Learning type

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Learning type refers to the kind of knowledge and skills learners have to acquire.

DSchneider strongly believes that pedagogical strategies must be adapted to learning types since they engage different sorts of cognitive processes. Conversely, one also may claim that various learning theories are strongly influenced by what kinds of learning was studied. Since learning theories have a strong impact on instructional design theory, one may suspect that the latter are not neutral, even if some claim to be. The concept of learning type also refers to learning levels, i.e. in what ways a learner is able to use some acquired knowledge. A lot of discussion focuses actually on levels of mastery and therefore you really should also consult that article. Finally, identification of learning types is important in curriculum planning.

See also:

Kinds of learning

One way to categorize kinds learning are these broad categories of "learning domains", somewhat inspired from Kearsley's TIP. Such categories can be described both in term of learning (the kind of knowledge involved) and teaching (what the learner must be able to do).

  1. Attitudes
    • Disposition or tendency to respond positively or negatively ....
    • Learners must make an appropriate choice
  2. Facts learning (Factual Information, memorization):
    • Processing of factual information and remembering .....
    • Learners must recite, summarize, etc.
  3. Concept learning (Discrimination):
    • ... how to discriminate and categorize things. It is not related to simple recall and must be constructed.
    • Leaners must identify (according to features), also be able to discriminate and classify
  4. Reasoning (Inference, Deduction):
    • thinking activities that involve making or testing inferences
    • Learners must demonstrate something
  5. Procedure learning:
    • .... being able to solve a certain task by applying a procedure.
    • Learners must demonstrate being able to select/apply a procedure
  6. Problem solving:
    • identification of subgoals, use of methods to satisfy subgoals.
    • Learnings must generate a solution
  7. Learning Strategies (see metacognition
    • can hardly be taught and only be learned and to some extent only !
    • Learners must select appropriate self-regulation strategies.
  8. Motor skills
    • Being abel to physically perform something (like driving a car).

As an alternative, you may consider Gagne's Domains of learning taxonomy. These learning outcomes categorize the capabilities of the learner following instruction:

  • Verbal information, recall things from memory
    • Labels and facts
    • Bodies of knowledge (paraphrasing)
  • Intellectual skills
    • are demonstrated by being able to classify and label things. There are 5 subcategories. They are ordered in increasing complexity:
    1. discrimination, recognize that classes of things differ
    2. concrete concepts, being able to classify a thing according to its physical features
    3. defined concepts, also use abstract features to classify
    4. rules, apply simple procedures to solve a problem
    5. higher-order rules, apply complex procedures, e.g. select from simple procedures
    • These 5 categories can be summarized as: concept learning (C), rule learning (RL) and problem solving (PS).
  • cognitive strategy, invent or select process to solve a task/problem.
  • attitude, change behavior according to a new value or belief
  • motor skill, perform a physical task

Baker (1995), cited by Klein et al. (1998), identifies five families of cognitive learning: content understanding, collaboration, communication, problem solving, and metacognition.

Learning types also can be associated with different types of knowledge. Jonassen (2009) identified the following knowledge types that can be constructed:

  • Declarative: know that knowledge
  • Structural: relations between concepts
  • Conceptual: frameworks that allow for conceptual change
  • Procedural: how to perform
  • Situational: know contextual situations
  • Strategic: be able to select a procedure (when and why)
  • Tacit: can't be expressed
  • Sociocultural: belief system, attitudes, worldview, etc.
  • Experiental (episodic): stories about the experience

These categories are not orthogonal, i.e. mostly occur in some kind of combined form.

A small typology of learning types

The following typology is a combination of various learning types including learning levels and its purpose is to provide a practical framework to talk about classes of pedagogical scenarios. We are very much aware that for instance reasoning (i.e. inferences and deductions) learning is not the same as procedure learning. However, we claim that some families of instructional design models could lead to similar usages of educational technologies, e.g. see the wiki article.

Learning categories - suitable for instructional design planning

I: know that

I-a Facts : recall, description, identification, etc.

I-b Concepts: discrimination, categorization, discussion, etc.

II: know how

II-a Reasoning and procedures: inferences, deductions, etc. + procedure application

II-b Problem solving and production strategies: identification of subgoals + application of heuristics/methods

III: knowing in action

III Situated action: action strategies in complex and authentic situations

IV: Other

IV Other: e.g. motivation, emotion, reflection, i.e. elements that could intervene in all the other categories



  • Bloom Benjamin S. and David R. Krathwohl. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York, Longmans, Green, 1956. ISBN 0582280109
  • Driscoll, M.(1991) Psychology of Learning for Instruction: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Klein, Davina C. D.; Harold F. O’Neil, Jr. and Eva L. Baker, A Cognitive Demands Analysis of Innovative Technologies, CSE Technical Report 454, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)/UCLA, PDF (Retrieved March 2016).
  • Gagne, Robert M. (1975). Essentials of Learning for Instruction. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Gagne, Robert M. (1985). The Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction, Harcourt, ISBN 0030636884
  • Gagne, Robert M., Briggs, Leslie, J., Wager, Walter, F. (1985). Principles of Instructional Design, Wadsworth, ISBN 0030347572
  • Jonassen, D.H. (2009). Reconciling a human cognitive architecture. In S. Tobias & T.M. Duffy (Eds.), Constructivist Theory Applied to Instruction: Success or Failure? New York: Routledge.