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Learning and Instructional Theories

Theory names


1. CONSTRUCTIVISM – Learning occurs by students constructing knowledge through making connections  (link provides more information)
Constructivism Constructivism describes how students build their own knowledge and understanding of a topic through their own experiences and reflections. Faculty can use this theory to help their students build new content and skills by building on previous learning and making meaningful connections among current knowledge. (e.g., real-world events)

Jean Piaget, Jerome Brunner
Social Constructivism Student learning of knowledge develops through interactions with others. Factors that influence what knowledge is learned are influenced by language, culture, and society. There is an emphasis on both the construction of knowledge and the influence of social context.

Lev Vygotsky (1978)
Social Learning Theory and Social Cognitive Theory Social Cognitive Theory explains student learning within social contexts and through observations of others, interactions, personal past experiences, and outside social media. Factors influencing students’ behavioral changes include self-efficacy, behavioral capability, outcome expectation, self-control, observational learning, and reinforcement.

Social Learning Theory- Albert Bandura (1977)
Social Cognitive Theory – Albert Bandura (1981- an extension of Social   Learning Theory)
Sociocultural Learning Student learning occurs within a sociocultural context with a “more knowledgeable other” (MKO). Teachers, mentors, peers, c cultural beliefs and attitudes influence what a student learns. What is learned is influenced by cultural tools and artifacts used within a culture in a specific historical time. (For example, older adults struggle with iPhones, computers, and apps while toddlers use technology tools without confusion.)

Sociocultural Learning and MKO- Lev Vygotsky
“Scaffolding” – Jerome Brunner
Situated Cognition The theory states that learning cannot occur without doing. All knowledge is placed in social, cultural, and physical contexts. Learning is not just knowledge acquisition but rather improving performance across situations.

Vygotsky (1978) and Brown et al. (1989)
Instructional Theories Rooted in Constructivism
Cognitive Apprenticeship Model The foundation of this instructional theory is social constructivism (see table above). This theory comprises six teaching methodologies: modeling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection, and exploration. The purpose of using these methodologies is for the expert teacher to provide an environment where novices can learn complex skills.

Collins (1989, 1991)
Community of Practice A group of people comes together collaboratively to learn and solve an authentic problem. The community has a shared interest and commits to solving a problem. Individuals demonstrate caring for one another and not only have a shared interest, but they practice together (e.g., they develop shared stories and resources) 

Wenger (1998)
2. COGNITIVE THEORIES - That learning occurs through changes in mental processes in the brain. (link provides more information)
Schema Knowledge is organized into concepts or units of understanding (think of it as a mental concept map). New information is added to the schema either by assimilation (current schema is altered) or accommodation (new schema is developed)

Jean Piaget also attributed to Bartlett (1932) and Anderson (1970)
Informational Processing Informational processing theory explains how information is encoded in memory (how information moves through sensory, short-term (working), and long-term memory) and how knowledge is retrieved.

George Miller, John William Atkinson, and Richard Shiffrin
Cognitive Load The theory is built upon the model of human information processing, emphasizing that short-term(working) memory is very limited. Therefore, learning experiences should be designed to reduce the information or working memory ‘load’ that enters short-term memory to promote schema acquisition.

Sweller (1988)
Instructional Theories Rooted in Cognitive Learning Theories
Conditions of Learning Theory (“9 Events of Instruction”) Nine events will support/ enhance student learning in a lesson

1) Get students’ attention  
2) Inform students of objectives/ learning outcomes
3) Get students to recall prior learning,
4) Present stimulus,
5) Provide student guidance,
6) Student practice  
7) Faculty provide feedback, and
8) assess performance, and
9) Enhance retention and transfer.

Gagne (1965)
Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning Based on the information processing theory, learners have limited capacity for information. Learners have two separate “channels” for processing visual and auditorial information. There are 10 principles to consider when developing teaching materials.

Mayer (1997)
3. SIMULATION THEORIES (instructional) (link provides more information)
NLN Jeffries Simulation Theory The theory was initially constructed as a simulation model for nursing education. However, with recent amendments based on an in-depth literature review and reorganization, the framework was published as a mid-range simulation theory with five key elements: context, background, design, simulation experience, and outcome.
4. ADULT LEARNING THEORIES (link provides more information)
Adult Learning Adults learn differently from children. There are 5 critical assumptions about the adult learner and “4 Principles of Andragogy” to incorporate into instruction. (See links below for further information)

Knowles (1968)
From Novice to Expert   The nurse moves through 5 stages of learning as they develop a competency. At each stage, the nurse uses different strategies for knowledge and skill (competency) development

(Brenner, 1982) 
5. MOTIVATIONAL LEARNING THEORIES (link provides more information)
Self-efficacy A student’s belief in their ability to perform behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. It is students’ confidence to exert control over their behaviors, motivation, and social context. Four sources of self-efficacy are 1) performance outcomes, 2) vicarious experiences, 3) verbal persuasion, and 4) physiological and affective feedback. (Bandura, 1977)
Self-determination Varying levels of a student’s sense of autonomy, competence, relatedness determine the student’s motivation to perform.

Deci and Ryan (1985)
Attribution theory This cognitive motivational theory is used to interpret the behavior of self and others and find the causes of behavior. Individuals use three factors to determine the cause of behavior:  Locus (internal or external factors), stability (occurrences of behaviors), and controllability.

Heider (1958)
6. OTHER LEARNING THEORIES (link provides more information)
Grounded Theory Grounded Theory is a research method in which the theory is “grounded” in data. This theory involves inductive reasoning, analysis, and the development of theories that occur after data collection.
Humanism Learning Theory Humanism Learning Theory is student-centered and strongly focuses on students' emotional wellbeing. Educators are encouraged to foster engagement for learners to be self-motivated to further their development which in turn helps students achieve a sense of fulfillment
Connectivism Learning Theory Connectivism highlights that technology is a critical factor in the learning process. Connectivism Learning Theory posits that learners can deepen their understanding through social networks and by accessing the knowledge stored by the technology. Googling a question or searching for information on social media is an act of connectivism
Transformative Learning Theory Transformative learning emphasizes that learners can shift their thinking and worldviews based on new information received through critical reflection and evaluation of their past ideas or understanding. Learners may question their previous knowledge and thoughts from new perspectives to process new information.
Experiential Learning Theory Experiential learning highlights the importance of experience and its role in learning. Experiential Learning Theory states that the student’s experience can be changed into a valuable knowledge source through four processes: experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting.
Invitational Learning Theory Invitational Theory argues that students should be positively encouraged and ‘invited’ into an optimal educational environment to facilitate learning. The theory is constructed on four elements: respect, trust, optimism, and intentionality.