Shared Flashcard Set


HSED 643 Learning Theories
HSED 643 Learning Theories

Additional Education Flashcards





Adult Learning Theory

(K.P. Cross)


Characteristics of Adults as Learners (CAL) Model:

  • Personal characteristics (aging, life phases, and developmental stages)
  • Situational characteristics (part-time versus full-time learning, and voluntary versus compulsory learning)
  1. Adult learning programs should capitalize on the experience of participants.
  2. Adult learning programs should adapt to the aging limitations of the participants.
  3. Adults should be challenged to move to increasingly advanced stages of personal development.
  4. Adults should have as much choice as possible in the availability and organization of learning programs.
(Malcolm Knowles)

Adults are self-directed and able to assume responsibility for decisions. Instruction for adults should be more process-focused than content-focused (i.e. making use of case studies, role play, simulations, etc), with the instructor in the role of facilitator.

  • Adults need to know why they need to learn something
  • Adults need to learn experientially
  • Adults approach learning as problem-solving
  • Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value
  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.



Experiential Learning Theory

(Carl Rogers)


There are two types of learning: Cognitive ("meaningless", abstract, academic knowledge) and Experiential ("significant", practical, applied knowledge).

To facilitate experiential learning (teachers):

  • Set a positive climate for learning
  • Clarify the purposes of the learner(s)
  • Organize and make available learning resources
  • Balance intellectual and emotional components of learning
  • Share feelings and thoughts with learners

Learning is facilitated when:

  • The student participates completely in the learning process and has control over its nature and direction
  • It is primarily based upon direct confrontation with practical, social, personal or research problems
  • Self-evaluation is the principal method of assessing progress or success

Information Processing Theory

(George A. Miller)


Chunking: ~7±2 pieces of information can be held in short-term memory at a time.

TOTE (Test-Operate-Test-Exit): a goal is tested to see if it has been achieved and if not an operation is performed to achieve the goal; this cycle of test-operate is repeated until the goal is eventually achieved or abandoned.

  1. Short term memory (or attention span) is limited to seven chunks of information.
  2. Planning (in the form of TOTE units) is a fundamental cognitive process.
  3. Behavior is hierarchically organized (e.g., chunks, TOTE units).

Multiple Intelligences

(Howard Gardner)


7 forms of intelligence: linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (e.g., insight, metacognition) and interpersonal (e.g., social skills).

  1. Individuals should be encouraged to use their preferred intelligences in learning.
  2.  Instructional activities should appeal to different forms of intelligence.
  3. Assessment of learning should measure multiple forms of intelligence.

Script Theory

(Roger Schank)


Primarily intended to explain language processing and higher thinking skills.

  1. Conceptualization is defined as an act or doing something to an object in a direction.
  2. All conceptualizations can be analyzed in terms of a small number of primative acts.
  3. All memory is episodic and organized in terms of scripts.
  4. Scripts allow individuals to make inferences and hence understand verbal/written discourse.
  5. Higher level expectations are created by goals and plans.

Situated Learning

(J. Lave)


Learning is situated, aka it is a function of the activity, context, and culture in which it occurs, which contrasts with classroom learning which involves knowledge which is abstract and out of context.

  1. Knowledge needs to be presented in an authentic context, i.e., settings and applications that would normally involve that knowledge.
  2. Learning requires social interaction and collaboration.

Social Learning Theory

(Albert Bandura)

  • Emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others.
    Involves collaboration of cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences.
  • The highest level of observational learning is achieved by first organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically, then enacting it correctly. Modeled behavior should be coded into words, labels, or images for maximum retention.
  • Learners are most likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it shares similarities with the learner, has admired status, and/or has functional value.
  • Individuals are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in outcomes they value.

Attribution Theory

(B. Weiner)


Attempts to determine how individuals interpret events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior, why people do what they do, and how causes can effect behavior.
Process - observe behavior, believe behavior was intentional, determine if the behavior was forced.

  1. Attribution is a three stage process: (1) behavior is observed, (2) behavior is determined to be deliberate, and (3) behavior is attributed to internal or external causes.
  2. Achievement can be attributed to (1) effort, (2) ability, (3) level of task difficulty, or (4) luck.
  3. Causal dimensions of behavior are (1) locus of control, (2) stability, and (3) controllability.

Cognitive Dissonance Theory

(Leon Festinger)


People tend to seek cognitive consistency. When there is inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors, something must change to eliminate the dissonance.


Strength of Dissonance - number of dissonant beliefs, importance attached to each belief. Greatest dissonance created by equally attractive alternatives.

  1. Dissonance results when an individual must choose between attitudes and behaviors that are contradictory.
  2. Dissonance can be eliminated by reducing the importance of the conflicting beliefs, acquiring new beliefs that change the balance, or removing the conflicting attitude or behavior.

Constructivist Theory

(Jerome Bruner)


Learning is an active process in which learners construct new concepts and ideas based on past and current knowledge.

Instruction should:

  • Encourage students towards self-discovery.
  • Be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn (readiness).
  • Be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student (spiral organization).
  • Be designed to facilitate extrapolation/filling in the gaps (going beyond the information given).

Transformational Learning Theory

(Jack Mezirow)


Two types of learning: Instrumental learning focuses on learning through task-oriented problem solving and determination of cause and effect relationships. Communicative learning involves how individuals communicate their feelings, needs and desires.


Meaning structures, which are understood through reflection, take two forms: perspectives and schemes.


Perspectives: how we see things, and thus interpret them determined by our thoughts and culture.

Schemes: feelings, values, etc that shape how you see things.

  1. Adult exhibit two kinds of learning: instrumental (e.g., cause/effect) and communicative (e.g., feelings)
  2. Learning involves change to meaning structures (perspectives and schemes).
  3. Change to meaning structures occurs through reflection about content, process or premises.
  4. Learning can involve: refining/elaborating meaning schemes, learning new schemes, transforming schemes, or transforming perspectives.
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