Descriptive and Prescriptive Learning Theories

  • Carsten Ullrich
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5260)


Learning theories describe how people learn, often by reference to a particular model of human cognition or development. Depending on the learning theory, different requirements arise regarding the learning process, e.g. how to structure it, what questions to ask the learner, etc.

Learning theories can be divided into descriptive and prescriptive theories [162, page 137]. Descriptive learning theories make statements about how learning occurs and devise models that can be used to explain and predict learning results. When describing different descriptive theories of learning below, I will follow the common categorization that distinguishes between behaviorist, cognitive, and constructivist learning theories [151,162].

Prescriptive learning theories are concerned with guidelines that describe what to do in order to achieve specific outcomes. They are often based on descriptive theories; sometimes they are derived from experience. Instructional design is the umbrella which assembles prescriptive theories. I will describe instructional design in Section 3.4.


Instructional Design Descriptive Theory Intelligent Tutor System Competency Level Mathematical Competency 
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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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

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  • Carsten Ullrich

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