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  • Writer's pictureProf. ZHANG Ying

Learning Process and Success in Education

Dr. Ying ZHANG

Singularity Academy July 23. 2022

Zurich, Switzerland

Citation: Zhang, Y. (2022). Learning Process and Success in Education. Singularity Academy Frontier Review: # 20220723 

Education psychology is a field studying how people learn and retain knowledge. It aims to improve the learning process and promote educational success for all students, with various teaching methods, instructional approaches, and individual differences in learning.

Several theories/perspectives in the educational psychology field influence educators and institutions to do educational development.

1- Development Perspective: this perspective focuses on how children/students acquire new skills and knowledge over the years. This stream of the study believes that children are not born with the same cognitive processes as adults (Papalia & Feldman, 2011). Instead, children's cognitive processes develop over time, respond to their environment, and are updated with exposure to new information. In this field, Prof. Jean Piaget (1951) developed a model "Stages of Cognitive Development" by looking at how children grow intelligently over age, including Sensorimotor stage (0–2 years old); Preoperational stage (2–7 years old); Concrete operational stage (7–11 years old); Formal operational stage (11 years old through adulthood). (more about Piaget's theory can be referred to in his book). Therefore, following this perspective, the educational and learning process must be taken with patience and graduality, fitting into general children's cognitive development milestones.

2- Cognitive Perspective: this perspective counts for the role of emotion, memories, beliefs, and motivations in the learning process. This perspective highlights motivation instead of external rewards/punishment mechanisms. However, what are the source of motivation, how to stimulate more motivation, and beliefs are not the focus of this field (in other areas being studied). As children's motivation/interests/ emotions are not as stable as adults (or very few children can manage their feelings and interest), solely depending on this perspective to guide children's learning process is more likely not to be effective and fruitful. Advice is to enrich students' experiences and memories to identify more options and possibilities for motivations and interests.

3- Behavior Perspective: this stream of studies stresses instrumental conditioning is the force for the learning process, where good behavior will be rewarded while bad behavior will be punished. This perspective has clear rules for controlling the learning process and has obvious pros and cons, particularly for students who are required to develop a strong sense of discipline. It is effective for some stages of cognitive development. However, it disregards the role of attitude and motivation in a longer learning process. With this perspective of the learning process, students can comprehend content faster but not sophistically enough.

4- Constructivist Perspective : this perspective emphasizes the importance of social and culture in our learning process. It believes that what we learn influences how we learn. Therefore, the learning process and performance can only be optimal with the guidance of a higher learner. Many learning models from the theory of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), by psychologist Lev Vygostky (1978).

There are three categories of ZPD:

  • A learner cannot accomplish with assistance (therefore, to reduce the difficulties of the task for the learner)

  • A learner can accomplish with assistance (therefore, to use different techniques to help the learners have better understanding and performance on the tasks)

  • A learner can accomplish without assistance (therefore, increase the task difficulties and encourage further learning)

Once students are in their ZPD (in the second stage), educators can try more options to assist students in accomplishing a new list of tasks and skills, for example, via scaffoldings: activities, instructions, tools, and various resources. For example, to

  • ask students to solve the problem via other thought processes and solutions.

  • ask students to abstract solutions in a model for the same category of problems.

  • set students up into small groups to discuss different problems and solutions.

  • guild students to use existing knowledge to solve complex problems.

  • guild students to self-reflect and self-correct mistakes to develop new knowledge.

5- Experiential Perspective: this perspective focuses on the role of a person's own experiences, thoughts, and feelings in understanding new knowledge and information. This perspective allows people to identify the value of their learning and guild themselves forward. With this theory, David Kolb (1984) developed a model to explain how we learn.

  • By doing something (Concrete Experimentation)

  • By thinking about it (Reflection)

  • By doing some research

  • By talking with others and applying what we already know to the situation (Abstract Conceptualization)

  • By doing something new or doing the same thing in a more sophisticated way based on our learning (Active Experimentation).

In principle, all the above perspectives are not contradictory. Instead, they can supplement each other and should be combined in the actual learning process for different circumstances. To do so,

  • Educators need to have sufficient capability (via continuous learning) to understand each student's personality matrix and design a fit learning process for them.

  • Educators need to comprehend a pool of models for the learning process, with the aids of educational technology, instructional design, curriculum development, organizational learning, etc.

  • Each student should be considered a unique talent, deserving full attention from educators and mentors.

  • To improve its effectiveness, the learning process can be accompanied and analyzed with the aid of technology and legal procedures (protection of private data).

What we as educators want to bring to the learning process for students include information, knowledge, skills, values, attitude, etc. In there, academic content, psychological content, social and cultural content, mental content, value, and attitude content, physiological content and many others should be all engaged. To measure whether an education/learning process is successful, we educators cannot only focus on a singular index and its application, for example, the academic index. A complete range/measurement for the above-mentioned content must be indexed and counted equally. Humanity-value* (to care for the sustainability of all other creatures and diversification in the eco-system, to value the system circularity of existing white and black matter) should be all involved in the whole education and learning process.

*For more discussion about humanity value, please refer to my other papers (Zhang,2020a, 2020b)


Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Papalia, D. E., & Feldman, R. D. (2011). A child's world: Infancy through adolescence (12th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Piaget, J. (1951). Play, dreams and imitation in childhood (vol. 25). Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Zhang, Y. (2020a) Human Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and Humanity. Harvard Business Review, Special Issue China Management Mentors, June 2020

Zhang, Y. (2020b) Covid-19, Globalisation, and Humanity. Harvard Business Review, China, Special Issue. April 6, 2020. China

Zhang_learning success and process in education_july 2022
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