Relationships Among Principles

The nested structure of the principles-of-learning framework is intended to represent certain relationships between principles. First, potential for capacity increase and the establishment of habits may be channeled toward a specific target of learning. Second, a target of learning is attained by way of principles of change. Seven of the principles of learning identified in the present study are principles of change, or principles that directly facilitate the process of learning and are necessary in order for learning to occur. Third, principles of change are embodied in models of practice. Fourth, practice always occurs in one context or another. Fifth, the current capacity of the learner, habits of engagement and aversion, as well as various factors of motivation and inhibition, strongly influence learner participation in a given model of practice. And finally, sixth, it is learner agency that ultimately determines engagement and the level of effort and attention given.

In addition to the relationships named above, other relations between principles have been noted during the course of this study. The following list is illustrative, but not presumed to be comprehensive.

  1. Potential, Target and Agency – Channeling of potential (Principle #1) toward a specific target (Principle #2) may be guided by the learner, a mentor, or an administrator (Principle #7).
  2. Significance, Contrast and Repetition – Where there is greater significance (Principle #3f), or more easily attained contrast (Principle #3e), there is a decreased need for repetition (Principle #3a).
  3. Time, Repetition, Practice, and Target – Time (Principle #3b) is primarily a function of repetition (Principle #3a), or, the duration and frequency of whatever practice models, exercise, or experience (Principle #4) are necessary to effect the desired change (Principle #2) in capacity or establishment of habit. As the need for repetition increases, the amount of time required also increases.
  4. Step Size, Sequence, and Engagement – The amount of effort required (i.e., step size, Principle #3c) is relative to what has previously been learned (Principle #3d) and is also a function of the degree of difficulty an individual might experience in achieving a particular learning target due to physical, psychological, or emotional traits and conditions (i.e., current capacity, also Principle #3d), as well as previously established habits of engagement or aversion (Principle #6).
  5. Repetition, Significance, and Contrast – Both repetition (Principle #3a) and significance (Principle #3f) facilitate the process of differentiation (Principle #3e): repetition provides multiple opportunities for comparison between similar instances; significance, through attention, brings to light salient similarities and critical differences.
  6. Engagement and Significance – Presumably, motivation (Principle #6) stemming from the learning activity itself will produce the most significant (Principle #3f) engagement, followed by motivation stemming from the expected results of the activity, and then by motivation from circumstances in which the activity takes place.
  7. Step Size, Repetition, and Time – As step size increases (Principle #3c), repetition (Principle #3a) and time (Principle #3b) also increase.
  8. Sequence, Contrast, and Step Size – The facilitating effects of sequence (Principle #3d) are dependent on the learner recognizing how what is currently being learned relates to what has already been learned (Principle #3e) as well as the degree of effort (Principle #3c) required to coordinate previously acquired knowledge and skills. Maximal facilitating effects of sequence are realized when the coordinating effort is minimal, or fully automatic, and there is full and accurate recognition of how what is currently being learned is related to what has been learned previously.

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