An individual starts learning as soon as he is born. He continues learning throughout his life. Learning is the acquisition of habits, knowledge, attitudes and skills. It involves new ways of doing things and attempts to adjust to new situations. It shows progressive change in behavior as the individual reacts to a situation. It is an effort to adopt his behavior effectively to demands made upon him. It thus enables him to satisfy interests or to attain goals.
Learning may be both vertical and horizontal. It is vertical in so far precision in increased or information is added to that already learned. It is horizontal in so far as what is learned is integrated and organized as a part of a functioning unit of expanding experience. Thus the former means qualitative and the latter is quantitative in nature.
Learning is expected to bring about more or less permanent change in the learner's behavior. This change may range from the acquisition of a relatively simple skill, item of information to the mastery of complicated mechanical performance and application of difficult and abstract reading material, change in response or behavior is caused partly or wholly by experience. It includes behavior change in the emotional sphere, refers to the acquisition of symbolic knowledge or motor skills. It however does not include physiological changes like fatigue, temporary sensory resistance and hunger.
Learning should enable us to make the least use of the things in the world around us. For example, one has to learn the art of living harmoniously with others by learning how to establish good relations with his fellows. Learning not limited to the school alone. It being earlier and continues even after the school days.
Yoakman and Simpson have described the following nine important characteristics of learning.
(1) Learning is growth
The individual grows as he lives. This growth implies i both physical as well as mental development of the learner. The individual gains experiences through various activities. These are all sources of learning. The individual grows through living and learning. Thus growth and learning are inter-related and even synonymous.
(2) Learning is adjustment
Learning enables the individual to adjust himself properly, with the new situations. The individual faces new problems and new situations throughout his life and learning helps him to solve the problems encountered by him. That is why; many psychologists describe learning as "a process of progressive adjustment to the ever changing conditions which one encounters." The society in which we live is so complex and so dynamic that any one type of adjustment will not be suitable for all or many situations and problems. It is through learning that one could achieve the ability to adjust adequately to all situations of life.
(3) Learning is purposeful
All kinds of learning is goal-oriented. The individual acts with some purpose. He learns through activities. He gets himself interested when he is aware of his objectives to be realized through these activities. Therefore all learning is purposive in nature.
(4) Learning is experience
The individual learns through experiences. Human life is fall of experiences. All these experiences provide new knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes. Learning is not mere acquisition of the knowledge, skills and attitudes. It is also the reorganization of experiences or the synthesis of the old experiences with the new.
(5) Learning is intelligent
Mere cramming without proper understanding does not make learning. Thus meaningless efforts do not produce permanent results. Any work done mechanically cannot yield satisfactory learning outcomes. Learning therefore must be intelligent.
(6) Learning is active
Learning is given more importance than teaching. It implies self-activity of the learning. Without adequate motivation he cannot work whole-heartedly and motivation is therefore at the root of self-activity. Learning by doing is thus an important principle of education, and the basis of all progressive methods of education like the Project, the Dalton, the Montessori and Basic system.
7) Learning is both individual and social
Although learning is an individual activity, it is social also. Individual mind is consciously or unconsciously affected by the group activities. Individual is influenced by his peers, friends, relatives’ parents and classmates and learns their ideas, feelings and attitudes in some way or others. The social agencies like family, church, markets, and clubs exert immense, influence on the individual minds. As such, learning becomes both individual as well as social.
(8) Learning is-the product of the environment
The individual lives in interaction of the society. Particularly, environment plays an important part in the growth and development of the individual. The physical, social, intellectual and emotional development of the child is molded and remolded by the objects and individuals in his environment. Therefore, emphasized that child's environment should be made free from unhealthy and vicious matters to make it more effective for learning.
(9) Learning affects the conduct of the learner
Learning is called the modification of behavior. It affects the learner's behavior and conduct. Every learning experience brings about changes in the mental structure of the learner. Therefore attempts are made to provide such learning experiences which can mould the desired conduct and habits in the learners.