Advertising

Last Updated on January 27, 2021

The 3 Stages of Learning That Help You Learn Effectively

Advertising
The 3 Stages of Learning That Help You Learn Effectively

We’re learning every day of our lives from the moment we are born. Without realizing it, we’ve been employing at least one of the three stages of learning to gain knowledge and grow as individuals: cognitive learning, associative learning, or autonomous learning.

Each of these stages of learning is very different from the other. These stages can be taken progressively, where one stage comes before the other, or individually where each is a complete learning methodology on its own. In any situation that involves learning opportunities, a person looking to acquire knowledge makes a subconscious decision to gain it a certain way, based on any one or a combination of the three stages mentioned above.

If you want to learn faster, it is important that you know which stage of learning you’re currently at and what steps to take next to advance to the next stages of learning.

Stage 1: Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning works towards developing an overall understanding of skills. It engages students in the learning process, getting them to use their brain more effectively to make new connections from knowledge already stored in their mind. It improves comprehension, helps develop problem-solving skills, and promotes long-term learning.[1]

Elements of Cognitive Learning graphic

    This can also be considered the first stage of learning where the learner observes and listens and makes connections based on knowledge s/he has already gained. This knowledge could have been acquired through conscious or subconscious learning.

    Knowledge in the cognitive stage can be acquired through any of the following methods:

    Implicit Learning

    Implicit learning takes place when the learner is unaware of the fact that they’re actually learning. It does not involve specific instructions, but rather, it happens with verbal and visual cues and usually takes place in a social setting.

    A child learning to speak is an example of knowledge gained implicitly: they learn in a social setting without being taught by an instructor.

    Advertising

    This type of learning is retained well over many years and is resistant to psychological changes in people. It is better for skill reproduction and is independent of age and IQ.

    Explicit Learning

    Explicit learning happens when a person actively seeks out opportunities to learn. This may or may not involve a teacher and requires verbal and visual cues.

    A good example of this type of learning would be learning to ride a bike. The person wanting to ride the bike may attempt to learn on their own, mimic the actions of another person (visual cues), or may ask for instructions from someone who already knows how to do so (verbal cues).

    Explicit learning conditions the brain to solve problems and learn new concepts.

    Collaborative Learning

    Collaborative learning is the type of learning most commonly used in educational institutes. It involves varying degrees of collaboration between the learner, the instructor, and other students.

    An instructor provides knowledge and helps students make sense of it. The students are then asked to discuss the newly acquired information, connect it to knowledge gained earlier, and use it in coursework.

    Collaborative learning increases higher-level thinking, verbal communication, and leadership skills in a student while promoting self-esteem, acceptance of differing views, and student-teacher and student-peer interactions.

    Cooperative Learning

    In the stages of learning, cooperative learning is structured in a way that students have to interact with each other and the instructor, where instructions are followed and best skills and qualities are observed and learned.

    Cooperative learning is best observed in an environment where practical knowledge is also gained. Playing fields and science laboratories are good examples of cooperative learning settings.

    Advertising

    This type of cognitive learning helps increase retention power and self-confidence and build relationships. It offers opportunities for social support and helps improve attitude and tolerance towards authority and even those who are different to others.

    Observational Learning

    Observational learning is the acquisition of knowledge through observation and imitation of others.

    It is an effective learning methodology, as it makes learning an enjoyable activity, encourages social interactions, enhances memory, and influences mannerisms.

    Albert Bandura proved the effectiveness of observational learning with his Bobo Doll experiment, where children who saw an adult hitting the doll hit it, too[2]. Those children that did not see the Bobo Doll being hit did not hit it either.

    This type of learning can be positive, such as learning compassion and sportsmanship, or negative, such as learning to fear snakes or spiders just because someone around us is afraid of them.

    Learn more about observational learning in this article: How to Use Observational Learning to Learn Effectively

    Meaningful Learning

    Meaningful learning happens when a concept has been understood fully and is being applied in practice. It is a goal-oriented method of acquiring knowledge, and it is the opposite of rote learning.

    A good example of this style of learning would be a chemistry student who learns in class that mixing certain chemicals will result in an explosive reaction. This knowledge will stop him from mixing those chemicals in the lab.

    Meaningful learning is a durable style of learning as it requires linking of new information to previously acquired knowledge. It is constructive and encourages learning through different techniques.

    Advertising

    Like cognitive learning, the next stage of learning can also be taken as an independent methodology or as the second step of a three-phase learning system.

    Stage 2: Associative Learning

    Associative learning is where the brain is conditioned to learn or modify responses, taking into consideration stimuli offered. This type of learning occurs when new and old information can be linked to each other, giving weight to the theory that ideas and experience reinforce each other.

    Associative learning emphasizes acquiring knowledge from the environment and reinforces optimal behavior. It conditions the brain to expect consequences and make decisions based on these expected outcomes. Let’s take a look at the different conditioning of associative learning:

    Classical Conditioning

    In the stages of learning, this is a form of associative learning where the brain is trained to associate a certain desired consequence to an action.[3]

    At school, it could be extra time for games if the students finish assignments in advance, while in an office it could be a cash bonus if employees meet their targets. In a home environment, it could be extra screen time for kids when they finish chores.

    Classical conditioning emphasizes learning from our environment and nurtures critical thinking. It can help to modify undesirable characteristics in the learner and can be used to help overcome phobias.

    Operant Conditioning

    Operant condition is the idea that certain actions will result in reward or punishment. This type of conditioning offers an easy way to learn new lessons.

    The mind can be trained to expect a reward for every book finished (homework pass) or punishment for coming late to school (detention).

    This article explains the concept of associative learning in the light of positive and negative consequences.

    Advertising

    Extinctive Conditioning

    Extinctive conditioning is when the brain is trained to not expect a previously expected response when certain conditions are not met. A comedian scrapping jokes that don’t elicit laughter anymore is a good example of extinctive conditioning.

    You can use this type of mind conditioning to modify existing behavior that may be undesirable.

    Discriminative Conditioning

    Discriminative conditioning is when the brain is trained to reliably expect a certain outcome to a stimulus.

    An example of this would be training a dog to jump at the command “jump” and not when commanded to “sit,” “stay,” or “heel.”

    Moving on from associative learning, we come to the third stage of learning; this is the one that gives a learner the most freedom.

    Stage 3: Autonomous Learning

    At this stage of learning, learners gain knowledge through independent efforts and develop an ability to inquire and evaluate away from teachers and peers’ influence. Teachers or mentors here are not the instructors, but facilitators.[4]

    Learners at this final stage have enough knowledge and the power to control their learning. They are looking for sources that will help them make decisions based on their own understanding of the matter.

    Also, learners are responsible for setting targets and goals, and making sure their understanding is clear in order to achieve the learning targets.

    Autonomous learning motivates learners to learn through their own will. They have the freedom to plan, execute their own learning plan, and create strategies to achieve their goals. They are aware of their learning style and can self-evaluate.

    Advertising

    The Bottom Line

    Each stage of learning is crucial in its own way. The 3 stages of learning—cognitive learning, associative learning, and autonomous learning—are proven to be successful. If you combine and use them as a progressive way to acquire knowledge and skills, you can become a lifelong learner and always learn at your own pace.

    More About Effective Learning

    Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Grade Power Learning: The Benefits of Cognitive Learning
    [2] Simple Psychology: Bobo Doll Experiment
    [3] VeryWellMind: Classical Conditioning Overview
    [4] Professor Jack C. Richards: Autonomous Learner

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) Feel That Life Is Meaningless? Here’s How to Find Meaning How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life The Careful Art of Delegation: How to Delegate Effectively How the Flow State Helps You Stay Productive and Concentrate

    Trending in Learning

    1 23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use 2 10 Remarkable Traits of Successful Learners 3 10 Powerful Learning Hacks to Boost Your Learning Ability 4 How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done 5 How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 11, 2021

    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

    Advertising
    23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

    Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

    1. Coursera

    Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

    Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

    Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

    2. Khan Academy

    Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

    Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

    3. Open Culture Online Courses

    If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

    The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

    Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

    4. Udemy 

    Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

    Advertising

    Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

    5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

    Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

    In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

    These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

    6. Academic Earth

    Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

    Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

    7. edX

    Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

    8. Alison

    Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

    It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

    9. iTunesU Free Courses

    A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

    Advertising

    Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

    Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

    iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

    10. Stanford Online

    Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

    Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

    11. Open Yale Courses

    Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

    12. UC Berkeley Class Central

    Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

    13. MIT OpenCourseWare

    Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

    14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

    Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

    15. Codecademy

    Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

    Advertising

    The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

    16. Code

    Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

    In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

    Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

    17. University of Oxford Podcasts

    The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

    The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

    18. BBC Podcasts

    For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

    Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

    19. TED-Ed

    Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

    Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

    Advertising

    20. LessonPaths

    LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

    21. Memrise

    Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

    Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

    22. National Geographic Kids

    The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

    National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

    23. Fun Brain

    Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

    Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

    The Bottom Line

    With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

    More About Online Learning

    Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

    Read Next