Types of Learning

January 17, 2005

Learning to play the stock market is not the same as learning to ride a bicycle, and neither of these is like learning the local transit system or learning to code in Java. Learning comes in many flavors.

Learning can be deep or shallow, cerebral or heartfelt, assigned or accidental, important or trivial.

You may learn from a teacher or from experience or from a book. You may learn with others or in isolation.

We usually think of learning as taking place in our heads, but athletes train for “muscle memory,” all of us have learned things in our hearts, and the yoga instructor trains the whole body.

Visual Thesaurus

Jay: Learning is like the tree that fell over in the forest. If no one heard it, the tree didn’t make a sound (for sound requires an ear drum by definition.) If no one took in the information, there’s no knowledge (because knowledge only exists in the heads of its users.) If no action resulted, there was no learning (because it would be inconsequential is nothing changed).

1 a (1) : to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience learn a trade> (2) : MEMORIZE learn the lines of a play> b : to come to be able learn to dance> c : to come to realize learned that honesty paid>

Encarta® World English Dictionary

1. acquiring of knowledge: the acquisition of knowledge or skill

2. education acquired knowledge: knowledge or skill gained through education
a man of great learning

3. psychology change in knowledge: a relatively permanent change in, or acquisition of, knowledge, understanding, or behavior

Cambridge International Dictionary of English
the activity of obtaining knowledge

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
1. The act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill. 2. Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study. See synonyms at knowledge. 3. Psychology Behavioral modification especially through experience or conditioning.

Cambridge Dictionary of American English
to get knowledge or understanding of facts or ideas or of how to do things
We’re learning algebra.
He’s not much of a cook, but he’s learning.
We were shocked when we learned of his death.
I hope you’ll learn from your mistakes .
I learned to drive when I was 16.
First you must learn how to use this computer.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
LEARNING, ppr. lern’ing. Gaining knowledge by instruction or reading, by study, by experience or observation; acquiring skill by practice.

LEARNING, n. lern’ing.
1. The knowledge of principles or facts received by instruction or study; acquired knowledge or ideas in any branch of science or literature; erudition; literature; science. The Scaligers were men of great learning. [This is the proper sense of the word.]
2. Knowledge acquired by experience, experiment or observation.
3. Skill in anything good or bad.

Columbia Encyclopedia, Six Edition

in psychology, the process by which a relatively lasting change in potential behavior occurs as a result of practice or experience. Learning is distinguished from behavioral changes arising from such processes as maturation and illness, but does apply to motor skills, such as driving a car, to intellectual skills, such as reading, and to attitudes and values, such as prejudice. There is evidence that neurotic symptoms and patterns of mental illness are also learned behavior. Learning occurs throughout life in animals, and learned behavior accounts for a large proportion of all behavior in the higher animals, especially in humans.


marked by the absence of formality or ceremony. characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary, casual, or familiar use. relaxed, friendly, or unofficial.


Formal and informal are not direct opposites.


My off-the-top definition of formal is approved, vetted, scheduled, official, accredited, and/or authorized.
Poll: What is learning?

1. school, papers, teaching, not doing

What is informal learning?

1. learning that’s a byproduct of something else


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