Embedded Theories | Principal Theorists | Goals of Instruction | Instructional Models | Implications for Instructional Design

Basic Principles

Objectivism/Behaviorism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism

Learning happens when a correct response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific environmental stimulus

Learning can be detected by observing an organism over a period of time

Emphasis is on observable and measurable behaviors

Uses a "black box" metaphor - the learner is a black box, what happens inside is unknown

Emphasis is on relationships between environmental variables and behavior

Instruction utilizes consequences and reinforcement of learned behaviors

Believes behavior is guided by purpose

Cues are antecedents to behavior and set the conditions for its occurence


Learning is a change of knowledge state

Knowledge acquisition is described as a mental activity that entails internal coding and structuring by the learner

Learner is viewed as an active participant in the learning process

Emphasis is on the building blocks of knowledge (e.g. identifying prerequisite relationships of content)

Emphasis on structuring, organizing and sequencing information to facilitate optimal processing 

Focus is on how learners remember, retrieve, and store information in memory

Examines the mental structure and processes related to learning 

Learning is viewed as an active process that occurs within the learner and which can be influenced by the learner

The outcome of learning is not only dependent on what the teacher presents but also on what the learner does to process this information.

Learners build personal interpretation of the world based on experiences and interactions

Knowledge is embedded in the context in which it is used (authentic tasks in meaningful realistic settings)

Create novel and situation-specific understandings by "assembling" knowledge from diverse sources appropriate to the problem at hand (flexible use of knowledge) 

Believes that there are many ways (multiple perspectives) of structuring the world and its entities

Believes that meaning is imposed by the individual rather than existing in the world independently

Embedded Theories (TOP)

Objectivism/Behaviorism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism

Pavlov's Classical Conditioning

Skinner's Operant Conditioning

Stimulus-Response Theory

Thorndike's Laws and Connectionism

Information Processing

Component Display Theory

Dual Coding Theory 

Elaboration Theory

Gestalt Theory

Mental Models

Schema Theory

Subsumption Theory

Cognitive Flexibility Theory

Generative Learning Theory

Knowledge as Tools

Situated Cognition 

Social-Cultural Learning

Principal Theorists (TOP)
Objectivism/Behaviorism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism















Bransford and the CTGV




Lave & Wenger



Spiro and colleagues


Goals of Instruction (TOP)
Objectivism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism
Communicate or transfer behaviors representing knowledge and skills to the learner (does not consider mental processing)

Instruction is to elicit the desired response from the learner who is presented with a target stimulus

Learner must know how to execute the proper response as well as the conditions under which the response is made

Learner acquires skills of discrimination (recalling facts), generalization (defining and illustrating concepts), association (applying explanations), and chaining (automatically performing a specified procedure).


Communicate or transfer knowledge in the most efficient, effective manner (mind-independent, can be mapped onto learners)

Focus of instruction is to create learning or change by encouraging the learner to use appropriate learning strategies

Learning results when information is stored in memory in an organized, meaningful way. 

Teachers/designers are responsible for assisting learners in organizing information in an optimal way so that it can be readily assimilated 

Build personal interpretations of the world based on individual experiences and interactions (constantly open to change, cannot achieve a predetermined, "correct" meaning, knowledge emerges in relevant contexts)

Learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge

Instruction is a process of supporting knowledge construction rather than communicating knowledge

Do not structure learning for the task, but engage learner in the actual use of the tools in real world situations 

Learning activities should be authentic and should center around the ?problematic? or ?puzzlement? as perceived by the learner

The focus is on the process not the product

Role of teacher is a mentor not a ?teller?

Encourage reflective thinking, higher-order learning skills

Encourage testing viability of ideas and seeking alternative views

Instructional Models (TOP)
Objectivism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism

Computer-Based Instruction

Contract Learning

Individualized Instruction

Programmed Instruction

Information Processing Model

Systems Approach

Collins & Stevens Inquiry Teaching Model

Keller's ARCS Model of Motivation

Merrill?s Component Display Model

Action Learning

Anchored Instruction 

Authentic Learning

Case-Based Learning

Cognitive Apprenticeship

Cognitive Flexibility Hypertext

Collaborative Learning

Communities of Practice

Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILEs)

Discovery Learning

Distributed Learning

Epistemic Games

Generative learning

Goal-Based Scenarios (GBSs)

Inquiry-Based Learning


MOOs and MUDs

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)


Reciprocal Teaching

Situated Learning


Implications for Instructional Design (TOP)
Objectivism/Behaviorism Cognitivism/Pragmatism Constructivism/Interpretivism

Behavioral objectives

Dick & Carey instructional design model

Performance-based assessment

Systems models

Events of Instruction

Cognitive objectives

Learning strategies

Learning taxonomies (Gagné's intellectual skills)

Prerequisite skills

Task analysis

Authentic assessment methods

Learning through exploration

Problem-oriented activities

"Rich" environments

Visual formats and mental models


Perform a Front End Analysis | Develop Learner Outcomes/ Performance Objectives | Perform a Task Analysis | Support Instructional Models with Instructional Strategies and Tactics | Identify Media to Deliver the Instructional Program | Conduct Evaluation of Instructional Program