Instructional Development Timeline
Learning Theory



Information Processing



Early 20th century


B.F. Skinner – his ideas on Operant Conditioning largely contributed this perspective.


Developed as a reaction to the study of mental phenomena.

Mid 20th century


George Miller – provided two ideas that are fundamental to this perspective: 1. short-term memory can only hold 5-9 chunks of meaningful information. 2. The human mind functions like a computer – taking in information, processes it, stores and locates it and generates responses to it.


Developed as a reaction to behaviorism.

Later 20th century (although ideas of constructivism have existed prior to the 20th century - Dewey, Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky)


Represents a collection of theories including - generative learning, discovery learning, and situated learning..

Ideas of constructivism come from cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and anthropology.


Learning occurs when new behaviors or changes in behaviors are acquired as the result of an individual’s response to stimuli.

Learning is a change in knowledge stored in memory.

Learning is the process where individuals construct new ideas or concepts based on prior knowledge and/or experience.


The influence of the external environment contributes to the shaping of the individual's behavior.

The environment presents an antecedent that prompts a behavior.

Whether the behavior occurs again is dependent on the consequence that follows it.

More on Behaviorism

Governed by internal process rather than by external circumstance (behaviorism).

Process of selecting information (Attention), translating information (Encoding), and recalling that information when appropriate (Retrieval).

Individuals construct knowledge by working to solve realistic problems, usually in collaboration with others.

Learning as a change in meaning constructed from experience.

Individual interpretation of experience vs. objective representation (information processing perspective)

More on Constructivism

Applications for Instruction

1.     State objectives and break them down into steps

2.     Provide hints or cues that guide students to desired behavior.

3.     Use consequences to reinforce the desired behavior.

1.     Organize new information.

2.     Link new information to existing knowledge.

3.     Use techniques to guide and support students' Attention, Encoding, and Retrieval process.

1.     Pose "good" problems - realistically complex and personally meaningful.

2.     Create group learning activities.

3.     Model and guide the knowledge construction process.


"Chapter 2 Theory into Application." Instructional Technology for Teaching and Learning: Designing

     Instruction, Integrating Computers, and Using Media. Unknown: Prentice Hall, 1996. 25-43.

Funderstanding. 13 Sept. 2001 <>.

Learning with Software - Pedagogies and Practice. Open Learning Technology Corporation Ltd (OLTC).

     13 Sept. 2001 <>.