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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summary - Learning and Ability

Let us sum up what we have discussed in this unit.

Learning refers to a process that enhances the knowledge, skill and attitude (KSA) of individuals, to increase his/her willingness to adopt those newly acquired KSA and to implement them at the workplace. Characteristics of learning are: learning involves change; change must be relatively permanent; learning is concerned with behavior; and some form of experience is necessary for learning.

There are three theories of learning namely – classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and social learning. Classical Conditioning is a form of associative learning process proposed by Pavlov. This process involves presentations of a neutral stimulus along with a stimulus of some significance. 

The neutral stimulus does not lead to an overt behavioral response from the organism. This is called as Conditioned Stimulus (CS). Significant stimulus evokes an innate, often reflexive, response. This is called Unconditioned Stimulus (US) and Unconditioned Response (UR), respectively. If the CS and the US are repeatedly paired, eventually the two stimuli become associated and the organism begins to produce a behavioral response to it. It is the Conditioned Response (CR).

The operant conditioning theory is proposed by B.F. Skinner. This is based on the idea that learning is a function of change in overt behavior. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual's response to stimuli. When a particular Stimulus-Response (S-R) pattern is reinforced (rewarded), the individual is conditioned to respond. Reinforcement is the key element in Skinner's S-R theory. A reinforcer is anything that strengthens the desired response. The social learning theory was proposed by Bandura. It recognizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. According to Bandura (1977), most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences. When a systematic attempt is made to change individuals‟ behavior by directing their learning in graduated steps, it is called shaping behavior.

There are four methods of Shaping Behavior. They are: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, and extinction. Both positive and negative reinforcement result in learning. They strengthen a response and increase the probability of repetition. Both punishment and extinction weaken behavior and tend to decrease its subsequent frequency.

The typical OB Mod program follows a five-step problem-solving model: Identifying critical behaviors, Developing baseline data, Identifying behavior consequences, Developing and implementing an intervention strategy, and Evaluating performance improvement.

The biographical characteristics include gender, age, marital status and tenure. Ability reflects a person‟s existing capacity to perform the various tasks needed for a given job and includes both relevant knowledge and skills (Cummings & Schwab, 1973). Aptitude represents a person‟s capability of learning something. In other words, aptitudes are potential abilities, whereas abilities are the knowledge and skills that an individual currently possesses. The abilities include intellectual and physical abilities.

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