Knowledge acquisition process: how do we learn?

The process of acquiring knowledge is the model by which human beings learn and develop their intelligence.

A process of building the knowledge necessary to develop as people and acquire tools that allow us to meet the challenges of our society.

What is the point of acquiring knowledge?

Whenever we receive information structured into theoretical sets, organized in one way or another, we acquire knowledge.

Information is power, provided we are able to organize and structure it properly so that it is useful to us when it comes to relating to ourselves and our environment.

According to psychologist Robert Gagné, the main functions of acquiring knowledge are as follows:

They serve as a prerequisite for the acquisition of other knowledge. Learning a certain subject requires that we have prior knowledge that will serve to establish and consolidate new learning.

They are useful to evolve in our daily life in a practical way. Usually, the more educated people with a higher level of knowledge tend to have an easier time resolving conflicts and coming out blustery from day to day.

They serve as a vehicle for our thoughts to flow. People with more knowledge are also more able to reason and interpret reality in a more flexible and pragmatic way.

Knowledge acquisition phases

The acquisition of knowledge is not an easy task and that is why several stages have been identified for the transits before being able to consider that a knowledge has been consolidated as such.

Up to 5 necessary phases have been described. They are as follows.

1. Identification

In this phase of knowledge acquisition we must first determine whether the problem presented to us can be solved or not through knowledge-based systems; that is, it should not be a solvable problem from the application of algorithms.

In addition, there must be access to sufficient sources of knowledge to carry out the task (experts, specialized bibliography, etc.). And the problem must be of an adequate size, which is not impossible to solve due to its complexity.

2. Conceptualization

In this phase, the basic elements of the problem must be detailed and the relationships between them must be discovered.. It is also a matter of breaking down the problem into sub-problems to facilitate their understanding and resolution.

Another element needed in this phase is to discover the flow of reasoning to solve the problem and to specify when and how the knowledge elements are needed. The ultimate goal is to understand the problem and classify its elements.

3. Formalization

In this phase of knowledge acquisition, the objective is to consider different reasoning schemes that can be used to model different solving needs problems identified.

The nature of the research space and the type of research to be performed must be understood, through comparisons with different prototypical problem-solving mechanisms (classification, data abstraction, temporal reasoning, etc.).

The certainty and completeness of the information available, as well as its reliability or consistency, must be analyzed. The objective is to develop a formal model of the problem with which the expert system can reason

4. Implementation

In the implementation phase, it is necessary to select or define the most suitable algorithms for problem solving and data structures for knowledge representation. It’s about uncovering the issues and incompleteness that will require you to revisit some of the previous phases.

5. Test

In this last phase of testing, a set of resolved representative cases must be chosen and the functioning of the system verified. In this phase, the errors that will correct the previous analyzes are discovered.

In general, problems will arise due to a lack of rules, incompleteness, lack of correction and possible errors in the analysis of pre-established rules.

Piaget’s learning theory

According to Piaget, the organism builds knowledge from its interaction with the environment. The popular psychologist denied the existence of innate knowledge and argued in his learning theory that people try to know reality through the selection, interpretation and organization of the information we receive.

The acquisition of knowledge, according to Piaget, would be done through mechanisms of assimilation and accommodation. The information received would be integrated into the knowledge schemas already constructed in the individual and, in turn, these would be mobilized, modified and would undergo a process of accommodation or readjustment.

Assimilation and accommodation

Assimilation and accommodation are two complementary adaptation processes, postulated by Piaget, Through which the individual internalizes knowledge of the outside world.

The assimilation process refers to how an organism copes with an environmental stimulus in terms of current organization. Mental assimilation is the process by which new information is molded into pre-existing cognitive patterns.

The adaptation process involves a modification of the current organization in response to the demands of the medium. It is a process by which the individual adapts to external conditions i.e. internal schemas are changed to accommodate new information.

Ausubel’s meaningful learning

David P. Ausubel was an American psychologist and one of the main proponents of constructivism. Ausubel rejected the Piagetian hypothesis that we only understand what we have discovered, Because according to him, we can learn anything as long as this learning is meaningful.

Meaningful learning is the process of acquiring knowledge whereby new knowledge or information is linked to the cognitive structure of the learner in a non-arbitrary and substantial or non-literal way.

This interaction with the cognitive structure does not occur by viewing it as a whole, but with relevant aspects present in it, called sub-consumers or anchor ideas.

The presence of inclusive, clear and available ideas, concepts or proposals in the learner’s mind is what gives meaning to this new content in interaction with him.

But it is not simply a union of concepts, but in this process the new contents acquire a meaning for the learner and a transformation of the sub-consumers of their cognitive structure takes place, which are thus progressively more differentiated, elaborated and stable.

Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory

The sociocultural theory of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, one of the foremost theorists of developmental psychology and precursor of Soviet neuropsychology, focuses on the contributions that society makes to individual development and the acquisition of knowledge.

This theory does not focus solely on how adults and peers influence individual learningBut also in the way cultural beliefs and attitudes influence the way knowledge is taught and constructed.

According to Vygotsky, each culture provides what he called tools of intellectual adaptation, which allow children to use their basic cognitive skills in a way sensitive to the cultural environment in which they grow and develop.

One of the most important concepts of his theory is that of near development zone. This concept refers to the distance between the actual level of development determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development determined by problem solving under the direction and supervision of a more competent adult or peer.

How does our brain learn?

Cognitive neuroscience warns us, time and time again, that learning by pure repetition and memorization is not the most appropriate way for our brain to acquire and consolidate knowledge.

It seems that we are not learning to memorize, but to experience, get involved and participate with our hands. Several scientific studies have shown that factors such as surprise, novelty, motivation or teamwork are essential factors in encouraging and encouraging learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

Another essential factor in the acquisition of new knowledge is the emotion and the meaning of the material to be learned. Learning under the influence of positive emotions and feelings that involve passion, lucidity or curiosity increases a person’s chances of assimilating this knowledge.

In short, it is about involving the person in their own learning process.Thus, learning and acquiring new knowledge is a challenge and not an obligation.

Bibliographical references:

  • Pou, Juan Ignacio. 2006). “Cognitive theories of learning” Morata. Madrid.

  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.

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