Learning is essential to our existence, a fundamental part of humanity. It is an individual and social process that humans are constantly engaged in, both consciously and unconsciously. Learning occurs across a wide range of contexts and situations, in both formal and informal settings. In seeking to explain what learning means many theories, philosophies and ideas have been proposed, from Aristotle who theorised that all knowledge was based on sensory experiences that had been processed by the mind, to contemporary views of learning as a sociocultural practice and lifelong process. These current theories of learning emphasise the individual and social nature of learning and the meanings that an individual makes based on their knowledge, experiences and social circumstances.
In studying learning, however, much of the emphasis has been on what, where and how people learn. There has been little research that seeks to uncover why people learn and how they view themselves as a learner across a variety of learning contexts. My research is focussing on uncovering a range of individual ‘learning images’: personal views, perceptions and ideas about learning. What does learning mean?
As informal learning environments, museums are increasingly positioning themselves as places for rich learning experiences. Research has shown that when asked why they visit places such as museums people often say ‘to learn’ but there has been little exploration into what this actually means for visitors.
This paper presents detailed results from research that contributed to answering questions about what learning means and where it happens from the learner’s perspective.