Learning is defined as a social phenomenon that is facilitated by various tools and has the purpose of sharing and acquisition of information and knowledge (Keskitalo, Pyykkö, and Ruokamo 17). Even though the meaning of teaching as a concept assumes that it is a positive process, and it does not exist without a positive result such as learning (if there is no learning, there is no teaching), sometimes a teacher’s activity remains without a response from the students. That way, learning, and teaching are active processes and require the contribution of their facilitators. The activity of a teacher alone does not lead to learning, but the activity of the learner combined with that of the teacher does.
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Mayer describes three main learning scenarios – no learning, rote learning, and meaningful learning (226). No learning occurs when a learner briefly scans the new subject but fails to memorize the main concepts of it, cannot comprehend its major points, or use it to solve a problem. Rote learning occurs when a learner comprehends the theory and can answer questions related to the material they just read. Meaningful learning appears when a learner does not only understand the concepts but also can use them in practice to solve problems.
To demonstrate the concept of meaningful learning one may use the following example. Two students do a leadership course at a college. They take a test, and it shows that all of them are familiar with the main leadership theories, concepts, and strategies. Further, the students are asked to participate in group work with other learners and accomplish various projects. One of the students collaborates with the others but mainly does the world on their own making a decent contribution to the group work. The other student applies his leadership knowledge to organize the other members of the group and facilitate more efficient collaboration as a leader. This way, the learner applies the theoretical knowledge in practice to find a solution to a problem – the ineffective work of the group.
The example described above shows how meaningful learning is connected to learning transfer as it demonstrates the learner’s ability to transfer the information obtained from a textbook to a real-life situation. That way, instead of just being able to define and explain the leadership concepts, the student is able to act as a leader and benefit from the information they learned. The learning can be transferred even further and be taken outside of the school environment when the learner applies the new knowledge while playing team sports or taking over a leadership role in their family when there is a difficult situation that requires a strong leader.
That way, meaningful learning can be is described as the learner’s choice “conscientiously to integrate new knowledge to knowledge that the learner already possesses” (Novak 549). The process of learning transfer is included in this definition as the transition of knowledge occurs right at the moment when the learner begins to use the new knowledge and skills outside of the habitual school environments. A learner who engages in the learning transfer is able to solve the leadership tasks from the school handbooks, and also is able to use the new skills in their everyday life.
Keskitalo, Tuulikki, Elli Pyykkö, and Heli Ruokamo. “Exploring the Meaningful Learning of Students in Second Life.” Educational Technology & Society 14.1 (2011): 16–26. Print.
Mayer, Richard E. “Rote Versus Meaningful Learning.” Theory Into Practice 41.4 (2002): 226-232. Print.
Novak, Joseph D. “Meaningful Learning: The Essential Factor For Conceptual Change In Limited Or Inappropriate Propositional Hierarchies Leading To Empowerment Of Learners.” Science Education 86.4 (2002): 548-571. Print.