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While much of today’s individual learning theories transcend from Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence(1999), it was Greek philosophers who at first focused on the value of learning. Initially, these first philosophers theorized that “life-long learners strive for Truth by exploring Laws of Human Mind and the Universe" (Sinitsa, 2000). These theories gave way to new ideas and even helped inspire Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence.
Howard Gardner states in his theory that there are eight types of multiple intelligences which include: linguistic, body-kinesthetic, spatial, logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic in which each person learns best within one of these intelligences (1999). It is important to note that learners have possibilities in all eight areas but may tend to excel in one, two, or three areas more than others do. It is possible for learners to function and explore their capabilities in areas that they consider themselves inept. Research says intelligence is not fixed at birth; it can be taught, and intelligence is a multi-dimensional talent (Lazear, 1991). Throughout the years researchers have studied individual learning to gain a more in-depth knowledge-base of how the brain works, but still use the ancient Greek’s ideas to help them develop a more modern application of the individual learning theory.
The constructivist theory of learning holds that learners construct knowledge by understanding new information and assimilating new information with previously obtained. Information in an active process. “Each learner arrives at a learning "site" with some pre-existing level of understanding”. Although the constructivist model encourages learning by doing, which one might argue is a group learning dynamic, I would argue that that individual learning is a large part of the constructivist model. Individuals within the group are exercising their own learning models and contributing what they learn to the group.
Another theorist that can be thought of in the discussion of individual learning is Jean Piaget. Piaget theorized that learning takes places in four stages which he called "genetic epistemology". The sensorimotor stage is the when the child (ages 0-3) develops motor actions. The preoperational stage (ages 3-7 years) is intuitive knowledge. The third stage, concrete operation stage (8-11 years) is when logic is applied, and thus classification abilities and order is developed. In the formal operations stage (ages 12-15) the individual begins to apply abstract thinking.
"To present an adequate notion of learning one must first explain how the individual manages to construct and invent, not merely how he repeats and copies." Jean Piaget
“John Dewey described learning as an interactive cycle of invention, observation, reflection, and action (Schon, 1992)…”
We find that individual learning is a term that holds many meanings throughout the world. One might say that learning is the human brain actively transforming sensory stimulation according to some rule in the brain. (Hergenhahn and Olson, 1993: 252-253) Others say individual learning is “the capacity to build knowledge through individual reflection about external stimuli and sources, and through the personal re-elaboration of individual knowledge and experience in light of interaction with other and the environment” (Siniitsa, 2000). Which description best fits individual learning?
Maybe Dixon can shed light on the subject with defining individual learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience". This showing that individual learning is dependent on one’s experience as well as the knowledge of others. The Human Resource Development Council seems to agree with saying that learning or inventing knowledge is when individuals experience personal growth in their interactions with the world around them. Personal experience being a key component in both descriptions.
Does Individual learning happen naturally through the inner workings of the brain or is it through a person’s interaction and experience with their environment? These definitions may not align exactly, but they all signify some personal transformation made by that individual.
When a person is learning individually they take all the information they already have and connect it to what they are experiencing at that moment in time to form new knowledge. Riki Goldman-Segall: said knowledges are deconstructions, reconstructions and co-constructions that emerge as a result of the interaction between what is already known and what is yet to be known again, in a new form.
Although there are many definitions of individual learning they all are based on the same underlying theme. Most theorists agree that learning occurs when experience causes a change in a person's knowledge or behavior.
II. Individual Learning/Invention
Individual Learning is very similar to distributed learning. Distributed learning is a concept that refers to using distributed resources. According to Saltzberg and Polyson (1995), "distributed learning is an instructional model that allows instructor, students, and content to be located in different, noncentralized locations so that instruction and learning occur independent of time and place." Using everyone's contributions on a particular topic creates an environment for distributed learning to take place. Individual learning uses distributed learning to achieve the knowledge desired.
Individual learning is a predecessor to the theory of organizational learning and if often connected with the term. Alan Mumford, an independent specialist in learning and director development states, "it is impossible to conceive of an learning organization, however defined, that exists without individual learners. Essentially, an organization is made up of a body of individual thinkers that come together as a bond for the common need. In the same sense, the individual learner, although not initially affected, can be helped or hindered by the organizational body of individual learners (Mumford, 1991).
Positive Aspects of Individual Learning
Good for introverts and shy learners
Safe, free from peer pressure
Challenged by competing with oneself (doing better next time)
Curiosity (can explore new interesting facts without justifying it to the group)
Control (use own time and sequence, do not need to report to others)
Fantasy (allowing oneself to daydream on certain aspects of the work)
Can accommodate own learning style, cognitive style and learning approach
Can work on own time and at own pace
Practice skill as often as you wish, to master it.
Develops personal gratification
Opportunity for authentic learning to take place based on the individual learning style
Individual learning is a person relying on himself/herself for a knowledge base. Contrast this with group learning where multiple knowledge's and stimuli (from the group) can give the individual opportunities to learn new things or inspire that individual with 'hints' to help him/her learn. Individuals can learn with three modalities/styles of activity, the ear or audio processing, the eye or visual processing and the hand or kinetic processing. Usually, individuals have a proclivity for one or two of these learning styles. The computer is an excellent sample of the use of all three learning styles and is therefore very engaging to most learners. The individual is the building block of the group, and knowledge base of one, that is where he/she is limited. The knowledge base of the group is only limited by the size of the group.
A contrast to individual learning would be in situations of drug recovery programs. According to doctor Marvin Block, a member of the American Medical Association's Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the people coming into these programs rely on past learning experiences of others to help them on their individual journey to recovery. The new person coming into the program relies heavily on a sponsor to guide them through the process and meetings with other individuals to remind them if they forget why they are there. Without this support, the programs would not be as successful. "Perhaps the most effective treatment in the rehabilitation of the alcoholic...[is]...a close association with others whose experiences parallel his own" (Block, 2007)
Criticisms against Individual Learning
Insufficient interaction with peers or adults socially
Neglect of norms and values
Can be boring
Difficult to test synthesis
If drill and practice is used, it can lead to a single perspective
Focus on self-interest and personal success, and ignores the success and/or failures of others
No support system from peers
Insufficient knowledge to draw from ones self
V. Outcome & Evaluations
I put this section here because I saw it was in the other parts of this paper but missing here. Any reason why? In any case here it is! -- Samiya
*the following need complete citation info please:
Hergenhahn and Olson
Human Resource Development Council
Block, M. (2007) Retrieved August 4, 2007, from
Dixon, N. M. (1999).
The organizational learning cycle
. Grower Publishing, pps. 60-61.
Gardner, H. (1999).
Intelligence reframed: multiple intelligences for the 21st century
. New York: Basic Books.
Hergenhahn, and Olson. (1993) 1993: 252-253
Human Resource Development Council. Retrieved from
Johnson, DW. Positive aspects of individual learning & criticisms against individual learning.
Lazear, D. (1991). Seven Ways of Learning. Skylight Professional Development.
Mumford, A. (1991). Individual and Organisational Learning.
Industrial & Commercial Training
, 23(6), 24.
Saltzberg, S., & Polyson, S. (1995, September). Distributed learning on the World Wide Web.
, 9(1), 10.
Sinitsa, K. (2000) Learning individually: a life long perspective.
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