How Learning Works?

What is learning?

Learning is a process that leads to change, which occurs as a result of experience and increases the potential for improved performance and future learning.

Adapted from Mayer, 2002

Three critical components to this definition:

1. Learning is a process, not product.

2. Learning involves change in knowledge, beliefs, behaviors or attitudes.

3. Learning is a direct result of how students interpret and respond to their experiences – conscious and unconscious.

What does research tell us about learning?

Cognitive scientists and researchers, based on their twenty-nine years of experience consulting with faculty and intensive research on learning, have distilled seven principles, which are domain -independent (applicable across all subject areas), experience - independent (apply to all education level and teaching context) and cross-culturally relevant (resonated across students from different cultural backgrounds). Each principle crystallizes and highlights a key aspect of students' learning:

1) Student's prior knowledge can help or hinder learning.

2) How students organize knowledge influences how they learn and apply what they know.

3) Students' motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn.

4) To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.

5) Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances the quality of students' learning.

6) Students' current level of development interacts with the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the course to impact learning.

7) To become self-directed learners, students must learn to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning.