Learning Theories

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory
Erikson’s Crisis Stages
Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Vygotsky’s Social Development

Instructional Design Learning Theories
Adult Learning (K. P. Cross)
Algo-Heuristic Theory (L. Landa)
Andragogy (Knowles, 1975)
Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris)
Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers)
Functional Context Theory (Tom Sticht)
Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget)
Information Processing Theory (G. A. Miller)
Lateral Thinking (E. De Bono)
Levels of Processing (F. Craik & R. Lockhart)
Modes of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman)
Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner)
Repair Theory (K. VanLehn)
Script Theory (Roger Schank)
Situated Learning (J. Lave)
Soar (A. Newell, et al)
Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura)
Subsumption Theory (David Ausubel)
Symbol Systems (Gavriel Salomon)
Transformative Learning (Jack Mezirow)


Cornett (1999) wrote that, strong support for arts-based learning comes from the work of researcher Howard Gardner, who developed the theory that we don’t have one-fixed intelligence (learning-styles), but at least eight separate ones. His work with normal and gifted children, as well as brain-injured adults, led him to dispute the prevalent view of intelligence as a single general capacity used to deal with life situations (Blythe and Gardner, 1990). Instead, Gardner defines intelligence as the capacity to solve problems and create products that would be valued in a cultural setting. Four of the eight intelligences (verbal/linguistic; visual/spatial; audio/musical; and body/kinesthetic) are parallel to the arts domains of literature – verbal linguistic, visual art, music, and dance and drama (body/kinesthetic). The other four intelligences are linked: logical/numeric, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and natural are necessary for working with problem solving in all arts areas, working with people, and doing self-examination. Thus, Gardner’s theory views the arts as distinct modes of thinking that fall under the umbrella of intelligence (p. 13).

Gardner’s Eight Intelligences (Learning-Styles)

Linguistic/Verbal: “Word lovers” (T. S. Eliot*, Paul Lawrence Dunbar) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Seeing and hearing words, talking and discussing, telling stories, reading and writing (e.g., poetry, literature), memorizing (places, names, facts), using or appreciating humor, using word play and doing word puzzles

Logical/Numeric: “Reasoners” (Albert Einstein,* Marie Curie) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Experimenting, asking questions, problem solving, figuring out how things work, exploring abstract relationships and discovering patterns, categorizing and classifying, reasoning and using logic (inductive and deductive), math, playing logic games

Visual/Spatial: “Imagers” (Mary Cassatt, Pablo Picasso*) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Thinking in pictures and seeing spatial relationships, drawing, building, designing and creating, day- dreaming and imagining, looking at pictures, watching movies, reading maps and charts, doing mazes and puzzles

Audio/Musical: “Music lovers” (Igor Stravinsky,* Louis Armstrong) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Listening to audio recordings, singing, humming and listening to music, playing instruments, responding to music (likes to tap out rhythms), composing music, picking up sounds, remembering melodies, noticing pitches and rhythms, timbre

Kinesthetic: “Body Movers” (Martha Graham,* Alvin Ailey) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Moving and using body to communicate, touching and using nonverbal communication, e.g., hands, face, gestures, hands-on learning; kinesthetic—tactile learning, sports, dancing, drama and acting

Interpersonal: “People-people” (Mahatma Gandhi,* Mother Teresa) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Lots of friends, joining groups, talking out or mediating and resolving conflicts, empathetic and understanding, sharing, comparing, relating, cooperating, interviewing others, leadership and organizing

Intrapersonal: “Loners” (Sigmund Freud,* James Baldwin) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – Aware of inner self (feelings, intentions, and goals), working alone, having own space and self-pacing, focuses on own feelings and dreams, pursuing own interests and goals, original thinking, self-reflecting

Natural: “Nature lovers” (John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt) LIKES, NEEDS, GOOD AT – being outdoors, working in natural habitats, studying outside, taking care of wild animals, value solitude.

*The eight exemplars that Gardner uses in Creating Minds each expressed extreme “intelligence” in at least one of the eight areas, but all used capabilities from all eight. None of these “artists” was particularly successful in traditional school environments.

While Gardner posits that we have capacities in all eight domains, he believes we usually have strengths in certain ones. Unfortunately, American schools tend to teach mainly to and through Linguist/Verbal and Logical/Numeric intelligences. Gardner believes it is “educational malpractice to continue to serve education in the same way to all consumers” and urges teachers to draw on students’ stronger learning-styles as vehicles for working in less dominant areas. With art integration musically inclined students might be taught fractions by using eighth, quarter, and whole notes and listening to the varying values. Musically smart students could compose melodies or rhythms to express ideas they are learning or as mnemonics. Here are samples of songs from students: prepositions (“Yankee Doodle”):

Out, from, under in between, over, of, into, through); bodily processes (“Turkey in the Straw”): Oh, the bile from the liver it emulsifies the fats. Oh, the bile from the liver it emulsifies the fats. Oh, the bile from the liver it emulsifies the fats, and it does it in the small intestine. (p. 15)

Gardner further argues that real understanding does not happen unless a person transforms ideas and skills from one domain to another. Indeed, “intelligences seldom operate in isolation” (Blythe and Gardner, 1990, p. 33). Such a view of understanding is an important reason to use the arts since they are ways of transforming ideas and feelings using verbal and non-verbal modes.


Erik Erikson was a brilliant psychologist who spent his early years studying art. At an invitation from Sigmund Freud to study psychoanalysis, he changed his direction and in 1950 published Childhood and Society, a classic book about the influence of culture on child development. He concluded that all cultures place common (p. 17) demands on individuals, and each person develops a sense of self and relationships to others in response to crises.

Erikson organized these crises into eight stages. The first crisis is faced when a child must learn to trust to become hopeful. During the toddler period the child must resolve the conflict between autonomy and shame and doubt. If autonomy and independence are developed, the child will have a sense of will. During the preschool years the child struggles with initiative versus guilt and develops a strong sense of purpose if he is supported in attempts to take initiative.

When a child starts school, she is usually struggling with the conflicts between industry and inferiority. If this crisis is successfully resolved, there is a growing sense of competence. During the adolescent years the crisis is between self-identify and role confusion, with successful resolution leading to what Erikson termed fidelity or a kind of being true to yourself.

The final crises are beyond the scope of this paper, but involve intimacy versus isolation (young adults) to gain acceptable love relationships; generativity versus rejectivity (adults) to learn caring; and integrity versus despair (mature adults) to gain wisdom. (Erikson, 1950). (Cornett, 1999, p. 17).


Jean Piaget, a Swiss biologist and epistemologist, is famous for a four-stage theory based on observing children. He reasoned that the key stimulus for development was interaction with the environment. Piaget thought that, along with genetically programmed biological changes, touching, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and moving and interacting with people cause children to make discoveries that alter world perceptions. In other words, children develop intellectually by experimenting-which appears to be play to adults. He believed children mentally organize reality into psychological structures used to understand and called these cognitive structures schema.

A person either assimilates new information into schema or creates new or modifies old cognitive structures through the process of accommodation – thinking is adjusted based on new information. For example, a child might not recognize a bean bag chair as a chair and call it a “ball” because he is trying to understand using old schema. Once the child is shown how to sit in the chair, this new information is assimilated. Accommodation occurs if new information is added about the category of “furniture.” In most learning there is both assimilation and accommodation (p. 18).

Piaget thought these stages were natural and sequential, building on one another in a progression toward more complex thinking (see Post It Page 1-4). Since part of our genetic predisposition toward cognitive development involves continually trying to achieve an equilibrium when something is not understandable, we are motivated to make sense. But Piaget cautioned against trying to hurry up development, because he believed it took too long to teach something to a child who was not ready to learn, and he offered general flexible age guidelines to gauge readiness (Piaget, 1980).

While Piaget believed a child’s thinking would be consistent with his or her developmental stage across situations, more recent research has demonstrated that children show characteristics of one stage in certain situations and then think at a higher or lower stage in other situations. For example, Gelman (1979) reported incidences of four-year-olds speaking in simpler sentences when they talked to two-year-olds, indicating they considered the needs of the younger child. This behavior was thought by Piaget to not develop until around age 7. Finally, it is worth noting that many individuals never reach the final stage of development called formal operations.

How Can Teachers Use Piaget’s Theory for Arts Integration?

When teachers work with school-aged students in pre-operational and concrete operational stages, they should: Provide Hands-on Experiences. Visual aids, such as overhead transparencies, charts, time-lines, diagrams, pictures, objects, and drama and dance strategies make learning more concrete. It is important to show and use examples, but not provide models to copy.


Sensorimotor intelligence: birth to two years

• Uses all senses to explore the world. Nonverbal communication.
• Gains understanding that objects exist even when not seen. (Remove a toy from a very young child and it won’t be missed because she can’t see it. Once the child gains object permanence, she remembers the toy and will cry to get it back.)
• Moves from mere reflex actions to ability to direct actions toward a goal. Example: Sees something and tries to get it by crying and crawling.

Preoperational: two to seven years

• Begins to carry out mental actions or operations that require forming and using images and symbols. Example:
• Uses symbols for objects and people. Likes fantasy and imaginative play, makes mental images and likes to pretend.
• Rapid language and concept growth occurs (2,000-word vocabulary by age 4 is common).
• Trouble reversing actions or understanding how objects can change shape but still be the same object (doesn’t think a tall glass of milk poured into a short fat glass is still the same amount; being able to think about something from more than one perspective comes later). _
• Understanding other points of view is difficult since the child is egocentric (centered on his or her own experiences). May happily talk to themselves. Thinks everyone thinks, feels, and sees as they do.

Concrete Operation: seven to eleven years (hands-on thinking)

• Basic concepts of objects, numbers, time, space, and causality are developed.
• Reversibility (two-way thinking) develops. Can classify by different categories. Understands how a group can be a subset of another (animals and plants are both “living things”).
• Uses concrete objects to draw conclusions. Basic logic develops but is tied to physical reality; abstract and hypothetical problem solving is not attainable.

Formal Operation: eleven to fifteen years

• Can make predictions, think hypothetically, do metacognition (think about own thinking process and self-question).
• Understands sarcasm, puns, argumentation, and abstract thinking. Generates diverse possible solutions for problems and can evaluate alternatives based on many criteria (e.g., moral, legal, economic). Can form and test hypotheses; uses scientific method. (p. 19)

Give Short, Focused Explanations, Followed by Application.

Teachers can use five to seven minute lessons and then involve students right away in applying what was taught. For example, a mini-lesson on pantomime can show how to use the face, body, and in-place movements to “become” a character. Students may then think of real-life or fictional characters and, in pairs, become “frozen statues” of characters. Characters can be tapped to come alive and do in-place moves. Teachers can coach with descriptive feedback during pantomimes to stretch creative thinking and ask students to discuss observations about themselves and others to promote depth of understanding. This is effective guided instruction that leads to thoughtful participation.

Start with Shorter Assignments and Engage Students.

Gradually increasing length and complexity causes students to feel successful. Arts activities can start with short energizers to activate experiences related to upcoming lessons. For example, open questions like what do you know about museums?” or “What do think of when I say the word dance?” can be used. Before assemblies and arts performance, preview or give cue sheets (Kennedy Center strategy) to teach about what is to be experienced. By giving listen forms (a character’s line or a musical segment), students are more likely to be actively engaged and can then make more discoveries during performances.

Take Field Trips and Invite Guests to Give Rich Concrete Experiences.

Museums, concerts, and plays are all examples of rich experiences that can extend the curriculum, especially if pre-trip and post-trip activities are planned to cause students to be active meaning makers. Guest artists, storytellers, and musicians can give students direct experiences, and students can prepare interview questions, in advance, to develop language arts skills.

Coach Students before and During Arts Experiences.

When children are given specific language to understand basic arts elements, they can use these concepts to create new personal meaning. For example a teacher can give labels to concepts that children exhibit: “Yes, when you draw one figure on top of another it looks like the one on top is closer. That is called overlapping.”

Provide Opportunities to Explore Ideas and Think in a Variety of Forms.

Literature, art, drama, dance, and music all have distinct ways of thinking, including special language and symbol systems. Each permits different ways of expressing and receiving information and gives students many opportunities to use the important skill of grouping or classifying. By teaching basic arts elements, we expand capabilities to think in different categories. For example, once students know that dance includes the use of locomotor and non-locomotor movements, they can brainstorm some of each and experiment with a greater range of movement than before.

Encourage Students to Construct Their Own Meaning.

Fat or open questions like “What makes you think that?” “How do you know that?” “What do you see?” “What have you discovered?” and “Why?” cause students to do more thinking than closed ones requiring yes or no answers. Active learning strategies that engage independent thinking, like Think-pair-share after questions, get students to first think of their own answers, then partner and share. Another active learning strategy, every pupil response, can be used in every lesson: Ask for “thumbs up” or a signal for all to show they have a response; wait for everyone to signal on an important question before calling on anyone. Riddles, jokes, mind bogglers, question of the day, and other puzzles challenge students to use logic and leaps of imagination to “get it.” In addition, humor is intrinsically motivating, requires no grade, points, or outside reward to engage students, and may trigger further creative problem solving, such as students writing their own arts riddles. (p. 20)


In the 1970s, Abraham Maslow proposed a theory of motivation that has helped educators understand why children do what they do – or don’t do. Maslow observed that his subjects seemed to be motivated by what they needed. He proceeded to categorize the needs people sought to fulfill and organized them into a hierarchy, with the basic needs for surviving, like food, clothes and a place to live, on the bottom (see Post It Page 1—5). Once lower-level survival needs and safety needs were met, he believed people moved up the ladder. He thought the three top levels, including the need for beauty, represented needs that were never filled, so people continued to always seek more in these areas, unlike the low-level needs that are ignored once fulfilled.

• Self-fulfillment
• Esthetic needs for beauty and order
• Knowledge and intellectual needs
• Approval and recognition from others
• Belonging, love, acceptance by others
• Physical and psychological safety
• Survival needs: food, clothes, water, shelter

Chart based on Maslow Abraham (1970), Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.


Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky is another researcher who has given educators a theory from which important arts integration strategies can be derived. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky thought teachers and other mentors could and should intervene in children’s learning and act as scaffolds to bridge the gap between where a child was functioning and a stage just out of reach, but attainable. He called this developmental position the zone of proximal development and demonstrated how students can often solve problems with some help (cues, suggestions, steps, encouragement) from others when they cannot do so independently. (p. 21)


Innovation education and learning is based on the pragmatic and experimentationism pedagogical engineering and science concepts of iteration which is discovery-based through trial and error. The logic of science requires the child to learn the scientific method and creative problem-solving (see: Innovative Methodologies; Seeing in Systems). Using an Innovative curriculum, children will learn as if they were scientists using the scientific, system and design thinking methods (see: Innovative Methodologies: Systems and Design Thinking) which includes awareness; definition; hypotheses establishment; hypotheses testing; and evaluation.

“As practiced by professionals, science is an iterative process of hypothesizing, testing, evaluating results and presenting one’s results for public scrutiny.” (Cominsky, 2014) An iterative process is a due-over for calculating a desired result by means of a repeated cycle of execution. An iterative process should be convergent, i.e., it should come closer to the desired result as the number of iterations increases.

As Covington (1998) wrote, “The principal values associated with this quest (discovery-based trial and error) are rationality, consistency, and accurate self-knowledge. Obviously, these attributes are critical to survival. Accurate self-knowledge enables individuals to credit their talents fairly, as well as to recognize their shortcomings; as a result, they can avoid those tasks that exceed their present skills yet, when possible, seize the moment and take advantage of unexpected opportunities (serendipity) that fall within the scope of their abilities. The guiding metaphor of this view is that of the “intuitive scientist” (Kelley, 1971a), who ceaselessly analyzes information in order to master himself and his environment” (p. 77).

Jerome Bruner held that the main thing about iteration education is that it opens up a broader range of possibilities and what’s possible. You teach students about something in the past and the present but you hope that you are teaching them about the good effects of leading them into the world of possibilities because that’s where intelligence lies. It’s a risky type of possibilities and that’s more speculative but that’s what education should be for – to get students to speculating about possibilities.

In order to implement the teaching and learning platforms that have been brought on by digital technological advances in the classroom virtually every aspect of instruction requires a rapid philosophical response to support the innovative changes that happen as a result of integration of technology into educational instruction. As Horner, et al., (2002) noted, in the age of information, educators need to be able to sort out which information is important in order to confront problems and respond adequately to those problems. Innovative education theories aid in this endeavor by transforming contemporary K-12 education into a joyous, fun, and playful learning experiences where each child and each teacher looks forward to coming to school every day.

In his book “The will to learn: A guide for motivating young people,” Martin Covington (1998) explains that there are two reasons for learning. The most prevalent in today’s K-12 environment is the “motives as drive mentality” (see: Achievement Motivation) which encourages largely negative reasons for learning, including the threat that if one does not perform well he or she will be punished. A second perspective considers motivation in terms of goals or incentives that draw, not drive, individuals toward action (Heyman & Dweck, 1992, in Covington, 1998, p. 12). This tradition assumes that all actions are given meaning and purpose by the goals that individuals seek out (Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995, in Covington, 1998, p. 12). Considered from this perspective, motivation is a unique human resource to be encouraged for its own sake, not simply a means to increase school performance.

Fostering meaningful, goal-directed behavior and positive reasons for learning becomes the ultimate purpose of schooling. These positive reasons are noncompetitive and intrinsic in nature, that is, they beguile and entice individuals into action for its own sake and generally “for no reason whatsoever,” save perhaps curiosity. Because goals are always the creatures of the future, the motives-as-goals tradition is heavily future oriented. Whenever students are drawn to learning out of curiosity, to understand the world in which they live, and for the sake of some valued personal goal they become absorbed in learning, committed, and oblivious to the passage of time (p. 13).

By identifying in existing and applying in original k-12 curriculum and teaching methodologies a combination of objective rules and goals along with subjective personal manifestations, the education experience will support the environment necessary to learn in a safe and semi-structured way that insures that each child’s educational opportunities are realized. In order to accomplish this all aspects of successful education theory such as blended-learning and proven motivational activities, based on fun and belonging (Glasser, 1962), must be present.

Appendix 1 contains the fifty-four learning theories that support the concept of industrial design. (http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories). The following is a brief description of twenty of these theories which are most commonly used in the analysis and development of innovative pedagogical methodologies and curriculums. These theories are used primarily for the objective (behaviorism) and subjective (constructivism) balance in writing all K-12 grade innovative curriculums. Many of the other theories provide philosophical support for the system and design methods of education that are found primarily in the scientific, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculums.

Instructional Design Learning Theories

Adult Learning (K. P. Cross) (Constructivism)

Algo-Heuristic Theory (L. Landa) (Constructivism)

Andragogy (Knowles, 1975) (Hybrid objective/subjective learning theory)

Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris) (Constructivism)

Experiential Learning (Carl Rogers) (Constructivism)

Functional Context Theory (Tom Sticht) (Constructivism)

Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget) (Constructivism)

Information Pickup Theory (J. J. Gibson) (Behaviorism)

Information Processing Theory (G. A. Miller) (Behaviorism)

Lateral Thinking (E. De Bono) (constructivism) (Serendipity)

Levels of Processing (F. Craik & R. Lockhart) (Behaviorism)

Modes of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman) (Behaviorism)

Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner) (Constructivism)

Repair Theory (K. VanLehn) (Innovationism)

Script Theory (Roger Schank) (Constructivism)

Situated Learning (J. Lave) (Constructivism)

Soar (A. Newell et al.) (Behaviorism)

Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura) (Behaviorism)

Subsumption Theory (David Ausubel) (Behaviorism)

Symbol Systems (Gavriel Salomon) (Behaviorism)

Transformative Learning (Jack Mezirow) (Constructivism)

Adult Learning (K. P. Cross) (constructivism)

K. P. Cross developed the Characteristics of Adults as Learners (CAL) model in 1981 as an analysis of lifelong learning programs. The two adult learning theories used are as Andragogy (Knowles) and Experiential Learning (Rogers), set in a lifespan psychology format. The CAL model consists of two classes of variables: Personal characteristics and Situational characteristics. Personal characteristics include: aging, life phases, and developmental stages. These three dimensions have different characteristics as far as lifelong learning is concerned. Aging results in the deterioration of certain sensory-motor abilities (e.g., eyesight, hearing, reaction time) while intelligence abilities (e.g., decision-making skills, reasoning, and vocabulary) tend to improve. Situational characteristics consist of part-time versus full-time learning, and voluntary versus compulsory learning. The administration of learning (i.e., schedules, locations, procedures) is strongly affected by Personal Characteristics while the Situational Characteristics pertains to the self-directed, problem-centered nature of most adult learning. The CAL model is intended to provide guidelines for adult education programs only because there is no known research to support the model.

Algo-Heuristic Theory (L. Landa) (constructivism)

Landa’s theory is concerned with identifying mental processes – conscious and especially unconscious – that underlie expert learning, thinking and performance in any area. His methods represent a system of techniques for getting inside the mind of expert learners and performers which enable one to uncover the processes involved. Once uncovered, they are broken down into their relative elementary components – mental operations and knowledge units. Performing a task or solving a problem always requires a certain system of elementary knowledge units and operations. Special emphasis is placed on teaching students cognitive operations, algorithms and heuristics which make up general methods of thinking (i.e., intelligence).The most important sequencing of instruction is the “snowball” method. Applying the snowball method would involve teaching the student the action of checking the first condition and then the action of checking the second condition followed by practice that requires both conditions to be checked. Teaching students how to discover processes is more valuable than providing them already formulated. The processes should be broken down into elementary operations of size and length suitable for each student (individualization of instruction).

Andragogy (Malcolm Knowles) (constructivism)

Malcolm Knowles’ theory of Andragogy was inspired by the writings of Edward Lindeman. In the mid-1920s, Lindeman, who was a colleague of John Dewey published a book entitle ‘The Meaning of Adult Education.” To Lindeman education is not preparation for life – it is life. Education for adults is situations and experiences, not the subjects they study. The situational approach means that the learning process is at the outset given a setting of reality (authentic learning). Students have been mostly negatively affected by a school system that is authoritarian and instructor-centric vs. learner-centric. Education is “to put meaning into the whole of life.” Students should dig down into their experiences before resorting to text and secondary facts and be lead by teachers who are also searchers of wisdom and not oracles. The objective is a quest for life’s meaning using collaboration and peer-based learning. Lindeman was inspired by Dewey’s Instrumentalism and inspired Jean Lave’s theory of Situated Learning.

Andragogy, which is a hybrid objective/subjective learning theory, applies to any form of adult learning and has been used extensively in the design of organizational training programs (especially for “soft skill” domains such as management development). It is instruction for adults needs to focus more on the process and less on the content being taught. Strategies such as case studies, role playing, simulations, self-evaluation, including Self-directed Learning Theory which, as an Andragogy support theory, is a self directed learning process in which individuals take the initiative without the help of others in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human/material resources, and evaluating learning outcomes, are most useful. Instructors adopt a role of facilitator or resource rather than lecturer or grader (Knowles, 1975). “And finally, education must be re-conceived, not as merely a preparation for maturity (whence our absurd idea that it should stop after adolescence), but as a continuous growth of the mind and a continuous illumination of life.” (Dewey, 1913)

Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris) (constructivism)

Argyris (1976) proposes double loop learning theory which pertains to learning to change underlying values and assumptions. The focus of the theory is on solving problems that are complex and ill-structured and which change as problem-solving advances. Double loop theory is based upon a “theory of action” perspective outlined by Argyris & Schon (1974). This perspective examines reality from the point of view of human beings as actors.

Changes in values, behavior, leadership, and helping others, are all part of, and informed by, the actors’ theory of action. An important aspect of the theory is the distinction between an individual’s espoused theory and their “theory-in-use” (what they actually do); bringing these two into congruence is a primary concern of double loop learning. Typically, interaction with others is necessary to identify the conflict.

There are four basic steps in the action theory learning process:

1. Discovery of espoused and theory-in-use
2. Invention of new meanings
3. Production of new actions
4. Generalization of results

Double loop learning involves applying each of these steps to itself. In double loop learning, assumptions underlying current views are questioned and hypotheses about behavior tested publically. The end result of double loop learning should be increased effectiveness in decision-making and better acceptance of failures and mistakes. In recent years, Argyris has focused on a methodology for implementing action theory on a broad scale called “action science” (see Argyris, Putnam & Smith, 1985) and the role of learning at the organizational level (e.g., Argyris, 1993; Schon & Argyris, 1996).

Here are two examples from Argyris (1976, p16). A teacher who believes that she has a class of “stupid” students will communicate expectations such that the children behave stupidly. She confirms her theory by asking them questions and eliciting stupid answers or puts them in situations where they behave stupidly. The theory-in-use is self-fulfilling. Similarly, a manager who believes his subordinates are passive, dependent and require authoritarian guidance rewards dependent and submissive behavior. He tests his theory by posing challenges for employees and eliciting dependent outcomes. In order to break this congruency, the teacher or manager would need to engage in open loop learning in which they deliberately disconfirm their theory-in-use. Double loop learning requires learning situations in which participants can examine and experiment with their theories of action.

Experiential (Experience) Learning (Carl Rogers) (constructivism)

Rogers distinguished two types of learning:

• Cognitive (meaningless)
• Experiential (significant)

The former corresponds to academic knowledge such as learning vocabulary or multiplication tables and the latter refers to applied knowledge such as learning about engines in order to repair a car. The key to the distinction is that experiential learning addresses the needs and wants of the learner. Rogers lists these qualities of experiential learning:

• Personal involvement
• Self-initiated
• Evaluated by learner
• Pervasive effects on learner

To Rogers, experiential learning is equivalent to personal change and growth. Rogers feels that all human beings have a natural propensity to learn; the role of the teacher is to facilitate such learning which includes:

1. Setting a positive climate for learning
2. Clarifying the purposes of the learner(s)
3. Organizing and making available learning resources
4. Balancing intellectual and emotional components of learning and (5) sharing feelings and thoughts with learners but not dominating.

According to Rogers, learning is facilitated when:

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

Rogers also emphasizes the importance of learning to learn and an openness to change. Roger’s theory of learning evolved as part of the humanistic education movement (e.g., Patterson, 1973; Valett, 1977) and originates from his views about psychotherapy and humanistic approach to psychology. It applies primarily to adult learners and has influenced other theories of adult learning such as Knowles and Cross. Rogers & Freiberg (1994) discuss applications of the experiential learning framework to the classroom.

As an example, a person interested in becoming rich might seek out books or classes on economics, investment, great financiers, banking, etc. Such an individual would perceive (and learn) any information provided on this subject in a much different fashion than a person who is assigned a reading or class. Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student. Learning which is threatening to the self (e.g., new attitudes or perspectives) is more easily assimilated when external 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.

Functional Context Theory (Tom Sticht) (constructivism)

The functional context approach to learning stresses the importance of making learning relevant to the experience of learners and their work context. The learning of new information is facilitated by making it possible for the learner to relate it to knowledge already possessed and transform old knowledge into new knowledge. By using materials that the learner will use after training, transfer of learning from the classroom to the “real world” will be enhanced. The model of the cognitive system underlying this approach emphasizes the interaction of three components:

1. A knowledge base (i.e., long term memory) of what the individual knows
2. Processing skills including language, problem-solving, and learning strategies
3. Information displays that present information

The performance of a task requires knowledge about what one is reading or writing, processing skills for comprehension and communication, and displays of information to be processed. The functional context approach also proposes new assessment methods. Instead of using grade level scores, tests should measure content knowledge gained and distinguish between functional learning and academic learning. For example, an assessment of reading should measure both reading-to-do (e.g., looking up information in a manual) and reading-to-learn (e.g., information needed for future decisions).

Functional Context Theory shares a similar emphasis with Situated Learning Theory which also stresses the importance of context during learning. The functional context approach was developed specifically for adult technical and literacy training (reading/writing/mathematics) in military programs, but it has implications for learning of basic skills in general (e.g., Sticht, 1976) and reading in particular (Sticht, 1975). Sticht’s functional context framework has been the basis for major workplace training and literacy programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Education.

The Experimental Functional Skills Program in Reading (XFSP/Read) was developed by Sticht and colleagues for the Navy. The purpose of the program was to improve the reading and mathematics skills of enlisted personnel using the functional context approach. A job/task analysis was performed to identify the reading-to-do and reading-to-learn skills needed in Navy jobs. On the basis of this analysis, print and computer-based instructional materials were developed for the program that involved Navy content (such as technical manuals). In addition, a Navy-related reading test was created in order to measure achievement in the program.

Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget) (Constructivism)

Over a period of six decades, Jean Piaget conducted a program of naturalistic research that has profoundly affected our understanding of child development. Piaget called his general theoretical framework “genetic epistemology” because he was primarily interested in how knowledge developed in human organisms. Piaget had a background in both biology and philosophy and concepts from both these disciplines influences his theories and research of child development.

The concept of cognitive structure is central to his theory. Cognitive structures are patterns of physical or mental action that underlie specific acts of intelligence and correspond to stages of child development (see Schemas).

There are four primary cognitive structures (i.e., development stages) according to Piaget:

• Sensorimotor – (0-2 years), intelligence takes the form of motor actions
• Pre-operations – Intelligence in the pre-operation period (3-7 years) is intuitive (instinctive) in nature
• Concrete operations – The cognitive structure during this stage (8-11 years) is logical but depends upon concrete referents
• Formal operations – In the final stage of formal operations (12-15 years), thinking involves abstractions

Cognitive structures change through the processes of adaptation: assimilation; and accommodation. Assimilation involves the interpretation of events in terms of existing cognitive structure whereas accommodation refers to changing the cognitive structure to make sense of the environment. Cognitive development consists of a constant effort to adapt to the environment in terms of assimilation and accommodation. In this sense, Piaget’s theory is similar in nature to other constructivist perspectives of learning (e.g., constructivism, social development theory). While the stages of cognitive development identified by Piaget are associated with characteristic age spans, they vary for every individual.

Furthermore, each stage has many detailed structural forms. For example, the concrete operational period has more than forty distinct structures covering classification and relations, spatial relationships, time, movement, chance, number, conservation and measurement. Similar detailed analysis of intellectual functions is provided by theories of intelligence such as intellect theory, multiple intelligences, and triarchic theory.

Piaget explored the implications of his theory to all aspects of cognition, intelligence and moral development. Many of Piaget’s experiments were focused on the development of mathematical and logical concepts. The theory has been applied extensively to teaching practice and curriculum design in elementary education (e.g., Bybee & Sund, 1982; Wadsworth, 1978). Piaget’s ideas have been very influential on others, such as Seymour Papert work with computers.

The application of Piaget’s theory results in specific recommendations for a given stage of cognitive development. For example, with children in the sensorimotor stage, teachers should try to provide a rich and stimulating environment with ample objects to play with. On the other hand, with children in the concrete operational stage, learning activities should involve problems of classification, ordering, location, conservation using concrete objects. Children will provide different explanations of reality at different stages of cognitive development. Cognitive development is facilitated by providing activities or situations that engage learners and require adaptation (i.e., assimilation and accommodation). Learning materials and activities should involve the appropriate level of motor or mental operations for a child of given age; avoid asking students to perform tasks that are beyond their current cognitive capabilities. Use teaching methods that actively involve students and present challenges.

Information Pickup Theory (J. J. Gibson) (Behaviorism)

The theory of information pickup suggests that perception depends entirely upon information in the “stimulus array” rather than sensations that are influenced by cognition. Gibson proposes that the environment consists of affordances (such terrain, water, vegetation, etc.) which provide the clues necessary for perception. Furthermore, the ambient array includes invariants such as shadows, texture, color, convergence, symmetry and layout that determine what is perceived.

According to Gibson, perception is a direct consequence of the properties of the environment and does not involve any form of sensory processing. Information pickup theory stresses that perception requires an active organism. The act of perception depends upon an interaction between the organism and the environment. All perceptions are made in reference to body position and functions (proprioception).

Awareness of the environment derives from how it reacts to our movements. Information Pickup Theory opposes most traditional theories of cognition that assume past experience plays a dominant role in perceiving. It is based upon Gestalt theories that emphasize the significance of stimulus organization and relationships and is intended as a general theory of perception, although it has been developed most completely for the visual system. Gibson (1979) discusses the implications of the theory for still and motion picture research. Neisser (1976) presents a theory of cognition that is strongly influenced by Gibson.

For example, much of Gibson’s ideas about perception were developed and applied in the context of aviation training during WWII. The critical concept is that pilots orient themselves according to characteristics of the ground surface rather than through vestibular/kinesthetic senses. In other words, it is the invariants of terrain and sky that determine perception while flying, not sensory processing per se. Therefore, training sequences and materials for pilots should always include this kind of information.

The principles of the theory include the facilitation of the perception and realistic environmental settings should be used in instructional materials. Since perception is an active process, the individual should have an unconstrained learning environment. Instruction should emphasize the stimulus characteristics that provide perceptual cues.

Information Processing Theory (G.A. Miller) (behaviorism)

George A. Miller has provided two theoretical ideas that are fundamental to cognitive psychology and the information processing framework. The first concept is “chunking” and the capacity of short-term memory. Miller (1956) presented the idea that short-term memory could only hold 5-9 chunks of information (seven plus or minus two) where a chunk is any meaningful unit. A chunk could refer to digits, words, chess positions, or people’s faces. The concept of chunking and the limited capacity of short term memory became a basic element of all subsequent theories of memory.

The second concept is Test-Operate-Test-Exit (TOTE) proposed by Miller, Galanter & Pribram (1960). Miller et al. suggested that TOTE should replace the stimulus-response as the basic unit of behavior. In a TOTE unit, 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. The TOTE concept provided the basis of many subsequent theories of problem solving (e.g., GPS) and production systems. Information processing theory has become a general theory of human cognition; the phenomenon of chunking has been verified at all levels of cognitive processing. The classic example of chunks is the ability to remember long sequences of binary numbers because they can be coded into decimal form.

The classic example of a TOTE is a plan for hammering a nail. The Exit Test is whether the nail is flush with the surface. If the nail sticks up, then the hammer is tested to see if it is up (otherwise it is raised) and the hammer is allowed to hit the nail. Short term memory (or attention span) is limited to seven chunks of information. Planning (in the form of TOTE units) is a fundamental cognitive process. Behavior is hierarchically organized (e.g., chunks, TOTE units).

Lateral Thinking (E. DeBono) (constructivism) (http://www.edwdebono.com/debono)

The basis of the concept of Lateral Thinking is the generation of novel solutions to problems. The point of Lateral Thinking is that many problems require a different perspective to solve successfully. The concept attempts to get a different perspective on a problem by breaking the elements up and recombining them in a different way – perhaps randomly to produce an unexpected, serendipitous result.

The four critical factors associated with lateral thinking:

(1) Recognize dominant ideas that polarize perception of a problem
(2) Searching for different ways of looking at things
(3) Relaxation of rigid control of thinking
(4) Use of serendipitous chance to encourage other ideas

This last factor has to do with the fact that lateral thinking involves low-probability ideas which are unlikely to occur in the normal course of events. Although De Bono does not acknowledge any theoretical antecedents for Lateral Thinking, it seems closely related to the Gestalt theory of Wertheimer. His work is also highly relevant to the concept of creativity in children and human problem-solving. Some of his recent work has focused on schools (e.g., DeBono, 1991).

Anecdote of Lateral Thinking:

A merchant who owes money to a money lender agrees to settle the debt based upon the choice of two stones (one black, one white) from a money bag. If his daughter chooses the white stone, the debt is canceled; if she picks the black stone, the moneylender gets the merchant’s daughter. However, the moneylender “fixes” the outcome by putting two black stones in the bag. The daughter sees this and when she picks a stone out of the bag, immediately drops it onto the path full of other stones. She then points out that the stone she picked must have been the opposite color of the one remaining in the bag. Unwilling to be unveiled as dishonest, the moneylender must agree and cancel the debt. The daughter has solved an intractable problem through the use of Lateral Thinking.

Levels of Processing (F. Craik & R. Lockhart) (behaviorism)

The levels of processing framework was presented by Craik & Lockhart (1972) as an alternative to theories of memory that postulated separate stages for sensory, working and long-term memory. According to the levels of processing framework, stimulus information is processed at multiple levels simultaneously depending upon its characteristics. Furthermore, the “deeper” the processing, the more that will be remembered. For example, information that involves strong visual images or many associations with existing knowledge will be processed at a deeper level. Similarly, information that is being attended to receives more processing than other stimuli/events. The theory also supports the finding that we remember things that are meaningful to us because this requires more processing than meaningless stimuli. The primary application of the levels of processing framework was to verbal learning settings (i.e., memorization of word lists); however, it has been applied to reading and language learning (e.g., Cermak & Craik, 1979).

Modes Of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman) (behaviorism)

D. Rumelhart & D. Norman (1978) proposed that there are three modes of learning: accretion, structuring and tuning. Accretion is the addition of new knowledge to existing memory. Structuring involves the formation of new conceptual structures or schema. Tuning is the adjustment of knowledge to a specific task usually through practice. Accretion is the most common form of learning; structuring occurs much less frequently and requires considerable effort; tuning is the slowest form of learning and accounts for expert performance. Restructuring involves some form of reflection or insight (i.e., metacognition) and may correspond to a plateau in performance. On the other hand, tuning often represents automatic behavior that is not available to reflection (e.g., learning procedures). Norman (1982) discusses the example of learning Morse code. Initial learning of the code is the process of accretion. Learning to recognize sequences or full words represents restructuring. The gradual increase in translation or transmission speed indicates the process of tuning.

Multiple Intelligences (Howard Gardner) (Constructivism)

The theory of multiple intelligences suggests that there are a number of distinct forms of intelligence that each individual possesses in varying degrees. Gardner proposes eight primary forms: linguistic, audio (musical), logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (e.g., insight, metacognition) and interpersonal (e.g., social skills) and nature learning. According to Gardner, the implication of the theory is that learning/teaching should focus on the particular intelligences of each person. For example, if an individual has strong spatial or musical intelligences, they should be encouraged to develop these abilities. Gardner points out that the different intelligences represent not only different content domains but also learning modalities. A further implication of the theory is that assessment of abilities should measure all forms of intelligence, not just linguistic and logical-mathematical.

Gardner (1983, p 390) describes how learning to program a computer might involve multiple intelligences:
“Logical-mathematical intelligence seems central, because programming depends upon the deployment of strict procedures to solve a problem or attain a goal in a finite number of steps. Linguistic intelligence is also relevant, at least as long as manual and computer languages make use of ordinary language…an individual with a strong musical bent might best be introduced to programming by attempting to program a simple musical piece (or to master a program that composes). An individual with strong spatial abilities might be initiated through some form of computer graphics — and might be aided in the task of programming through the use of a flowchart or some other spatial diagram. Personal intelligences can play important roles. The extensive planning of steps and goals carried out by the individual engaged in programming relies on intrapersonal forms of thinking, even as the cooperation needed for carrying a complex task or for learning new computational skills may rely on an individual’s ability to work with a team. Kinesthetic intelligence may play a role in working with the computer itself, by facilitating skill at the terminal…”

Repair Theory (K. VanLehn) (Innovationism)

Repair theory is a attempt to explain how people learn procedural skills with particular attention to how and why they make mistakes (i.e., bugs). The theory suggests that when a procedure cannot be performed, an impasse occurs and the individual applies various strategies to overcome the impasse. These strategies (meta-actions) are called repairs. Some repairs result in correct outcomes whereas others generate incorrect results and hence “buggy” procedures. Repair theory has been implemented in the form of a computer model called Sierra.

Repair theory has been developed from extensive study of children solving arithmetic problems (Brown & VanLehn, 1980). Even with simple subtraction problems, many types of bugs were found, often occurring in combinations. Such systematic errors are not to be confused with “slips” (cf. Norman, 1981) or random mistakes since they reoccur regularly in a particular student’s work. On the other hand, bugs are not totally consistent:

Repair theory assumes that people primarily learn procedural tasks by induction and that bugs occur because of biases that are introduced in the examples provided or the feedback received during practice (as opposed to mistakes in memorizing formulas or instructions). Therefore, the implication of repair theory is that problem sets should be chosen to eliminate the bias likely to cause specific bugs. Another implication is that bugs are often introduced when students try to extend procedures beyond the initial examples provided.

Script Theory (Roger Schank) (constructivism)

The central focus of Schank’s theory has been the structure of knowledge, especially in the context of language understanding. Schank (1975) outlined Contextual Dependency Theory which deals with the representation of meaning in sentences. Building upon this framework, Schank & Abelson (1977) introduced the concepts of scripts, plans and themes to handle story-level understanding. Later work (e.g., Schank, 1982,1986) elaborated the theory to encompass other aspects of cognition.

The key element of Conceptual Dependency Theory is the idea that all conceptualizations can be represented in terms of a small number of primitive acts performed by an actor on an object. For example, the concept, “John read a book” could be represented as: John MTRANS (information) to LTM from book, where MTRANS is the primitive act of mental transfer. In Schank’s theory, all memory is episodic, i.e., organized around personal experiences rather than semantic categories. Generalized episodes are called scripts — specific memories are stored as pointers to scripts plus any unique events for a particular episode. Scripts allow individuals to make inferences needed for understanding by filling in missing information (i.e., schema).

Schank (1986) uses script theory as the basis for a dynamic model of memory. This model suggests that events are understood in terms of scripts, plans and other knowledges structures as well as relevant previous experiences. An important aspect of dynamic memory is explanatory processes (XPs) that represent stereotyped answers to events that involve anomalies or unusual events. Schank proposes that XPs are a critical mechanism of creativity.

Situated Learning (J. Lave) (Constructivism)

Lave argues that learning as it normally occurs is a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs (i.e., it is situated). This contrasts with most classroom learning activities which involve knowledge which is abstract and out of context. Social interaction (also known as authenticity) is a critical component of Situated Learning — learners become involved in a “community of practice” which embodies certain beliefs and behaviors to be acquired. As the beginner or newcomer moves from the periphery of this community to its center, they become more active and engaged within the culture and hence assume the role of expert or old-timer. Furthermore, Situated Learning is usually unintentional rather than deliberate. These ideas are what Lave & Wenger (1991) call the process of “legitimate peripheral participation.”

Other researchers have further developed the theory of situated learning. Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989) emphasize the idea of cognitive apprenticeship: “Cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Learning, both outside and inside school, advances through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge. Brown et al. also emphasize the need for a new epistemology for learning — one that emphasizes active perception over concepts and representation. Suchman (1988) explores the Situated Learning framework in the context of artificial intelligence. Situated Learning is a general theory of knowledge acquisition. It has been applied in the context of technology-based learning activities for schools that focus on problem-solving skills.

Soar (A. Newell et al.) (Behaviorism)

Soar is architecture for human cognition expressed in the form of a production system. It involves the collaboration of a number of researchers including Allen Newell, John Laird and Paul Rosenbloom and others at different institutions. The theory builds upon earlier efforts involving Newell such as GPS (Newell & Simon) and GOMS (Card, Moran & Newell). Like the latter model, Soar is capable of simulating actual responses and response times.

The principal element in Soar is the idea of a problem space: all cognitive acts are some form of search task. Memory is unitary and procedural; there is no distinction between procedural and declarative memory. Chunking is the primary mechanism for learning and represents the conversion of problem-solving acts into long-term memory. The occasion for chunking is an impasse and its resolution in the problem solving process (i.e., satisfying production rules). Newell states that Soar suggests a reconstructive view of memory (c.f. Bartlett < ).

Newell (1990) has positioned Soar as the basis for a unified theory of cognition and attempts to show how it explains a wide range of past results and phenomena. For example, he provides interpretations for response time data, verbal learning tasks, reasoning tasks, mental models and skill acquisition. In addition, versions of Soar have been developed that perform as intelligent systems for configuring computer systems and formulating algorithms.

As a theory of learning, Soar specifies (or confirms) a number of principles:

• All learning arises from goal-directed activities; specific knowledge is acquired in order to satisfy goals (needs)
• Learning occurs at a constant rate — the rate at which impasses occur while problem solving (average of 0.5 chunk/second)
• Transfer occurs by identical elements and is highly specific (c.f. Thorndike). Transfer can be general if the productions are abstract.
• Rehearsal helps learning provided it involves active processing (i.e., creation of chunks)
• Chunking is the basis for the organization of memory.

Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura) (behaviorism)

The social learning theory of Bandura emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Bandura (1977) states: “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (p22) Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, an environmental influences.

The component processes underlying observational learning are:

• Attention, including modeled events (distinctiveness, affective valence, complexity, prevalence, functional value) and observer characteristics (sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement),
• Retention, including symbolic coding, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal),
• Motor Reproduction, including physical capabilities, self-observation of reproduction, accuracy of feedback,
• Motivation, including external, vicarious and self-reinforcement.

Because it encompasses attention, memory and motivation, social learning theory spans both cognitive and behavioral frameworks. Bandura’s theory improves upon the strictly behavioral interpretation of modeling provided by Miller & Dollard (1941). Bandura’s work is related to the theories of Vygotsky and Lave which also emphasize the central role of social learning.

Social learning theory has been applied extensively to the understanding of aggression (Bandura, 1973) and psychological disorders, particularly in the context of behavior modification. (Bandura, 1969) It is also the theoretical foundation for the technique of behavior modeling which is widely used in training programs. In recent years, Bandura has focused his work on the concept of self-efficacy in a variety of contexts (e.g., Bandura, 1997). For example, the most common (and pervasive) examples of social learning situations are television commercials. Commercials suggest that drinking a certain beverage or using a particular hair shampoo will make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people. Depending upon the component processes involved (such as attention or motivation), we may model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised.

The highest level of observational learning is achieved by first organizing and rehearsing the modeled behavior symbolically and then enacting it overtly. Coding, modeled behavior into words, labels or images results in better retention than simply observing. Individuals are more likely to adopt a 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 has admired status and the behavior has functional value.

Subsumption Theory (David Ausubel) (behaviorism)

Ausubel’s theory is concerned with how individuals learn large amounts of meaningful material from verbal/textual presentations in a school setting (in contrast to theories developed in the context of laboratory experiments). According to Ausubel, learning is based upon the kinds of superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes that occur during the reception of information. A primary process in learning is subsumption in which new material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive structure on a substantive, non-verbatim basis. Cognitive structures represent the residue of all learning experiences; forgetting occurs because certain details get integrated and lose their individual identity.

A major instructional mechanism proposed by Ausubel is the use of advance organizers:

“These organizers are introduced in advance of learning itself, and are also presented at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness; and since the substantive content of a given organizer or series of organizers is selected on the basis of its suitability for explaining, integrating, and interrelating the material they precede, this strategy simultaneously satisfies the substantive as well as the programming criteria for enhancing the organization strength of cognitive structure.” (1963, p. 81).

Ausubel emphasizes that advance organizers are different from overviews and summaries which simply emphasize key ideas and are presented at the same level of abstraction and generality as the rest of the material. Organizers act as a subsuming bridge between new learning material and existing related ideas. There are also similarities with Bruner’s ”Spiral Learning” model, although Ausubel emphasizes that subsumption involves reorganization of existing cognitive structures not the development of new structures as constructivist theories suggest. Ausubel was apparently influenced by the work of Piaget on cognitive development.

Ausubel clearly indicates that his theory applies only to reception (expository) learning in school settings. He distinguishes reception learning from rote and discovery learning; the former because it doesn’t involve subsumption (i.e., meaningful materials) and the latter because the learner must discover information through problem solving. A large number of studies have been conducted on the effects of advance organizers in learning (see Ausubel, 1968, 1978). The most general ideas of a subject should be presented first and then progressively differentiated in terms of detail and specificity. Instructional materials should attempt to integrate new material with previously presented information through comparisons and cross-referencing of new and old ideas.

Symbol Systems (Gavriel Salomon) (Behaviorism)

The Symbol Systems Theory developed by Salomon is intended to explain the effects of media on learning. Salomon (1977) states: “To summarize, the symbol systems of media affect the acquisition of knowledge in a number of ways. First, they highlight different aspects of content. Second, they vary with respect to ease of recoding. Third, specific coding elements can save the learner from difficult mental elaborations by overtly supplanting or short-circuiting specific elaboration. Fourth, symbol systems differ with respect to how much processing they demand or allow. Fifth, symbol systems differ with respect to the kinds of mental processes they call on for recoding and elaboration. Thus, symbol systems partly determine who will acquire how much knowledge from what kinds of messages.” (p226-227)

According to Salomon, each medium is capable of conveying content via certain inherent symbol systems. For example, Salomon suggests that television requires less mental processing than reading and that the meanings secured from viewing television tend to be less elaborating than those secured from reading (i.e., different levels of processing are involved). However, the meaning extracted from a given medium depends upon the learner. Thus, a person may acquire information about a subject they are familiar with equally well from different media but be significantly influenced by different media for novel information. Salomon (1981) focuses on the reciprocal nature of instructional communications, the instructional setting, and the learner. Salomon argues that schema play a major role in determining how messages are perceived — in terms of creating an anticipatory bias that influences what information is selected and how it is interpreted. Furthermore, media create new schema which affect subsequent cognitive processing.

Symbol systems theory is closely related to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Salomon’s theory is supported primarily by research conducted with film and television (especially ” Sesame Street “). More recent work has extended the framework to computers (e.g., Salomon, Perkins & Globerson, 1991). One of the critical concepts of Salomon’s theory is that the effectiveness of a medium depends upon its match with the learner, the context and the task. Salomon (1977; p 112) explains: “Learning can be facilitated to the extent that the activated skills are relevant to the demands of the learning task. Thus, when the task calls for some act of analytic comparison and the coded message activates imagery instead, the learning may be debilitated. For effective instructional communication, a match needs to be established between the cognitive demands of a learning task, the skills that are required by the codes of the message, and the learner’s level of mastery of these skills.”

Characteristics of the Symbol Systems Theory include:

• The symbolic coding elements of particular media require different mental transformations and hence affect the mastery of specific skills.
• The level of knowledge and skill that an individual possesses will affect the impact of specific media sequences.
• The nature of the learning/information processing tasks can affect the impact of specific media sequences.
• The social context of media presentations can influence what message is perceived.
• There is a reciprocal relationship between media and learner; each can influence the other.

Transformative Learning (Jack Mezirow) (constructivism)

The Transformational Learning Theory originally developed by Jack Mezirow is described as being “constructivist, an orientation which holds that the way learners interpret and reinterpret their sense experience is, central to making meaning and hence learning.” (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

Meaning structures (perspectives and schemes) are a major component of the theory. Meaning perspectives are defined as “broad sets of predispositions resulting from psycho-cultural assumptions which determine the horizons of our expectations” (Mezirow, 1991). They are divided into 3 sets of codes:

• Sociolinguistic codes
• Psychological codes
• Epistemic codes

A meaning scheme is “the constellation of concept, belief, judgment, and feelings which shapes a particular interpretation” (Mezirow, 1994, p. 223). Meaning structures are understood and developed through reflection. Mezirow states that “reflection involves a critique of assumptions to determine whether the belief, often acquired through cultural assimilation in childhood, remains functional for us as adults” (Mezirow, 1991). Reflection is similar to problem solving and Mezirow talks about how we “reflect on the content of the problem, the process of problem-solving, or the premise of the problem” (Mezirow, 1991). Through this reflection we are able to understand ourselves more and then understand our learning better. Mezirow also proposed that there are four ways of learning. They are:

• By refining or elaborating our meaning schemes
• Learning new meaning schemes
• Transforming meaning schemes
• Transforming meaning perspectives

The theory has commonalities with other theories of adult learning such as andragogy (Knowles) and experiential learning (Rogers and Cross). Transformative Learning theory is focused on adult learning, particularly in the context of post-secondary education (e.g., Craig et al., 2001; King, 2002).

Applying transformative theory to curriculum evaluation, one looks for evidence of critical reflection in terms of content, process and premise. Content reflection consists of curricular mapping from student and faculty perspectives; Process reflection focuses on best practices; Literature-based indicators and self-efficacy measures; Premise reflection would consider both content and process reflection to develop recommendations. Adult exhibit two kinds of learning:

• Instrumental (e.g., cause/effect) and
• Communicative (e.g., feelings)

Learning involves change to meaning structures (perspectives and schemes).Change to meaning structures occurs through reflection about content, process or premises. Learning can involve:

• Refining/elaborating meaning schemes,
• Learning new schemes,
• Transforming schemes, or
• Transforming perspectives