I know this is a broad question, but what is learning to you? Is it studying for hours a day on a topic given to you? Is it searching out your own interests? Is is taking tests on a daily basis? Take a second and really think about this question. Give me your answer, not the one everyone else is looking for. Thanks!
Dictionary.com defines learning as: "knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application"; "the act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill"; and "the modification of behavior through practice, training, or experience."
I agree with these definitions and also think learning includes all of the examples you provided as well (studying for hours, searching out interests, and taking tests). I think it can be anything that helps you grow your understanding of the world, expanding your awareness and knowledge of any subject. Taking in information, processing it -- mentally, emotionally and/or physically, and using that information in some way. For me, learning can be fun, empowering, painful or life-changing; depending on the circumstances.
Studying hours a day is studying, not learning. Learning may happen as a consequence, however. Testing measures learning, but is not learning itself. However, the pressure and stress of an upcoming test (which is like a "learning deadline") changes the neurochemistry of some students in a way that enables them to shut out distractions...and has the opposite effect on others. Searching out your own interests is not learning per se, but it may accelerate learning which is a good thing. I'm not expounding scholarly knowledge in my answer to your question - this is just my own (probably narrow) mental model.
I separate "learning" into two broad categories: learning facts and learning processes. Learning facts is rote memorization - such as memorizing a monologue from MacBeth or the facts of history. This forms a foundation for the next type. "Learning processes" leads to knowing how to solve problems and to extrapolate from the basics. This is especially good for math and physics, but extends to almost every discipline. I see several levels of this: learning the steps of a fairly mechanical process (like long division), learning how to generalize already-known processes to other situations (like taking what you learned about long division and applying it to understanding how to convert among various number bases or divide polynomials) and the more abstract "learning how to learn." I'm not a teaching professional - my doctorate is in a technical domain - and I don't know how to directly teach the higher levels of this second type of learning.
Sometimes when my kids get frustrated with school ("it's boring") I bring up that what they are doing is learning how to learn, but that usually doesn't make school less boring.
There's a broader category of "algorithmic thinking" or "computational thinking" that, until recently, I was skeptical that it could be taught or learned. I can clearly remember saying, "some people have it, some people don't." This is also in the second category. There has been a good deal of publicity about this in the past year (see link below for the CMU site on the topic). Do you think it can be taught and learned?
I think "experience" is the best teacher. A more hands on approach is always the way to go with any mind in my opinion. Let's take the great inventor Thomas Edison for example. It was through experimentation that he truly "learned". I say this because of the hundreds of inventions that were in the back yard that were failures. Then again, our interests are what drive us to keep on learning.
When students get "bored", it is simply because the topic is not of interest therefore putting a wall up. In addition, the learning that takes place at most schools is what I like to compare to 2D and the real world (outside of schools) 3D dimensions. The 2D is limited and has no real meaning at the time simply because it is not being put into a situation that is relative. We can mess up at school and maybe perhaps "learn" there to put off what we need to remember. The kids know in some ways that it is artificial. It has no "real" place in the world but at the school.
However, the 3D is real world applications. We are no longer in the practice mode and realize that if we don't learn a certain consequence, then it could affect many. How many kids come home and remember the kid barfing at school and could not remember what was read in English? If you can somehow, apply this concept to your classes, then you will see a difference.
I think it is best described by Alanis Morissette
"You live you learn, you love you learn
You cry you learn, you lose you learn
You bleed you learn, you scream you learn"