Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Learning And Understanding; A Brief Historical Purview

To know and to know more is a basic human instinct and is engraved in the human mind. The fact that even a child puts a lot of questions to his parents testifies to this fact. Learning being the oldest medium of getting to know, has played an important role in  developing  human mind. Before going to the inception of learning process, it is worthwhile to first go through the definition of learning.

Learning: the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught:

Knowledge acquired through experience, study, or being taught:

As discussed earlier man’s quest for knowing  is enshrined in his mind, and with the passage of time this was converted into a need as he started coming across different situations that his mind was unable to decipher or was confronted with problems that required solutions. That gave rise to the first human learning and that was from nature and the environment. The earliest mode of learning was observation, experimentation and discovery. This learning took in to account the relationship/ interaction between different facts and events, and the resulting outcome. Man learned that sometime when one thing will happen it will result in the happening of another thing.

He observed that when sun rises it brings light and heat and when it sets darkness and cold prevail. He learned many things from animals through sheer observation. He came to know that flicker is created through friction among dry leaves as well as stones. The next step in this area was experimentation to verify different observations for meeting his needs. Thus he created flame for light to counter darkness and cold, invented crude weapons for defending himself and discovered that different plant contents can be used to cure certain types of sickness. In short it can be said that the more he learned the more he was benefited. In this way man took the first step towards formation of what we now call knowledge.

Understanding was the next major milestone in the journey towards development and formation of Knowledge. Again, first we will go through the definition of understanding.

Understanding: the ability to understand something; comprehension:

The power of abstract thought; intellect:

Reverting back to learning, it seems that  may be after sometime when man realized that there were  some anomalies  in what he had learned like sun not bringing heat all the time, e.g. in winter,  clouds not bringing rains every time, plant contents not healing all diseases, he began  thinking about causes of this deviation.  Initially he attributed everything to nature, being divine it could do anything and there was no need to find a reason. But, as his mind continued to develop, he started to think “Why things happen as they happen”. This was a turning point that took centuries to take a concrete shape and laid the foundation of what is now known as understanding. Understanding was a giant step towards establishing the contours of knowledge.

As the following definition of knowledge will depict both learning and understanding are the basic constituents of knowledge.

Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject:

What is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information:

Awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation:

It is clear that once learning and understanding formed a combination modern science heralded its arrival.

A comparison of learning and understanding will bring out following differences:

1. Learning consisted in the receipt of information about interaction between/among different facts, events, matters or situations and the results accruing. Understanding interpreted or explained the causes or reasons of the results accruing.

2. Learning was based fait accompli. Understanding went beyond the real happening and explored the principles or concepts on which the fait accompli or some other results might be based.

3. Learning was based on cause and effect. Understanding was based on finding why cause lead to the effect.

Tasneem Hameed

No comments: