• David Fontana
Part of the Psychology for Professional Groups book series (PPG)


In spite of its critical importance within education, the problem of explaining how learning takes place, and analysing the factors that influence it, remains a somewhat confused area. Teachers, and educators generally, often blame psychologists for this, and claim that they either present them with several conflicting explanations of learning, each one based upon a different psychological theory, or a single coherent explanation with which it is admitted other psychologists would probably not agree. Yet perhaps this blame, though understandable, is a little unfair. The problem is that learning is such a highly complex activity. We each of us receive a constant and varied stream of experiences throughout our waking moments, each one of which potentially can give rise to learning, yet most of which vanish without trace from our conscious lives. What is it that makes some things memorable and others not? Why is it that a particular event can prompt learning in one person yet have no measurable effect upon someone else? Why does an individual learn readily from one teacher but not from another? How is it that we are able to make sense of our experience, and put the knowledge to good effect when it comes to tackling new situations and problems? Questions such as these and many others make the psychologist’s task of understanding and explaining learning, and above all, of advising on how learning can be made more efficient and more permanent for all types and conditions of learner, an almost herculean one. Perhaps the wonder is not that psychologists have so far failed to come up with all the answers during the 50 years and more in which a systematic study of learning has been made, but that they have come up with as many as they have.


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Additional reading

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Copyright information

© David Fontana 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Wales College of CardiffUK
  2. 2.University of MinhoPortugal

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