Key elements of behavioral, cognitive, affective, and collaborative learning theories

Scholars have theorized that learning takes places through a multitude of domains, including: behavioral, cognitive, affective, and collaborative. Best practice models from throughout a variety of educational settings have confirmed the effectiveness of instructional strategies which identify these learning modes and seek to incorporate these learning processes, when applicable, into learning environments.

The behavioral or psychomotor learning domain focuses upon the processes of mastery of physical skills. Physical skills have been categorized in a variety of ways, but invariably include cognitive, psychomotor, reactive, and interactive domains (Romiszowski, 1999). Romiszowski (1999) stresses not only the general learning processes of psychomotor skill learning but also the instructional strategies necessary for skills development. The challenge for educators teaching physical skills is for learners to transfer knowledge of these skills into proficient practice.

Bloom first defined the cognitive domain of learning as one which deals with the, “recall or recognition of knowledge and the development of understandings and intellectual abilities and skills” (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999). While Bloom’s taxonomy is arguably the most well-known articulation of cognitive processes, others such as Gagne, Ausubel, Anderson, Merrill have all presented similar cognitive theories which express a variety of levels of interaction between learner and content. Therefore, the focus of cognitive learning is built upon the understanding that learners attain knowledge through a variety of interactions and processes.

The affective domain is one which, ”refers to components of affective development focusing on internal changes or processes” (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999). Or, stated another way, the affective domain relates primarily to the motivational factors involved in learning. A taxonomy of internalization from least to most includes: receiving, responding, valuing, organization, and characterization (Martin & Reigeluth, 1999). Affective components are strongly related to other elements of learning processes, and are at times not easily distinguishable.

Collaborative learning has been defined as, “a structured exchange between two or more participants designed to enhance achievement of the learning objectives” (Clark & Mayer, 2003). Collaboration has typically taken place in the classroom setting through the use of group work, etc. but has been expanded into a plethora of applications in the online learning environment. While traditional collaborative learning opportunities have typically been synchronous, many online instructional strategies now implement asynchronous collaborative exercises. These asynchronous collaborations are not dependent upon schedule constraints of learners or faculty. The undeniable fact exists that a variety of levels of structure exist among collaborative environments and that not all forms of collaborative learning prove equally effective (Clark & Mayer, 2003).

Each learning domain examined certainly clarifies important learning processes. The task for instructional designers and educators alike is to evaluate what the needs of the students are and then to employ strategies which help students meet instructional objectives.


Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). Learning together on the web. In e-Learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Martin, B. L., & Reigeluth, C. M. (1999). Affective education and the affective domain: Implications for instructional-design theories and models. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructinoal-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol.
2). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reigeluth, C. M., & Moore, J. (1999). Cognitive education and the cognitive domain. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. II). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Romiszowski, A. (1999). The development of physical skills: Instruction in the psychomotor domain. In Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. 2). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Instructional design models that relate to specific learning or training environments

As a novice of instructional design, I’m experience the “growing pains” of trying to get up to speed on the terminology and theoretical premises for the various models. Nonetheless, I keep reassuring myself that eventually I’ll make it over this learning ID learning curve.

Prestera (Prestera, n.d.) presents a succinct and tangible overview of ISD models. He referred to Gustafson’s classifications of ISD models into three categories, include: classroom models, product development models, and systems development models. It is easy to identify the instructional context will help the instructional designer to determine which model, or combination of models, will prove most effective. I wholeheartedly concur with Tennyson’s claim that, “for each learning problem there may be more than one solution and approach to instructional design” (Tennyson, 1997).

Each model reviewed employed a specialized framework in order to develop learning strategies within a specific context. The Dick and Carey model, while presenting a foundational approach for converting a goal statement instruction ready for implementation (Dick, 1997), has been accused of only being feasible in unrealistic circumstances. Tennyson (Tennyson, 1997) presents an accommodating system dynamics approach to instructional system design which, “dynamically adjusts the authoring activities by direct reference to the given problem situation” (Tennyson, 1997). His model stems from the understanding that the actively engaged learner who is solving problems while learning will best be able learn complex systems (Tennyson, 1997). Gerlach and Ely present a classroom model which examines content first prior to objectives and describes key interactive procedures while refraining from articulating any concrete practices (Prestera, n.d.). Sims, Dobbs, and Hand (Sims, Dobbs, & Hand, 2002) stress the importance of proactive evaluation and strategic intent in any ISD model selected. Kemp presents a model similar to Gerlach and Ely’s, in which he expands upon the concept of flexibility within the ISD process while keeping content at the core of the development (Prestera, n.d.).

Ultimately, I’ve learned from the ISD models presented in this unit that elements of flexibility and customization should be paramount in any model chosen. The characteristics of the learners, the learning context, and instructor are among the many elements which need to be considered when choosing a model to utilize.


Dick, W. (1997). A model for the systematic design of instruction. In R. D. Tennyson, F. Schott, N. Steel & S. Dykstra (Eds.), Instructional design: International perspectives. Volume 1: Theory, research, and models. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Flechsig, K.-H. (1997). Cultural transmission, teaching, and organized learning as cultureembedded activities. In R. D. Tennyson, F. Schott, N. Seel & S. Dijkstra (Eds.), Instructional design: International perspectives. Volume 1: Theory, research, and models. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Prestera, G. (n.d.) Instructional design models. Retrieved April 2, 2004 from,

Sims, R., Dobbs, G., & Hand, T. (2002). Enhancing quality in online learning: Scaffolding planning and design through proactive evaluation. Distance Education, 23(2), 135-147.

Tennyson, R. D. (1997). A system dynamics approach to instructional systems development. In R. D. Tennyson, F. Schott, N. Seel & S. Dijkstra (Eds.), Instructional design: International perspectives. Volume 1: Theory, research, and models. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Essence of the paradigm shift in instructional design theory and practice

The paradigm shift in instructional design theory and practice refers to the necessary change in emphasis from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction. No longer is the traditional view of education of “presenting content to students” the focal point of ISD. Rather, the emphasis should be on ensuring that learners understand what they are taught (Reigeluth, 1999) and that they have meaningful and engaging opportunities in which to construct this learning.

This paradigm shift in ISD is absolutely critical to the field of religious education (RE). The RE field is considerably behind public education and corporate training models in relation to the having this learner-centered perspective. In far too many churches and organizations within evangelical religious circles the emphasis is still on “how to teach a lesson” rather than on “how to help students learn the lesson”. I look forward to helping this paradigm shift take place in RE.


Reigeluth, C. M. (1999). What is instructional-design theory and how is it changing? In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. 2). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Effective Implementation of Instructional Technology

The development of an online format of volunteer training presents a variety of challenges worth considering. Learning takes place at different levels based on the commitment level and mode of accountability for volunteers (Rogers, 2000). The reality is that most volunteers are only looking for surface learning opportunities when, “the student simply puts in the minimal effort” (Rogers, 2000). A paradigm shift from teaching to learning is necessary in the volunteer training strategy of Christian Life Fellowship church in order for technology integration to take place.

Rogers states, “effective use of technology in the classroom will require a paradigm shift from ‘teaching’ to ‘learning,’ which will require adequate training in technology and learning styles, as well as adequate technical support” (Rogers, 2000). She presents the need for philosophical change of instructional opportunities before innovative technological strategies will be successful. At present, the volunteers who do take advantage of the offered monthly training sessions do so with the simple expectation of receiving information, rather than being part of any collaborative learning experience. The shift in thinking needs to take place from simply a desire to be “taught” to a emphasis on learning together how to be a more effective teacher.

Rogers (2000) examines these issues involved in application within higher education settings. She notes that technology can only be as effective as its implementation within instruction. Beyond implementation, teachers utilizing technology within any educational setting must receive the proper training on the execution of the training within the technology-rich environment.

Rogers (2000) identifies three levels of technology adoption: personal productivity aids, enrichment add-ins, and paradigm shift. Within the volunteer development context where I am seeking to enhance the quality and methodology for training I recognize that enhancements must begin with the paradigm shift that Rogers identifies. Since change of this sort requires active leadership at the highest level (Rogers, 2000) I am putting forth the effort to develop well-planned instructional strategies which should will hopefully foster a new viewpoint on volunteer training; a mindset of life-long learning.


Rogers, D. L. (2000). A paradigm shift: Technology integration for higher education in the new millennium. Educational Technology Review, 1(13), 19-33.

Instructional Design in Religious Education

The common emphasis on lower-level objectives is certainly a common fact within religious education contexts. From my professional experiences within this field, I often see the “sage on the stage” mentality permeate instructional contexts, as the typical “Sunday school” approach has remained stagnant in regards to instructional change over the past several decades.

The religious education field has been built upon a very traditional approach to instruction and is based strongly on a strong cognitive view of learning. Authorities would support the description of the cognitive domain of learning proposed by Reigeluth and Moore (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999) that states, “Cognitive education is composed of the set of instructional methods that assist students in learning knowledge to be recalled or recognized” (p.52). Teachers see their duty to teach God’s word to children from the Bible in a manner that children can grasp and apply to their lives. Because these teachers often times are teaching a theological concept as opposed to a skill, they may tend to only incorporate learning activities at the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy (Reigeluth & Moore, 1999). Most of the laity that teach weekly religious education courses do not have immense amounts of preparatory time nor do they have much extra time in the weekly class to engage in many desirable constructivist activities.

I do agree with the position stated that instructional designers should seek to develop higher-order objectives for their instructional projects. No matter the topic that is being taught, I believe it is advantageous to help learners evaluate, apply, and synthesize their learning into applicable contexts. In the religious education setting, I believe it is far more important to help a child discover why God’s principles are true and how they can be applied to his or her life rather than simple teaching that “thus saith the Lord.” The struggle within the religious education context is that there is a measure of faith that must be incorporated into the learning environment. I’m working at slowly changing the instructional mindset of the volunteer teachers in my church and helping them to see the value of incorporating constructivist learning opportunities into their classes.


Reigeluth, C. M., & Moore, J. (1999). Cognitive education and the cognitive domain. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: a new paradigm of instructional theory (Vol. II). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.