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The Learning Process: Memory, Pre-Existing Knowledge, and What We Know Now.... part 1

What Does NeuroEducational Research Tell Us About How Humans/Children Learn Today?

How Research Findings Have Changed What We Know 

Our learning and the ways in which we learn has been studied and researched for many years. The study of how learning occurs is part of neuropsychology, educational psychology, learning theory, and more. However, as mentioned previously, it was not until the breakthroughs of the last several decades in the areas of neuroscience. neuropsychology, and through more complex imaging abilities have scientists learned the more specific ways in which we learn. What we know about how we learn (and how our brains learn and change as a result of learning) is broadening every day. New discoveries, technologies, and more will give us insight into the strategies and tools that are more effective or less effective than we now believe or once thought.

Knowledge is Organized

Learning does not happen all at once, but builds upon and is shaped by what we already know - our pre-existing knowledge. Information in all of its forms - facts, ideas, concepts, memories, etc... (i.e. what we already "know") is stored within our brain in what is referred to as "schemata." Our schemata is the organized knowledge, skills, concepts, etc.,  in all forms, that exists within our mind. This schemata is organized throughout connections throughout our brain. Anything we know or understand, such as the concept of politics or how to ride a bike involves schemata that is stored as long term memories within different networks and areas of our brain that must connect to form the whole idea we think about, reflect on, or the skill we use.

Learning Is a Process

Learning is a process by which we take in facts, ideas, or concepts and the mechanisms by which we retrieve this information when we need it. Learning is acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences so that changes occur in our brain to the existing schemata across these networks. New learning that is retained in long term memory storage actually makes physical changes to the brain!

How Knowledge Acquisition Occurs

Human learning may occur as part of education, personal development, schooling, or training. It may be goal-oriented and it may be aided by motivation. Learning may occur consciously or without being consciously aware that it is occurring. There is evidence for human learning prenatally, in which it has been observed as early as 32 weeks into pregnancy, indicating that the central nervous system is sufficiently developed and primed for learning and memory to occur very early on in development. 

Progress over time tends to follow learning curves. Deep learning involves applying different types of information in varying degrees.  This idea is what really makes a distinct difference in the effectiveness of educational practices and the difference in decent and top-notch learning environments!

More on application of knowledge and the physical changes that new learning creates in later posts!