Comparing Learning Theories

Learning TheoryCriteria
Behaviorismclassifies learning as acquiring new behavior based on environment. 
Constructivismrefers to the study of a learner’s own construction of knowledge. learners process new information and give meaning to it using their own prior attitudes, beliefs, and experiences (Stavredes, 2011). students are active participants in the construction of knowledge while the instructor serves as a facilitator (Hancock, Bray & Nason, 2003).
Cognitivismrefers to the study of the mind (brain) and how it acquires, processes, and saves or stores information. learners are active participants in their learning. cognitive view of learning is teacher-centered, where teachers present information in an organized manner for students to achieve the most efficient learning (Stavredes, 2011). 
Connectivismnot considered a learning theory by some. George Siemens proposed connectivism as a learning theory for the modern age. learning is no longer a personal activity. knowledge is distributed across networks where connections and connectedness are the basis of learning. heavily grounded in technology, connectivism is a learning theory based on the acquisition of the knowledge needed for the future, not the past (Siemens, 2004).
AndragogyAdults are the new traditional learner. As the decline in 18-23 year olds continues, adults (29+) are now traditional learners. Do college instructors know adult learning theory? Are courses (online and in-seat) being designed for adult leanrers? Adult learners are more autonomous, more self-suffiient, but they want to know how the subject matter relates to their subject/content area or profession. In online courses, they want plenty of social interactions, so peer review and group work are important to this new learner.


Hancock, Dawson & Bray, Marty & Nason, Scott. (2003). Influencing University Students’ Achievement and Motivation in a Technology Course. Journal of Educational Research – J EDUC RES. 95. 365-372. 10.1080/00220670209596611.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age [html]. Retrieved from

Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: foundations and strategies for student success. SanFrancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.