Theories of Learning/How People Learn


Learning is enhanced when instructors understand and make use of contemporary knowledge of how people learn. This page offers sites that define and describe many theories of learning with their implications for the classroom.


General Resources

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (2000). John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, eds. National Research Council.
A complete online copy of this well-respected book that summarizes current cognitive learning theory and its implications for education today and in the future.

Learning Theory, Mark K. Smith, the encyclopedia of informal education (infed).
Discusses learning as product and process and surveys some common models of how people learn: behaviourist, cognitivist, humanist, social and situational.

Explorations in Learning and Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database (TIP).
This database contains brief summaries of fifty major theories of learning and instruction, each with an example, list of key principles, and links to related websites.

Theory (Funderstanding).
This site seems to be geared to K-12 teaching, but the explanations of different theories of how people learn can apply to students at any level.
Click on “Theory” in the menu.

Theories of Learning, Lee Dunn (Oxford Brookes University, Wheatley Campus, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development).
Gives concise summaries of a variety of theories of learning "that can be applied in educational contexts."

Learning Theories Knowledgebase, May 2007.
A knowledge base and webliography of theories and models of learning. Covers a wide range of theories organized into sub-categories, with clear and concise descriptions of each plus opportunities to post a response, offer suggestions, or engage in discussion.

"Bloom et al.'s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain," W. Huitt, Educational Psychology Interactive (Valdosta State University).
An overview of Bloom's Taxonomy of learning behaviors.

Task Oriented Question Construction Wheel Based on Bloom's Taxonomy (2001 St. Edward's University Center for Teaching Excellence).
A wheel that aligns Bloom's Taxonomy with many aspects of teaching and learning.

David A. Kolb on experiential learning, Mark K. Smith (infed).
A description and visual model of Kolb's experiential learning cycle. Includes a critique of Kolb's model, references, and links.

"Ripples on a Pond Model," Phil Race, UK faculty developer.
Phil Race describes his “ripples” model of learning.

How People Learn (University of Hawaii, Honolulu Community College, Faculty Development, Teaching Tips).
This site provides a group of links to articles on several aspects of learning theory, with an emphasis on principles of adult learning.

Learning to Learn” by Karl R. Wirth (Macalester College) and Dexter Perkins (University of North Dakota).
This article provides an overview of learning, describes several models of how people learn, and stresses the importance of learning as a lifelong objective.  Useful for students as well as faculty, it argues for the need for new kinds of learning, teaching, and thinking.

Improve with Metacognition.  (Created by Lauren Scharff, U.S. Air Force Academy; John Draeger, SUNY Buffalo State; Aaron S. Richmond, Metropolitan State U. of Denver, Colorado. A team of colleagues will regularly contribute blog posts & submit resources.)
An interactive site on metacognition, the development of higher level thinking about ones own learning processes, about ones own thinking.  Designed for faculty who want to learn about metacognitive instruction and for students who wish to develop their higher level thinking skills.  Provides resources such as short videos and a weekly archived blog that invites readers’ comments.

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