The subject of learning is no new topic of discussion for man. Early Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle claimed their own opinions about how the human species adapted and thrived through learning. They established the Theory of Mental Discipline which states that learning requires much discipline and strict training. The brain is likening to a muscle that has to be used and strengthened just like other parts of the body (Tracey & Mandel, 2012, p. 18). Other theories are less demanding and only require some cognitive processing and imitation as a means of learning, such as Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Bandura believed that people basically learned from others by observing then modeling behavior. This theory requires the person to be attentive and use their memory to imitate the behavior viewed(, 2008-2012).

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Learning helps us think and survive the world we live in. We start learning the moment we are born and the process of learning continues throughout our lifetime. It is not surprising that in June of 2011, Leo Plass of Redmond, Oregon held the world record of being the oldest college graduate at the age of ninety-nine years old (World Records Academy, 2011). What an amazing testimony of how the mind continues seek knowledge and understanding through learning. Cognitive learning focuses on the human mind and how we process information going in, and how it organizes and stores the information (Grider, 1993). We invite you to explore our learning site, and it is our hope that you will come away with some understanding of its history and major findings. We will cover key players such as Jean Piaget and Wolfgang Kohler. Also, we will present objections to some of the learning theories.

Kelly Harrington ~ Tanya Jackson ~ Lani Johnson ~ Ronda McLaughlin ~ Ivory Menke ~ Kerline PetionBonnie Phelps ~ Nicole Roman ~ Sharon Scaria ~ Tracy Spiva


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Psychology, like many things, started off as an experiment. A test of the human mind, to see its capabilities along with its vulnerabilities. In 1832, Wilhelm Wundt established the first laboratory in the world solely meant for experimental psychology. This laboratory became a focus for those with a serious interest in psychology, first for German philosophers and psychology students, then later for American and British students to use as well. All relating psychological laboratories were closely modeled in their early years on the Wundt laboratory. Wundt's approach to psychological experimentation moved psychological study from the domain of natural sciences to physiological experimental techniques in the laboratory. Wundt felt that the total adjustments of an organism were a psychophysical process, an organic response made by both the physiological and the psychological. He pioneered the concept of stating mental events in relation to inferences and measurable stimuli and reactions. Wundt perceived psychology as part of an elaborate philosophy where mind is not a substance but part of an activity. The basic of the mind activity was named 'apperception' by Wundt (Indiana University, 2012).

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(, n.d.)

The 1900s were a period of great research and experimentation in the world of psychology. New theories and branches formed.

Later in the twentieth century, a new branch of psychology was formed. In 1913, John B. Watson published what is considered his most important work, the article "Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It," (The Behaviorist Manifesto). In this article, Watson outlined features of his new philosophy of psychology, called "behaviorism." Other experiments followed, such as the 8 year study plan by Ralph Tyler. This experiment was a milestone in specifying objectives for education, and behavioral objectives were being formed in the process. The study was designed in response to postwar pressures to change high school curriculum in order to meet increasing numbers of students. The study confirmed that objectives could be clarified if written in terms of student behaviors. This study was the first time formative evaluation was used. From then on, behaviorism became an important part of psychology that many people based their research on. Along with it came instructional theories in which some presumed that the human mind needed a certain amount of instruction to complete a task (Wozniak, 1997).

From the late 1990s to now, the elaboration theory by Charles M. Reigeluth goes along with the instructional theories. The theory is a model for making scope and sequence decisions, to simplify the amount of work needed for the task or just the task itself. It recognizes the different guidelines needed for different instructional situations. The key idea of the theory is that it helps increase effectiveness of instruction by organizing contents from general to a broader concept or idea. It also goes on to detailed and narrower ideas in gradual progression, but without breaking it into different pieces (University of South Alabama, n.d.).

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(Google images-Reigeluth,2006)
This countered the idea of a more holistic approach to instruction, emergency scenarios, problem-based learning and other kinds of learning. The new shift for instruction is to compromise and ease rather than standard instruction that is centered on completing the task rather than learning and completion ("Synthesizing the content," 1995).

  • (1832) Wilhelm Wundt referred to as the "Father of Experimental Psychology" and the "Founder of Modern Psychology" established the first laboratory in the world dedicated to experimental psychology.
  • (1845) Boston Survey undertaken by Boston School Commitee-wide-scale assessment of student achievement.
  • (1890) William James Principles of Psychology inspired a growing number of graduate-students including Thorndike.
  • (1895-1905) Joseph Rice organized assessment program in a number of large school systems used for educational decisions including standardized curriculum.
  • (1896) John Dewey while at the University of Chicago, Dewey established a Laboratory School for the purpose of testing his educational theories and their sociological implications.
  • (1899) John Dewey publishes The School and Society.
  • (1906) Ivan Pavlov publishes his findings on Classical Conditioning.
  • (1913) John B. Watson launches the Behaviorist Revolution.
  • (1918) William Heard Kilpatrick develops the Project Method.
  • E.L. Thorndike - main contributor for shifting the "mind as muscle" idea to designing instruction based on pre-specified and socially useful goals He was also a strong advocate for educational measurement.
  • Horace Mann was the most eminent leader of his time advocating public education, teacher training, free libraries.
  • (1918) - Franklin Bobbit advocated utilitarian or social efficiency movement. Emphasized creating relevant outcome and then planning instruction to meet them (Educational Objectives).
  • (1920’s) Jean Piaget conducts early psychological studies on his children, forming his theories of experience-based learning and his Stages of Intellectual Development.
  • (1920) John Watson and Rosalie Rayner publish Conditioned Emotional Reactions.
  • (1922) Edward C. Tolman publishes A New Formula for Behaviorism.
  • (1925) Sidney Pressey invents testing and teaching machine.
  • Mary Ward and Frederick Burk- established San Francisco Normal School using self-instructional materials.
  • Carleton Washburne (Winnetka Plan) and Helen Parkhurst (Dalton Plan) - pre-specified learning outcomes, self-pacing, mastery learning (Individualized Instruction).
  • Individual Learning Plans provided a rationale for continued development of design rather than traditional instruction.
  • Lev Vygotsky is generally known for his theories of developmental psychology, especially the development of language.
  • (1933) Ralph W. Tyler - Eight Year Study use of general and behavioral objectives and formative evaluation.
  • (1934) William Bagley writes Education and Emergent Man.
  • (1939) Regular scheduled television broadcasting begins in the U.S.
  • World War II led to increase of funding for education research and development.
  • (1942) Smith and Tyler provide evaluation manual which dominates educational evaluation for next quarter century.
  • (1949) Ralph Tyler publishes Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Emergence of the role of instructional technologist and instructional design team.
  • (1950) Alan Turing publishes Computing Machinery and Intelligence.
  • (1954)B. F. Skinner publishes The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching.
  • (1954) B. F. Skinner demonstrates at the University of Pittsburgh a machine designed to teach arithmetic, using an instructional program.
  • (1954) Maslow introduces Heirarchy of Needs.
  • (1956)Benjamin Bloom - Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.
  • (1957) The Soviet launch of Sputnik initiated federal funds to education in math and science.
  • (1959) Roby Kidd publishes How Adults Learn.
  • (1959) Wolfgang Kohler publishes Gestalt Psychology Today.
  • Visual literacy gains attention of educators when TV seems to influence behavior
  • (1961) Jerome Bruner publishes The Process of Education.
  • (1962) Robert Miller- developed detailed task analysis procedures.
  • (1962) Robert Mager publishes his book, “Preparing Instructional Objectives.”This book helped popularize the use of performance objectives by educators and others.
  • (1962) Robert Gagne published The Conditions of Learning.
  • (1962) Robert Glasser employed the term instructional system and named, elaborated, and diagrammed its components including criterion-referenced measures - tests interpreted in terms of competencies mastered.
  • (1962) The theories of Russian constructivist,Lev Vygotsky, were first published in the west.
  • Federal support increased for Instructional Development.
  • (1965) Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
  • James Finn, Arthur Lumsdaine, et. al. - move Audio Visual field toward a design of instructional messages.
  • (1963) the Keller Plan used for University college classes.
  • (1966) Jerome Bruner’s model of Discovery Learning, publishes Toward a Theory of Instruction.
  • (1969) McMaster University introduces problem-based learning in medical education.
  • Criterion Referenced Instruction (CRI) is introduced. Developed by Robert Mager it is a comprehensive set of methods for the design and delivery of training programs.
  • Graduate Education programs focusing on instructional systems design grew.
  • Journal of Instructional Development founded
  • (1976) Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak design the Apple I
  • (1983) MD Merrill established The Component Display Theory. Component Display Theory specifies four primary presentation forms: rules, examples, recall and practice as well as prerequisites, objectives, helps, mnemonics, and feedback.
  • (1983) Howard Gardner publishes Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
  • (1984) Apple Macintosh computer introduced.
  • (1984) David Kolb publishes Experiential Learning: Experiences as the Source of Learning and Development.
  • (1987) Hypercard develped by Bill Atkinson.
  • growth of users of microcomputers/personal computers.
  • computer-based instruction.
  • adoption of instructional systems development by American businesses.
  • expansion of systems concept - performance technology.
  • Larry Cuban writes How Teachers Taught: Constancy and Change in American Classrooms 1880-1980.
  • Charles Reigeluth breaks ground with his paper on Elaboration Theory. According to Reigeluth, Elaboration Theory, instruction should be organized in increasing order of complexity for optimal learning.
  • Dorsey, Goodrum, and Schwen develop another system of instructional design with the introduction of Rapid Prototyping. Rapid prototyping involve learners and/or subject matter experts (SMEs) interacting with prototypes and instructional designers in a continuous review/revision cycle.
  • (1995) Bernie Dodge and Tom March developed Webquest.
  • Constructivist Theory spreads.
  • use of multimedia in instruction.
  • development of CD-ROMS.
  • Internet.
  • Jeroen J G van Merrienboer refines the Four-Component Instructional Design System (4C/ID-model) he developed early in 1992. The 4C/ID-model focuses on the integration and coordinated performance of task-specific constituent skills rather than on knowledge types, context or presentation-delivery media. The 4C/ID model is commonly associated with design and training programs focused on a very complex set of skills.
  • David Wiley, develops Learning Object Design and Sequencing Theory (LODAS). LODAS is the result of combining Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth, 1999), Work Model Synthesis (Gibbons, et al., 1995), Domain Theory (Bunderson, Newby, & Wiley, 2000), and the Four-Component Instructional Design model (van Merriënboer, 1997) with new work. LODAS also provides a taxonomy of five learning object types and provides design guidance for the different types of learning objects.e-learning.

(Timeline courtesy of, 2011)


Jean Piaget

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done - men who are creative, inventive and discoverers”
- Jean Piaget (Cognitive Design Solutions, 2003)

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Jean Piaget was born in Neuchatel Switzerland in 1896. He started his education with an interest in biology that eventually led to his Ph.D. in Zoology at the University of Neuchatel at the age of 22 years old. Just a couple of years later in 1922, Piaget directed his interest towards Psychology and worked at the famous French psychologist Alfred Binet’s laboratory in Paris, France. He was also chosen to be the director of research at the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute located in Geneva where his focus shifted towards child psychology. Piaget dedicated many years researching children on how they learn at different stages in their lives.
One of his theories that gained much attention was his Four Development stages of Cognitive Development. This theory has been very helpful at explaining how children develop in their learning processes. Parents and educator have benefited from Piaget's view of how cognitive learning operates (Presnell, 1999).

Four Stages of Cognitive Learning

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Visit the following page for details on the four development stages - Developmental stages

Take a look at Piaget’s theory in action

Piaget's Theory of Accommodation and Assimilation

Piaget believed that there were two processes by which people adapt; assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is when an individual incorporates new information into their existing knowledge. Accommodation is when an individual adjusts their schema to the new information. "A schema is the concept or framework that already exists at a given moment in a person's mind, and that organizes information and provides a structure for interpreting it (King, 2008)."

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Important terms to know:

Adapting to the world through assimilation and accommodation.
The process by which a person takes material into their mind from the environment, which may mean changing the evidence of their senses to make it fit.
The difference made to one’s mind or concepts by the process of assimilation.
The ability to group objects together on the basis of common features.
Class Inclusion
The understanding, more advanced than simple classification, that some classes or sets of objects are also sub-sets of a larger class. (E.g. there is a class of objects called dogs. There is also a class called animals. But all dogs are also animals, so the class of animals includes that of dogs.)
The realization that objects or sets of objects stay the same even when they are changed about or made to look different.
The ability to move away from one system of classification to another one as appropriate.
The belief that you are the center of the universe and everything revolves around you: the corresponding inability to see the world as someone else does and adapt to it. Not moral “selfishness”, just an early stage of psychological development.
The process of working something out in your head. Young children (in sensorimotor and pre-operation stages) have to act, and try things out in the real world, to work things out 9like count fingers) older children and adults can do more in their heads.
The representation in the mind of a set of perceptions, ideas, and/or actions, which go together.
A period in a child’s development in which he or she is capable of understanding some things but not others.
(Atherton, 2011)

Piaget's books available at

The Origin Of The Idea Of Chance In Children
The Origin Of The Idea Of Chance In Children

Psychology of the Child
Psychology of the Child
The Moral Judgement of the Child
The Moral Judgement of the Child
Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood.
Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood.

Other writings:

  • Six Psychological Studies(1964)
  • The Child and Reality (1973)
  • Equilibration of cognitive structures (1985)
  • Sociological studies (1995)


"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten."
- B.F. Skinner (, 2006)

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(image courtesy of, 2003-2009)
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born in 1904 in a small railroad town in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. His education included New York’s Hamilton College and Harvard University. Skinner had a love for writing and received his B.A. degree from Hamilton College in English Literature in 1926. This multi talented man would soon shift his interest into the field of psychology after reading a book called "Philosophy" written by Bertrand Russell. This began his interest in behavior, and he spent the next few years earning his PhD in Psychology from Harvard in 1931. After this he was employed by the University of Minnesota and Indiana University. In 1948, he returned to Harvard as a professor and stayed until his death in 1990 (O'Donohue & Ferguson, 2001, p. 16-22).

Skinner is well known for his work in the field of Behavioral Psychology, and his ground work in Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning theory is a form of learning style under Associative learning. It explains how behavior can be changed by its consequences, and how this voluntary behavior can produce stimuli that has rewards or punishments.
(King, 2008, p. 257).

Skinner explains his Operant Conditioning Theory in the following video:

Skinner also created the "Skinner box" which was a chamber that he used to put his lab animals in to observe their behavior. This chamber was constructed with some type of a pressing mechanism such as a lever. It was important to Skinner that he constructed the boxes to the animal's abilities. For example, the rats used a bar that was pressed and a pigeon was given a disk to peck. The reinforcement would be items such as food, water, sounds and visuals. Though his findings were based on animal research, he was also quite interested in applying his theory to humans (O'Donohue & Ferguson, 2001).
(Image of Skinner box with rat courtesy of, 2007. Image of Skinner box with pigeon courtesy of, n.d.)

Education theories were a passion for Skinner. He disagreed with the current philosophy in teaching children in the classroom. He believed that children are all different and unique in the way they learn, so education styles should match the child's individual needs. Skinner envisioned each child learning at their own pace and abilities, so he created a rote-and-drill teaching machine in 1958. The teaching box would point out the child's achievements and weaknesses so that each child could benefit from seeing their progress immediately (Vargas, 2005).

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(image of girl with teaching machine courtesy of, 2008-2009) (image of teaching machine courtesy of, 2012)

This video explains in more detail the goal of a teaching machine

Important terms to know:

  • operant conditioning - the consequences of a behavior change the probability of the behavior's occurrence
  • negative reinforcement - following a behavior with the removal of an aversive (unpleasant) stimulus to increase the frequency of the behavior
  • positive reinforcement - following a behavior with a rewarding stimulus to increase the frequency of the behavior
  • reinforcement - the process by which a stimulus or an event strengthens or increases the probability of a behavior or an event that it follows
  • shaping - rewarding approximations of a desired behavior
(, 2012)

Edward L.Thorndike

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"Human beings are accustomed to think of intellect as the power of having and controlling ideas and of ability to learn as synonymous with ability to have ideas. But learning by having ideas is really one of the rare and isolated events in nature. "
Edward Thorndike (Brain Quote, n.d.)

Edward L. Thorndike (1874-1949), was an American psychologist who spent his entire career as an instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University. His work was dedicated to the study of human learning, education, and mental testing. He was a member of the board of the Psychological Corporation, and served as president of the American Psychological Association in 1912. His reputation as perhaps one of the greatest learning theorists of all time was in part due to his significant contributions to the field. There were several significant studies throughout the career of Edward Thorndike that contributed to our understanding of learning and mental processes (McLeod, 2007).

Edward Thorndike initially began his animal research career testing baby chicks in a room in his apartment until he was evicted by his landlord; this was followed by a brief period of studies conducted in the basement of psychologist William James. He continued his study of problem-solving by testing the ability of cats in escaping from 15 puzzle boxes that he had constructed. Each puzzle required the cat to respond differently to escape. When the cat escaped from the puzzle, it was rewarded with food. From this experiment Thorndike concluded that there was not actual reasoning involved, rather through trial and error, responses that lead to escape were eventually learned, and responses that did not result in escape were ultimately eliminated from the animal’s behavior in the box (Reinemeyer, 1999). These observations provided the formula for the “law of effect”. Thorndike’s law of effect stated: “Any act which in a given situation produces satisfaction becomes associated with that situation, so that when the situation recurs the act is more likely than before to recur also” (McLeod, 2007). Thorndike’s animal learning studies were described as instrumental learning. Thorndike’s initial studies focused on animal learning and eventually led to further studies in adult learning. These studies became an important resource and influence on the work of famous psychologists B.F. Skinner and John Watson (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2012).

Thorndike’s work on learning and animal behavior lead to the theory of connectionism. This theory states that the behavioral responses to specific stimuli are established through a process of trial and error that affects neural connections between the stimuli and the most satisfying responses (Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 2012). The law of connectionism can be further divided into three main ideas: the law of effect, the law of readiness, and the law of exercise (Weibell, 2011).

Thorndike's connectionism theory consists of three primary laws:

(1))Law of effect - responses to a situation which are followed by a rewarding state of affairs will be strengthened and become habitual responses to that situation

(2) Law of readiness- a series of responses can be chained together to satisfy some goal which will result in annoyance if blocked

(3) Law of exercise- connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued. A corollary of the law of effect was that responses that reduce the likelihood of achieving a rewarding state (i.e., punishments, failures) will decrease in strength (Weibell, 2011).

“The law of effect”

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“The law of Readiness"
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“The law of Exercise”


Thorndike performed his work during a time when the field of psychological research was very new, and had not been commonly linked to education practices. Therefore Thorndike has been recognized as one of the first psychological principles in the field of psychology, and hence giving him the name as "the father of educational psychology”. Thorndike and his experiments with cats in puzzle boxes were the foundation for all of behavioral psychology (Weibell, 2011). The basic principle of the law of effect is the platform for many of the ideas and techniques that we see in practice today within educational psychology.

Publications (

  • The Elements of Psychology (1905)
  • Animal Intelligence (1911)
  • The Teachers' Word Book (1921)
  • The Psychology of Arithmetic (1922)
  • The Measurement of Intelligence (1927)
  • The Fundamentals of Learning (1932)
  • The Psychology of Wants, Interests, and Attitudes (1947)

Wolfgang Kohler

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“It would be interesting to inquire how many times essential advances in science have first been made possible by the fact that the boundaries of special disciplines were not respected… Trespassing is one of the most successful techniques in science. “
Wolfgang Kohler (Today in Science History, n.d.)

Wolfgang Kohler (1887-1967), was born in Reval, Estonia as the son of German parents. Between the years of 1905 and 1907, he attended the universities of Tubingen, Bonn, and Berlin. In 1909, he received his Ph.D. under Carl Stumpf, and began working with Wertheimer and Koffka at the Psychological Institue in Frankfort-am-Main. Kohler came to the United States in 1934, where he became professor of psychology at Swarthmore College. He is best known for the notary influence in the founding of Gestalt Psychology (Luyster, n.d.).

During the time of his work, many scientists thought animals were not capable of higher thinking processes. As an example, they believed that if an animal was faced with a problem, it would search or wander around aimlessly until the problem was solved, or get lucky in resolving the conflict or problem. Kohler, however, believed that animals (in particular chimpanzees) were capable of intelligence, and even insight. To test his ideas, Kohler performed several experiments involving chimpanzees (Luyster, n.d.).

Kohler discovered that chimpanzees were very good at using tools. They used sticks to pull in bananas that were out of reach, and they used sticks to bring down fruit hung overhead. The chimps that Kohler observed went beyond just using tools; they were also observed breaking off branches from a tree to make a rake. Kohler felt that these chimpanzees were displaying insight learning, acting as though they were capable of seeing the solution before they performed the act. Many scientists, however, disagree with Kohler (Luyster, n.d.).

Chimpanzee Experiment

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Sulton Making a Double Stick
Sulton Making a Double Stick

(All images courtesy of The Mentality of Apes)

Video of Insight Learning Involving Chimps

(Video courtesy of National Geographic)

“It is hardly an exaggeration to say that a chimpanzee kept in solitude is not a real chimpanzee at all.”
Wolfgang Kohler (Today in Science History, n.d.)

Kohler's Publication's (

  • The Mentality of Apes
  • Gestalt Psychology
  • The Place of Value in a World of Facts
  • Dynamics in Psychology
  • Gestalt Psychology Today
  • The Task of Gestalt Psychology


Neil Fleming

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Most people know Neil as the creator of the VARK learning style. He was originally a teacher from New Zealand who was always been learning about different teaching and learning techniques throughout his career. He and a fellow co-worker named Colleen Mills created the VARK learning model in 1987. This learning model was designed to help individuals figure out one’s own personal learning styles and how to grow from them (, 2001-2011).

Fleming’s Learning Styles

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(Image courtesy of, 2006-2012)

VARK is an acronym that stands for different learning styles individuals use to help them understand what kind of learners they are. The overlapping circles in this diagram below identifies that with this concept one can have more than one learning style in which it is called “multimodal”. Also, there are two types of VARK styles that are multimodal. The first one is called VARK type One which deals with individuals who learn kinesthetically and are very context specific. Whereas the other VARK multimodal style is called VARK type two which includes individuals that learn by developing ideas and take longer time to make decisions and process information, but they make wiser choices at times. There is also Bimodal and Trimodal styles that include two or three of the learning styles that an individual learns by. For example, one could be a visual/auditory learner and another could be a kinesthetic and read/write kind of learner (bimodal), whereas another person for instance, who could be a Trimodal combination of visual/auditory plus kinesthetic kind of learner (, 2001-2011).

(Image courtesy of, 2012)

V (Visual) - Visual learners seem to learn from what they perceive. For example, individuals learn from watching videos or seeing diagrams or charts to better understand material.

A (Aural or auditory) - Auditory learners have a tendency to learn best when given the information by sound. Whether it is verbally or just simple hearing and listening to the material that is being taught, they learn better this way. The people who fall under this category would much rather listen to a lecture instead of reading their textbooks for example.

R (Reading and writing) - Reading and writing learners learn better from taking in what they see rather than what they hear. This type of learning includes text-book based material that they study and taking notes during a class for example.

K (Kinesthetic or tactile) - Tactile learners learn best by performing and seeing what there is to learn. Kinesthetic learners rely on hands-on experience to better understand information.
(, n.d.)


To test this theory one is asked to fill out a questionnaire that will optimize their results that will decide which learning style the individual falls under. It is only sixteen questions long, but long enough to use general research to determine one’s learning style. The significance of the VARK learning theory is that it helps individuals understand the type of learner that they are. Not only that, but when individuals know about their learning styles they can accelerate their learning by finding ways to teach themselves new information. Whether one is multimodal, bimodal, or trimodal it is important to find significance in which category they fall into so that they can figure out the best way to learn for themselves (, 2001-2012).

This video describes the VARK Learning Theory in detail

David Kolb

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David A. Kolb is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the Weathered School of Management. He joined the School in 1976. He was born in 1939, Kolb received his Bachelor of Arts from Knox College in 1961, his MA from Harvard in 1964, and his PhD from Harvard in 1967. Besides his work on experiential learning, David A. Kolb is also known for his contribution to thinking around organizational behavior. He has an interest in the nature of individual and social change, experiential learning, career development and executive and professional education (Smith, 2001).

Kolb’s Learning Styles:

Kolb's model of learning styles is known and widely used learning style theories. He first outlined his theory of learning in 1984. Kolb believed that our individual learning styles emerge due to our genetics, life experiences, and the demands of our current environment. This would refer in theory to nature vs. nurture, contrasting that learning comes from both. He describe his four different learning styles (Cherry, n.d.)

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  • Diverging(concrete, reflective) - Emphasizes the innovative and imaginative approach to doing things. Views concrete situations from many perspectives and adapts by observation rather than by action. Interested in people and tends to be feeling-oriented. Likes such activities as cooperative groups and brainstorming (Kolb, 1984).
  • Assimilating(abstract, reflective) - Pulls a number of different observations and thoughts into an integrated whole. Likes to reason inductively and create models and theories. Likes to design projects and experiments (Kolb, 1984).
  • Converging(abstract, active)- Emphasizes the practical application of ideas and solving problems. Likes decision-making, problem-solving, and the practicable application of ideas. Prefers technical problems over interpersonal issues (Kolb, 1984).
  • Accommodating(concrete, active) - Uses trial and error rather than thought and reflection. Good at adapting to changing circumstances; solves problems in an intuitive, trial-and-error manner, such as discovery learning. Also tends to be at ease with people (Kolb, 1984).

Basis of Kolb's Experiential Learning Model

Kolb refers to experiential as his theory based on the reflection of experiences. This theory is shown as the “direct encounter with the phenomena being studied rather than merely thinking about the encounter, or only considering the possibility of doing something about it.” (Smith, 2001).
Kolb's learning model is based on two continuums that form a quadrant (Clark, 2011):
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Video of Kolb’s Experimental Learning

(video courtesy to Ledsham & Godfrey, 2011)

George A. Miller

"What about the magical number seven? What about the seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the seven daughters of Atlas in the Pleiades, the seven ages of man, the seven levels of hell, the seven primary colors, the seven notes of the musical scale, and the seven days of the week? What about the seven-point rating scale, the seven categories for absolute judgment, the seven objects in the span of attention, and the seven digits in the span of immediate memory? For the present I propose to withhold judgment. Perhaps there is something deep and profound behind all these sevens, something just calling out for us to discover it. But I suspect that is only a pernicious, Pythagorean coincidence." - George Miller
(, n.d.)

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A Little About Miller

George Armitage Miller was born in Charleston, West Virginia in 1920. He was an American Cognitive Psychologist who taught at Harvard, Rockefeller, and Princeton Universities. . His work explored the memory, language, and psychophysics, but his best known study of mental processes as in his article "The Magical Number Seven Plus or Minus Two, Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information" (Blumenthal, 2000, p. 270).

About the Article

George A. Miller furthered researched the area of limited capacity and short-term memory in 1956. He wrote an article called The Magical Seven, Plus or Minus Two, Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information." In this article, Miller talks about how short-term memory is very limited, and an individual is only capable of remembering seven plus or minus two items without some type of external aid. A way that one can improve their short-term memory is by using chunking and rehearsal. Chunking involves grouping items together and rehearsal involves repetition of the information (King, 2007, p. 290).

Here is a little presentation about "The magic Number Seven Plus or Minus Two"

(Video Courtesy of Youtube, Avera I., 2011)

His article is divided into three categories

  • Immediate Memory - "What you can repeat immediately after perceiving it."
  • Absolute Judgment - "Our ability to assign a value to an object that is shown to us."
  • Span of Attention - "The recollection of the number of objects presented."
(Avera, 2011)


Why is this so important? Miller studied and later wrote about the human memory "which brought light to an old but unappreciated finding, the existence of universal quantative constants in human mental processes" (Blumenthal, 2000, p. 271). He identified the mind's short term possible limitations and capacities which opened the eyes of many cognitive psychologists. As a result, various rebuttals and alternatives have been presented.

Now Try It Yourself!

(Video courtesy of Youtube, KitKatKannibal, 2010)


Albert Bandura

Social Learning Theory

Bandura is widely known as the greatest psychologist who ever lived. Bandura believes that human learning is taught by observation and imitation of behavior made by others, in particular aggression. He believes that the Social Learning Theory is an important source for learning new behaviors. He also believes that people can achieve behavior issues by being in a more institutional setting. The Social Learning Theory requires three different positions that control behavior. First, the forerunner stimulus greatly persuads the response of behavior. The behavioral response that occurs due to the stimulus has to be suitable for the social context and performers. Second, feedback made by responses is a much needed function. Furthermore, occurrences of behavior in the future are impacted first by the responses, then the reinforcements, then by the experience and/or observation. Third, cognitive functions are very important in social learning. For instance, in order for aggressive behavior to occur, people become easily angered by the thought or sight of others with whom they have had prior hostile encounters in the past. The memory of this is acquired through the learning process (, 2012).

Cognitive Theory: Social Foundation of Thought and Action

In 1986, Bandura published his own book Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. In this book, he utilized individuals as a concept as self reflected, self regulating, self organizing, and proactive, in opposing to the conception of individuals who are influenced by external forces. He determined the connections between behavior made by individuals, environmental factors, and personal factors such as biological factors, cognitive factors, and affective factors. He then compares each factor to each other. This gave rise to his later work on self-efficacy (, 2012).


Bandura believes that phobias are self-efficacy beliefs. In other words, individuals who have phobias have had a prior experience that made them phobic with that particular stimulus (, 2012).

Moral Agency

Bandura believes that people are capable of two morally agentic abilities: to act humanely and to act inhumanely. He applied his human agentic view with the social cognitive theory with control over moral values and conduct. He believes that the social cognitive theory has a moral itself: that it is linked to moral action by which moral agency is used. The inhumane acts occur by “cognitive restructuring (, 2012).


"Self-efficacy is the belief in one's capabilities to organize and execute the sources of action required to manage prospective situations."~Albert Bandora~From Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory, 1986. (Cherry, n.d.)

Carl Rogers

"Learning may be conceived of as following along a continuum of meaning. At one end is meaningless learning-rote learning, exemplified by the learning, or memorization, of nonsense syllables. Such learning is difficult and does not last."
Carl Rogers (, 2006)

(Image courtesy of, 2012)

Carl Ransom Rogers was born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. Part of Roger’s childhood was spent on a farm which helped cultivated his love for scientific agriculture. He started his schooling at the University of Wisconsin studying agriculture, but briefly directed his interest into religious studies. Rogers ultimately graduated from college in 1924 with a major in history. He spent two years at Union Theological Seminary and went on to receive a Masters degree in 1928 and his PhD in 1931 from Columbia University (Patterson, 1977).

Rogers became the director of the Rochester Guidance Center in 1938. It was in this setting that Rogers would begin question traditional styles of therapy that centered on the knowledge of the therapist. Rogers became the Professor of Psychology at Ohio State University in 1940, and two years later he published his book, “Counseling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice.” This book was the groundwork of a new style of therapy called nondirective or client-centered counseling (Patterson, 1977).

Client-centered counseling was an approach to therapy that was influenced by the humanistic perspectives. The humanistic perspective which was built from the theories of Abraham Maslow is interested in the individual’s ability to grow, through their freedoms of choosing their direction of life, and focusing on the positive qualities that humans possess. Rogers believed that people are inherently good, and have the ability to do such great things and make good choices in their lives (King, 2006, p 415-417).

Rogers was able to apply his humanistic theory to learning and education in his book titled, “Freedom to Learn.”
external image 41VGj1YONuL._SL500_AA300_.jpg
(image courtesy of, 2012)

Rogers believed that education should focus on teaching a person to learn through adaptation and change. Education could not just focus on cognitive learning, but include personal growth, creativity and self direction. Learning is beneficial to people when the material is somehow related to their purpose or interest. The Teacher is responsible for providing each student a self-directed learning atmosphere (Patterson, 1977).

external image teacherstudent.png?w=698&h=337

(image courtesy of, n.d.)

Rogers believed that people should have a self-directed approach to their learning. That involves people choosing their objectives, goals, and resources and accepting responsibility of its outcome. This style of learning is very different and contrary to the cognitive style of learning that can be restrictive, redundant and unrelated to one’s personal interest (Patterson, 1977).

The following video will give you some insight into the Student-centered Learning Theory.


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