Training and Development

Instructional psychology is the study of the processes of human learning in various educational and instructional settings.   Researchers in this area explore the many facets of human learning such as the influences of the environment on optimal learning (DeCorte, 2001). Five key components can be highlighted in a theory of learning: 1) Description of desired goals or end states of instruction in a domain; 2) description of current state of knowledge of the learner prior to learning; 3) description of the transition processes from initial to goal state; 4) specification of learning conditions that will enable attainment of goal state; 5) assessment of performance and learning effects (DeCorte, 2001).

The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML)

The CTML integrates research on how people learn and how to design instruction (Mayer, 2008).  The theory is based on scientific evidence on learning and instruction.  Mayer’s CTML highlights four elements based on the science of learning: 1) Dual Channels suggest that verbal and visual stimuli are processed separately but simultaneously in working memory, 2) Limited Working Memory Capacity suggests there is a limited capacity to process information at one time which requires the individual to choose what s/he perceives to be relevant information, 3) Active Processing acknowledges that humans are actively engaged in cognitive processing in order to make sense of external stimuli.  It is not a situation where we passively receive information into memory.  Learners actively process information by selecting, organizing, and integrating information, and 4) Information Transfer takes place when individuals are able to retrieve newly acquired information from long-term memory.  Transfer can be further divided into near-transfer knowledge that is used immediately after learning it, and far-transfer knowledge for information that is needed long after learning it.

Relating to instruction, the CTML integrates three key elements.  Firstly, Extraneous Processing occurs when irrelevant information is processed.  This extraneous information consumes cognitive resources and as a result, may interfere with learning.  Secondly, Essential Processing is ability to focus and understand the relevant information.  The information being processed is dependent on what the individual attends to during the instructional session.  When essential information that is being presented overloads the cognitive processing system, learning may be inhibited.  For example if text is presented on a slide while a video is being played, attention may be split between the two visual stimuli resulting in a visual system overload.  Finally, Generative processing is aimed at making sense of the incoming material by organizing the information and linking the new information with prior knowledge.  New information may include processing sensory information, logical thoughts, perceptions, and emotional valence.  

Experiential Learning Theory

Prominent 20th century scholars such as Dewey, Lewin, Piaget, Jung and Rodgers, posited that experience is a central role of human learning.  Experiential Learning is built on six propositions (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).

  1. Learning should be viewed as a process and not an outcome.  Effective learning should engage the student in a process that optimizes their learning.  A process that includes feedback on the quality of their learning efforts.  As Dewey and Small (1897) proposed, “education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of experience.” (p.79). 

  2. All learning is relearning. An effective learning process draws out the students’ beliefs and ideas about a topic so they can contemplate, test, and integrate new information with existing knowledge.

  3. Learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world.  The learning process is driven by disagreement, conflict and differences.  In the act of learning, individuals vacillate between modes of reflection and action, and feeling and thinking. New information needs to be considered in differing ways to optimize learning.

  4. Learning is an integration of the total person.  Learning is not merely a cognitive process but involves functions of the total person - thinking feeling, perceiving, and behaving. It draws upon multiple activities ranging from application of the scientific method to the use of creativity in problem solving and decision making.

  5. Learning results from an integration of the person and the environment.  Effective learning arises from a consistent interaction between the individual and his or her environment.  The decisions we make have an impact on our environment while our environment has an influence on our decisions.  This reciprocal process highlights the importance of environment to mental activity and the act of learning.

  6. Learning is the process of creating and re-creating knowledge.  Experiential Learning Theory proposes a constructivist theory of learning where knowledge is created and modified in the learner. It is not merely a transfer of knowledge but an integration of new knowledge with old knowledge and revising current knowledge as appropriate.

Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.  Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transferring experience” (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).  The model highlights two different but related modes of grasping experience – Concrete Experience (CE) and Abstract Conceptualization (AC), and two different but related modes of transforming experience – Reflective Observation (RO) and Active Experimentation (AE).  The process of experiential learning involves the construction of knowledge through an interaction between the four learning modes.  The learner cycles through the four modes – experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting – in a way that is based on the situation, context of material, and the learners own preferences.


De Corte, E. (2001). Instructional Psychology. In N. J. S. B. Baltes (Eds.), International encyclopedia of the social & behavioral sciences (pp. 7569-7573). Oxford: Pergamon.

Dewey, J., & Small, A. W. (1897). My pedagogic creed.  New York, NY: EL Kellogg & Company.

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of management learning & education, 4(2), 193-212.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Applying the science of learning: evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, 63(8), 760.

Specific psychological learning theories have foundations in behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, and humanism to name a few.   For training to be most effective, it should follow a specific theory of learning.   I can assist in the selection of appropriate learning theory, and development of effective training programs for your organization.   

To better understand the value of learning theories, I’ve highlighted two popular theories below.Type your paragraph here.

Research Psychologist