Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values, through study, experience, or teaching, that causes a change of behavior that is persistent, measurable, and specified or allows an individual to formulate a new mental construct or revise a prior mental construct (conceptual knowledge such as attitudes or values). It is a process that depends on experience and leads to long-term changes in behavior potential. Behavior potential describes the possible behavior of an individual (not actual behavior) in a given situation in order to achieve a goal. But potential is not enough; if individual learning is not periodically reinforced, it becomes shallower and shallower, and eventually is lost in that individual.

Short term changes in behavior potential, such as fatigue, do not constitute learning. Some long-term changes in behavior potential result from aging and development, rather than learning.

Education is the conscious attempt to promote learning in others. The primary function of "teaching" is to create a safe, viable, productive learning environment. Management of the total learning environment to promote enhance and motivate learning is a paradigm shift from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning.

Basic learning processes

The most basic learning process is imitation, one's personal repetition of an observed process. Thus an imitation will take one's time (attention to the details), space (a location for learning), skills (or practice), and other resources (for example, a protected area). Through copying, most infants learn how to hunt (i.e., direct one's attention), feed and perform most basic tasks necessary for survival.

  1. Attention
  2. Habituation
  3. Classical conditioning
  4. Instrumental conditioning
  5. Vicarious learning
  6. Communication

Learning by example

Example can be a motivation for learning. Imitation of a role model is a natural mechanism for infants and children, when learning from experience. Child's play is another method for learning by the example of other children, who naturally gain satisfaction by playing the role of teacher or mentor to a less-experienced child.

Merry-go-round in a playgroundThe sandbox (sandpit) in a playground is an example of a location where children can learn by experience. It is instructive to watch smaller children on a merry-go-round, for example, who naturally push it more slowly than the larger, older, more experienced ones. In order for a little one to get on the merry-go-round, they might simply grab a bar and drag their feet in the sand, while holding on. This slows down the rotation, which allows the little one to climb on, under the oversight of a supervisor, to ensure their physical safety.

Formal learning methods

Schools use a variety of methods to help pupils learn.

Learning by worked examples

Often there are worked examples in books that show exactly how the author solved, step by step, a particular problem, for example, in mathematics. Different books may help explain methods in different ways - some are easier to understand than others and supplement what the teacher taught. Homework can be a great help, or it can be a waste of time.

Learning which alternative methods exist

Sometimes different methods can be applied to solve a particular problem. Often the student is not aware of alternatives until they are pointed out by the teacher; then the student should also be made aware of how to select the "best" method from among the available ones, and of which authors of textbooks are likely to be especially helpful.

Learning which shortcuts exist to solve specific problems

Sometimes shortcuts exist that can reduce by many hours the solution of practical problems. For example, Maxima and minima of functions can be obtained "the hard way" by a whole series of numerical calculations, while the use of calculus is often a shortcut.

Learning by teaching

Learning by teaching, is a method of teaching which allows teachers to share the new lesson contents and let little groups prepare their part in order to teach this contents to the rest of the class.

Teaching others
Quite often the "better" students learn much by teaching other students how to "see the light".

Other dimensions of learning

Here are a few theories and subcategories of learning:

  1. Cognition
  2. Experiential education
  3. Erudition
  4. Formulating knowledge for learning
  5. Inquiry education
  6. Instructional technology
  7. Motor learning
  8. Language education
  9. Lifelong education
  10. Learning music by ear
  11. Learning disability
  12. Learning psychology
  13. Learning styles
  14. Learning theory (education)
  15. Organizational learning
  16. Observational learning
  17. Reading