Posted by: MandyS | March 1, 2013

Other definitions on learning…

This is Activity 1 continued and the task is to search for definitions of learning and then compare them to my own definition.

The kinds of definition you find in the different sources. Are there variations according to where the definition was found?

My starting point, as always, is the Oxford Concise Dictionary:

Learning is “Knowledge acquired by study.”

Knowledge is “awareness or familiarity gained by experience; a person’s range of information; theoretical or practical understanding of a subject; true, justified belief i.e. certain understanding as opposed to opinion.”

Study is “the devotion of time and attention to acquiring information or knowledge (esp from books); the pursuit of academic knowledge; investigation or examination.”

At first glance the definition is brief and only appears to relate to acquisition, but, the closer interrogation of the meanings of knowledge and study reveal a much deeper definition which I would argue also incorporates participation. ‘Practical understanding,’ and ‘investigation and examination’ suggest an element of ‘doing’ which equates with the PM.

Although I am not a great fan of Wikipedia, its definition is more specific, and, to me, encapsulates what learning is all about:

“acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviours, skills, values, or preferences and may involve synthesizing different types of information.”

I particularly like the use of the word ‘synthesising,’ which connotes an idea of knowledge being ‘built up’ from a vast array of information. I would suggest that Forums are a good example of how this type of synthesis could be brought about.

Searching the web further, I came across a couple of sites which defined learning as a ‘change in behaviour.’  Further searching of the OU library also threw-up a couple of Psychology articles which also sided with this approach. I can understand how behavioural change might be brought about by learning on the basis that knowledge can mollify ignorance. Although I am not convinced this is an adequate definition of learning, I do consider it a better concept than learning changing ones identity.

An interesting exploration, but I tend to agree with  De Houwer, Barnes-Holmesand Moors (2013) when they say “there is no general agreement about the definition of learning.”

The variations in the definitions and their similarity to or difference from your own.

The definitions vary depending on the source. The dictionary definitions seek a definitive meaning for the term learning, whereas the journal sources are focused less on what learning is about and more on what it achieves.

I am still quite happy with my own definition and I wouldn’t seek to change it. From the outset, my definition was based on what, to me, learning is about and to that end it is not dissimilar to the dictionary definitions, other than it doesn’t use such convoluted terms.


De Houwer J, Barnes-Holmes D, Moors A (2013) What is learning? On the nature and merits of a functional definition of learning, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, available online (accessed 28 February 2013)



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