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Characteristics of Learning

Learning has a purpose. Most people have a pretty definite idea of what they want to do and achieve. A student brings his goals into the classroom. Some of these goals may be very personal and some he will share with his classmates. A student will learn best what will help meet his goals. The learner’s goal or purpose is of chief importance in the act of learning. A good instructor tries to relate learning material to the student’s goal.

Learning comes through experience. Learning is a very individual process and must be done by the student himself - the instructor cannot do this for him. Research has concluded that learning and knowledge are a part of a person. A person’s knowledge comes from his experience, and no two people react to experience the same. Each learns different things depending on how the situation affects their different needs. “Previous experience conditions a person to respond to some things and to ignore others.” Some experiences involve the individual as a whole, while others involve only his eyes, ears, and his memory. The instructor must provide students with experiences that are meaningful, varied and appropriate to the situation. For instance, by repetitious drill, a student can learn a “laundry list” of principles of leadership. But the list is useless if he can’t apply them correctly in real situations. He can do this if his learning experience has been both extensive and meaningful and he understands how to apply the list. The learning experience which challenges the student requires involvement with feelings, thoughts, memories of past experiences, plus physical activity is much better than just requiring the student to memorize a “laundry list.”

Learning is multifaceted. An instructor who thinks his job is only to train a student’s muscle or memory is wasting his own and his student’s time. Students may learn much more than the instructor planned or intended, because, as humans, they do not leave their thinking mind or feelings at home. As an example, a student studying engine maintenance may be learning to perform a check on a particular piece of equipment. However, in the process, he is learning new concepts and generalizations. He may also be learning new uses for the principles of electronics. He may become interested in “black boxes” and learn something about handling electronic equipment in general. This experience results in changes in the student’s way of seeing, thinking, feeling, reacting and doing, even though the instructor’s primary objective was to teach the student only how to read a multimeter. Students in a classroom may also be learning cooperation, elements of good dynamics, and good and bad attitudes about the Navy, or life in general. The list is endless and is sometimes referred to as “incidental”, but it still has a great impact on the learning situation.

Learning is an active process. “Never assume anything just because it is obvious to you.” All too often, after an instructor has taught a lesson many times and really knows the subject, he teaches his class strictly out of habit. Instead of watching his students, he is a robot who walks and talks at 0900 each Tuesday and Thursday. He pushes a button, and the words come out, but his mind is elsewhere. How can this be avoided? Keep everyone active in the class - the students as well as the instructor. The more actively a student is involved in the class, the greater his chances are for both learning and remembering. (If a student is to learn, he must react and respond. He is not a sponge that will soak up knowledge like water. The response may be outward or inward.) Since learning is a “change in behavior as a result of experience,” the process must be active. This action can be either answering the instructor’s questions, or working a practice exercise. The responsibility of creating active student participation lies with the instructor.

Source: U.S. Navy

Copyright ©2000-2015 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Students may reproduce materials for personal study. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).