What does learning mean?

There exists a very old definition of learning, done by R.M. Smith 1982:

It has been suggested that the term learning defies precise definition because it is put to multiple uses. Learning is used to refer to (1) the acquisition and mastery of what is already known about something, (2) the extension and clarification of meaning of one’s experience, or (3) an organized, intentional process of testing ideas relevant to problems. In other words, it is used to describe a product, a process, or a function.[1]

Learning – or better learning processes – can be seen from various points of view. The first approach can be an economical approach. Another one may refer to the used means to enable learning – currently we use widely a technological approach.

Time economy and efficiency in education

Efficiency means spending less time (or – in other context – financial, personal, or other resources) for the learning process. This often means also not wo work harder in the learning process but to learn smarter.

Normally it’s the interest of economists to provide efficient learning processes to spare money, resources, and time. Besides these considerations, a maximum of learning achievement is in the foreground.

This all is valid especially in vocational education and training (VET), but partly an issue in Adult Education.

Technological approach to the learning process.

Technology in the form of various devices (like laptops, tablets, and smartphones) is a fact in education. Technology may support the learning process and enhances the scope of activities in the learning process.

The last years the authors recognize a dangerous development: Technology was not only used to supply the learner and to enhance the learning success but also to proof “modernity” of the teachers (or trainers) or simply to use technology because it is possible to use it.

Richard E. Mayer mentioned in an interview[2] that instruction always should be learner centered and not technology centered. Technology is a learning tool that is adjusted to the needs of learners.


[1] Smith, Robert MacCaughan (1982): Learning how to learn. Applied theory for adults. Englewood Cliffs: Cambridge Adult Education, p. 34

[2] Mayer, Richard E., Jyrki Suomala, and Michael F. Shaughnessy. “An Interview with Richard E. Mayer: About Technology.” Educational Psychology Review 12, no. 4 (2000): 477-83. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23363563.

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