The Intangibility and Measurement of Learning

An important aspect of learning is its intangibility. Learning is non-observable; it takes place within people and can only be inferred from actual behavior. For this reason, it is called an intervening variable. Because it must be inferred from behavior, it is often difficult to measure: other factors influence behavior, and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish what part of the behavior is attributable to learning. Two men may be assigned a task and given instructions on how to accomplish it. One may achieve much better results than the other, but that does not necessarily mean he has learned more. He may have had more ability to begin with, or he may have had a greater motivation to succeed than the other.

Performance is the result of learning, ability, motivation, and a variety of external factors. One man may produce more even having learned less because his ability or motivation enables him to perform more effectively. A student who works hard in a course and learns a great amount may see another student work less hard, appear to learn less, but receive a high grade. Such situations are common both in school and in the business world. The factor sometimes overlooked is the initial degree of skill or knowledge brought to the task, and the resultant effect on performance. Often it is performance that is observed, judged, and rewarded.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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