A Model for Learning

I present below a model for how learning takes place.  An understanding of the model will be useful in the analysis and design of instructional material.

The model I am presenting is based on the hierarchy of pieces information, viz. Data, Information, Knowledge, and Skill, and on an understanding of their interrelationship.

Data is raw information.  Examples of data include “word”, “247”, “black”, etc.  All these are data for information, i.e. “word” is a word, “247” is a number, and “black” is a color.  Without being associated with any entity, i.e. without being a ‘measure’ of anything,  these are just examples of data.

Information is data associated with an entity. E.g. [“word” is an English word], [247o C], [the cat is black], etc. are examples of information, where “word” is associated with the English language, 247 is associated with a temperature measurement scale, and black is associated with the cat’s color.

Knowledge is to Information as Information is to Data.  In other words, Knowledge is pieces of information related to each other.

Skills are psychomotor abilities, or the ability to perform physical actions to exhibit certain aspects of knowledge.

Think of knowledge as the “links”, or “connections” you make between pieces of

information in your mind.

Lets call these links “neural links”, and think of the knowledge we have as a neural network.

To add another dimension to this understanding of Knowledge, think of the “links” as having a magnitude as well.  E.g. the links between one piece of information and others might be different in their intensity.

The intensity of a link is a measure of the affinity of the two pieces of information it links, or the strength of their association, or the ease with which a piece of information is recalled when linked information is thought of.

The process of acquiring knowledge, or learning, is the process of creating and modifying neural links. Whether you make the right links or not, defines whether you have the right knowledge or not.  People differ in their knowledge because of their differing neural networks, not because they have different information.

From this understanding of learning we can understand the process of teaching also.  Teaching requires that we as instructors, facilitate our learners, or audience, to make the correct links between pieces of information.  Also, we need to supply them any pieces of information that they might not have from their prior learning and experience.

The more mature your audience, the more your teaching has to do with modifying links.  The less mature your audience, the more your teaching has to provide information, as well as establish its links with old and new information.