Learning

Measurable and relatively permanent change in behavior through experience, instruction, or study. Whereas individual learning is selective, group learning is essentially political its outcomes depend largely on power playing in the group. Learning itself cannot be measured, but its results can be. In the words of Harvard Business School psychologist Chris Argyris, learning is “detection and correction of error” where an error means “any mismatch between our intentions and what actually happens. ” Read more: http://www. businessdictionary. com/definition/learning. tml#ixzz2NXOatdhg Definition: To gain knowledge or information of; to ascertain by inquiry, study, or investigation; to receive instruction concerning; to fix in the mind; to acquire understanding of, or skill; as, to learn the way; to learn a lesson; to learn dancing; to learn to skate; to learn the violin; to learn the truth about something. 3 INTRODUCTION I want to talk about learning. But not the lifeless, sterile, futile, quickly forgotten stuff that iscrammed in to the mind of the poor helpless individual tied into his seat by ironclad bonds of conformity!

I am talking about LEARNING – the insatiable curiosity that drives the adolescent boy to absorb everything he can see or hear or read about gasoline engines in order to improvethe efficiency and speed of his ‘cruiser’. I am talking about the student who says, “I amdiscovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me. ” I am talking about any learning in which the experience of the learner progresses along this line:”No, no, that’s not what I want”; “Wait! This is closer to what I am interested in, what I need”;”Ah, here it is!

Now I’m grasping and comprehending what I need and what I want to know! ”  CarlRogers 1983: 18-19Learning is a powerful incentive for many employees to stick to certain organizations. Learninghas a significant impact on individual behavior as it influences abilities, role perceptions andmotivation. Along with its role in individual behavior, learning is essential for knowledgemanagement. Knowledge management enhances an organization’s capacity to acquire, shareand utilize knowledge in ways that improve its survival and success. MEANING AND DEFINITION

Learning is defined as “a relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of prior experience. ”Learning is understood as the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience. This is supplemented with five important components of learning:1. Learning involves change: a change may be for good or bad. Change may not beevident until a situation arises in which the new behavior can occur. Learning is notalways reflected in performance2. Not all changes reflect learning: to constitute learning, change should be relativelypermanent.

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Temporary changes may be only reflective and fail to represent any learning. This requirement, therefore, rules out behavioral changes caused by fatigue or drugs. 3. Learning is reflected in behavior: a change in an individual’s thought process or attitude,not accompanied by behavior, is no learning. It should be further clarified that learningneeds to result in behavior potentiality and not necessarily in the behavior itself. Thereason for this distinction lies in the fact that an individual may learn but owing to lack of motivation, may not exhibit any changed behavior. 4.

The change in behavior should occur as a result of experience, practice or training: thisimplies that behavior caused from maturity, disease, or physical damages does notconstitute learning 4 5. The practice or experience must be reinforced in order for learning to occur: if reinforcement does not accompany the practice or experience, the behavior willeventually disappear. 6. Though not implied in any standard definition of learning: contrary to popular belief,learning is not confined to one’s schooling. Learning occurs throughout one’s life 5 THEORIES OF LEARNING There are four theories which explain how learning occurs.

They are 1. Classical conditioning 2. Operant conditioning 3. Cognitive theory 4. Social learning theory Classical Conditioning Classical conditioning is based on the premise that a physical event – termed a stimulus – thatinitially does not elicit a particular response gradually acquires the capacity to elicit thatresponse as a result of repeated pairing with a stimulus that elicits a reaction. Learning of thistype is quite common and seems to play an important role in such reactions as strong fears,taste aversions, some aspects of sexual behavior and even racial or ethnic prejudice.

Classical Conditioning Classical conditioning is based on the premise that a physical event – termed a stimulus – thatinitially does not elicit a particular response gradually acquires the capacity to elicit thatresponse as a result of repeated pairing with a stimulus that elicits a reaction. Learning of thistype is quite common and seems to play an important role in such reactions as strong fears,taste aversions, some aspects of sexual behavior and even racial or ethnic prejudice.

Despite the theoretical possibility of the widespread applicability of classical conditioning, mosttheorists agree that it represents only a very small part of total human learning. Skinner, inparticular, felt that classical conditioning explains only respondent (reflexive) behaviors. Theseare the involuntary responses that are elicited by a stimulus. Skinner felt that the more complexhuman behaviors cannot be explained by classical conditioning alone. He felt that most humanbehavior affects, or operates on, the environment. The latter type of behavior is learnt throughoperant conditioning.

In an organizational setting we can see classical conditioning operating. For example, at onemanufacturing plant, every time the top executives from the head office would make a visit, theplant management would clean up the administrative offices and wash the windows. This wenton for years. Eventually, employees would turn on their best behavior and look prim and proper whenever the windows were cleaned even in those occasions when the cleaning was not pairedwith visit from the top brass. People had learnt to associate the cleaning of the windows with thevisit from the head office.

The first model, classical conditioning, was initially identified by Pavlov in the salivation reflex of dogs. Salivation is an innate reflex, or unconditioned response, to the presentation of food, anunconditioned stimulus. Pavlov showed that dogs could be conditioned to salivate merely to thesound of a buzzer (a conditioned stimulus), after it was sounded a number of times inconjunction with the presentation of food. Learning is said to occur because salivation has beenconditioned to a new stimulus that did not elicit it initially.

The pairing of food with the buzzer acts to reinforce the buzzer as the prominent stimulus. Operant Conditioning Operant conditioning also called instrumental conditioning refers to the process that our behavior produces certain consequences are. If our actions have pleasant effects, then we willbe more likely to repeat them in the future. If, however, our actions have unpleasant effects, weare less likely to repeat them in the future. Thus, according to this theory, behavior is thefunction of its consequences.

The famous Skinner box demonstrated operant conditioning by placing a rat in a box in whichthe pressing of a small bar produces food. Skinner showed that the rat eventually learns topress the bar regularly to obtain food. Besides reinforcement, punishment produces avoidancebehavior, which appears to weaken learning but not curtail it. In both types of conditioning,stimulus generalization occurs; i. e. , the conditioned response may be elicited by stimuli similar to the original conditioned stimulus but not used in the original training.

Stimulus generalizationhas enormous practical importance, because it allows for the application of learned behaviorsacross different contexts. Behavior modification is a type of treatment resulting from thesestimulus/response models of learning. It operates under the assumption that if behavior can belearned, it can also be unlearnedOperant conditioning emphasizes voluntary behaviors. Researchers call them “operantbehavior” because they operate on the environment – they make the environment respond in 7 ways that we want. Operant conditioning has a great impact on human learning.

It also explainsmuch of organizational behavior. For example, it might be said employees work eight hours a day, six days a week, in order tofeed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families. Working is instrumental only in obtainingfood, clothing and shelter. Some significant insights can be gained directly from this kind of analysis. The consequences of organizational behavior can change the environmental situationand greatly affect subsequently employee behaviors. Managers can analyze consequences of organizational behavior to help accomplish the goals of prediction and control. Cognitive theory of learning

Contemporary perspective about learning is that it is a cognitive process. Cognitive processassumes that people are conscious, active participants in how they learn. Cognitive theory of learning assumes that the organism learns the meaning of various objects and event andlearned responses depending on the meaning assigned to stimuli. WolfgangKohler showed that a protracted process of trial-and-error may be replaced by asudden understanding that grasps the interrelationships of a problem. This process, calledinsight, is more akin to piecing together a puzzle than responding to a stimulus.

EdwardTolman (1930) found that unrewarded rats learned the layout of a maze, yet this was not apparent untilthey were later rewarded with food. Tolman called this latent learning, and it has beensuggested that the rats developed cognitive maps of the maze that they were able to applyimmediately when a reward was offered. The cognitive theory of learning is relevant in the contemporary managerial practices. Manymotivation theories center around the concept of cognition. Expectations, attributions and locusof control are all cognitive concepts requiring attention while motivating employees.

Social learning theory Also called observational learning, social learning theory, emphasizes the ability of an individualto learn by observing others. The important models may include parents, teachers, peers,motion pictures, TV artists, bosses and others. An individual acquires new knowledge by observing what happens to his or her model. This ispopularly known as vicarious learning. A learner acquires tacit knowledge and skills throughvicarious learning. Social learning has considerable relevance in organizational behavior.

A great deal of what islearned about how to behave in organizations can be explained as the result of the process of observational learning. A new hire acquires job skills by observing what an experiencedemployee does. Observational learning also occurs in a very informal, unarticulated manner. For instance, people who experience the norms and traditions of their organizations and who. subsequently incorporate these into their own behavior may be recognized as having learntthrough observation. Social learning is also valuable because it enhances the self-efficacy of the learner.

Self-efficiency refers to a person’s belief that he or she has the ability, motivation and situationalcontingencies to complete a task successfully. People strong in self-efficiency have a ‘can do’attitude towards a specific task and, more generally, with other challenges in life. Social learning increases self-efficiency because people gain greater self-confidence after observing some one else do it than if they are simply told what to do. Managers can shape employee behavior by systematically reinforcing each successive stepthat moves the individual closer to the desired response.

If an employee, for example, who hasbeen chronically a half-hour late for work comes in only twenty minutes late, the boss canreinforce that improvement. PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING Principles of learning are highly useful for trainer in order to impart maximum knowledge andskills to the trainees. However, blind adherence to these principles can cause more harm thangood. Each principle should, therefore, be interpreted and applied carefully in full considerationof the particular task being learned and the most important of them are • Motivation • Reinforcement • Whole versus part learning Learning curves • Meaningfulness of material • Learning styles Motivation The concept of motivation is basic because, without motivation learning does not take place or,at least, is not discernible. Motivation may be seen at different levels of complexity of a situation. A thirsty rat will learn the path through a maze to a dish of water; it is not likely to do so well, or even more purposefully at all, if it is satiated. On a broader level, a college student must havethe need and drive to accomplish a task and reach a specific goal. Reinforcement, punishment and extinction

Reinforcement, punishment and extinction play a key role in learning process. Reinforcement isused to enhance desirable behavior; punishment and extinction are employed to minimizeundesirable behavior. Reinforcement is the attempt to develop or strengthen desirable behavior. There are two typesof reinforcement: positive and negative. Positive reinforcement strengthens and enhances behavior by the presentation of positivereinforcers. There are primary reinforcers and secondary reinforcers. Primary reinforcers satisfybasic biological needs and include food and water. However, primary reinforcers don not alwaysreinforce.

For instance, food may not be a reinforcer to someone who has just completed a fivecourse meal. Most behaviors in organizations are influenced by secondary reinforcers. Theseinclude such benefits as money, status, grades, trophies and praise from others. These include such benefits as money, status, grades, trophies and praise from others. These become positivereinforcers because of their associations with the primary reinforcers and hence are often calledconditioned reinforcers. It should be noted that an event that functions as a positive reinforce at one time or in onecontext may have a ifferent effect at another time or in another place. For example, food mayserve as a positive reinforcer for a person who is hungry, but not when the person, as statedabove, has already a large meal. Clearly, a stimulus that functions as a positive reinforcer for one person may fail to operate in a similar manner for another person. Within itself, positive reinforcement has several principles. • The principle of contingent reinforcement states that the reinforcer must be administeredonly if the desired behavior has occurred.

A reinforcer administered when the desiredbehavior has not been performed becomes ineffective. • The principle of immediate reinforcement states that the reinforcer will be most effectiveif administered immediately after the desired behavior has occurred. The more time thatelapses after the behavior occurs, the less effective the reinforcer will be. • The principle of reinforcement size stated that the larger the amount of reinforcementdelivered after the desired behavior, the more effect the reinforcer will have on thefrequency of the desired behavior.

The amount or size of reinforcer is relative. Areinforcer that may be insignificant to one person may be significant to another person. Thus, the size of the reinforcer must be determined in relation both to the behavior andthe individual. • The principles of reinforcement deprivation states that the more a person is deprived of the reinforcer, the greater effect it will have on the future occurrence of the desiredbehavior. However, if an individual recently has had enough of a reinforcer and issatisfied the reinforcer will have less effect.

In negative reinforcement , an unpleasant event that precedes a behavior is removed when thedesired behavior occurs. This procedure increases the likelihood that the desired behavior willoccur. Just as there are positive reinforcers, there are the stimuli that strengthen responses thatpermit an organism to avoid or escape from their presence. Thus, when we perform an actionthat allows us to escape from a negative reinforcer that is already present or to avoid thethreatened application of one, our tendency to perform this action in the future increases.

Somenegative reinforcers such as intense heat, extreme cold, or electric shock, exert their effects thefirst time they are encountered, whereas others acquire their impact through repeatedassociation. We see negative reinforcement in organizations and in personal life. Supervisors apply negativereinforcement when they stop criticizing employees whose poor performance has improved. Bywithholding the criticism, employees are more likely to repeat behaviors that enhance their performance. Negative reinforcement also occurs when parents give in to their children’s 11 tantrums- especially in public places, such as restaurants and shopping malls.

Over time, theparent’s tendency to give in may increase, because doing so stops screaming. Thus, both positive and negative reinforcement are procedures that strengthen or increasebehavior. Positive reinforcement strengthens and increase behavior by the presentation of desirable consequences. Negative reinforcement strengthens and increases behavior by thethreat of and the use of an undesirable consequence or the termination or withdrawal of anundesirable consequence. Negative reinforcement is sometimes confused with punishment, because both use unpleasantstimuli to influence behavior.

However, negative reinforcement is used to increase the frequencyof a desired behavior, where as punishment is used to decrease the frequency of an undesiredbehavior. Schedules of reinforcementReinforcement, positive or negative , needs to be properly scheduled. Schedules of reinforcement determine when reinforcers are applied. Psychologists have identified severaldifferent schedules of reinforcement. When reinforcement is administered uninterruptedly, it iscalled continuous reinforcement. Instead, in organizations, reinforcers are administeredfollowing partial reinforcement schedules.

Four varieties of parital reinforcement schedules havegreat relevance to organizations. They are • Fixed interval schedule: It means providing reinforcement on a predetermined, constantschedule. The first desired behavior to occur after the interval has elapsed is reinforced. Eg: monthly pay cheque • Variable interval schedule: It also uses time as the basis for applying reinforcement, butit varies the intervals between reinforcements. • Fixed ratio schedule: Reinforcement is administered after the desired behaviors occur aspecified number of times. Eg: Piece rating •

Variable ratio schedule: in this a certain number of desired behaviours must occur beforethe reinforcer is delivered, but the number of behaviours varies around some average. This type of reinforcement schedule provokes most interest and is preferred byemployees for some tasks. It tends to be the most powerful of all the reinforcementschedules. Slot machines and a number of gambling devices operate on a variable ratio schedule. Most of the time when people put a coin into the slot they lose. But, after some unknownnumber of plays, the machine will payoff. Punishment s the attempt to eliminate or weaken undesirable behavior. It is used in two ways. One way to punish a person is to apply a negative consequence called punishers – following an 21 CONCLUSION Learning is the acquisition and development of memories and behaviors, including skills,knowledge, understanding, values, and wisdom. It is the product of experience and the goal of education. Learning ranges from simple forms of learning such as habituation and classicalconditioning seen in many animal species, to more complex activities such as play, seen only inrelatively intelligent animals.

Some years ago Saljo (1979) carried out a simple, but very useful piece of research. He askeda number of adult students what they understood by learning. Their responses fell into five maincategories:1. Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or ‘knowing a lot’. 2. Learning as memorising. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced. 3. Learning as acquiring facts, skills, and methods that can be retained and used asnecessary. 4. Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning.

Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world. 5. Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involvescomprehending the world by reinterpreting knowledge. (quoted in Ramsden 1992: 26)As Paul Ramsden comments, we can see immediately that conceptions 4 and 5 in arequalitatively different from the first three. Conceptions 1 to 3 imply a less complex view of learning. Learning is something external to the learner. It may even be something that justhappens or is done to you by teachers (as in conception 1).

In a way learning becomes a bit likeshopping. People go out and buy knowledge – it becomes their possession. The last twoconceptions look to the ‘internal’ or personal aspect of learning. Learning is seen as somethingthat you do in order to understand the real world. In today’s fast-changing world, an employee is periodically required to learn new knowledge andskills. This is dramatically apparent from the mushrooming uses of the Internet, as it changesthe ways people perform routine functions and discover new ways of obtaining and acting oninformation

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