Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 61–78 | Cite as

Cognitive requirements for learning with open-ended learning environments

  • Susan M. LandEmail author


Open-ended learning environments (OELEs) use the capabilities of technology to provide students with opportunities to engage in authentic problem solving; generate, test, and revise hypotheses; explore and manipulate concepts; and reflect on what they know. By design, such environments require sophisticated levels of cognitive functioning. The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze assumptions underlying learner-centered, technology-based environments in light of how well learners appear to meet the cognitive demands for engaging them. Implications for design include the following considerations: (a) direct learner attention to key variables and visual cues; (b) prompt and guide connections to prior knowledge; and (c) provide explicit scaffolding of metacognition and teaching-learning strategies.


Prior Knowledge Cognitive Functioning Learning Environment Educational Technology Cognitive Demand 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Atkins, M., & Blissett, G. (1992). Interactive video and cognitive problem-solving skills.Educational Technology, 32(1), 44–50.Google Scholar
  2. Ausubel, D.P. (1963). Cognitive structure and the facilitation of meaningful verbal learning.Journal of Teacher Education, 14, 217–221.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, P. (1998, April).The knowledge integration environment: Relating debate and conceptual change through design experiments. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  4. Blumenfeld, P., Soloway, E., Marx, R., Krajcik, J., Guzdial, & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning.Educational Psychologist, 26(3&4), 369–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brickhouse, N.W. (1994). Children's observations, ideas, and the development of classroom theories about light.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(6), 639–656.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, A.L., Bransford, J.D., Ferrara, R.A., & Campione, J.C. (1983). Learning, remembering, and understanding. In J.H. Flavell & E.H. Markman (Eds.)Handbook of Child Psychology, Vol. 3, Cognitive Development (pp. 177–266). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning.Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–41.Google Scholar
  8. Brungardt, J.B., & Zollman, D. (1995). Influence of interactive videodisc instruction using simultaneous-time analysis on kinematics graphing skills of high school physics students.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(8), pp. 855–869.Google Scholar
  9. Carey, S. (1986). Cognitive science and science education.American Psychologist, 41(10), 1123–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Champagne, A., Gunstone, R., & Klopfer, L. (1985). Instructional consequences of students' knowledge about physical phenomena. In West, L.H.T., & Pines, A.L. (Eds.),Cognitive structure and conceptual change (pp. 61–90). Orlando: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chi, M., Feltovich, P., & Glaser, R. (1981). Categorization and representation of physics problems by experts and novices.Cognitive Science, 8, 121–152.Google Scholar
  12. Chinn, C. & Brewer, W. (1993). The role of anomalous data in knowledge acquisition: A theoretical framework and implications for science instruction.Review of Educational Research, 63(1), 1–49.Google Scholar
  13. Cobb, P., & Bowers. J. (1999). Cognitive and situated learning perspectives in theory and practice.Educational Researcher, 28(2), pp. 4–15.Google Scholar
  14. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design.Educational Technology Research and Development, 40(1), 65–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. deGroot, A. (1965).Thought and choice in chess. The Hague, The Netherlands: Mouton.Google Scholar
  16. deJong, T., & van Joolingen, W. (1998). Scientific discovery learning with computer simulations of conceptual domains.Review of Educational Research, 68(2), pp. 179–201.Google Scholar
  17. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom.Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5–12.Google Scholar
  18. Foley, B.J. (1998, April).Designing visualization tools for learning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  19. Garner R., & Alexander, P.A. (1989). Metacognition: Answered and unanswered questions.Educational Psychologist, 24, 143–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gick, M.L. (1986). Problem-solving strategies.Educational Psychologist, 21, 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gordin, D., Edelson, D., & Pea, R. (1996, April).Supporting students' science inquiry through scientific visualization activities. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New York, NY.Google Scholar
  22. Gordin, D., & Pea, R. (1995). Prospects for scientific visualization as an educational technology.The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 4(3), 249–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greene, B.A. (1995). Comprehension of text in an unfamiliar domain: Effects of instruction that provides either domain or strategy knowledge.Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 313–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Greene, B.A., & Land, S.M. (in press). A qualitative analysis of scaffolding use in a resource-based learning environment involving the World Wide Web.Journal of Educational Computing Research.Google Scholar
  25. Gyllenhaal, E., & Perry, D. (1998, May).Doing something about the weather: Summative evaluation of Science Museum of Minnesota's atmospheric explorations computer interactives. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Museums. Los Angeles, CA.Google Scholar
  26. Hamel, C., & Ryan-Jones, D.L. (1997). Using three-dimensional interactive graphics to teach equipment procedures.Educational Technology Research & Development, 45(4), pp. 77–87.Google Scholar
  27. Hannafin, M.J., Hall, C., Land, S., & Hill, J. (1994). Learning in open-ended environments: Assumptions, methods, and implications.Educational Technology, 34(8), 48–55.Google Scholar
  28. Hannafin, M.J., Land, S.M., & Oliver, K. (1999). Open learning environments: Foundations, methods, and models. In C. Reigeluth's (Ed.),Instructional-design theories and models, Volume II (pp. 115–140). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  29. Hannafin, M.J., & Peck, K.L. (1988).The design, development, and evaluation of instructional software. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Hannafin, M.J., & Rieber, L.P. (1989). Psychological foundations of instructional design for emerging computer-based instructional technologies: Part I.Educational Technology Research and Development, 37, 91–101.Google Scholar
  31. Hill, J. (1999). A conceptual framework for understanding information seeking in open-ended information systems.Educational Technology Research & Development, 47(1), 5–27.Google Scholar
  32. Hill, J.R., & Hannafin, M.J. (1997). Cognitive strategies and learning from the world wide web.Educational Technology Research & Development, 45(4), 37–64.Google Scholar
  33. Hmelo, C., & Day, R. (1999). Contextualized questioning to scaffold learning from simulations.Computers and Education, 32, 151–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jared, E., & Jared, A. (1997). Launching into improved comprehension: Integrating the KWL Model into middle level courses.Technology Teacher, 56(6), pp. 24–31.Google Scholar
  35. Jonassen, D.H. (1999). Designing constructivist learning environments. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.),Instructional-design theories and models, Volume II (pp. 215–239). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  36. Karmiloff-Smith, A., & Inhelder, B. (1975). “If you want to get ahead, get a theory.”Cognition, 3(3), 195–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kelly, G., & Crawford, T. (1996). Students' interactions with computer representations: Analysis of discourse in laboratory groups.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(7), 693–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kuhn, D. (1999). A developmental model of critical thinking.Educational Researcher, 28(2), 16–26, 46.Google Scholar
  39. Lajoie, S.P. (1993). Computer environments as cognitive tools for enhancing learning. In S.P. Lajoie and S.J. Derry (Eds.),Computers as Cognitive Tools. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  40. Land, S.M., & Greene, B.A. (2000). Project-based learning with the World Wide Web: A qualitative study of resource integration.Educational Technology Research & Development, 48(1), pp. 45–67.Google Scholar
  41. Land, S.M., & Hannafin, M.J. (1996). A conceptual framework for the development of theories-in-action with open-ended learning environments.Educational Technology Research & Development, 44(3), pp. 37–53.Google Scholar
  42. Land, S.M., & Hannafin, M.J. (1997). Patterns of understanding with open-ended learning environments: A qualitative study.Educational Technology Research & Development, 45(2), 47–73.Google Scholar
  43. Lee, S-Y, & Songer, N. (1998, April).Characterizing discourse in an electronic community of science learners: A case of the Kids as Global Scientists '97 message board. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  44. Lewis, E., Stern, J., & Linn, M. (1993). The effect of computer simulations on introductory thermodynamics understanding.Educational Technology, 33(1), 45–58.Google Scholar
  45. Lin, X., Hmelo, C., Kinzer, C., & Secules, T. (1999). Designing technology to support reflection.Educational Technology Research & Development, 47(3), 43–62.Google Scholar
  46. Linn, M., Shear. L., Bell, P., & Slotta, J. (1999). Organizing principles for science education partnerships: Case studies of students' learning about ‘rats in space’ and ‘deformed frogs’.Educational Technology Research & Development, 47(2), pp. 61–84.Google Scholar
  47. Loh, B., Radinsky, J., Reiser, B., Gomez, L., Edelson, D., & Russell, E. (1997). The Progress Portfolio: Promoting reflective inquiry in complex investigation environments. InProceedings of the 1997 Computer- Supported Collaborative Learning. Available online at: Scholar
  48. Lyons, D., Hoffman, J., Krajcik, J., & Soloway, E. (1997, April).An investigation of the use of the world wide web for on-line inquiry in a science classroom. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  49. Mayer, R.E. (1999). Designing instruction for constructivist learning. In C. Reigeluth's (Ed.),Instructional-design theories and models, Volume II (pp. 141–159). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  50. Moore, (1995). Information problem solving: A wider view of library skills.Contemporary Educational Psychology, 20, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nicaise, M., & Crane, M. (1999). Knowledge constructing through hypermedia authoring.Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(1), 29–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Oliver, K. (1999, February).Computer-based tools in support of internet-based problem solving. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. St. Louis, MO.Google Scholar
  53. Palincsar, A.S. (1998). Keeping the metaphor of scaffolding fresh—A response to C. Addisone Stone's “The metaphor of scaffolding: Its utility for the field of learning disabilities.”Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31(4), 370–373.Google Scholar
  54. Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities,Cognition and Instruction, 2, 117–175.Google Scholar
  55. Pea, R.D. (1985). Beyond amplification: Using the computer to reorganize mental functioning.Educational Psychologist, 20(4), 167–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pea, R.D. (1993). The collaborative visualization project.Communications of the ACM, 36(5), 60–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Perkins, D.N. (1985). The fingertip effect: How information-processing technology shapes thinking.Educational Researcher, 14(7), pp. 11–17.Google Scholar
  58. Perkins, D.N., & Unger, C. (1999). Teaching and learning for understanding. In C. Reigeluth's (Ed.),Instructional-design theories and models, Volume II (pp. 91–114). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  59. Petraglia, J. (1998). The real world on a short leash: The (mis)application of constructivism to the design of educational technology.Educational Technology Research & Development, 46(3), pp. 53–65.Google Scholar
  60. Petre, M. (1995). Readership skills and graphical programming.Communications of the ACM, 38(6), 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Piaget, J. (1976).The grasp of consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Rakes, G. (1996). Using the internet as a tool in a resource-based learning environment.Educational Technology, 36(5), 52–56.Google Scholar
  63. Rieber, L. (1995). A historical view of visualization in human cognition.Educational Technology Research & Development, 43(1), 45–56.Google Scholar
  64. Rieber, L., Noah, D., & Nolan, M. (1998, April).Metaphors as graphical representations within open-ended computer simulations. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  65. Rieber, L., Tzeng, S-C, Tribble, K., & Chu, G. (1996, April).Feedback and elaboration within a computer-based simulation: A dual coding perspective. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New York, NY.Google Scholar
  66. Roth, W-M. (1995). Affordances of computers in teacher-student interactions: The case of Interactive Physics™.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(4), 329–347.Google Scholar
  67. Salomon, G. (1986). Information technologies: What you see is not (always) what you get.Educational Psychologist, 20, 207–216.Google Scholar
  68. Salomon, G., Globerson, T., & Guterman, E. (1989). The computer as a zone of proximal development: Internalizing reading-related metacognitions from a reading partner.Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(4), 620–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., McLean, R., Swallow, J., & Woodruff, E. (1989). Computer-supported intentional learning environments.Journal of Educational Computing Research, 5, 51–68.Google Scholar
  70. Schön, D.A. (1983).The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  71. Schwartz, D., Brophy, S., Lin, X., & Bransford, J. (1999). Software for managing complex learning: Examples from an educational psychology course.Educational Technology Research & Development, 47(2), pp. 39–59.Google Scholar
  72. Steinberg, E. (1989). Cognition and learner control: A literature review, 1977–1988.Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 16, 117–121.Google Scholar
  73. Stepans, J. (1996).Targeting students' science misconceptions. Riverview, FL: Idea Factory, Inc.Google Scholar
  74. Strike, K., & Posner, G. (1992). A revisionist theory of conceptual change. In R. Duschl and R. Hamilton (Eds.),Philosophy of science, cognitive psychology, and educational theory and practice, (147–176).Google Scholar
  75. Suthers, D., Toth, E., & Weiner, A. (1997). An integrated approach to implementing collaborative inquiry in the classroom. InProceedings from the 1997 Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning conference. Available online at: Scholar
  76. Tufte, E.R. (1983).The visual display of quantitative information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.Google Scholar
  77. Vosniadou, S., & Ortony, A. (1989). Similarity and analogical reasoning: A synthesis. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.),Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 1–17). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Wallace, R., Krajcik, J., & Soloway, E. (1997, April).Digital libraries in the science classroom: An opportunity for inquiry. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association: Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  79. Wallace, R., & Kupperman, J. (1997, April).On-line search in the science classroom: Benefits and possibilities. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Penn State UniversityUniversity Park

Personalised recommendations