The Language of Learning and Behaviour

“The Language of Learning and Behaviour; From the start we must face the fact that we won’t be able to define learning. There are no satisfactory definitions……

….Our main concern will be to show how learning works. What are the conditions under which organisms learn and what happens when they do so?”

I like this section I have transcribed above. The book is called Learning (A. Charles Catania). The reason I like this is it is a lovely reminder that nomenclature matters.

We talk so much about teaching behaviours to our animals (learners). We call them learners, but we talk about teaching them. Nomenclature matters! If we change our words to talk about our animals learning from us rather than us teaching them does it change how we feel about and react towards our learners? I know when I change to thinking about my learner learning instead of me teaching my learner it definitely changes how I feel about the situation.

We all know what it feels like to learn. Not many of us are comfortable with being teachers. Who wants to stand in front of a room full of people and teach? Not many of us feel we have sufficient knowledge and not many of us have the confidence for standing in front of a room full of people and sharing what knowledge we have. It can be a terrifying thought; what if we are asked a question we don’t know the answer to!?. So not many of us know what it feels like to be teachers, but we are ALL learners.

Learning can be a stressful business. So when we think about our learners learning it prompts empathy for them because we have experienced being in that position all our lives. We know how challenging it can be, we have all experienced good and not so good teachers, someone who said things in a way that made perfect sense and others who were teaching the same thing but seemed to be talking a different language. Thinking of teaching from the perspective of the learner learning from us seems like a subtle but significant point.

A nice way to think about a teacher; someone who knows more on the subject matter than the learner. Our teacher may know a LOT more or just a little more, but we still learn from them because they know more than us.


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