Education | Learning and Cognition in Education
P540 | 0896 | Joyce Alexander
In this course we will look at several different theoretical
perspectives on learning, cognition, and cognitive development. As
we'll see, no single theory can account for all aspects of human
learning. By looking at a variety of theories, we can identify a
range of tools that may be useful in understanding learning and
teaching in a variety of settings.
Our primary goals will be:
1. To become conversant with the basic assumptions, concepts, and
principles of each theory
2. To determine the possible implications of each theory for
3. To be able to compare and contrast theories and their usefulness
in the various settings of interest to you and other education
4. To create and revise our own theories of learning
Required Text: A textbook is required for this section. The textbook
Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction, 2nd
Edition. New York: Allyn & Bacon.
Optional Text: Also there is a second optional text for the course:
Gredler, M. E. (2001). Learning and Instruction: Theory into
Practice, 4th Edition.
You may want to consider obtaining this text, particularly if you
have no prior experience with studying learning theories. It can be
helpful to have a second "view" of the theories, and Gredler's book
has chapters that correspond to most of the theories we will cover in
the course. For each unit, I will designate the appropriate optional
readings from Gredler.
Additional articles are sometimes required reading for each unit and
are listed on each unit's assignment page on the web pages for the
course at www.indiana.edu/~p540alex under "additional readings". All
but one of these articles can be obtained as a full-text article
through EBSCO (see instructions on individual unit pages).
Course Assignments and Expectations
Students are expected to have read and prepared for discussion before
coming to class. Each class period will consist of some lecture,
discussion, activity, and application. Most of my course lectures are
available on the web site for reference at any time. Any additional
information will be made available as we go along or handed out in
There are 2 different kinds of required products in this course.
Thought Papers: At the end of unit 4 and at the end of the course, a
short thought paper (3-5 pages) will be required.
•The first paper may be about behaviorism, cognitive information
processing, or meaningful learning/schema theory.
•In the second paper, you should choose two theories to
compare/contrast in light of a problem, issue or setting of interest
to you. At least one of the theories must come from Unit 5 or 6; the
other can be any other theory we’ve covered that you have not yet
written on. In other words, you will have written papers on at least
three different theories by the end of the course.
Your task in these papers is to evaluate a theory from the
perspective of a setting, issue, or problem of importance to you, and
to determine how well the theory “fits” the setting or problem you
Remember that I am your audience for the papers. While I want you to
demonstrate that you have a basic understanding of the theory, don’t
take up valuable space re-stating the theory. Be sure your paper is
about something (i.e. it should not just be a series of unrelated
reflections or observations about the theory). Like all good papers,
it should have a descriptive title, some kind of thesis statement,
and some sort of conclusion after a review of your “evidence”. And,
as with any paper of this kind, I will expect it to be well organized
and coherent. Sample titles might include “Behaviorism and coaching
basketball” or “Schema theory and mathematics education: A match made
in heaven?” or “”Making sense of Bruner’s theory of cognitive
development in college instruction”.
This is not intended to be a library research paper. You do not
necessarily need to use any resources other than the text and class
readings/discussion. You should, however, attribute ideas and
citations as appropriate.
Personal Learning Theory: At the beginning of the course, you will
turn in a draft of a personal learning theory. You will post your
theory in the appropriate forum on oncourse (http://oncourse.iu.edu).
You should also read and respond to some of your classmates' theories
and try to see what's common across the way many of you think about
learning theories initially. At the end of the course, after
reading/discussing each of the learning theories, you will submit a
revised draft of your personal learning theory.
Each Unit thought paper will count equally toward your final grade.
The personal theory of learning draft and final product will count
together as one product. Course participation will be weighted as one
paper. Thus, each product will be 1/4 of your grade
A grade of "A" will be given to work which shows extraordinary high
achievement, unusually complete command of the subject matter,
represents an exceptionally high degree of originality, creativity,
and synthesis/application. Additionally, you are expected to react to
the assignment including: demonstrating a good understanding of the
theory, applying the theory in some educational setting or context
and/or critiques the theory from a particular perspective; showing
how the application of the instructional theory could affect your
future practice, not just talking about what you’re already doing
that is consistent with the theory, and includes your personal
judgment or evaluation of the theory (your conclusion) as to how good
the theory “fits” the situation you have chosen.
A grade of "B" will be given to work which is very good, solid, above
average quality. Good synthesis/application is expected; all other
assignment-related criteria also apply.
A grade of "C" will be given to work of satisfactory quality with an
average level of synthesis/application; all other assignment-related
criteria also apply.
Unit 1: Approaches to the Study of Learning
Unit 2: Behaviorism
May 15, May 20 Driscoll, Chapter 2
Gredler, Chapter 5
Unit 3: Cognitive Information Processing
May 22, May 27 Driscoll, Chapters 3 & 9
Gredler, Chapter 7
Unit 4: Meaningful Reception Learning & Schema Theory
May 29, June 3 Driscoll, Chapter 4
Gredler, Chapter 8
Unit 5: Cognitive Development Theories
June 5, June 10 Driscoll, Chapters 6 & 7
Gredler, Chapters 9 & 10
Unit 6: Constructivism
June 12, June 17 Driscoll, Chapters 5, 11, & 12
Gredler, pp. 71-76
Culminating Review Experience
Each unit page on the web can act as a resource for this course. You
will find the following sections for each unit:
Readings. You will find the text chapters and any supplemental
readings assigned for the unit listed here.
Instructor notes. For each unit, I'll offer you my ideas about
important points, try to explain difficult concepts, or provide
supplementary material. You'll probably want to review these notes
before, during, and after your reading of the assigned chapter(s).
We’ll go over a version of these in class, but they are here to
remind you if you need them later.
Web Resources. The Web is, of course, a vast source of information
about learning and cognition, as well as almost anything else you can
imagine. I have provided some Web-based resources for many of the
topics we'll cover in this course. With a little exploration on your
own, you may be able to find many other relevant Web sites. Of
course, since no one "owns" the Web, Web-based materials come with no
guarantee as to their quality or authenticity. Always consider and
evaluate the source
Turning in Work:
Personal Learning Theory Draft
May 15 (via oncourse)
Reflections on others’ theories due May 20
Thought Paper #1
June 3 (in class)
Thought Paper #2 June 20 (via e-mail) by 5:00pm
Personal Learning Theory Final Draft
June 20 (via e-mail) by 5:00pm
Late papers will lose 10% every two days.
A grade of "I" will be given for medical emergencies or extreme
unforseen emergencies only.
All other policies and regulations (e.g., regarding "academic honesty
and plagiarism") as stated in the Graduate Bulletin apply in this
course. If you are unfamiliar with these policies and regulations,
then you are required to make yourself familiar with them
E-mail Response Policy: I can be contacted via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to respond to email within 48 hours
of receiving it. I may even be able to answer questions more
promptly. However, please don't assume I am on email 24 hours a day 7
days a week.