Learning is a longer-term change in the knowledge possessed by an individual, and level of skill, or their assumptions, attitudes or values, which may lead to them having increased potential to grow, develop and perform in more satisfying and effective ways. Learning experiences build skills; others build attitudes, beliefs, or other “soft knowledge”. The ultimate intent of the process is to be able to do or achieve something. In this regard, learning can simply be defined as actuated or actionable knowledge. It has two components
Knowledge: understanding of an implicit or explicit nature.
Actuation: doing something appropriate with knowledge
Learning is that human process by which skills, knowledge, habits and attitudes are acquired and utilized in such a way that behaviour is modified. In other words, training causes learning, a process that takes place within the trainee, in high behavioural changes occur as a result of experience. Blaming cannot be measured directly but the changes in behaviour that occur as a result of learning can only be measured.
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There exist a number of theories and concepts that describe learning. These may be divided into two major schools: the connectionist and the cognitist. The connectionist theories believe primarily in the stimulus-response approach. For the connectionist, learning involves the operation of laws of association, such as assimilation, frequency, contiguity, intensity, duration, context, acquaintance, composition, individual differences, and cause- effect. The basic theme of these theories is that ‘when an act produces satisfaction, it will be associated with a particular situation and probably will be repeated when the situation arises again. On the other hand, if an act produces psychological or physical discomfort, a person will tend to avoid that behaviour in a similar situation.” In other words, a teacher can increase the amount of learning in a training situation significantly by reinforcing coned responses rather than by giving some form of punishing feedback when the task is performed incorrectly,
The congnitist or gestatist theories see all learning as leading toward a goal – i.e., all human behaviour has a purpose. Cognitist believe in latent, or collateral, learning (i.e., the formulation of enduring attitudes, likes and dislikes) in addition to learning in order to acquire a particular skill. Additionally, the cognitist suggest that training is goal oriented; training must take into consideration the goals of the trainee. A corollary to this is that trainees should structure learning situations so that relationships among stimuli, responses, and individual goals (motivation) are emphasised.
A stimulus is something that initiates action. When some answer is given to this, a response is there. When it is returned with “Correct – go on,” it is reinforcement, i.e., an action that causes the learner to repeat his behaviour, The drive that maintains this process is defined as motivation, i.e., completion of learning may mean obtaining better employment, a promotion, or a raise in salary, or path to some other desired goal.
PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING
Learning concepts and theories are based on firmly rooted and well-grounded educational and psychological principles:
Every human being has an intellectual capacity and the ability to learn from training.
It is easier for the trainee to understand/remember material that is meaningful.
The best course for changing behaviour is to bring about the transition through a progression in orderly steps.
A new employee may learn in order to please his boss, to get confirmed in his job, to acquire the requisite knowledge and skill to perform it in a much better and more effective manner.
Different levels of learning exist. Learning may involve awareness, changed attitudes and changed behaviour. It may involve mental processes or physical strength. Different time and method requirements are needed to bring about different levels of learning.
Learning objectives should be established for every training programme. These objectives guide the instructor in planning the training, guide the trainee, and provide criteria for evaluating how much learning has been achieved.
An adequate interest in, and motive for, learning are essential because people are goal-oriented. They work to satisfy their needs for self-expression, self accomplishment, self-actualisation, and financial incentives.
Learning is active and not passive. Effective education calls for action and active involvement on the part of all participants. Researchers have revealed (in America) that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say, and 90% of what they say as they perform the task.
Different training methods are used for different types of learning. For example,
cognitive learning stresses visual and audio experience to gain understanding.
Affective learning (i.e., attitude, value, and interest acquisitions)
Psychomotor learning (doing skills)
Previous experience of the individual trainee affects his learning experiences. New material is related to his previous knowledge.
People learn more and even faster when they are told of their achievements, i.e., they should have Knowledge of Results (KR) or feedback.
Training in one activity can be transferred to another if, there are similar components and principles.
The training that involves understanding complex problems and discovering new alternative solutions through learning.
The differences in abilities, backgrounds, experiences, readiness to learn and other factors cause individual trainees to acquire new knowledge, skills, and attitudes at differing rates of speed.
Time must be provided to practice that which has been learned.
Learning is closely related to attention and concentration.
Learning is more effective when one sheds one’s half-knowledge, prejudices, bias, likes and dislikes, i.e., when one abandons the “I know attitude” and adopts the “I want to know” approach.
Early success increases an individual’s chances for effective learning, for “nothing succeeds like success.”
Trainers are important ingredient in the learning environment. They should know the material, be able to communicate, and be aware of the learner’s needs. The old saying, If the student failed to learn, the teacher failed to teach,” contains a, great deal of truth.
THE LEARNING CURVE
Learning rarely takes place at a constant rate. It varies according to the difficulty of the task and the ability of the individual. A popular method for demonstrating the rate of cumulative change of a specific criterion during a given period is the use of ‘Learning Curves,’ By using suitable measures of learning such as errors made in each trial, time taken per trial, the right responses learned in reach trial, etc., the progress of learning any skill can be obtained by presenting it graphically in the form of learning curve. The curves for individuals may differ widely because of individual differences in learning. Second, there is the tendency of the curve to rise less and less rapidly and finally it levels off Third, there are daily ups and downs in the curve because of changes in incentives, efforts, physiological conditions of the person. Then there is a leveling off. Occasionally, but not always, learning curves show plateaus which are the areas in the learning curve which indicate no progress in learning. They are usually likely to occur when the task is complex. Plateaus often indicate crucial stages in learning, when the learners have to make extra effort and the trainer has to provide- additional incentives to th learner. Other reasons that may cause plateau are distractions during learning, lack of motivation, inefficient-performance method or very often ineffective teaching or poor training.
Intention to Learn
People learn at different rates and are able to apply what they learn differently. Ability to learn must be accompanied by motivation, or intention, to learn. Motivation to learn is determined by answers to questions like these: “How important is my job to me?” “How important is it that I learn that information?” “Will learning this help me in any way?” and “What’s in it for me?”
Additionally, people vary in their beliefs about their abilities to learn through training. These perceptions may have nothing to do with their actual ability to learn, but rather reflect the way they see themselves. People with low self-efficacy (low level of belief that they can accomplish something) benefit from one-on-one training. People with high self-efficacy seem to do better with conventional training. Because self-efficacy involves a motivational component, it affects a person’s intention to learn.
It is usually better to give trainees an overall view of what they will be doing than to deal immediately with the specifics. This concept is referred to as whole learning or Gestalt learning. As applied to job training, this means that instructions should be divided into small elements after employees have had the opportunity to see how all the elements fit together. Another concept is attention advice, which refers to providing trainees information about the processes and strategies that can lead to training success. By focusing the trainees’ attention on what they will encounter during training and how it is linked to their jobs, trainers can improve trainees’ participation in the training process. For instance, if customer service representatives are being trained to handle varying types of difficult customer calls, the training should give an overview of the types of calls, the verbal cues indicating the different types of calls, and the desired outcomes for each type of call.
Learning curves have many practical applications, such as:
They provide a method for establishing goals and evaluating performance toward these goals.
More efficient production scheduling is possible when approximate improvement in worker performance is predictable.
Hiring and termination of employees over the contract period can be controlled more efficiently.
An alternative to hiring and firing would be production leveling through increasing lot sizes as the direct labour per unit decreases.
LEARNING NEEDS ANALYSIS
The learning and development programme will be based on thorough learning needs analysis (LNA) carried out annually by the HR Learning and Development team. The aims of the learning needs analysis are:
To develop a profile of skills gaps and identify training and development needs in order to achieve the corporate plan and objectives.
To assess how these gaps can be managed.
To inform budget setting.
To measure the link between learning activities and performance improvement
THEORIES OF LEARNING IN PRATICE
“Any relatively pennanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience”.Experience may be acquired directly through observation or practice, or it may be acquired indirectly, as through reading. Does this experience result in a relatively permanent change in behavior? If it is Yes, we can say that learning has taken place.Three theories have been offered to explain the process by which we acquire patterns of behavior. These are,
Operant conditioning, and
Andragogy learning theory
Experiential Learning Theory
Classical Conditioning theory
Classical conditioning grew out of experiments to teach dogs to salivate in response to the ringing of a bell, conducted in the early I900s by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. A simple surgical procedure allowed Pavlov to measure accurately the amount of saliva secreted by a dog. When Pavlov presented the dog with a piece of meat, the dog exhibited a noticeable increase in salivation. When Pavlov withheld the presentation of meat and merely rang a bell, the dog did not salivate. Then Pavlov proceeded to link the meat and the ringing of the bell. After repeatedly hearing the bell before getting the food, the dog began to salivate as soon as the bell rang. After a while, the dog would salivate merely at the sound of the bell, even if no food was offered. In effect, the dog had learned to respond that is, to salivate to the bell. Let’s review this experiment to introduce the key concepts in classical conditioning.
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The meat was an unconditioned stimulus; it invariably caused the dog to react in a specific way. The reaction that took place whenever the unconditioned stimulus occurred was called the unconditioned response (or the noticçable increase in salivation, in this case). The bell was an artificial stimulus, or what we call the conditioned stimulus. Although it was originally neutral, after the bell was paired with the meat (an unconditioned stimulus), it eventually produced a response when presented alone. The last key concept is the conditioned response. This describes the behavior of the dog; it salivated in reaction to the bell alone.
Using these concepts, we can summarize classical conditioning. Essentially, learning a conditioned response involves building up an association between a conditioned stimulus and an unconditioned stimulus. When the stimuli, one compelling and the other one neutral, are paired, the neutral one becomes a conditioned stimulus and, hence, takes on the properties of the unconditioned stimulus.
Classical conditioning can be used to explain why Christmas carols often bring back pleasant memories of childhood; the songs are associated with the festive holiday spirit and evoke fond memories and feelings of euphoria. In an organizational setting, we can also see classical conditioning operating. For example, at one manufacturing plant, every time the top executives from the head office were scheduled to make a visit, the plant management would dean up the administrative offices and wash the windows. This went on for years. Eventually, employees would turn on their best behavior and look prim and proper whenever the windows were cleaned even in those occasional instances when the cleaning was not paired with a visit from the top brass. People had learned to associate the cleaning of the windows with a visit from the head office.
Classical conditioning is passive. Something happens and we react in a specific way. It is elicited in response to a specific, identifiable event. As such, it can explain simple reflexive behaviors. But most behavior particularly the complex behavior of individuals in organizations-is emitted rather than elicited. That is, it’s voluntary rather than reflexive. For example, employees choose to arrive at work on time, ask their boss for help with problems, or “goof off’ when no one is watching. The learning of those behaviors is better understood by looking at operant conditioning.
Operant Conditioning theory
Operant conditioning argues that behavior is a funcdon of its consequences. People learn to behave to get something they want or to avoid something they don’t want. Operant behavior means voluntary or learned behavior in contrast to reflexive or unlearned behavior. The tendency to repeat such behavior is influenced by the reinforcement or lack of reinforcement brought about by the consequences of the behavior. Therefore, reinforcement strengthens a behavior and increases the likelihood that it will be repeated.
What Pavlov did for classical conditioning, the Harvard psychologist B. K Skinner did for operant conditioning.” Skinner argued that creating pleasing consequences to follow specific forms of behavior would increase the frequency of that behavior. He demonstrated that people will most likely engage in desired behaviors if they are positively reinforced for doing so; that rewards are most effective if they immediately follow the desired response; and that behavior that is not rewarded, or is punished, is less likely to be repeated. For example, we know a professor who places a mark by student’s name each time the student makes a contribution to class discussions. Operant conditioning would argue that this practice is motivating because it conditions a student to expect a reward (earning class credit) each time she demonstrates a specific behavior (speaking up in class). The concept of operant conditioning was part of Skinner’s broader concept of behaviorism, which argues that behavior follows stimuli in a relatively unthinking manner. Jn Skinner’s form of radical behaviorism, concepts such as feelings, thoughts, and other states of mind are rejected as causes of behavior. In shoit, people learn to associate stimulus and response, but their conscious awareness of this association is irrelevant.
You see apparent illustrations of operant conditioning everywhere. For example, any situation in which it is either explicitly stated or implicitly suggested that reinforcements are contingent on some action on your part involves the use of operant learning. Your instructor says that if you want a high grade in the course you must supply correct answers on the test. A commissioned salesperson wanting to earn a sizable income finds that doing so is contingent on generating high sales in her territory. Of course, the linkage can also work to teach the individual to engage in behaviors that work against the best interests of the organization. Assume that your boss tells you that if you will work overtime during the next 3-week busy season, you’ll be compensated for it at your next performance appraisal. However, when performance-appraisal time comes, you find that you are given no positive reinforcement for your overtime work. The next time your boss asks you to work overtime, what will you do? You’ll probably decline! Your behavior can be explained by operant conditioning: If a behavior fails to be positively reinforced, the probability that the behavior will be repeated dechnes.
Social Learning theory
Individuals can also learn by observing what happens to other people and just by being told about something, as well as by direct expenences So, for example, much of what we have learned comes from watching models parents, teachers peers motion picture and television performers, bosses and so forth This view that we can learn through both observation and direct experience is called social-learning theory.
Although social-learning theory is an extension of operant conditioning that is, it assumes that behavior isa function of consequences it also acknowledges the existence of observational learning and the importance of perception in learning. People respond to howthey perceive and define consequences, not to the objective consequences themselves,
The influence of models is central to the socia I-learning viewpoint. Four processes have been found to determine the influence that a model will have on an individual:
People learn frcm a model only when they recognize and pay attention to its critical fçatures. We tend to be most influenced by models that are attractive, repeatedly available, important to us, or similar to us in our estimation.
A model’s influence will depend on how well the individual remembers the model’s action after the model is no longer readily available.
Motor reproduction processes.
After a person has seen a new behavior by observing the model, the watching must be converted to doing. This process then demonstrates that the individual can perform the modeled activities.
Individuals will be motivated to exhibit the modeled behavior if positive incentives or rewards are provided. Behaviors that are positively reinforced will be given more attention, learned better, and performed more often.
Andragogy learning theory
This method of learning focuses on discovery and control. It expects adults to be motivated to learn about what will help them overcome their daily challenges. It has two major themes: control and discovery. The theory of Andragogy has been used to improve corporate training programs. Corporate employees share their knowledge and apply it in team situations where they also get the chance to learn from others. In corporate situations the learners are motivated to learn because the knowledge they gain will help Andragogy Corporate Training for them advance in their careers. if participants were allowed to have control over their own learning in a cooperative, nonauthoritarian, informal arena, their motivation to learn would run high. Participative approaches that offered invitations rather than outlined rules were much more in sync with the idea of the adult as a responsible, independent, and interdependent learner.
Experiential Learning Theory
Cognitive learning theories, which tend to emphasize cognition over affect, and behavioural learning theories, which do not allow any role for consciousness and subjective experience in the learning process, experience plays a central role in ELT’s process. ELT is intended to be a holistic adaptive process on learning that merges experience, perception, cognition, and behaviour.
ELT defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience”. The experiential learning model is a cyclical process of learning experiences. For effective learning to transpire, the learner must go through the entire cycle. The four stage learning model depicts two polar opposite dimensions of grasping experience – concrete experience (CE) and abstract conceptualization (AC), and two polar opposite dimensions of transforming experience – reflective observation (RO) and active experimentation (AE). Experiential learning is a process of constructing knowledge that involves a creative tension among the four learning abilities.
The learner must continually choose which set of learning abilities to use in a specific learning situation. As mentioned, learning is conceived as a four stage cycle where the learner must go through each stage experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. In the grasping experience the learner can perceive new information through experiencing the concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the world, relying on their senses and immersing themselves in concrete reality. Or the learner can experience the opposite, abstract conceptualization. This learning style preference would tend to perceive, grasp, or take hold of new information through symbolic representation thinking about, analyzing, or systematically planning. In the transforming experience the reflective observation ability tends to observe others who are involved in the experience and reflect on what happens while the active experimentation stage favours jumping in and starting doing things. It is important to note that the learner can enter the model at any stage
RESPONSIBILITIES OF EMPLOYEES
In conjunction with their supervisor, identify their Learning and Development needs for consideration in the Departmental Learning and Development Plan and budget.
Obtain prior approval for those Learning and Development activities which are to be paid for by the City.
Maintain the currency of those professional/technical designations required by their present position.
Dedicate them to the Learning and Development activity undertaken, and commit to successfully completing it.
Strive to gain the maximum possible benefit from all Learning and Development activities undertaken.
ENHANCING EMPLOYEE GROWTH
There are many challenges in the workplace, ranging from staff cutbacks to a loss of business to other countries. Employee retention is an important part of running a successful business. To ensure that employees are on track and grow with the company, employee learning and development plans are a integral part of that growth.
Employee learning and development plans usually consist of having a face to face with the employee and obtaining their input on what area’s they feel they need to improve upon. Along with the employee input, the company has goals and objectives that are met through employee training and development.
Most employees training is conducted on a as-needed basis. If a company is installing new computer software, then companywide training will be conducted.
If a business is struggling with leadership or conflict resolution issues, then training will be scheduled and conducted.
Employee learning and development plans consist of a set of goals and objectives that teach the employee a new skill set in an agreed upon time period. If the company has a goal for the employee to learn a new product line within six weeks then this becomes the plan for the employee.
Learning and development plans are created by the human resource department and the employee’s progress is monitored by their manager or supervisor.
Creating an effective employee learning and development plan helps to motivate the employee and increase his level of responsibility within the organization. These plans also help to remove any ambiguity about the employees role within the company.
In recent decades, with the various exhortations to organizations to ‘innovate or die’, the ‘trial and error’ interpretation of learning is sometimes condoned and legitimized in the pursuit of the laudable goals of experimentation and creativity. According to numerous surveys throughout several industries the number one reason why employees remain at a company is the presence of good career growth and development opportunities. In the same surveys, fair pay and benefits do not rank in the top ten. The cost of replacing departed employees can be significant. A conservative estimate of the replacement cost for one person is 1.5 times their annual salary. There are many different theories of how people learn like experiential learning, situated learning theory, andragogy learning theory, Appropriate theory learning. Facilitator or Coacher, one must design a set of procedures and practices that constitute a distinctive form of learning suited to employees because it acknowledges their needs, life’s – experiences, and self -directed nature. The relationship that exists between learner and facilitator requires a psychological climate of mutual respect; collaboration, trust, support, openness, authenticity, pleasure and humane treatment.
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