as poems. 

(6) Paired-associate learning: 
In this learning, learning tasks are presented in such a way that they may be learnt on account of their associations. The name of a village like Kishanpur is remembered on account of its association with the name of Lord Krishna or a girl’s name Ganga by learning it in the form of making paired association with River Ganges. Much of the verbal or motor learning may thus be learnt or remembered on account of the technique of paired or multiple association. 
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