Natural Learning in Higher Education

10 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2012

See all articles by J. Scott Armstrong

J. Scott Armstrong

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department

Date Written: April 16, 2010


Parents do not send their children to school to learn how to speak. How then do children learn to speak? The objective becomes obvious to children due to the frustration of being unable to communicate. Learning tasks allow for practice. Feedback is immediate and clear because adults love to help young learners. Applications of new knowledge are made so as to continue learning. Children take responsibility for all aspects of this “natural learning process.” Natural learning obviously works.

Adults often use the natural learning process when they need to learn something that is important to them (Tough 1971). For example, people have taught themselves to speak a new language, use computers, learn math, play chess, or to play a musical instrument. They set objectives and manage this process by seeking resources and help from others, engaging in active learning tasks, getting feedback from others, and practicing applications. The motivation is intrinsic. Natural learning obviously works.

This chapter contrasts natural learning with teacher-responsible learning by focusing on experimental evidence.

Keywords: education, learning, natural learning, teacher-responsible learning, experiment

Suggested Citation

Armstrong, J. Scott, Natural Learning in Higher Education (April 16, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

J. Scott Armstrong (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

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