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Shaping processes

Prepared by John Church, PhD, School of Educational Studies and Human Development

University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Most research into the conditions affecting learning has been research into acquisition. Here too, the conditions which are necessary for learning depend upon the type of competency which the learner is attempting to acquire. Acquisition outcomes may be grouped into two general classes: (a) the acquisition of new behaviours and motor skills of various kinds, and (b) the acquisition of competencies which are primarily verbal or conceptual. In this section we will attempt to identify the conditions which are necessary for the acquisition of new performance and motor skills of various kinds.

There are two general classes of performance outcomes which need to be distinguished: (a) the acquisition of completely new behaviours and skills (that is, behaviours which have never been performed before) and (b) the acquisition of new procedures, operations, and competencies which involve the recombination of previously acquired skills. In this section and the section which follows we will attempt to identify the conditions which are necessary for (a) the acquisition of completely new behaviours and (b) the acquisition of new procedures and operations.