Instructional Development Timeline
Edward L. Thorndike



  • Weslyan University, B.S. (1895)
  • Harvard University, M.A. (1897)
  • Columbia University Ph.D. (1898)

Career Highlights

  • Assistant Professor of Pedagogy at Case Western Reserve University (1898)
  • Faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University (1899-1940)
  • President of American Psychological Association (1912)
  • 2nd President of Psychometric Society
  • President of American Association for the Advancement of Science (1934)
  • William James Lecturer, Harvard University (1942-1943)

Contributions to Instructional Development

  • early advocate of behavioral approaches to learning and was a founder of the field of educational psychology
  • advocacy of social engineering:
    • instruction should pursue prespecified, socially useful goals
  • strong advocate of educational measurement - constructed a scale to measure children’s handwriting (1910) and a table of word-frequency in English (1944)

Findings, Research, Studies

Thordike developed several laws of learning. "Other things being equal, exercise strengthens the bond between situation and Response," states Thoorndike in regards to the Law of Exercise. In his Law of Effects, Thorndike describes, "The greater the satisfyingness of the state of affairs which accompanies or follows a given response to a certain situation, the more likely that response is to be made to that situation in the future."



  • Principles of Psychology (with William James, 1890s)
  • Educational Psychology (1903)
  • Introduction to the Theory of Mental and Social Measurements (1904)
  • The Elements of Psychology (1905)
  • Animal Intelligence (1911)
  • The Measurement of Intelligence (1927)
  • The Fundamentals of Learning (1932)
  • The Psychology of Wants, Interests, and Attitudes (1935)