Throughout our lives, human beings encounter new situations, we acquire new knowledge and transfer it to new contexts, we develop new ideas and skills, even to improve our well-being. Also modify your environment for . We do all this thanks to an extraordinary device called LearningWhich has allowed our species greater flexibility and adaptability, keeping us at the pinnacle of evolution.
There are many forms of human learning. In some cases this can be seen, because what follows is a change in behaviour, which we can observe, for example, when a child learns to put on his coat. But what changes is impossible to see at other times, for example, when you understand an explanation or learn to solve a problem.
accidental or intentional learning
People can acquire complex learning (verbal language, values, customs, etc.) without conscious effort and spontaneously, through observation, imitation, or interaction with objects or people: this is known as emergent learning.
However, much of what we learn during our lives is voluntary and intentional and consists of complex knowledge systems. Its acquisition requires effort, a friendly disposition and a desire to do so. These learnings are achieved in specific institutional contexts and disseminated by professional educational agents.
What do we need to be able to learn?
Human learning is complex and psychological currents have offered us explanations, sometimes different and sometimes complementary, of how people learn and what are the main psychological processes involved; and the factors, both personal and contextual, that may favor or hinder it.
These contributions have contributed to the understanding of learning that occurs throughout our life cycle, as well as to the analysis, critical review and improvement of current educational practices.
biological basis of learning
We need to be biologically prepared to learn something. This biological determination is written in our genetic code, in which a distinction can be made between closed material and open material.
part closed It is quite inflexible and includes a range of unchanging traits, apart from genetic changes, that define us as a species and a maturational calendar that determines what abilities and skills are possible at each moment of our lives. Huh.
For example, humans are born with the ability to speak, but we will only speak when the brain has reached a sufficient level of development and our vocal apparatus is ready. The maturational calendar will determine when language acquisition will occur.
open partOnce the maturational base is built, it will depend on the person’s interactions with the environment. The acquisition of a specific language, it is possible to do it more or less fluently and with more or less lexical-semantic richness, because language is not a closed content, like eye or hair color, but an open content. development potential.
a flexible brain
There is a physical support of mental processes in the brain. Areas of the cerebral cortex develop and differentiate anatomically and functionally at different times, as some processes occur before birth and others continue into adulthood.
The brain is flexible and can adapt throughout life, even in situations of brain injury. Neurons are not specialized by their formation, which gives rise to a continuous modification of the brain’s structure. This feature of the nervous system is called plasticity,
Sensitive periods are spoken of inside the brain, to refer to the moments in which neurons specialize and carry out certain learning in a more appropriate and effective way. This does not mean that learning occurs strictly in fixed periods, but that there are more appropriate moments for different learning than others. In fact, it has been shown that neural regeneration occurs throughout life in some parts of the adult brain.
social origins of learning
Learning is not predetermined and maturity alone is not sufficient for it to occur: we do not learn alone. Learning is the result of daily interactions that we maintain with other people (parents, teachers, classmates) and the various activities offered by our culture. That is to say, whether a certain learning is being achieved or not based on what we perceive.
First, we learn to do things by watching or collaborating with others, and then, with practice, we are able to do it alone. Learning is a social process, we learn in interaction with our peers and what we learn is socially constructed by other people and cultures that came before us.
role of trainee
However, the individual is not passive in the process. He performs a complex mental activity in which he interprets the situations he lives in on the basis of his knowledge and past experiences. For example, if we want a person to learn the functions of the respiratory system, it is essential that they have some general knowledge about breathing or parts of the respiratory system.
For learning, cognitive processes are also necessary: attention, perception, memory. Understanding, selecting, coding, interpreting and retrieving information are skills that are involved in everyday learning.
But we don’t use them in the same way: people have different styles of how they perceive, process and handle the vast amounts of information that today’s society provides them with. One has to face this information saturation when starting metacognitive skills,
Metacognition is essential in the learning process. This implies that the individual is aware of what they are learning (metacognitive knowledge) and that they know how to operate and use the new learning (metacognitive skills/self-regulation).
Being aware of the aspects that influence learning and using prior knowledge, skills and learning strategies consciously and intentionally will be the key to good education.
role of emotions
But learning is not just the result of the cognitive and metacognitive processes that are used to learn and make sense of what we learn, we must also take into account affective and motivational processes, each of which includes reasons, objectives and goals and Determine the learner’s attitude or willingness to learn.
A positive and critical attitude towards what is to be learned is essential, as it will spur effort and dedication. Experiencing learning as an opportunity for personal growth, feeling interested in learning, working for the joy of learning, and feeling capable of mastering a task are important for meaningful learning.
The feelings and emotions we experience when we learn depend on our self-concept and self-esteem and will mediate the cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, and relational processes that go on during the learning process.
Knowledge is in constant change in today’s society, making it necessary to continue learning throughout life.