What is Learning? Characteristics, Process, Nature, Types of learners

  • Post last modified:17 March 2021
  • Reading time:9 mins read

What is Learning?

Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour or potential behaviour as a result of direct or indirect experience. Learning is thus a change in behaviour as a result of experience.

What is Learning

Learning Definition

Learning is any relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience.

Stephen P. Robbins

Learning is the process of having one’s behaviour modified, more or less permanently, by what he does and the consequences of his action, or by what he observes.

Munn N.L.

Learning can be defined as relatively permanent change in behaviour potentially that results from reinforced practice or experience.

Steers and Porter

Meaning of Learning

There are two primary elements in meaning of learning:

  1. Change must be relatively permanent: This means that after “learning” our behavior must be different, either better or worse as compared to our behaviour prior to this learning experience.

    For example, you “learn” to drive a car or have learned how to use a computer.

  2. This change must occur due to some kind of experience or practice. This learning is not caused by biological maturation.

    For example, a child does not learn to walk, it is a natural biological phenomenon. We do not learn to eat or drink.

Nature of Learning

Learning is a relatively permanent change in knowledge or behavior that results from practice or experience. There are several key points in this definition.

  1. First, with learning comes change.

    For example, when you learn a second language, your knowledge about how to communicate evolves, and your behavior changes when communicating with native speakers of the language.

  2. Second, the change in knowledge or behavior has to be relatively permanent or long lasting.

    For example, If you attempt to communicate with someone in another language by looking up words in a dictionary that you quickly forget once the interaction is complete, learning did not take place because there was no permanent change in your knowledge of the second language.

  3. Third, learning takes place as a result of practice or through experience.

    For example, Learning a second language requires much practice in pronunciation, word usage, and grammar.

Read: What is Motivation?

Types of Learners

There are following types of learners:

Types of Learners
Types of Learners
  1. Visual Learners

    (a) Visual learners learn primarily through the written word.
    (b) They tend to be readers who diligently take down every word.

  2. Auditory Learners

    (a) Auditory learners learn primarily through listening.
    (b) They focus their ears and attention on your words, listening carefully to everything you say.
    (c) They like to talk rather than write and relish the opportunity to discuss what they’ve heard.

  3. Kinesthetic Learners

    (a) Kinesthetic learners learn better by doing
    (b) This group learns best when they can practice what they’re learning
    (c) They want to have their hands on the keyboard, the hammer, or the test tube because they think in terms of physical action.

Read: What is Perception?

Characteristics of Learning

  1. Learning is Purposeful
  2. Learning is a Result of Experience
  3. Learning is Multifaceted
  4. Learning is an Active Process

Learning is Purposeful

Each student sees a learning situation from a different viewpoint. Each student is a unique individual whose past experiences affect readiness to learn and understanding of the requirements involved.

Learning is a Result of Experience

Since learning is an individual process, the instructor cannot do it for the student. The student can learn only from personal experiences; therefore, learning and knowledge cannot exist apart from a person.

Learning is Multifaceted: Learning is multifaceted in still another way. While learning the subject at hand, students may be learning other things as well. They may be developing attitudes about aviation-good or bad-depending on what they experience.

Learning is an Active Process: Students do not soak up knowledge like a sponge absorbs water. The instructor cannot assume that students remember something just because they were in the classroom, shop, or airplane when the instructor presented the material.

Learning Process

The learning process has the following steps:

  1. Stimuli
  2. Attention
  3. Recognition
  4. Translation
  5. Reinforcement
  6. Behavior
  7. Reward
  8. Habits
  9. Motives
  10. Efforts


Stimuli are any objects and language which draw the attention of people. Employees get stimuli from the actions of their superiors. Superiors tell and advice employees who pay attention to these stimuli. All the stimuli may not be fully attended to.


The degree of attention depends upon the nature of stimuli. All stimuli are not paid attention to. Technical and interesting stimuli are highly attended. Career-oriented stimuli are generally accepted by employees. The personality levels of employees influence their desires to learn, motives for need fulfilment and tension reduction.


Attention-paid stimuli are recognised as acceptable factors of improvement and new life styles. Employees paying attention to stimuli are recognising the stimuli for learning purposes. The levels of recognition depend upon the levels of values, preferences, needs and desires of the employees.


The translation and evaluation process is a crucial point for implementing the stimuli in behaviour through reinforcement. Employees behave properly through attitude changes, objectivity, mental and physical development. It is observed in better performances.


Reinforced perception is learning. The perception process includes stimuli, attention, recognition, translation and behaviour. Perception leads to learning, but perception itself is not learning unless it is reinforced.

Repeated action is reinforcement. Reinforcement may be positive, negative, punishment and extinction. Learners learn as per their perception levels. Generally positive reinforcement is more effective for making permanent changes in behaviour.


Learning changes behaviour through reinforcement of perceived knowledge. It makes permanent changes in behaviour. A temporary change in behaviour is not learning. Positive behaviour gives rewards to employees.


Employees expect rewards for learning. If the translated behaviour provides a reward, it is accepted, otherwise it is not accepted. Employees develop their behaviour into habits. Rewards may be monetary or non-monetary.


A permanent change in behaviour becomes a habit which helps continuous improvement in behaviour and performance. Employees develop the habit of selfappraisal and development. It helps to instil creativity and confidence in employees who are encouraged to behave properly again and again.


Motives depend on the level of satisfaction. Employees getting more satisfaction through learning develop high motives. Less satisfied learners have low motives. Learning is complete only when motives are fully realised and translated into efforts.


Habits help achieve good efforts and performance. This is a continuous process. Efforts are the automatic outcome of good habits which are acquired through the learning process. Self-development is possible through self-effort. Employees willing to develop themselves are self-motivated and effort-oriented.

Read: What is Personality?

Principles for Learning

Over the years, educational psychologists have identities several principles which seem generally applicable to the learning process. They provide additional insight into what makes people learn most effectively.

6 Most important principles for learning are:

  1. Readiness
  2. Exercise
  3. Effect
  4. Primacy
  5. Intensity
  6. Recency


Readiness implies a degree of single-mindedness and eagerness. When students are ready to learn, they meet the instructor at least halfway, and this simplifies the instructor’s job.


The principle of exercise states that those things most often repeated are best remembered. It is the basis of drill and practice. The human memory is fallible. The mind can rarely retain, evaluate, and apply new concepts or practices after a single exposure.


The principle of effect is based on the emotional reaction of the student. It states that learning is strengthened when accompanied by a pleasant or satisfying feeling, and that learning is weakened when associated with an unpleasant feeling.


Primacy, the state of being first, often creates a strong, almost unshakable, impression. For the instructor, this means that what is taught must be right the first time.


Intensity: A vivid, dramatic, or exciting learning experience teaches more than a routine or boring experience. A student is likely to gain greater understanding of slow flight and stalls by performing them rather than merely reading about them.


The principle of recency states that things most recently learned are best remembered. Conversely, the further a student is removed time-wise from a new fact or understanding, the more difficult it is to remember.

Factors Affecting Learning

The key factors affecting learning include:

  • Their resources
  • Their image of learning
  • The rewards associated with any learning activity
  • The availability of information about learning opportunities
  • The availability of appropriate learning environments
  • The climate in which learning takes place, especially that created by government and employers.

Read: What is Assessment Centre?

Application of Learning

Some of the behaviour modification techniques are given below which may be used in the organization:

  1. Use of Lotteries to reduce Absenteeism
  2. Work pay Vs sick pay
  3. Training and Development
  4. Discipline
  5. Self-Management

Use of Lotteries to reduce Absenteeism

Attractive prizes can be included in a lottery that can be used gainfully to achieve a reduction in absenteeism.

Work pay Vs sick pay

Organizations have to leave policy. Apart from other leave, there is a provision for a few days of sick leave in a year.

Training and Development

Training and development programmes must be run systematically and in a preplanned manner.


Behavior modification can be achieved by laying down the minimum standard of discipline in the organization. Defence organizations are most disciplined organizations because they do not compromise on the standards, be it related to training, work, supervision, accounting or disbursement of salary and wages etc.


Learning concepts are meant for modifying the behaviour of others. These theories are also applicable for self-management. Individuals should lay down personal standards, objectives relating to personal growth, identify various courses of action to adopt and modify self-attitude and behaviour.

Read: Theories of Learning


  1. Robbins, Stephen P. 2010. Organizational Behaviour. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall.
  2. Caldwell, D.F., and C.A. O’ Reilly III, “Measuring Person-Job Fit with a profile-comparison Process,” Journal of Applied Psychology, December 1990, pp.648-57.

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