Educational Psychology: What does the term “Insightful Learning” mean and what bearing does it have on the teaching-learning process?

2c ii). Examine the usefulness of the Insightful Learning in today’s teaching environment.

Insightful Learning

This type of learning is also referred to as field learning. It is a cognitive type of learning which focuses on the use of mental process like thinking, perception, and insight in the solution of the problems confronting the learner. This theory focuses on the ability of animals and people to solve the problem through reorganizing the perceptual world and using the facilities available to solve problems. The experiments to demonstrate how learning occurs through insight were conducted by Wolfgang Kohler in the 1920’s. Kohler worked with chimpanzees. He had one bright chimpanzee called Sultan, (Atkinson, 1990). Kohler put sultan in a cage and then put a banana outside the cage, but out of Sultan’s reach. In the cage Kohler put a stick. Sultan reached out for the banana but he could not retrieve it with his hand because it was out of reach. When he did not get the banana he looked around the cage and saw the stick. Quickly he went for the stick and used it to retrieve the banana. On the next day Kohler put the banana further away outside the cage but at the same time placed two bamboo sticks in the cage. Sultan run for one of the sticks and tried to retrieve the banana. He failed to pull the banana within arms reach because the stick was not long enough. He then sat frustrated at one corner of the cage.

Then he saw the other sticks and went for it. Initially, he did not know how to use both sticks to get the bananas. However as he played with both sticks, one end of the stick entered into the hollow side of the other stick. Sultan looked at the joined sticks and immediately run to solve his problem. With the now lengthened stick, he pulled the bananas in and ate them. Following this story insight refers to that moment in time that Sultan is able to mentally “see” the relationship between the stick or sticks and the bananas. Insight then is that mental activity that is very rapid; almost immediate that helps us to solve a problem, when we mentally “see” the relationships of things in our immediate environment. It is a rapid perception of relationships, which helps us to restructure or reorganize our perceptual world. For example, Sultan was able to restructure his environment and reorganize it to solve his immediate problem.


From the theory of insightful learning we need to take note of the following:

  • The teacher should enrich the learning environment by providing facilities learners could use to solve learning problems
  • The teacher should have faith in the learner’s mental abilities to work over information until they solve the problems confronting them.
  • The teacher should realize that learners like to make sense of what they learn by cognitively restructuring events.
  • Insightful learning is whole, complete and unforgettable.



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