Meaningful Learning

B.V. Doctor

Introduction

Learning involves the acquisition of knowledge. It is well known fact that people acquires new knowledge using their current or existing knowledge. Acquiring new knowledge is to a greater or lesser extent, seeking ways to integrate the new knowledge with related knowledge already known. Knowledge acquisition emphasize on cognition. The knowledge known or existing knowledge is known as learner’s cognitive structure. Learning, according to cognitive science is not only the process of transmitting information from a teacher to learner. It is an active, constructive process, involving collaboration and reflection among people who learn through the course of their everyday activity. Cognitive structure is essentially non-existance at the time of birth. It is general agreement that the acquisition of functional level of leanguage knowledge is achieved by age of three and by age of five to six acquires knowledge for decoding written language by the child. Further development of cognitive structure advances rapidly after acquisition of language.

Let us accept the fact that our brain is extremely complex organ, and not an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge / information, which recognizes and stores signals from our sensory systems namely sights, sounds, smells, feelings and proprioceptor signals from our muscles. The signals / information is sent from our sensory system to an area known as hippocampus region of brain where information processing is carried over and plays an important role in creativity and imagination, considered the site of Working memory and through an interaction with knowledge stored in our long term memory, new meanings are constructed and become part of our long term memory store / cognitive structure. Cognitive structure develops as the person grows.  Person builds cognitive / knowledge structure, skills and motivation through meaningful learnig. Behavior or action which learners use to make learning more successful, self directed, enjoyable and delightful depends on the learning strategy adopted by the learner.

Based on cognitive science, the understanding of how human beings learn, gives rise to the following key assumption which leads to two different environments in which learning is made possible namely formal learning environment and informal learning environment.

Learning takes place within communities of practice.

Novices learn to become experts through practice in solving a variety of problems in a given domain.

Becoming an expert means applying learning to new contexts.

Prior knowledge mediates learning

Learning is enhanced when thinking is made visible by collaboration and reflection among learner.

Goal of learning

The broader vision of learning includes not only acquiring knowledge but also being able to use knowledge in a variety of new situations. Usage of knowledge in different new situation emphasize on metacognition. Metacognition in simple term is thinking about thinking. It is conscious development in one’s abilities, such as awareness and control of one’s learning, move to greater knowledge, selecting proper strategies, monitoring the progress, correcting the errors, analyzing the effectiveness of strategies and changing the behaviors and strategies whenever necessary These abilities are known as metacognitive abilities and development of these metacognitive abilities is known as meta cognitive developments. Learners who are exposed / aware of the role of metacognitive abilities seem to have the following advantages over others who are not exposed / aware of the role of metacognitive abilities.

Two of the most important goal of learning which decide the outcome of learning is:

Promote retention: Retention is the ability to remember material at some later time in much the same way it was presented during the process of acquisition. Retention focuses on past.

Promote transfer: Transfer is the ability to use what was learned or acquired to solve new problems, answer new questions, or facilitate acquiring new knowledge. Transfer emphasizes on future

Outcome of learning

I started my career as teacher in the field of technical education way back in 1984 after completing my post graduation in the field of textile technology at the age of 26. I have completed 25 years in teaching the students of Post SSC Diploma of three year duration. It is delightful journey of twenty five years. During these twenty five years of journey as a teacher I have come across many students and observed their learning progress / outcome. Based on my observation and experience I can summarize the learning outcome by the following three Scenarios.

Scenario One

In this learning scenario, a student during the process of learning reads a chapter or performs an experiment on given subject. (S)he skims the material from the chapter or performs the practical without properly understanding or giving attention to proper and relevant information and instruction provided to perform the practical. During the feedback / assessment, when asked to recall part of subject learned or identify the various elements used to perform practical very few or none of the elements able to remember. When asked to use the acquire knowledge to solve problems or perform practical, cannot apply the knowledge to solve problem or perform the practical. It indicates that the person neither possesses nor is able to use the relevant knowledge because the person has neither sufficiently attended to nor encoded the information provided on subject matter during learning.

Scenario Two

In this learning scenario, a student during the process of learning reads a chapter or performs an experiment on the given subject. (S)he reads the material from the chapter carefully, making sure that every word is read and key facts are memorized and performs the practical with proper understanding or giving attention to proper and relevant information and instruction provided to perform the practical.  During the feedback / assessment, when asked to recall part of subject learned or identify the various elements used to perform practical, is able to remember key terms and facts or identify the various elements used to perform practical. When asked to use the acquire knowledge to solve problems, cannot apply the knowledge to solve problem. It indicates that the person possesses relevant knowledge but is unable to use the relevant knowledge to solve the problem as unable to transfer the knowledge to new situation. It happened because the person has sufficiently attended to relevant information but has not encoded (understood) the information provided on subject matter during learning.

Scenario Three

In this learning scenario, a student during the process of learning reads a chapter on one subject. Learner (Student) reads the material from the chapter carefully, and performs the practical with proper understanding or giving attention to proper and relevant information and instruction provided to perform the practical making sure that every word is read and key facts are memorized and trying to make sense out of it. During the feedback / assessment, when asked to recall part of subject learned or identify the various elements used to perform practical, is able to remember almost all of the key terms and facts and identify the various elements used to perform practical. Further, when asked to use the acquire knowledge to solve problems, able to apply the knowledge to solve problem generating many possible solutions. It indicates that the person not only possesses relevant knowledge but can be able to use the relevant knowledge to solve the problem and understand new concepts. It means can transfer the knowledge acquired to new problems and new situations. It happened because the person has sufficiently attended to relevant information but has encoded (understood) the information provided on subject matter during learning / Practical.

Conclusion

It can be conclude that scenario one characterized as No Learning Outcome while scenario two as Rot Learning Outcome and scenario three as Meaningful Learning Outcome.

Rote learning is simple memorization. No effort is made to integrate new knowledge with relavent prior / existing knowledge. This does little to build person’s knowledge structure.

Meaningful learning where learner seeks ways and means to connect or integrate new concept or ideas with relevant prior or existing idea or concepts. In this process existing ideas or concepts gets refined, corrected or sharpened and new knowledge is added to cognitive structure. Thus helps in building person’s knowledge structure.

Meaningful learning is recognized as an important educational goal. It occurs only when person build the knowledge and cognitive processes needed for successful problem solving. The cognitive processes describe the range of person’s cognitive activities in meaningful learning. These processes are ways by which person can actively engage in the process of constructing meaning.