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Given that learning appears to be an innate human trait, reason suggests that humans could devise a standard definition of learning. Such is hardly the case.

Given that learning appears to be an innate human trait, reason suggests that humans could devise a standard definition of learning. Such is hardly the case.

From ancient philosophers debating learning as either experience or reason to modern educators quibbling about whether learning is process, product, or function, perspectives on learning seem to be as numerous as practitioners of learning. Theorists, researchers, practitioners, and philosophers may never agree on a single definition of learning because the definition seems to depend on so many dynamically interacting factors that affect the design and implementation of learning programs. This includes the philosophical and theoretical foundation of the institution, the social agenda of administration, the philosophical perspective of the practitioner, the needs and capacity of the learner, and contextual factors.

The confusion presented by disparate perspectives on learning presents an opportunity to explore the foundations of modern education practice to understand why some learning programs apply the methods they do, while providing a basis for a principal-based approach to learning that matches method with context. Considering competing perspectives on learning from the classical foundations of rationalism and empiricism through the traditional classifications of learning theory-- behaviorism, cognitivism, humanism, and constructivism—can help educators understand the foundations of historical and modern learning practice. Further, by expanding perspective beyond adherence to limited theories and practices, practitioners can gain a more complete picture of learning by viewing learning through multiple perspectives to identify the practices that best apply in a given context.

The challenge presented to educators by an increasingly dynamic context with highly diverse student populations is to overcome the methodological myopia of traditional practice to develop adaptive practices through methodological integration.