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Learning-To-Learn

The phenomenon of greater improvement in speed of learning as one's experience with learning increases.

When people try to learn a new behavior, the first attempts are often not very successful. After a time, however, they seem to get the idea of the behavior and the pace of learning increases. This phenomenon of greater improvement in speed of learning is called learning-to-learn (LTL). There are two general reasons for the existence of LTL. First, negative transfer diminishes. When people have learned to do something, they have often developed schemas or learning sets, that is, ways to approach those tasks. When a new behavior is required, old approaches that may be irrelevant or that may get in the way must be discarded. Learning becomes easier when irrelevant or distracting behaviors disappear. Second, there may be positive transfer of previous knowledge that might be usefully applied to the situation.

Learning-to-learn is most obvious in tasks that are somewhat complicated or varied. LTL occurs when the learner realizes how the various components of an over-all behavior fit together. When learners must deal with a lot of information, they can develop the required higher order principles that allow them to develop a general perspective on the behavior. As a result, subsequent learning fits together because it fits in more naturally with the person's overall perspective. When the behavior to be learned is simple, no such perspective is needed, so LTL is less relevant.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaLearning & Memory