Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

Learning and change

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Learning is a continual process when people learn they generate ideas and they test them to their own values.  When the ideas survive the test then learning has occurred (Schaveran, 2007).  In my opinion, learning only occurs after information is filtered through ones brain and one that is retained in the long-term memory is what is learned.  This is because not all information gathered or exposed to is relevant.  The brain uses selective criteria in choosing what tom process and store.  Most times, what we can relate to in terms of previous knowledge and/or experience is easily retained or learned, as opposed to new and abstract information.  Perhaps this is the reason why it is said that learning is biologically based.

Learning is f g.t.r process meaning it followers a generate test and regenerate cycle.  At least this is according to the biologically based generative theory of learning.  This theory is built upon three premises.  One, that values drive learning, two that learning occurs by selection and three that learning is progressive (Schaverien, 2007) contrary to common thought learning is not a one-time affair, biological learning takes times and at the primary level it may take as long as 20 years for it to occur.

This is because at the primary level. Genetic knowledge transfer from one living thing to another say through reproduction takes time.  At the secondary level i.e. within the immune system and brain the time frame is shorter while at the territory level that is through studying our history and culture knowledge transfer is relatively quicker (Schaverein, 2007) Perhaps this sound like technical jargon but Hutching puts a better perspective on the whole concept of time learning.  He says,

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Education is not a segregated activity conducted hours in certain places at a certain time of life.  It was the aim of society.  The city educated the man. The Athenian was educated by culture by paideia (Hutchins 1970:133)

Learning has always been an intriguing concept to curious minds such as those of psychologist mostly because it is unseen and intangible process.  Psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, John Locke, Ivan Pavlov, BF Skinner, Jerome Brunner, George Kelly and Wolfgang Kohler are some of the key psychologist who contributed significant theories, which try to explain learning.

This paper draws from a workplace context of how learning occurs; it also tracks ideas about growth and development in the work place basing argument from certain theories of learning.  It will also speculate on the various kinds of learning support in the workplace.

Human growth and development occurs in stages.  In this workplace context, I choose to focus on Erickson’s model of lifep development and how it affects the workplace learning and change, Erickson’s model concerns itself with psychosocial department of human beings.  It specifically touches on social roles and relationship of individuals and how they progress from childhood to late stages of life theory proposes.

This theory proposes eight stages of life, which occurs in the same order to all individuals. (Barbara & Newman, 2005).   This first stage revolves around trust and infants experience it.  At the stage there is need fell that one can depend on those around him.  This stage is very crucial to an individual and affects learning in the progressive stages if an infact gains trust in his environment, she/he learns to trust others.  The second stage is characterized by struggle for autonomy and doubt.  This stage occurs at about age 2-3 where by the infant seeks independence of others yet finds that the support of others is in dispensable.

At this stage both of these aspects are crucial since without independence a child is clubbed with self-doubt when doing things on his own, at the same time support from others equally important for growth. The third stage at about age3-6 is characterized by struggles between initiative and guilt.  At this point, children not allowed to follow their own course are crippled with guilt whenever they do so.  This could lead to over dependence on others.  The fourth stage occurs at age seven through to early puberty.  This stage is characterized by internal conflict between industry and inferiority.

During this stage, there is great interest to tackle tasks performed by adults.  Failures influence the Childs inferiority complex.  Similarly, successes build self-confidence and superiority complex.  Adolescence is the next stage characterized by confusion between self-identity and societal role.  There is a poor coordination between self-identity and life goals.  Failures are associated failure in life.  This is a very destructive behaviour such as drug abuse, dropouts and alcoholism.  The sixth stage is young adulthood.  At this stage struggles between confusion and self-identity have been resolved.  However, there is struggle between intimacy and partners and careers.  Some people combine this stage with the adult years since these years are ones that an individual is at their prime.

However, the struggles in the adult years are different at the stage a person is at struggles between generativity and stagnation.  This is owing to the many demands of life at this stage say advancement in career, productivity at work and at home and risk of stagnation.  The last stage is the senior years mostly the years after retirement.  At this stage, an individual is at crossroads between feeling of integrity and despair.  In these reflective years, a person recollects how he/she spent his life and gauges whether it was in vain or it was meaningful.  Feelings of despair arise when on individual feels that there is nothing more left for him/her in this life.

I suppose one may be justified to wonder what Erickson’s model of lifep development has to do with learning and change.  As seen, each stage of life is characterized by struggles and these struggles must be overcome for an individual to develop to a healthy adult capable of learning.  Individuals who had or have difficulty of resolving these struggles depict certain deficiency in learning personally; I have a problem with trusting myself to do something right alone.  Perhaps, this distrust originates from the fact that I was not encouraged to follow my own initiative during the stage where individuals have need to have autonomy and initiative.  Such people usually have difficulty in learning new things and being innovative at the workplace.

These doubts and guilt hinder them from expressing new ideas and learning through training and delegation is slow.  The sixth stage of development has implication on learning in the workplace.  Young adults are motivated but an internal need to be generative and productive.  This means that they are more flexible and interested in learning new things.  Similarly, their brains are at their sharpest and they feel inclined to generate alternatives approaches to problems.  Given a rich environment and the right organization culture, their potential is boundless.   The biological based generative theory of determines what information is learnt and which is discarded.  Values are formed at each level of development.  Young adults who have positive values attached to learning and their self-concept are able to generate their own views hence learning. (Finger & Asún, 2000)  They are also able to relinquish meaningless ideas and build on them to make powerful ones.


In summary, it is worthwhile to expose the kinds of learning support that might work in the workplace.  The ideal learning situation should be one that allows individuals to construct their own ideas and subject them to the g-t-r cycle inorder to validate learning.  The workplace should be one that enables an individual to have a degree of autonomy and initiative in initiating and sustaining learning.  Young adults should be accorded tasks that challenge them so that hey do not stagnate at one position and they feel productive. (Sugarman, 2001)  Equally important is the need to foster healthy competition within the workplace.  According to the Erickson’s lifep development model, individuals can revisit particular stages if theory feels they did not adequately resolve the struggles characterizing that stage.  In such cases, the workplace may play a supportive role of facilitating this resolution.


Barbara, M & Newman, P (2005). Development through Life: A Psychosocial Approachs. Thomson Wadsworth.

Finger, M. & Asún, M. (2000). Adult Education at the Crossroads. Learning our way out. London: Zed Books.

Hutchins, R. M. (1970).The Learning Society, Harmondsworth. Penguin.

Schaverien, L. (2007). Working Paper: An introduction to a (biologically based) generative view of learning.

Sugarman, L. (2001). Life-p Development: Frameworks, Accounts, and Strategies. Psychology Press.

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