The present paper deals with the main notions of action learning and states the major principles of general learning process, natural learning and action learning. It also states the common traits between natural and action learning principles. The paper mentions the efficiency of action learning basing this conclusion on the fact that action and natural learning obtain similar principles.
Keywords:action learning, natural learning, motivation, skills development, action-based activities
When searching the definition of the term “learning process” one can inevitably find a similar one: the activity or process of gaining knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something . Learning occurs continuously throughout a person’s lifetime and means not only getting knowledge at diverse educational institutions but also gaining some life experience which makes people obtain necessary knowledge. Long before management courses were thought about, farmers in villages would meet and compare notes. Also, families have always shared learning points between themselves and others to help build their villages and communities. Children learn how to play games by sharing and comparing and then demonstrating their skills and learning to others. Indeed, we all learned our native language by action learning methods, long before we went to school. We listened to our family and friends, who then advised us on how to improve our verbal communication .
Thus, learning is a natural process continuing during the whole life and it often bases on sharing knowledge. All action and learning involves discovery and research as well as all life activities contributing to obtaining knowledge in different spheres of life and, we can assume that action learning is based on natural process of gaining knowledge. To prove this idea we would like to discuss the conception of learning in general, natural learning and action learning.
Over the years, educational psychologists have identified several principles which seem generally applicable to the learning process. They provide additional insight into what makes people learn most effectively. These principles are:
1. Readiness implies that people learn best when they are ready and inspired to learn. If students have a strong purpose, a clear objective, and a definite reason for learning something, they make more progress than if they lack motivation. Thus, teachers’ major task in this regard is to increase students’ motivation to studying.
2. Exercise states that those things most often repeated are best remembered. It is the basis of drill and practice. Every time practice occurs, learning continues. A teacher should provide opportunities for students to practice and, at the same time; make sure that this process is directed toward a defined goal.
3. Effect is based on the emotional reaction of a student. It states that learning is more efficient when accompanied by a pleasant or satisfying feeling, and, on the other hand, learning is weakened when associated with an unpleasant feeling. It leads to the conclusion, that teachers should do their best to create a positive atmosphere.
4. Primacy means that learning must be right. Unteaching is a much more complicated task than teaching from scratch. So, teacher should ensure the material they present to students is right and they understand it properly.
5. Intensity implies that people learn more effectively by being involved in interesting, bright and challenging tasks than from gaining a routine or boring experience. Therefore, teachers’ major responsibility is to prepare the learning material suitable for the level of knowledge students have and ensure it is not easy for them.
6. Recency states that things most recently learned are best remembered. Thereby, teachers’ role in this regards is to structure learning process taking into account this principle and ensure the most important points of the course are repeated, restated, and reemphasized at the end of a lesson, at the beginning of the next lesson and even in some lessons or at the end of the topic discussion to help a student remember them. Thus, the principle of recency often determines the sequence of activities within a course .
All of the principles stated above are successfully used in the modern system of education and they have been found on the principles and outlines of natural learning.
Natural Learning is on-going and dynamic. It develops useful knowledge in the form of new capacities to act in the world. When considering the notion “natural learning” we mean that it is learning that comes naturally and the first and the best example we can come up with is learning of children. All children learn by playing and spend much time doing it. All children’s teaching is based on the principle of play and it has some major natures to base on:
- physical .
1. Social play is typically a child’s first form of play which implies the participation of groups of children in dramatic play (e.g. playing house, school), they use imagination, storytelling and problem-solving skills. These skills help then to learn to read, write and communicate verbally.
2. Cognitive play requires language and thinking skills and may also include pretend play. In this type of play, children may use objects creatively. For example, they may imitate a phone in the form of a banana, a stick for a magic wand, etc. This kind of play also includes construction play (puzzles, building blocks, etc.).
3. Physical play, including outdoor activities, is important for child’s motor development (strength, endurance, skill), physical health, and ability to concentrate in school.
Thus, we can state that the major principles of children’s play are the major principles of natural learning while children learn from playing and spend much of their time participating in various activities contributing to their learning the world around and succeed in it.
The next part of the paper deals with the concept of action learning. The founding father of an action learning educational method was Professor Reginald Revans who developed it in the 1940s. His key proposition was conceptually a simple one: people learn effectively with and from others by tackling real work-based challenges and by posing insightful questions to each other . Thus, the main idea of action learning is to create educational situations in which participants will study their own actions with the aim to improve performance focusing on experiential reflection as a major learning tool. Revans argued against traditional education, which he called “chalk and talk”, because it was based on getting information from books or lectures, memorization and presentation of knowledge and believed that people work more effectively from sharing real problems.
Action learning brings people together to exchange, support and challenge each other in action and learning. The principles of action learning include the principles of
- group work
- action-based activities.
Let us describe them in a greater detail.
1. Motivation means that each person joins and takes part voluntarily. It’s impossible to make people do something but one can succeed in working at persuading and encouraging them, i.e. encouraging their motivation to studying and getting new knowledge. To increase motivation the simulation-based activities which replicate real-life situations and are in the form of projects, competitions, clubs, conferences, intellectual games, combining general knowledge and the level of mastering the subject should be used.
2. Problem-solving requires each person to own an organizational task, problem, challenge or opportunity on which they are committed to act. By the way, the problems, issues and challenges should be real and current.
3. Group work because we are very much more likely to succeed with the help of friends, classmates, etc. That is why action learning sets or small groups are formed to help each other think through the issues and create options.
4. Action-based activities, i.e. activities that take action and help to learn from the experience of taking that action . Action-based activities can be represented by tasks which involve learning by doing.
Figure 1 is represents the comparison of natural learning and action-based learning while we assumed that they have the major principles in common.
Fig. 1 Common principles of natural and action-based learning
As we can see from the picture natural learning and action learning base on the same principles, which can mean that action learning is a natural process, i.e. the procedure which contributes to learning the subject naturally, on the basis of replicating real-life situations. And, consequently, there are some features of action learning that make it efficient when applied at universities. Action-learning:
- increases motivation by being found on simulation-based activities that are close to real life;
- develops creative thinking by applying problem-solving tasks;
- develops social skills due to involving team work;
- makes learning resultative by involving learning by doing activities.
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