What is learning?

Last week in our Digital Literacy specialism seminar Steve Wheeler introduced us to another side of teaching and learning which we had not looked into in our specialism before; the psychology behind it all. Having studied psychology at A-Level I was familiar with a few key phrases, theorists and concepts and found the seminar very interesting and thought provoking.

Our task for outside the classroom was to create a blog post on one of the questions from the session; what is learning? It was a question that seemed to initially stump us all, we are all trainee teachers who have taught many lessons on our school experiences and have learnt copious amounts of knowledge on the course so far, but couldn’t quite put our fingers on what it actually is. The reasoning behind the blog post task is that as you are going through the process of writing the post, you are collecting and organising the thoughts in your head, therefore improving your knowledge and understanding of the topic you are writing about.

So, what is learning to me? To me it is building upon or creating new knowledge through study, new experiences or being taught. I think that learning also involves making sense of your new knowledge, as I have learnt through experience that you can understand something and know all the facts, but you do not understand the knowledge of how and why that is.

I believe that most learning, and some of the best kinds of learning comes from a teacher or some kind of informer, who possess a higher level of knowledge than the learner; someone who can inspire and create new levels of thought in the learner. Although great learning can come from exploring thoughts and processes yourself, through reading books and journals for example. But I feel that for the learning and knowledge to be truly understood they need to be discussed.

I’ve found that my understanding of learning fits with Vygotsky’s learning theory. His theory involves a MKO (More Knowledgeable Other) which can be a range of sources such as teachers, lecturers, peers or even computers. His theory also says that a person’s learning happens in their ZPD, this is the point between the learner acquiring the knowledge with the help of a MKO and the learner acquiring the knowledge on their own.

I feel like this blog post had definitely reignited my interest for psychology, and I will definitely be looking into more learning theories and how I could possibly make use of them. This has also reminded me the benefits of blogging, I was a bit confused about the ‘what is learning’ debate and the learning theories, but now I feel more confident in my knowledge and understanding.

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