Aspects of Cognitive Theory 

This is very selective! 

  • Constructivism emphasises not merely how individuals receive material to be learned and “construct” it inside their heads, but how they and their teachers construct it between them through their dialogue. Leading on from this, in a sense —
  • Kelly's Personal Construct theory eschews the use of the term "learning" altogether, but provides a model of how individuals make sense of the world and how this changes.
  • Kolb's work on the Cycle of Adult Learning (building on the work of Kurt Lewin) provides a useful model, which develops into a theory of learning styles.
  • Pask distinguishes between holist and serialist learning strategies, which can relate issues of subject discipline, teacher and student preferences to account for differences in learning/teaching effectiveness.
  • Similarly, Hudson distinguishes between convergent and divergent cognitive styles, characteristic of students with different interests and academic careers.
  • Bateson disentangles various levels of learning, in which each lower level is contextualised by the one above. 
  • Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance tries to account both for some perverse aspects of learning and failure to learn, but also for readiness to learn.
  • But the point also needs to be made that the use made of psychological ideas, in particular, is often sloppy and uncritical and that even people like me have not always checked our readings back with the original texts. So check out this page on myths and misrepresentation—which I think is destined to grow...


To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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