Learning Theories






K. P. Cross (1981)



Characteristics of Adults as Learners (CAL) model

consists of personal characteristics (aging/development) and situational characteristics (pt. time vs full time/voluntary vs compulsary) that when taken into consideration may require different learning strategies from one adult learner to the other – attempts to integrate asandragogy, experiential learning, and lifespan psych


Principles 1) capitalize on experience of participant 2) adapt to aging limitations 3) challenges to increasingly advanced stages of personal dev. 4) as much choice as possible in the availability and organization of learning programs








Malcom Knowles (1984)








Process focused- emphasizes self direction and responsibility for decisions – instructor adopts role of facilitator vs lecturer/grader 

1) adult needs to know why they need to learn 2) learn experientially 3) approach learning as problem solving 4) learn best when topic is of immediate value 


Principles 1) adults need to be involved in planning and evaluation of instruction 2) experience including mistakes provide basis of learning 3) adults are most interested in subjects that have immediate relevance to thier job or life 4) problem centered rather than content oriented 






Carl Rogers 



cognitive (meaningless) learning vs experiential (significant) learning evolved as part of humanistic education movement – equivalent to personal change and growth – facilitated when 1) student participates and has control over nature and direction of learning process 2) based upon direct confrontation with problems 3) self evaluation is principle assessment – learning to learn and oppenness to change 


Principles 1) significant learning facilitated when subject matter is relevant to personal interests 2) new attitudes or perspectives are more easily assimilated when external threats are at a minimum 3) learning proceeds faster when threat to self is low 4) self initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive 







George A Miller (1956)



general theory of human cognition broken up in to two theoretical ideas called chunking and TOTE (test-operate-test-exit)

chunking is putting a larger group of information into one meaningful unit because the short term memory has a limited capacity and can only hold 5-9 chunks of information

TOTE is a unit in which a goal is tested to see if it has been achieved and if not an operation is performed to achieve the goal and is repeated until the goal is achieved or abandoned 

Principles 1) short term memory is limited to 7 chunks of info 2) planning (in the form of TOTE units) is a fundamental cognitive process 3) behavior is hierarchically organized (chunks, TOTE units)






Howard Gardner (1983)



focused mostly on child development and suggests each individual has a number of distinct forms of intelligence of varying degrees and that learning/teaching should focus on the particular intelligences of each person


7 primary forms: 1) linguistic 2) musical 3) logical-mathematical 4) spatial 5) body-kinesthetic 6) intrapersonal 7) interpersonal 


Principles 1) individuals should be encouraged to use their preferred intelligence 2) instructional activities should appeal to different forms 3) assessment should measure multiple forms 






R. Schank (1975)



conceptualizations can be represented in terms of a small number of primitive acts performed by an actor on an object that portray story level understanding – memory is episodic – intended to explain language processing and higher thinking skill


Principles 1) conceptualization is defined as an act or doing something to an object in a direction 2) conceptualizations can be anyalyzed in terms of a small number of primitve acts (mental transfer/physical transfer) 3) all memory is episodic and organized in terms of scripts 4) scrips allow individuals to make inferences and understand verbal/written discourse 5) higher level expectations are created by goals and plans






Brown Collins & Duguid (1989)




Learning is a function of the activity context and culture in which is occurs (ie is situated). Learners engage in a “community of practice” or a “cognitive apprenticeship” as they emphasize active participation over just concepts and representation of those concepts. Has been applied in the contenxt of technology based learning activities for schools focusing onn problem solving skills


Principles 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 collaberation





Bandura (1977) 



Emphasizes importance of obsereving and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences focusing on attention, retention, morot reproduction, andmotivation. Has been applied in the understanding of aggression and psych disorders in the context of behavioral modification.


Principles 1) hightest level of of learning is achieved by organizing, reahearsing, then enacting overtly coding it into words 2) more likely to adopt behavior if outcome is valued 3) more like to adopt behavior if model is similar to the observer and has admired status and the behavior has a functional value





B. Weiner (1974)



How individuals interperet events and how this relates to their thinking and behavior. The theory focuses on achievement identifying ability, effort, task, difficulty, and luck as th emost important factors affecting attributions for achievement. ability can be classified as a stable internal cause and effort classified as unstable and internal and controllability such as skill/efficacy which can be controlled wheras aptitude and mood others actions and luck cannot be controlled – closely associated with concept of motivation.


Principles 1) three stage process a)behavior is observed b) behavior is determined to be deliberate c) behavior is attributed to internal external causes

2) Achievement can be attributed to effort ability level of task difficulty or luck

3) cuasal dimensions of behavior are locus of control, stability, controllability





Leon Festinger



The tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions. When their is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviors something must change to eliminate the dissonance. Such as attitude changing to accomodate a behavior. Three ways to eliminate dissonance are reducing the importance of the dissonant beliefs, add more consonant beliefs that outweight the dissonant beliefs, and change the dissonant beliefs so that they’re no longer inconsistent


Principles 1) dissonance results whe 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.






Bruner (1973)



learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so.


Principles 1)Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn (readiness). 2)Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student (spiral organization 3)Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps (going beyond the information given).






Jack Mezirow (1991)



The theory has two basic kinds of learning: instrumental and communicative 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


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