Learning Theories
Adult Learning Theory
Def: Concerns education in adulthood.

Has 2 variables 1)Personal characteristics: aging, life phases, developmental stages 2) Situational characteristics: voluntary vs. compulsory learning, part time vs. full time, self directions and problem solving of the adult learner.

Tenets: Adult learning programs (ALP) should capitalize on experience of participantsALP should adapt to aging limitationsAdults should be challenged to increase personal developmentAdults should have choice in their learning experience (availability, organization) People: K.P. Cross

Def: general cognition theory. 3 types of learning 1) generalization: broad range of applications 2) Discrimination: narrow range of applications 3) Strengthening: some productions are applied mre often & new productions formed.

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ACT-R explains wide variety of memory effects and higher order skills. Tenets:

  • provide immediate feedback on errors
  • identify goal structure of the problem space
  • Provide instruction on problem solving
  • minimize working memory load

People:John Anderson

Algo-Heuristic Theory
Def: specifies students ought to be taught knowledge and the algorithms & heuristics that make up methods of thinking (Ex: intelligence) Tenets:

  • processes can be taught through prescriptions and demonstrations of operations.
  • teaching students how to discover processes is more valuable thatn providing them already formulated
  • break processes down individually for each student.

People: Landa

Definition: Theory for adult learning. Adults are self directed and expected to take responsibility for actions.Tenets:

  • Adults need to be involved in poanning and evaluation of their instruction.

  • Experience provides the basis for learning activities.
  • Adults are most interested un learning subjects that have immediate relevance t their job or personal life.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content oriented.

People:Malcom Knowles

Experiential Learning Theory
Definition:Equivalent to personal change and growth.

Addresses the needs and wants of the student. Qualities of exp. learning are personal involvement, self initiated, evaluated by learner and pervasive effects on learner.Tenets:

  • Significant learning takes place when subject manner is relevant to personal interests of the student.
  • Learning which is threatening to the self (ex.

    new attitudes or perspectives) are more easily assimilated when externql threats are at a minimum.

  • Learning proceeds faster when the threat to the self is low.
  • Self initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.

 People:Carl Rogers

Information Processing Theory
Definition:General theory of cognition. Tenets:

  • Short term memry is limited to 7 chunks of information
  • Planning in the form of TOTE (test-operate-test-exit) is a fundamental  cognitive process
  • Behavior is hierarchically organized (Ex: chunks and TOTES)

People:G. Miller

Multiple Intelligences
Definition:Suggessts there are a number of distinct forms of intelligences that each individual posesses in various degrees.

Learning or teaching should focus on the particular intelligences of each individual. There is a cross-cultural difference in which particular intelligences are emohasized.Tenets:

  • Individuals should be encouraged touse thejr preferred intelligences in learning.
  • Instructional activities should appeal to different forms of inteeligence
  • Assessment of larning should measure multiple forms of ingelligence.

People:Howard Gardn er 

Script Theory
Definition:Events are understood in terms of scripts, plans and other knowledges structure as well as relevant experiences. Intended to explain language processing and higher thinking skills.Tenets:

  • Conceptualizations is defined as an act or doing something to an object in a direction
  • All conceptualizations can be analyzed in terms of a small # of pimitive acts
  • All memory is episodic and organized in terms of scripts
  • Scripts allow individuals to make inferences and hence understand verbal/written discourse.

  • Higher level expectations are created by goals and plans.

People:Roger Schank 

Situated Learning
Definition:Learners become involved in a “Community of practice” which embodies certain beliefs and behaviors to be acquired. Unintentional vs. deliberate.Tenets:

  • Knowledge needs to be presented in an authentic context (settings and applications) that would normally involve that knowledge.
  • Learning requires social interaction and collaboration.



J. Lave and the precursors of this type of learning is Gibson and Vygotsky. Schoenfeld has elements of situated learning in his mathematical theory.




Social Learning Theory
Definition: Emphasizes the importance of observing & modeling behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of others.

Spans both cognitive and behavioral franeworks. Tenets:

  • Organizing and rehearsng the modeed behavior and then enacting it is tbe highest level of observational learni g.
  • Individuals are more likely to adopta modeled behavior if it results in  outcomes they value.
  • Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if the model is similar to the observer and is admired and the behavior has functional value.

People:Albert Bandura 

Attribution Theory
Definition: Concerned with how events are interpreted and how it relates to their thinking and behavior. Assumes that people try to determine whypeople do what they do.


  • Attribution process (3 steps)
    • Behavior observed
    • Behavior determined to be deliberate
    • Behavior is attributed to internal or external causes
  • Achievement can be attributed to effort, ability, level of task difficulty or luck.
  • Causal dimensions of behavor are 1) locus of control (internal vs. external) 2) stability & controllability

People:B. Weiner

Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Definition:Dissonance occurs when there is a discrepancy btw. attitudes and behavior. Theory is relevant to all situations involving attitude formation ans change.

Tenets: Dissonance occurs when and indivudal must choose btw. attitudes and behaviors that are contradictory. This dissonance can be eliminated by reducing the importance of the conflicting beleifs, acquiring new beleifs that change the balance or removing the conflicting attitude or behavior.People: Leon Festinger

Constructivist Theory
Definition:Learning is an active process.

Learners construct new ideas/concepts based upon current/past knowledge. Tenets:

  • instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn (readiness)
  • Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student (spiral organization)
  • Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation (going beyond the info given)

People:Jerome Bruner

Transformational Theory
Definition: Focused on adult learning, illustrates two types of learning communicative and instrumental.Basic Tenets: 

  • Learning involves change to meaning structures (perspectives and themes)
  • two types of learning mentioned above
  • Change to meaning structures occurs through reflection about content, process or premise
  • Learning can involve: refining/elaborating meaning schemes, learning new schemes, transforming schemes, or transforming perspectives.

 People: Jack Mezirow