Notes Toward a Theory of Complex Learning

  • Donald A. Norman
Part of the Nato Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 5)


I do not care about simple learning. I am not interested in the kind of learning that only takes 30 minutes. I want to understand real learning, the kind we all do during the course of our lives, the kind of learning that takes years to accomplish and that may, indeed, never be completed. I want to understand the learning of complex topics. A complex topic is one with such a rich set of conceptual structures that it requires learning periods measured in weeks or even years. The learning of complex topics differs from the learning that can be completed in minutes. I have estimated that to become an expert in a complex topic requires at least 5000 hours of study. Where does this estimate come from? I made it up. But it is remarkably robust, having been defended for a wide variety of topics.


Knowledge Structure Conceptual Structure Complex Topic Complex Learn Knowledge Module 
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.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald A. Norman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego LaJollaUSA

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