People can learn a great deal without the support of a teacher. There are several factors that can contribute to a persons self learning. Motivation is clearly an important factor (see motivation). Environment is another factor that can promote self learning. It is known that a rich and varied environment that will encourage exploration and experimentation enhances learning in very young children. Self learning using learning networks may become much more common in the future.
Many people have experienced self learning through private study. Private study requires self motivation but it can also benefit from a knowledge of successful study methods (see studying).
Some self learning is implicit. That is, a person does not need to think too much about learning. The acquisition of many skills falls into this category.
Traditionally, learning is undertaken under the guidance of a teacher. This sort of learning can be much more efficient by avoiding the duplication of mistakes and by guiding the learner on a sensible route towards a particular learning goal. Just as private study can benefit from effective methods, teaching can also benefit from good practice and correct methodology. Advances in computer and network technology are leading to a hybrid approach to learning where there will be a strong emphasis on self learning but there will also be teacher support available either on line or in person.
Sometimes fashion dictates which term, either education or training, is used to describe particular courses. Education is where people are helped to understand rather than simply know. Education is more than simply showing people how to do something. Education equips people with the ability to reason about a new situation and to solve novel problems. Sound education often involves investigation, analysis and evaluation.
Training is helping a person to acquire a skill and to learn a method or sequence by which certain tasks can be carried out. Training is closely related to skill acquisition.
Roger C. Schank
Roger C. Schank holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas and directs AKRI of the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. AKRI embodies Schank's concepts for conducting leading edge interdisciplinary research in human learning, providing software solutions for education and accomplishing the successful transfer of artificial intelligence technologies from the university environment to the real world.
Hear Roger speak about his book 'Engines for Education' (2.51 mins 1.4M)