We learn throughout our lives, but not in the same way or the same things


Learning can be interpreted as the process in which our central nervous system is modified to internalize and adhere to knowledge. This process is acquired and carried out from very early stages of development until the individual dies . That is, from embryonic development to death, the human being does not stop learning.

From the perspective of developmental psychology, the stages of learning are very varied and heterogeneous, with multiple differences that make them unique and particular depending on the characteristics of each individual. For this reason it is impossible to determine that a person learns the same as another or, even, at the same time and in the same way.

From more capacity to more complexity

During child development, neurophysiological changes occur that allow the acquisition of increasingly complex knowledge, but, in the same way, the broad capacity of boys and girls to obtain more learning is limited.

Once neurobiological maturity is reached, the changes are more functional than structural, until reaching adolescence or adulthood.

At this moment, what happens is a process of optimizing the functioning of the built structures, which allows learning to become more complex and ideas and thoughts that are much more profound and deliberate can be developed than in the childhood stage .

The importance of contexts

All this development takes shape in the family environment and in the educational center, key contexts for the person to start their learning, acquire the necessary skills for the development of the basic activities of daily life, as well as for them to improve their qualities. and skills in order to gain greater autonomy and functionality, which will significantly improve their quality of life.

Parents and teachers will become the main educational agents. The mission and the objective of educating the minor so that they develop correctly, influencing their cognitive, affective and social learning, falls on them .

Adulthood: scientific thought and ethics

In the adult stage, the person is capable of mastering various dimensions of knowledge, such as scientific, artistic, technical, moral or social conflicts. These constructions, from a developmental point of view, could be considered as an evolution of the simpler or more basic thoughts that begin to develop in childhood and take shape in adolescence.

Authors such as Piaget highlight that adult life has two key aspects related to learning: the first is related to scientific thought and the second to ethics, two constructs that are not fully developed until adulthood.

During this stage, the person carries out the individuation process: he becomes a complex being, developing all his potentialities, and reaches the culmination of his learning process.

Slowdown and old age

Finally, in old age, the human being experiences a slowdown in learning processes. Although he continues to acquire knowledge, this process is limited compared to earlier stages of development.

The elderly person is vulnerable to the deterioration of their cognitive processes, which will restrict the necessary capacities for the absorption of knowledge. Little by little, the neural network will be diminished, making it difficult to assimilate new learning , therefore, at this stage, the knowledge acquisition function is significantly reduced.

When do you learn best?

Taking these data into account, it should be noted that the ideal period for learning is located in the first years of a person’s life, that is, in childhood and adolescence.

In these stages there is a unique cerebral plasticity that allows the acquisition of fundamental knowledge with greater solvency to gradually mature it during later stages until reaching adulthood; It is in this period where the learning capacity is maximum and the individual can acquire any knowledge he wants .

When to learn what?

However, it should be noted that not all knowledge is acquired in the same way. There are skills or competencies that must be developed at certain stages of development: this is due to the maturation of neurological structures related to learning.

For example, learning to ride a bicycle is not the same as solving a complex mathematical problem. At early ages, certain structures are not mature enough to be able to carry out more complex or abstract processing, so there are limitations or ideal ages for the acquisition of certain knowledge. Therefore, it is important to determine the age and the knowledge that you want to learn.

During the early stages of development, boys and girls acquire the language much faster compared to older ages. Upon reaching adolescence, identity and the search for new experiences and experiences are established, developing social, affective and communicative skills. Finally, in adulthood one begins to develop logical and critical thoughts that allow the acquisition of abstract and complex concepts in relation to the world around us.

Learning is a complex construct and, although there are critical periods in which certain knowledge must be acquired, human beings never stop learning.

Author Bios: Alejandro Cano Villagrasa is Professor in the Degree of Speech Therapy and Psychology and Beatriz Valles-Gonzalez is Director of the Degree in Speech Therapy both at the International University of Valencia