Pedagogically Founded Courseware Generation for Web-Based Learning

Volume 5260 of the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science pp 37-42

Descriptive and Prescriptive Learning Theories

  • Carsten UllrichAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science and Technology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

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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.