Behaviorism , Cognitivism, and Constructivism

Through out this course we have looked at learning theories and how they relate to instructional design. In my research I came across a great resourse ( that put Behavorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism in a comparison chart. After reading through each chart and reading all the examples in each catagory, I selected an example from each that best explained the theory in that content for me and/or supported previous research done in our class. Click on one of the links below to view my summary chart.

Basic Principles |Embedded Theories | Principal Theorists | Goals of Instruction |
Instructional Models
| Implications for Instructional Design

Basic Principles (TOP)

Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Learning happens when a correct response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific environmental stimulus


Learning is viewed as an active process that occurs within the learner and which can be influenced by the learner


Learners build personal interpretation of the world based on experiences and interactions


(Dabbagh, 2002)

Embedded Theories (TOP)

Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Skinner's Operant Conditioning

We use the term operant conditioning to describe one type of associative learning in which there is a contingency between the response and the presentation of the reinforcer.

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt theory emphasizes higher-order cognitive processes in the midst of behaviorism. The focus of Gestalt theory is the idea of "grouping", i.e., characteristics of stimuli cause us to structure or interpret a visual field or problem in a certain way.

Cognitive Flexibility Theory

Cognitive flexibility theory focuses on the nature of learning in complex and ill-structured domains.The theory is largely concerned with transfer of knowledge and skills beyond their initial learning situation.

(Dabbagh, 2002)


Principal Theorists (TOP)
Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Skinner, Burrhus Frederic (1904-1990)

Psychologist, born in Susquhanna, Pa. He studied at Harvard, teaching there (1931-6, 1947-74). A leading behaviorist, he is a proponent of operant conditioning, and the inventor of the Skinner box for facilitating experimental observations

Gagné, Robert (1916-present)

Today Gagné is considered an experimental psychologist who is concerned with learning and instruction. Although his earlier work is grounded in the behaviorist tradition, his current work seems to be influenced by the information processing view of learning and memory.

Spiro and Colleagues

Spiro et al. believed that most of what students should learn is in "ill-structured domains" (Roblyer, Edwards, & Havriluk, 1996). They wanted students to have a different way of thinking about learning. Thus, their Cognitive Flexibility Theory was born.

(Dabbagh, 2002)



Goals of Instruction (TOP)
Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Learner acquires skills of discrimination (recalling facts), generalization (defining and illustrating concepts), association (applying explanations), and chaining (automatically performing a specified procedure).

Communicate or transfer knowledge in the most efficient, effective manner (mind-independent, can be mapped onto learners)


Build personal interpretations of the world based on individual experiences and interactions (constantly open to change, cannot achieve a predetermined, "correct" meaning, knowledge emerges in relevant contexts)


(Dabbagh, 2002)


Instructional Models (TOP)
Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Computer-Based Instruction

Computer-assisted instruction was very much drill-and-practice - controlled by the program developer rather than the learner.

Merrill's Component Display Model

CDT specifies how to design instruction for any cognitive domain. It would have the following minimum components: Objective,Generality,Instance,
Generality Practice, Instance Practice,
Feedback,and Elaborations.


Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

PBL engages the learner in a problem-solving activity. In this process, instruction begins with a problem to be solved rather than content to be mastered (Hsiao, 1996).


(Dabbagh, 2002)


Implications for Instructional Design (TOP)
Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructivism

Dick and Carey instructional design model

Their work is based on the behaviorist view that there is a predictable link between a stimulus and the response it produces in a learner (Colaric, n.d.).

Learning taxonomies

Robert Gagne, among others who developed taxonomies, made one of the first attempts to classify learning behaviors and supply specific measures for determining different levels of learning.

Authentic assessment methods

As a result of the change in goals and methods of education, constructivist learning environments tend to use more qualitative assessment strategies rather than quantitative ones (Roblyer, Edwards & Havriluk, 1996).

(Dabbagh, 2002)



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