Laws of Learning
The six laws of learning are suitable for most
learning situations. Keeping these laws in mind when planning a lesson
lets the instructor create a better learning atmosphere for his
Law of Readiness. A person learns
best when he has the necessary background, a good attitude, and is
ready to learn. He does not learn much if he sees no reason for
learning. Getting a student ready to learn is usually the teacher’s
job. A clear objective and a good reason for learning sometimes help
to motivate students to learn even when they start off not caring. A
student who is usually ready to learn meets the instructor halfway.
Sometimes the instructor can do little to create a readiness to learn.
Outside responsibilities, overcrowded schedules, health, finances, or
family affairs can take away a student’s desire to learn.
Law of Exercise. Those things most
often repeated are the best learned. This is the basis for practice
and drill. The mind rarely retains, evaluates, and applies new
concepts or practices after only one exposure. A student learns by
applying what he has been taught. Every time he practices, his
learning continues. There are many types of repetitions. These include
student recall, review and summary, and manual drill and physical
applications. All of these serve to create learning habits.
Law of Effect. This law is based
on the feelings of the learner. Learning is stronger when joined with
a pleasing or satisfying feeling. It is weakened when linked with an
unpleasant feeling. An experience that produces feelings of defeat,
anger, frustration, futility, or confusion in a student is unpleasant
for him. This will decrease his learning capabilities. Therefore,
instructors should be cautious about using punishment in the
classroom. Every learning experience does not have to be entirely
successful, nor does the student have to master each lesson
completely. However, every learning experience should contain elements
that leave the student with some good feelings. A student’s chance of
success is definitely increased if the learning experience is a
Law of Primacy. Primacy is being
first, which often creates a strong impression. This means that the
instructor must be right the first time. Everyone knows from
experience how hard it is to break a bad habit. “Unteaching” wrong
first impressions is harder than teaching them right the first time.
The first experience of a student should be positive. This helps to
provide a stable foundation for all that follows.
Law of Intensity. A sharp, clear,
or exciting learning experience teaches more than a routine or boring
one. This law implies that a student will learn more from the real
thing than a substitute. For example, a student can get more
understanding and appreciation of a movie by watching it than by
reading the script. A student will form a clearer concept of the speed
of tank ammunition by watching it fired than by reading “5500 feet per
second.” The classroom places real limits on the amount of realism
that can be brought in by the instructor. So, he should use his
imagination to keep things as close to real life as possible. Mockups,
videotapes, interactive courseware, slides, charts, and any number of
other training aids add sharpness and action to classroom instruction.
Demonstrations, skits, and role playing do much to increase the
leaning experience of students.
Law of Recency. Other things being
equal, the things learned last will be best remembered. The opposite
is also true. The longer the student is away from a new fact or
understanding, the harder it is to remember. For example, it is fairly
easy to recall a telephone number dialed a few minutes ago, but it is
usually impossible to recall a new number dialed last week. The
instructor must recognize the law of recency when planning a good
summary. He should repeat, restate, or reemphasize the training
objectives. He also repeats important information the students need to
Not all of the laws of learning are in every
learning situation. It is not necessary to determine which law
operates in which situation. An instructor who understands the laws of
learning can deal intelligently with motivation, participation, and
individual differences - the three major factors that affect learning.
PSYCHOLOGY’S RULES OF LEARNING
The objective of teaching a class is to have
students learn something, and remember what they have learned.
Instructor’s constantly employ many different psychological principles
of learning. This section presents 20 principles of learning,
established by psychologists, which are useful for training. Some of
these principles have been followed by more experienced instructors
for years. All should be useful to the instructor who wants to be
effective and successful.
Stimulate Students. Unpleasant
things may be learned as easily as pleasant things. The worst stimuli
are those which cause little or no feelings. It is better to have
rewarding conditions than unpleasant conditions, but either is better
than neutral conditions.
Recognize Individual Differences.
What your students can do is important in determining what can be
learned and how long it will take. The ability to learn changes with
age. It reaches a peak around 16 years of age, then begins to decline
steadily for most people. An instructor should be more patient if he
is trying to teach older or slower students.
Understanding and Repetition Aid Retention.
People remember what they understand better than what they try to
memorize. Practicing a task over and over won’t help unless the reason
for learning is understood by the students. However, remember that a
lot of drill is still very important in getting facts across, in
reinforcing them, and in creating performance habits.
Distributed Practice Aids Retention. Practice
broken into several periods is better than the same amount of practice
crammed into a single session.
Show It Like It Is. Hands-on
skills should be shown in the same way that the learner sees it in
front of him. This is very important when you use classroom video. The
video tape should show the student exactly what he would see if he
were doing the task.
First and Last Impressions Are Retained.
The order of presentation is very important. Points or objectives
presented at the beginning and end of the class are remembered better
than those given in the middle. So, if four objectives are given
during an hour, the two most important points should be given first
Exotic Experience Is Remembered. Students remember
change or unusual examples better than normal ones.
Showing Errors Can Aid Learning.
Showing how errors happen can lead to increases in learning. Showing
not only “what to do” but “what not to do.” This can be critical in
teaching safety points. This doesn’t mean teach “the wrong way” to do
something, just show what could go wrong.
Rewards Aid Learning. Irregular or
unexpected rewards are better then expected or constant rewards.
Rewards that are always given at the same time (answering a question,
when finishing a project, grading an exam, etc.) sometimes seems
phony. Unexpected rewards provide tremendous encouragement and
motivation and keep student’s “on their toes.”
Recognition is Easier Than Recall.
It is easier to identify something than it is to remember it.
Much Is Forgotten Rapidly. The
rate of forgetting tends to be very rapid right after learning. It
takes a lot of repeating in the early weeks of a class to overcome
Known Authorities Are Believed.
Students will believe a known expert’s quotes more than regular
instruction. However, information which is repeated often enough works
just as well as quotes. Good, lesser known instructors can help their
students remember just as well as older or better known instructors.
Exact Repetition Effective.
Repeating the facts over and over helps memory just as much as using
new examples each time.
Fear Is Effective In Small Doses.
The use of a moderate fear appeal is better than a strong fear appeal.
“No stress produces no learning.” However, too much stress is likely
to turn off the students. A good instructor finds the right balance.
Success Begets Further Success.
Knowledge of how well they are doing leads students to greater
learning. So does telling them how the lesson will help them. Tell
your students when they are doing well.
Tie-In Is Essential To Learning.
The student must see some relation to his experience in order to
learn. Few students can “leap frog” and learn facts that can’t match
up with what they already know. New information is easier to learn and
accept if it doesn’t go against earlier habits.
“Belongingness” and “Satisfiers” Aid
Learning. Just repeating facts does not always lead to
learning. Two things are necessary - “belongingness” and satisfiers.”
Belongingness means that the things to be learned must belong
together. They must show some connection or order. It is easier to
learn 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 which belong together, than to learn 2, 1, 5, 7,
43 which do not. Satisfiers are real or symbolic rewards. It has been
shown that just saying the word “right” when the person is making the
correct response is a satisfier. This helps speed up the learning
process. The word “wrong” is an annoyer or “punishment” and is not as
Old and Strong Ideas Are Best Retained.
Review of an ideas that you have had for a long time causes more
learning than review of a new one. You will not forget an old idea as
fast as a new one. So, if you can tie your instruction to older ideas,
your students will remember more.
Active Practice is Best. Learning
is aided by hands-on practice rather than just listening. “Class
Participation” is active practice. Make your students be an active
part of your class.
New Learning May Detract From Previous
Learning. Learning something new may cancel out something
learned earlier. A person who studied French for an hour and then
studies Chinese for an hour will not remember much French. He would
remember more if he substituted an hour of rest in place of the study
Instructors should not blindly attempt to apply
every one of these principles. You will go crazy trying. But, use of
those principles when you “can” fit them in will help your students to
learn and remember. After all, students are all much alike, in that
they are people reacting to materials that someone wants them to