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EPALE

Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe

 
 

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Thoughts on the concept of learning

23/10/2015
by Simon BROEK
Language: EN
Document available also in: ET DA

/epale/en/file/conceptoflearning780jpgconcept_of_learning_780.jpg

Learning can take place everywhere, anytime and in many different ways. It allows us to progress in our careers, our lives and anything that we might find interesting. In the digital era, knowledge even becomes more readily available than ever before (for those having access to it) providing an enormous learning potential.

But the concept of learning is complex and multi-faceted. Without starting an academic or philosophical debate, I would like to start thinking about the concept of learning by looking at different purposes and intensities of learning.

  • Learning is a broad concept having different intensities, such as adding bits of new knowledge to your body of knowledge and overthrowing everything you once understood as being true.
  • In addition, learning can have different purposes; for instance being able to answer a question, to carry out a task, or using your knowledge and understanding to develop new knowledge and start innovations.

Each type of learning has its own specific characteristics in terms of styles, methods, tools, didactics and learning environments.

In the figure below I propose an example of how characteristics differ per type of learning.

 

Intensity of learning: added to the (personal) existing body of knowledge (constructive)

 

Purpose of learning: directly use knowledge and understanding

Learning contributes to slightly improving conducting a task.

 

For example: instruction course on working with an ICT tool

Learning contributes to build further towards new knowledge, innovation and new opportunities

 

For example: a language course/ specific non-work related subject course

Purpose of learning: use what is learned to develop new knowledge and start innovations and new opportunities

Learning contributes to do things differently on the basis of a new understanding.

 

For example: a training on management skills or a personality training

Learning contributes to changes in career, work, society etc.

 

For example: learning by experiencing a life-changing, disruptive event

 

Intensity of learning: creating a (personal) ‘paradigm shift’ (disruptive)

 

 

Many other examples can be mentioned here, but the point is that when we speak about learning, we might refer to different concepts of learning. The one might refer to instruction, the other to learning as disruption. There is no right and wrong as long as we are aware that we’re talking about different concepts. This is even more important when choosing learning methods, styles and environments: the type of learning envisaged impacts on how to use methods and styles and how to design the learning environment.

Simon Broek has been involved in several European research projects on education, labour market issues and insurance business. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and European Agencies on issues related to education policies, lifelong learning, and labour market issues, and is Managing Partner at Ockham Institute of Policy Support.

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  • Simon BROEK's picture

    Dear Dusana,

    thanks a lot for your comments. You pose a very relevant question and a related question (do we want people to learn, or 'only' to get instructed to do certain things) was actually the one I wanted to write a blog about. I sensed that investing in adult learning (for instance by companies), actually means investing in getting people instructed, following the right procedural steps in the production process.

    While thinking on the issue and writing the blog, I found out that it takes a specific perspective to differentiate between learning and instruction. After discussions with some academics on the issue, I decided to write the current blog which departs with taking learning as a broad concept enabling changes to someone's life in whatever form, allowing instruction to be considered learning as well.

    Anyway, it still remains an issue for me and anyone who could contribute to a better understanding on this is welcome to join!

     

  • DUSANA FINDEISEN's picture

    THANK YOU FOR THIS TABLE AND CLEAR REPRESENTATION OF WHAT LEARNING DOES TO US. YOU HAVE POINTED OUT THAT LEARNING IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS.

    IF LEARNING HAS TAKEN PLACE A DIFFERENCE CAN BE FELT. SO FAR SO GOOD. BUT I AM RATHER HESITANT ABOUT ONE POINT: CAN LEARNING BE IDENTIFIED WITH INSTRUCTION/TRAINING? INSTRUCTION IS A METHOD/FORMAT INDUCING LEARNING BUT IS IT LEARNING IN ITSELF?

    IT IS TRUE THAT LEARNING CONTRIBUTES TOWARDS NEW KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, BUT I WOULD SAY THAT BASICALLY IT IS, AND SHOULD BE, TRANSFORMATIVE. WE CHANGE AS A RESULT OF LEARNING. WE DEVELOP A LANGUAGE DESCRIBING DIFFERENTLY EVERYDAY PHENOENA, IT MAKES US ASKING DIFFERENT QUESTIONS... DIFFERENTLY, IT MAKES US SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

    BEST REGARDS,

    DUŠANA

     

  • DUSANA FINDEISEN's picture

    THANK YOU FOR THIS TABLE AND CLEAR REPRESENTATION OF WHAT LEARNING DOES TO US. YOU HAVE POINTED OUT THAT LEARNING IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS.

    IF LEARNING HAS TAKEN PLACE A DIFFERENCE CAN BE FELT. SO FAR SO GOOD. BUT I AM RATHER HESITANT ABOUT ONE POINT: CAN LEARNING BE IDENTIFIED WITH INSTRUCTION/TRAINING? INSTRUCTION IS A METHOD/FORMAT INDUCING LEARNING BUT IS IT LEARNING IN ITSELF?

    IT IS TRUE THAT LEARNING CONTRIBUTES TOWARDS NEW KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, BUT I WOULD SAY THAT BASICALLY IT IS, AND SHOULD BE, TRANSFORMATIVE. WE CHANGE AS A RESULT OF LEARNING. WE DEVELOP A LANGUAGE DESCRIBING DIFFERENTLY EVRYDAY PHENOENA, IT MAKES US ASKING DIFFERENT QUESTIONS... DIFFERENTLY, SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

    BEST REGARDS,

    DUŠANA