5 Principles of Learning

Learning Principles

Learning principles are guidelines for how people learn most effectively. The more these principles are reflected in training, the more effective training is likely to be.

Research suggests that they apply equally to domestic and international situations. These are the basic principles or conditions that facilitate learning. Learning is a change in behavior as a result of experience. All living is learning.

Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behavior potential resulting from reinforced practice or experience.


Learning should permit and encourage the active participation of the learner. Participation improves motivation and apparently engages more senses that reinforce the learning process. As a result of participation, people learn more quickly and retain that learning longer.

For example, most people never forget how to ride a bicycle because they actively participated in the learning process.

The learning activities should be experiential rather than just informational.

Therefore, the trainers should arrange the physical surroundings to facilitate small group interaction and promote the sharing of ideas.


An important principle of learning is to provide the learner with the opportunity for practice and repetition. To gain the full benefit of training, learned behaviors must be overlearned to ensure smooth performance and a minimum of forgetting at a later date.

Proficiency in learning and retaining new skills is improved when individuals visualize themselves performing the new behavior.


Learning is helped when the material to be learned is meaningful. The learning should be problem-centered rather than content centered.

People are motivated to learn when training is immediately relevant to help them solve a current problem. Learning something just because someone says “it is important” is not as motivating.


Because the training occurs in a special environment, an important question to ask is whether learning will transfer to the actual job situation.

Transfer of training occurs when trainees can apply the knowledge and skills learned in training courses to their jobs. The training has failed if the learning in one setting does not transfer to the actual job situation.

Three transfers training situations are possible;

  1. Positive transfer of training when the training activities enhance performance in the new situation;
  2. negative transfer of training, when the training activities inhibit performance in a new situation; and
  3. no observable effect of training.


Feedback gives learners information on their progress. Performance feedback is a necessary prerequisite for learning. Feedback improves performance not only by helping learners correct their mistakes but also by providing reinforcement for learning.

Knowledge of results is a positive reinforcement in itself. Learning activities have more intrinsic interest if feedback is available.

Nevertheless, performance feedback should do more than inform learners whether they are right or wrong.

Merely informing the trainees that they were wrong is not as effective as telling them why they were wrong and how they can avoid making mistakes in the future. In general, knowledge of results is an essential feature of learning, and this knowledge comes after the learner’s response.

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