Shuell model of learning functions

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“According to Thomas Shuell "meaningful learning" is a cognitive, metacognitive & affective activity, which is typified by five characteristics: active, cumulative, goal-oriented, constructive and self-regulated (Shuell 1992: 23-5.). The characteristics mentioned above are triggered when the learner engages certain ‘psychological processes’, called ‘learning functions’2. The functions are in turn activated by learning tasks, which can be learner- or tutor-initiated.” (Grogan, 2005).

This view can be compared to other constructivist models, e.g. Jonassen's meaningful learning.

The list of learning functions

Source: Casey & Brosnan (2004:27-28). I have no clue of this is the "true" list. Have to get myself a copy of the original at some point, rewrite the list and tie it to the five characteristics - Daniel K. Schneider 16:58, 27 February 2009 (UTC).

Define Learning Expectations

the learner has some idea of what he or she is trying to accomplish


willingness to persist and contribute effort to the task in which he or she is engaged

Prior Knowledge Activation

ensure that both cognitive and affective prerequisites (including the needs, goals, and everyday experiences of the learner) are available for use by the learner


important for the leamer to pay attention to important features of the instructional task and to ignore features that are irrelevant


the process by which information is prepared so that it can be manipulated in short-term or working memory


in order to acquire a body of knowledge involves understanding rather than rote memorization, the learner must compare facts and concepts in a search for similarities and differences that permit the formation of those higher-order relationships that comprise understanding

Hypothesis Generation

the active, constructive nature of meaningful learning requires the learner to generate various hypotheses as he or she seeks a more adequate understanding of the material being learned


it takes time, and multiple exposures, to find meaningful ways of relating the various parts of a complex body of knowledge


for the learner to determine if he or she is on the right track, feedback must be received on the accuracy and/or appropriateness of what was done â either overtly or covertly


an effective learner keeps track of the progress being made toward achieving the instructional goal


simply receiving appropriate feedback is not sufficient; the learner must interpret and evaluate the feedback and determine how it can best be used in the learning process

Combination, Integration, Synthesis (CIS)

As information is acquired, the more-or-less isolated pieces must be combined in ways that permit the learner to integrate and synthesize information from several sources. Meaningful learning,



  • Goodyear, P. (2000). Effective networked learning in higher education: notes and guidelines . Lancaster: University of Lancaster.
  • Grogan, Gerry (2005). Can asynchronous online discussions be designed to produce meaningful learning?,, retrieved 16:58, 27 February 2009 (UTC). HTML
  • Shuell, T. (1992). Designing instructional computing systems for meaningful learning. In M. Jones & P. Winne (Eds.), Adaptive Learning Environments . New York: Springer.
  • Shuell, T. (1988). The Role of the Student in Learning from Instruction, Contemporary Educational Psychology, 13 (3) p276-95.
  • Shuell T J (1990) Phases of meaningful learning Review of Educational Research 60 4, 531â547.
  • Shuell, T. J. (1993). Toward an integrated theory of teaching and learning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 291-311
  • Casey, John & Kevin Brosnan (2004). Some Potential Benefits of Sharing Graphical and Dynamic Representations of Pedagogic Strategy for Learning Support, Learning Technology newsletter, Vol. 6, Issue 3, July 2004, pp 26- PDF
  • Jonassen, D.H.; Peck, K.L.; & Wilson, B.G. (1999). Learning with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Publishing.