In this course we will critically examine several theoretical perspectives on learning, cognition, and instruction. As will become evident, no single theory accounts for all of human learning. By examining a variety of theories, we will identify a range of concepts and principles that will be useful to understand learning and design instruction in a variety of settings and for myriad purposes. This course consists of six (6) study lessons and one (1) review lesson.

Course Objectives

Our primary goals will be as follows:

  • To become conversant with basic assumptions, concepts, and principles of each paradigm of learning: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism
  • To rigorously compare and contrast theories within and across paradigms for strengths, weaknesses, and applicability
  • To determine the implications of theory for instructional design
  • To generate and revise personal theories of learning and determine implications
  • To become cognizant of changes in personal epistemology over the course of the semester

Required Materials

The required textbook for this course is:

  • Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction, 3rd edition. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Additional required readings will be listed under each lesson. Most journal articles can be obtained full-text through EBSCOhost or WilsonWeb via the university library website:

Course Assignments Schedule

Each lesson will consist of four (4) sections:

Readings. Below find the required and additional readings assigned for each lesson.

  • Instructor notes. For each lesson, I'll offer you my ideas about important points, try to explain difficult concepts, or provide supplementary material. You'll probably want to review these notes before, during, and after your reading of the assigned chapter(s).
  • Learning activities/assignments. These activities are designed to help you understand and apply the concepts and theories across the lessons. Detailed descriptions are available below and online.
  • Web resources. The Web is, of course, a vast source of information about learning and cognition, as well as almost anything else you can imagine. I have provided some Web-based resources for many of the topics we'll cover in this course. With a little exploration on your own, you may be able to find many other relevant Web sites. Of course, since no one "owns" the Web, Web-based materials come with no guarantee as to their quality or authenticity. Always consider and evaluate the source.

Lesson Dates Readings


Driscoll (2005), Chapters 1, 12

Available through course website:

Dewhurst, D. & Lamb, S. (2005). Educational Stories: Engaging teachers in educational theory. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 37 (6), 907-917.

Ertmer, P. A. & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivisim, constructivism: comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6 (4), 50-72.

Ertmer, P. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The final frontier in our quest for technology integration. Educational Technology Research & Development, 53 (4), 25-39.

Hofer, B. K. (2001). Personal epistemology research: Implications for learning and teaching. Educational Psychology Review, 13 (4), 353-383.


Driscoll (2005), Chapter 2

Available through course website:

Beatty, B. (1998). From laws of learning to a science of values: Efficiency and morality in Thorndike's educational psychology. American Psychologist, 53 (10), 1145-1152.

Burton , J. K., Moore , D. M. & Magliaro, S. G. (2004). Behaviorism and instructional technology.

Magliaro, S. G., Lockee, B. B. & Burton, J. K. (2005). Direct instruction revisited: A key model for instructional technology. Educational Technology Research and Development , 53(4), 41-56.

Munson, K. J. & Crosbie, J. (1998). Effects of response cost on computerized program instruction. Psychological Record , Spring 98, Vol. 48, Issue 2.  

Windholz, G. (1997). Ivan P. Pavlov: An overview of his life and psychological work. American Psychologist, 52 , 941-946.


Driscoll, Chapter 3, 9

Available through course website:

Baddeley, A. (1992). Working memory. Science, 255 (5044), 556-559.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28 (2), 117-148.

Coker, D. R. & White, J. (1993). Selecting and applying learning theory to classroom teaching strategies. Education, 114 (1).

Dempsey, J. V. & Burke, R. B. (1998). The development of an ARCS gaming scale. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25 (4), 215-221.

Peterson, T. O.& Arnn, R. B. (2005). Self-efficacy: the foundation of human performance. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 18( 2), 5-18.

Rogers, D., et. al., (2004). Self-regulated learning and internet searching. Teachers College Record, 106( 9), 1804-1824.


Driscoll, Chapter 4

Available through course website:

Anderson, R. C., Spiro, R. J., & Anderson, M.C. (1978). Schemata as scaffolding for the representation of information in connected discourse. American Educational Research Journal, 15 (3), 433-440.

Battista, M. & Clements, D. H. (1998). Finding the number of cubes in rectangular cube buildings. Teaching Children Mathematics, 4 (5).

Kalyuga, S. & Sweller, J. (2004). Measuring knowledge to optimize cognitive load factors during instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96 (3), 558-568.

Kiewra, K. A, Mayer, R. E., Dubois, N.F., Christensen, M., Kim, S-I, & Risch, N. (1997) Effects of advance organizers and repeated presentations on students' learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 65 (2), 147-159.

Magliaro, S.G. & Shambaugh, N. (2006). Student models of instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development , 54 (1), 83-106.


Driscoll, Chapters 6, 7

Available through course website:

Jaramillo, J. A. (1996). Vygotsky's sociocultural theory and contributions to the development of constructivist curricula. Education, 117 (1), p133-140.

Lipman, M. (1991). Squaring Soviet theory with American practice. Educational Leadership, 48 (8), 72-76.

Nyikos, M. & Hashimoto, R. (1997). Constructivisit theory applied to collaborative learning in teacher education: in search of ZPD. The Modern Language Journal, 81 , 506-517.

Shayer, M. (2003). Not just Piaget; not just Vygotsky, and certainly not Vygotsky as alternative to Piaget. Learning and Instruction, 13 , 465-485

Wood, D. & Wood, H. (1996). Vygotsky, tutoring and learning. Oxford Review of Education, 22 (1), 5-16.


Driscoll, Chapters 5, 11

Available through course website:

Airasian, P. W., & Walsh, M. E. (1997). Constructivist cautions . Phi Delta Kappan , 78(6), 444-449.

Anderson , J.R.,. Reder, L.M., & Simon, H.A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational Researcher, 25 (4), 5-11.

Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18 (1), 32-42.

Greeno, J. G. (1997). On claims that answer the wrong questions. Educational Researcher, 26 (1), 5-17.

Phillips, D. C. (1995). The good, the bad, and the ugly: The many faces of constructivism. Educational Researcher, 24 (7), 5-12.


Driscoll, Chapters 10, 12 (reread)

Available through course website:

Alutu, A.N.G. (2006). The guidance role of the instructor in the teaching and learning process. Journal of Instructional Psychology , 33 (1), 44-49.

Cunningham, D. J. (2005). May you teaching in interesting times , Ch 4. The Impact of the Cognitive Revolution on Educational Psychology, pp 87-103.

Deubel, P. (2003). An investigation of behaviorist and cognitive approaches to instructional multimedia design. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 12 (1), 63-90.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J. & Clark, R. E. (June, 2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41 (2), 75-86.

Richey, R. (2000). The Legacy of Robert M. Gagne. Retrieved Thursday, July 27, 2006 from the ERIC database.

Course Deliverables

Three types of deliverables will be required: summaries and analyses, application papers, and personal learning theory position papers.

I. Application Papers
Your task is to evaluate a theory in relation to a personally relevant setting, issue, or problem. The goal is to determine how well chosen theories explain or predict learning.

Application Paper #1: Select radical behaviorism, cognitive information processing, or meaningful learning/schema theory to explain a learning scenario and articulate its effectiveness or inadequacy to do so.
The goal of this exercise is threefold: 1) demonstrate understanding of concepts & principles; 2) use theory to describe and/or explain how learning occurs within a chosen context; 3) identify and articulate limitations of a particular theory examining epistemological underpinnings and the questions it asks

Application Paper #2: Choose two theories to compare and contrast in relation to a personally relevant setting, issue, or problem (which may be identical or different from the setting in Paper #1). At least one of the theories must come from lessons 5 and 6 and the second theory cannot replicate the theory examined in Paper #1.

  • The goal of this assignment is threefold: 1) demonstrate knowledge of concepts and principles from at least two paradigms (specifically one theory within each paradigm); 2) demonstrate processes of analysis, critique, and evaluation, 3) apply instructional design knowledge and skills as informed by theory
  • Instructions:  the first option is to conduct an observation in a learning and instruction environment to include classrooms, training, distance learning, professional meeting, or informal setting, self-instruction; the second option is to identify strategiesand techniques you use and compare and contrast to alternative theory or position to improve instruction and learning; the third option is to view an instructional product or video on classroom methods and do same as in option two
    • Provide context (content, learner characteristics, environment, and instructional goals) in which strategies and theories used
    • Identify strategies and underlying theories
    • Verify and validate your claims with concrete examples
    • State whether chosen strategies and theories are effective and/or efficient for given context
    • Critically analyze strategies and theories from counter or alternative position to solve problems from instructional designer position; if there is nothing to improve, then propose an alternative methodology
  • Steps for Analysis: 1) identify goals and objectives for the course (these could be explicit or implicit); 2) identify strategies & methodologies; 3) analyze assessment; 3) analyze to determine if goals/objectives, strategies/methodologies, & assessment match; 4) if they don’t match, determine what theories might explain the instructor’s choices of goals, strategies, andassessment;
  • Steps for Critique/Evaluation: 1) state how goals, strategies, and assessment can be aligned with appropriate theoretical approach;
  • Steps for Instructional Design: 1) describe how you would revise or improve goals, strategies, and assessment to clearly exhibit theoretical concepts and principles

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR APPLICATION PAPERS. (Adapted from American Educational Research Association):
  1. A title page
  2. An abstract of 100 to 120 words.
  3. A body of 2500 words or less (excluding references) should deal explicitly with as many of the following as applicable, preferably in this order:
    1. objectives or purposes of the paper;
    2. perspective(s) or theoretical framework(s) chosen;
    3. examples or evidence to validate claims;
    4. conclusions and final point of view on the issue; and
    5. the educational or scientific importance of your analysis.
  4. References: Adherence to the APA Style Guide is expected for these papers. A quick reference here: Purdue OWL or APA

II. Personal Learning Theory Position Paper
At the beginning of the course, you will turn in a draft of a personal learning theory. The draft should cover all categories (e.g., Prominent Theorists, Learning Outcome(s), Role of the Learner, etc.) represented in the theory matrix in Chapter 12 of your textbook. You will submit this draft to be graded. At the end of the course, after reading and discussing each of the learning theories, you will submit a fuller, revised draft of your personal learning theory. Ideally, you will insert the matrix in the final draft as an illustration of your newfound understanding.

  1. A title page
  2. A body of 1000 words or less (excluding references) should deal explicitly with as many of the following as applicable, preferably in this order:
    1. objectives or purposes;
    2. perspective(s) or theoretical framework(s);
    3. inputs, means, results;
    4. conclusions/point of view.
  3. References: Adherence to the APA Style Guide is not relevant to these deliverables.

III. Learning Activity Grading Criteria
Following are the assessment criteria for contribution to lesson learning activities.







9-10 pts.

7-8 pts

4-6 pts

1-3 pts

Demonstration and articulation of course knowledge

Demonstrates excellent knowledge of course content based on readings and lectures. Articulates, critically evaluates, and advances key issues

Demonstrates good knowledge of course content and is able to fairly well articulate and critically evaluate key

Demonstrates fair knowledge of course content and articulates and critically evaluates key issues at a surface level 

Does not demonstrate knowledge of course content and does not articulate or critically evaluate key issues

Critical Analysis of Issues

Critically analyzes relevant issues and summarizes key issues demonstrating an advanced level of expertise

Critically analyzes relevant issues and summarizes key issues demonstrating a good level of expertise

Critically analyzes relevant issues and summarizes key issues demonstrating a fair level of expertise

Critically analyzes relevant issues and summarizes key issues demonstrating a novice level of expertise

Support of Learning for Others



Often interacts with and supports learning of others by interacting in discussions and providing resources or support for their learning

Sometimes interacts with and supports learning of others by interacting in discussions and providing resources or support for their learning

Rarely interacts with and supports learning of others by interacting in discussions and providing resources or support for their learning

Never interacts with and supports learning of others by interacting in discussions and providing resources or support for their learning 

IV. Lesson Summary & Analysis Rubric
Below is the rubric to be used for evaluating lesson summaries and analyses.


Description of highest level of performance


Demonstrates understanding of concepts & principles


•  Demonstrates excellent understanding of concepts and principles based on readings and lecture notes

•  Describes at least 4 key concepts & principles from any one theory

•  Incorporates citations into unfolding argument or position


Uses theories to describe and explain how learning occurs within a given context


•  Clearly describes and explains how learning occurs within a given context using one or more theoretical perspectives

•  Gives appropriate examples and detailed background within a given context


Identifies and articulates limitations of a particular position(s), examining epistemological underpinnings and the questions it asks


•  Critically identifies, articulates and evaluates limitations of a particular theory examining epistemological understandings and the questions it asks

•  Demonstrates excellent understanding of the particular scope and focus of a chosen theory

•  Goes beyond just “summarizing” readings by introducing personal perspective and analysis



•  All grammar, spelling, punctuation errors correct ed

•  Typed 500 words, Times New Roman 12 point font, single-spaced and pages numbered

•  Giving proper titles and sub-titles

•  Saving as “pid_summary1.doc”; “pid_summary-2.doc”; “pid_summary-3.doc”, etc.


Course Grading Scales

The content of this course is significant and assignments are graded with rigor. Final grades will be assigned according to the following scale:


93 - 100%


80 - 82%


67 - 69%


90 - 92%


77 - 79%


63 - 66%


87 - 89%


73 - 76%




83 - 86%


70 - 72%


59% or below

If you want to finish this course by the end of the term, you should submit all work according to the due dates listed in the course overview. If you wait and submit all assignments, at one time, near the end of the semester, you will receive an I in the course. Students that have been keeping up with course work will be given priority over students that have waited until the last minute.  Remember, it is to your advantage to work steadily through lessons, especially as these lessons will be fundamental to your success in other modules. Please remember that it takes time to grade your work, so please wait patiently for grades and possible feedback. All assignments must be completed to receive a final grade.

Management Policies

Honor Code Policy
“The Honor Code will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments submitted shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered by the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. Honesty in your academic work will develop into professional integrity. The faculty and students will not tolerate any form of academic dishonesty.”
 Any work that is not the student’s original work, or another’s work that the student has altered, must be submitted with a copy of the original work. In addition, the source of the work must be clearly cited. Failure to include a copy and proper citation of the original work, with an assignment that is not completely the work of you or your team, will result in a referral to the Honor System. All other policies and regulations (e.g., regarding "academic honesty and plagiarism" including that of on-line sources) as stated in the Graduate Bulletin apply in this course.
Please read the Graduate School Honor Code policy:

Class Work Policy
All work submitted must be the work of the student and must be unique to this class (not turned in to another class for a grade), unless explicitly approved as otherwise by the instructor before the work is undertaken. There will be exceptions to this policy with some assignments.

Design Constraint Policy
The instructor reserves the right to abort any designs that are deemed inappropriate for an educational setting (e.g., sexual or violent content). Using such material in any assignment will result in a zero (0) for that assignment. There are an infinite number of possible designs with appropriate material for a higher education setting, so this should not be an issue.

Disability Statement
"The university makes reasonable accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities in the university setting. In doing so, a variety of supplemental services are offered to help offset the functional disadvantage of a disability and help increase students’ educational opportunities." Students should contact the Virginia Tech Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD Office).