Module 1: Kinds of Learning


Basic Methods of Instruction

1.Kinds of Learning
2.Invariant Tasks
3.Concept Classification
4.Procedure Using
5.Principle Using
7.Generic Skills

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Levels of Cognitive Learning The major levels of cognitive learning can be classified as memorizing, understanding, and applying. Most content can be learned at any of these three levels of learning. For example, you can memorize a definition of performance-based assessment as indicated by being able to restate it, you can understand what performance-based assessment is by being able to relate it to relevant prior knowledge, and you can learn to use performance-based assessment in your training. Too often we teach at the wrong level or test at the wrong level (inconsistent with our goals).

Memorization. This is rote learning. It entails learners encoding facts or information in the form of an association between a stimulus and a response, such as a name, date, event, place or symbol. For example, these are facts: Columbus discovered America in 1492, Pi = 3.1417, 2 + 4 = 6, "B" says "buh", ¶ is the symbol for a new paragraph. The behavior that indicates that this kind of learning has occurred is stating (or "regurgitating"), usually verbatim.

Understanding. This is meaningful learning. It entails learners relating a new idea to relevant prior knowledge, such as understanding what a revolutionary war is. The behaviors that indicate that this kind of learning has occurred include comparing and contrasting, making analogies, making inferences, elaborating, and analyzing (as to parts and/or kinds), among others.

Application. This is learning to generalize to new situations, or transfer learning. It entails learners identifying critical commonalities across situations, such as predicting the effects of price increases. The behavior that indicates that this kind of learning has occurred is successfully applying a generality (the critical commonalities) to a diversity of previously unencountered situations.

Memorization, though sometimes very important, is greatly overused in most training settings. Understanding is very important, but it is relatively complex, and has not received much attention by instructional theorists until very recently. Application is important and has received much attention by instructional theorists. It therefore provides a good place for us to begin.


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This file was last updated on March 10, 1999 by Byungro Lim
Copyright 1999, Charles M. Reigeluth