Some Assumption about Learning Revisited [Archives:1999/45/Culture]

November 8 1999

Dr. Ramakanta Sahu, 
Associate Professor, 
College of Education, Mahweet 
Revitalization and enrichment of the teaching-learning process is primarily dependent on a sound understanding of the process. This makes teaching purposeful and caters to the changing socio-academic needs of an emerging new society. Teacher development is an integral part of this process. One of the most significant components of teacher development is the awareness on the part of the teaching community regarding certain basic assumptions about learning. This short essay aims at highlighting some general principles that every teacher needs to bear at the back of his/her mind in order that they understand the technology of teaching better and contribute to it in a more meaningful way. 
1.Learning is divergent. It is open ended. 
It is a myth that learning takes places within the four walls of the classroom. Indeed, school is a part of a broader domain of learning which includes the broad environment of the child. However, in the context of the school, the learning mode needs to be compatible with pace, mode and quality of learning achieved by the child from the environment. Then only the learning organism will not find any discrepancy between the two sources of knowledge and will stay tuned to both for acquisition of knowledge. To make this happen, the teacher has to adopt a flexible approach. He has to remind himself that there are no right ways of learning. As such, he needs to adopt an open attitude and a way of working that does not suggest that the teacher is some kind of an expert oracle who, as the so called ‘jug-mug’ theory suggests is full of knowledge ready to fill the empty mug namely, the learner with information. 
2.Learning is Confluent 
Effective learning is a natural out come of the confluence of the affective domain and the cognitive domain. As we know, the affective domain is concerned with the learners’ feelings, emotions, attitude and motivation. The cognitive domain is usually associated with their intelligence, knowledge and awareness. Heart is, obviously, the seat of the former, and head is that of the latter. If we think that our job is to dole out or transmit information to the students, we are, indeed, putting the cart before the horse. We are ignoring the primary objective of teaching and giving all the importance to something which is secondary. 
On the contrary, we should attach more significance to our efforts to produce in the learner a genuine desire or motivation to learn. We can do so by taking care of the affective domain of the learner, by inculcating in him qualities of self-confidence, self-concept and the willingness to learn. Then the knowledge we impart to the learner, would be more meaningful to him. 
In this sense, the affective domain and the cognitive domains are mutually complementary and they flow together. We must remember that while the learner is thinking, he is feeling, and while he is feeling the learner is thinking. 
There are several factors influencing learning and teaching in general and learning/teaching of a foreign language in particular which need to be taken care of. It is incorrect to assume that whatever the teacher teaches in the classroom, naturally produces learning in the learner. In other words, Input does not equal Intake in all instances of teaching-learning. 
In order that our ‘input’ becomes learners’ ‘intake’, we have to reckon with the following factors in order of significance. 
As the above diagram clearly indicates, intake by the learner is significantly affected by his/her level of motivation. This leads to personality development, generating in the learning organism a favorable attitude to the whole business of learning. 
In view of the above discussion, it would appear evident that there is an abiding need to include affective learning in the content of the curriculum and pay attention to both the cognitive and affective development of the learner. 
3.Learning is interactive 
As we discussed above, the view that learners learn what teachers teach is over simplistic. Learning is an interactive process between the teacher and the learner, between the learner and the teacher, between learner and learner, and between the learner and him/herself. No learning worth its name can genuinely take place without the active participation of the learner. That is why it is rightly said: 
‘You tell me, and I forget, 
You teach me, and I understand, 
You involve me, and I learn’ 
The significance of learning by doing or learning as a problem solving activity is universally recognized now. In the fitness of things we should dispense with the outdated teacher-centered approach, where the teacher is at the center stage, and instead adopt a learner-centered strategy in the classroom. In this approach, the focus is on the learner, on their perception of what, when, and how they learn. Discovering the hidden agenda of the learner is undeniably a necessary precondition for an effective actualization of the teaching learning process. 
In the present times, the accent has shifted from a focus solely on the teaching methodology and the teacher’s perception of what, when, and how learners learn to the learner and his/her needs. The preference is in favor of an interactive or transactive mode of sharing of experience. 
4.Learning cannot and need not be taught 
Last but not least, teachers should bear in mind that learning is the outcome of not only teaching. As a matter of fact, learning is synonymous with a human activity which least needs manipulation by others. It is the result of unhampered participation of the learners in a meaningful setting. As Carl Rogers, an eminent thinker said: “I know I can’t teach anyone anything, I can only provide an environment in which she/he can learn”. 
So we should adopt an attitude of ‘unconditional positive regard’ for the learners – an outgoing feeling without reservation, and without evaluation Let us be prepared to offer our excellence, our expertise, knowledge, training and attitudes, but it is unnecessary to impose these resources on the learner. Let us not make our learning a liability for the learner. 
I hope and trust that members of the teaching fraternity would reflect on the assumptions about learning and adopt appropriate strategies paving the way for achieving a higher learning dividend by the learner.