“ You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.” - Galileo “ You cannot give fish to a man everyday. But if you teach how to fish, he will have fish everyday.”
“Learning can be defined as relatively permanent change in behaviour the potentiality that results from reinforced practice or experience. - Steers & Porter. “Learning is any relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. - Stephen Robbins. In simple words, learning is a change in behaviour acquired through experience.
Learning can be defined as a “relatively permanent change in behaviour or potential behaviour as a result of direct or indirect experience”. There are two primary elements in this definition that must both be present in order to identify the process of learning.
First is the element that the change must be relatively permanent. This means that after “learning” our behaviour must be different, either better or worse as compared to our behaviour prior to this experience of learning. The second aspect of the definition is that this change must occur due to some kind of experience or practice. This learning is not caused by biological maturation.
1) Learning is an inferred process that is believed to influence behaviour. 2) Learning results in a relatively permanent change in behaviour. Behaviour that is learnt, therefore, is relatively constant over time. 3) Learning involves change, it may be good or bad. 4) Learning comes from some form of experience. Experience may be acquired directly through practice or observation or through reading.
5) Learning is source of change in behaviour and performance. 6) Learning is continuous process. It has the ability to respond adequately to a situation that may or may not have been encountered. It is not restricted to the schooldays but it is a lifelong process. 7) Learning is the outcome of various related factors. The important factors that determine learning are motive, stimuli, response, reinforcement and retention.
There are five general approaches to learning that are identified. They are :– i) Classical Conditioning Theory, ii) Instrumental or Operant Conditioning Theory, iii) Cognitive Learning Theory, iv) Selective Learning Theory and v) Social Learning theory.
Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist owes credit for developing this theory. He conducted an experiment on dogs and developed a stimulus- response connection. This means that certain responses can be predicted which continuously result from certain induced stimuli. Classical conditioning introduces a simple cause-and-effect relationship between one stimulus and one response.
It also makes the response reflexive or involuntary after the stimulus-response relationship has been established. This leaves no ground for making choices, which differentiates human beings from dogs. Under certain situations classical conditioning does explain human behaviour.
Operant conditioning is concerned with learning that occurs as a consequence of behaviour. It focuses on the effects of reinforcements or rewards on desired behaviours. This learning is based on the simple fact that “the actions we perform often result in some consequences”.
This theory was developed by Watson, a contemporary of Pavlov. He argued that behaviour was largely influenced by the rewards one received as result of actions. In other words, we now know that people change their behaviour by repeating acts that are rewarded and not repeating acts that the environment fails to reward.
Learning is considered as the outcome of deliberate thinking about the problem or situation both intuitively and based upon known facts and responding in an objective and goal oriented manner. Cognition, in fact, is the act of knowing an item of information and this knowledge affects the behaviour of the person so that the information provides cognitive cues towards the expected goal.
Selective learning theory is also cognitively based but it is more directly aimed at learning. In selective learning the person must not only associate stimulus and response and consequence experiences but must also determine which things to connect in the mind. Under this approach, a person chooses from a wide variety of possible leaning mechanisms.
It involves a complex interaction among thinking, emotions, perception and motivation. Thus, there are many cognitions that come into play in selective learning. This theory is also named as “insightful learning and perceptual learning”. This is applied in relation to complicated learning tasks.
It is recognized that learning does not take place only because of environmental stimuli (classical and operant conditioning) or of individual determinism (cognitive approach) but is a blend of both views. It also emphasizes that people acquire new behaviour by observing or imitating others in a social setting. In addition learning can also be gained by discipline and self-control and an inner desire to acquire knowledge or skills irrespective of the external rewards or consequences. This process of self- control is also partially a reflection of societal and cultural influences on the development and growth of human beings.
There are many widely recognised principles of learning that can assist the manager attempting to influence behaviour. Some of these are principles are : i) Reinforcements ii) Punishments iii) Avoidance Learning iv) Extinction v) Knowledge of results vi) Schedules of Positive Reinforcement vii) Acquisition - Learning curves viii) Spontaneous Recovery
Reinforcement plays a significant role in the learning theories. It is defined as any event that alters the probability of occurrence of a response. It is anything that both increases the strength of responses and tends to induce repetitions of the behaviour that preceded the reinforcement. It is the process by which stimuli strengthen behaviour.
Punishment is defined presenting an uncomfortable consequence for a particular behavioural response. It is used to decrease the frequency of undesired behaviour. The difference between punishment and negative reinforcement is that in the former case, a noxious consequence is applied to decrease the frequency of undesired behaviour, whereas in the latter, a noxious consequence is withheld when a desired behaviour is exhibited.
Avoidance learning is the seeking to avoid an unpleasant condition or outcome by following a desired behaviour. In other words, when behaviour can prevent an uncomfortable stimulus it is called avoidance behaviour. For example, if an employee correctly performs a task so that the supervisor may avoid harassing the employee. Similarly, in order to avoid he discomfort the employee may achieve the group sanctioned level of production.
Extinction is non-reinforcement that leads to an „extinction‟ of undesired behaviour. When the positive reinforcement for a learned response is withheld, the undesired behaviour decreases and will eventually disappear. Thus, the decline in response rate as a result of a lack of positive reinforcement is called extinction. For example, if an employee is consistently late, the supervisor may withhold praise. Thus , the employee may realise that being late is not leading to desired outcomes and may try to be punctual.
Human behaviour is always a goal-directed behaviour. Knowing goals and their results leads to learning and behaviour modification. Employees who have no idea o whether they are doing an acceptable job have little chance to improve their performances. The knowledge of correct behaviour is reinforcing and strengthens the preceding behaviour. Edwin Locke found in his research studies that feedback affects performance only to the extent to which employees set higher performance goals in response to such feedback. Thus, goals can be achieved when employees are provided with accurate feedback on performance.
There are number of ways in which reinforcements can be scheduled. A continuous schedule is one in which reinforcement occurs after every acceptable behaviour. But this is not feasible. Bass and Vaughn have concluded that “learning is more permanent when correct behaviour is rewarded only part of the time”. Fester and Skinner have presented four types of reinforcements schedules for operant learning situations.
These curves apply mainly to classical conditioning. This principle shows that there is a gradually increasing strength of response for each repeated trial. Psychologist have shown the practical significance of these curves to the learning in the following ways : a) The more unfamiliar the task to be learned, the more likely it is that progress will be slow at the start and will then increase.
b) In most learning of complicated skills, there is at least one period, short or long. In which each new trial produces an improvement o equal size. c) As we approach the ultimate limit of learning, progress slows down and it takes many trials to produce even a small amount of improvement..
Again this principle is related to classical conditioning concept. This indicates that if people experience a sequence of non reinforced conditioned responses and then take a rest, immediately thereafter they will return to a more intense level of conditioned response even though no reinforcement has taken place. This jump in response strength following rest is known as the notion of spontaneous recovery. This principle explains that the conditioned response does not completely disappear during extinction, but remains suppressed.
i) All human beings can learn. ii) An individual must be motivated to learn. iii) Learning is active but not passive. iv) Learners acquire knowledge more rapidly with guidance. v) Time must be provided to practice learning. vi) Learning methods should be varied. vii) Standards of performance should be set for the learners.
viii) Different levels of learning exist. ix) Learning is a cumulative process. x) Learning is closely related to attention and concentration. xi) Trainees learn better when they learn at their own place. xii) Make the learning meaningful by using familiar examples and summaries. xiii) When the learner has made the correct responses to the learning process, he has learned.-G.S.Sudha.
The important factors that determine learning are: i) Motive or drive ii) Stimuli :- a) Generalisation b) Discrimination iii) Responses iv) Reinforcements v) Retention.
Motives refer to certain goals that the individual attempts to achieve. They are primary energisers of behaviour. Motives prompt people to action. They are largely subjective and represent the mental feelings of human beings. They are the ways o behaviour and main springs of action. Motive arises continuously and determines the general direction of an individual‟s behaviour.
Stimuli exists in the environment in which a person lives. Stimuli increase the probability of extracting a specific response from a person. Stimuli may be two types : a) Generalisation b) Discrimination.
GENERALISATION takes place when the similar stimulus repeats in the environment. When two stimuli are exactly the same, they will have the probability to extract a specific response. DISCRIMINATION has wide applications in organisational behaviour in view of individuals differences. In discrimination, responses of the individuals vary according to different stimuli. For example. A supervisor may respond to a high producing worker in a positive manner, but in a different manner to one producing very less.
The stimulus generates response. The response may be in the physical form or in terms of attitudes or perception. However, the responses need to be operationally defined and preferably physically observable. The response of the individuals is termed as „ behaviour „. The response may be either positive or negative.
Reinforcement is a primary condition of learning. Reinforcement is, anything that increases the strength of response and tends to induce repetitions of the behaviour that precede the reinforcement. Without reinforcement no quantifiable alteration of behaviour will take place. Reinforcement helps in the repetition of any behaviour. For example. If an employee is rewarded for his hard work, he repeats his behaviour, i.e. he works harder to get the reward again.
The learned behaviour should be retrieved according to the needs. Retention means remembrance of learned behaviour over time. Learning which is forgotten over time is called „extinction‟. When response behaviour returns without any intervening reinforcement, it is called “spontaneous recovery”.