For our purposes, there are two main traditions about learning
how to learn. One stems from the
and Surface learning strategies
studies, and the other from
the work of Gregory
Bateson maintained that many discussions about learning
were confused by category errors about the kind of learning
they were about. He suggested that there are a number of
levels, in which each superior level is the class of its
subordinates (rather like Kelly's notion of superordinate
Bateson himself uses the analogy of movement:
- Learning 0 is direct experience: I put my hand
in the fire – it gets burned
Learning 0 is like the position of an object
- Learning I is what we routinely refer to
as learning: the generalisation from basic experiences.
I have experienced "hand in fire" and "being
burned", and I won't do it again. This is straightforward
and compatible even with
views, as well as the
Learning I is its speed when it moves
- Learning II (which he sometimes called "Deutero-Learning")
contextualises Learning I experiences. It is about developing
strategies for maximising Learning I through the extraction
of implicit rules, and also putting specific bits of
Learning I in context: I don't generally risk getting
burned, but I might do so to save someone else from
Learning II is acceleration (or deceleration)
— a change in speed
- Learning III contextualises Learning II,
and is not understood, but it may be the existential
(or spiritual) level: What does it say about me that
I would risk getting burned in order to ...?
Learning III is a change in the rate of acceleration
— a change in the change of the change of position...
The higher the level, the less we understand about the
process, and although such higher level learning undoubtedly
takes place, the more difficult it is deliberately to manage
Note that levels of learning are different from levels
of understanding, as exemplified in
taxonomy of educational objectives, and also to be distinguished
from the similar terminology of Gagné.
This account does not do justice to Bateson's very complex
thinking, which starts from posing the question why people get
better with practice at doing fairly meaningless tasks such
as remembering nonsense syllables.
The interesting question for academic practice is the
qualitative shift required to move from Learning 1 to Learning
II, which some people find more difficult than others, perhaps
in specific subject areas. How do we help them to achieve it?
This may be the biggest remaining problem in in pedagogic/andragogic
Some clues are contained in
but we still don't know reliable answers.
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