Concept of Learning, and Its Relation to Cognition

Definition of learning According to the oxford dictionary, learning is the knowledge acquired from reading and studying. Learning can also be defined as an act of combination that increases the capacity and willingness of individuals to receive and effectively apply the acquired knowledge, to grow, mature, and be able to tackle life changes (pacific corp. foundation, 2004). The learned skills acquired empower people to make wise and sound decisions in different situations and solve problems. After the people have been empowered, they can make new inventions. Learning can be both academic and career training. It can also refer to physical, mental, emotional, and social aspects of development particularly in children as they develop. It can be divided into two stages; acquisition (learning of new information) and maintenance (sustaining the already learned information). The role of behavior in learning: The philosophers suggested that learning depends on the association of previous behavior experience. They had the assertion that we learn how to behave by assembling previously sensed components (Uttal, 2000). This role can be summed up by the Reinforcement theory developed by Skinner. Skinner’s idea was that our behavior is a result of our experiences. The learner will repeat the desired behavior if positive reinforcement (a pleasant consequence) follows the behavior for example by rewarding, verbal reinforcement, or through issuing of the certificate (Theories of learning, 1995). Consequently, negative behavior is learned through punishment.

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Types of learning: Idealized learning: This is an internal psychological maturation that is unchanging. This type of learning is invasive to critical thinking as the student is perceived to be less knowledgeable and depends on the information from the knowledgeable teacher. This type of learning does not take a step further to explain ideas but takes information wholly as it is. Institutional learning: This is also known as organizational learning. It refers to ongoing processes that constantly evaluate information through research work to come up with a reflective analysis of ideas that have worked and those that have failed. It contains lecturers, tutors, and students working towards building a healthy learning environment. The relationship between learning and cognition: Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge while cognition is the process by which knowledge and understanding acquired through learning are developed in the mind. According to Piaget’s development theory, growth from infancy to adulthood moves from a concrete phenomenal view to a reflective cognitive mode of knowing through a process of learning (David Kolb, 2005). He suggested that the stages of development differed not only in the quantity of information acquired but also in the quality of information and understanding at that particular stage ( The key to learning lies in the mutual internalization of concepts to the cognitive assimilation of events.

The process of cognitive growth from concrete to abstract and from active to reflective is based on the continued learning process that occurs in successive stages of development. For example, this can be seen in the four stages of development observed from birth to teenage. From birth to the age of two, the child is blank information-wise but active in learning which is characterized by the association of stimulus and response for example touching and handling. In the second stage, the child begins to develop a reflective orientation through the internalization of actions. Learning is dominated by symbols. Stage three is marked by the development of abstract symbols. Learning is governed by the logicality of classes. Stage four is the period between twelve and sixteen years. Teenagers move from symbolic processes based on symbolic concrete operations to the symbolic process of representational logic (David Kolb, 2005).


Kolb A.D (2005). Experiential learning. Web.

Theories of learning, (1995). Web.

Uttal. W. (2000).The war between mentalism and behaviorism: on the accessibility of mental processes. Mahwah, NJ Erlbaum Assoc.

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