We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Instructional Theory?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Practical Adult Insights, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Instructional theory is a field of inquiry that is typically involved with researching and understanding how people learn, in order to make the process of instruction more beneficial for students. It often focuses on younger students and is applied to a number of different educational models and teaching pedagogies. There are two general schools of thought and inquiry with regard to instructional models and structures: cognitive models and behavioral models. Instructional theory is usually targeted toward understanding how information can be taught in a way that is effective. Though student comprehension is important, theories are usually centered more on how information can be taught rather than how it is learned.

While easily confused with teaching pedagogies, instructional theory is not a particular method of teaching or school of thought with regard to how lessons can be taught. It is typically more involved with understanding the process of teaching and how instructions issued by one person can be more fully learned and understood by those who hear it. Teaching pedagogies often spring from and develop based upon various types of instructional theory, but they are not inherently synonymous.

One of the best ways to understand instructional theory is to understand the two most common approaches to this discipline. Cognitive models of instruction typically regard the process of teaching and learning as principally occurring within the mind of the student. This makes any sort of scientific observation or critique of such theories difficult to execute, which can be considered a weakness for this type of instructional theory. While some work can be done to establish observable cognitive development, these studies are often more difficult to execute than others.

Behavioral models, on the other hand, are typically easy to observe and verify through basic scientific inquiry. An instructional theory that utilizes behavioral patterns usually regards the process of teaching and learning as an adjustment to behavior that can be observed. What occurs within the mind of the student is unknown, and therefore can potentially be ignored in favor of what can be witnessed and documented.

A number of different pedagogies have sprung from each type of model, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. One of the distinguishing aspects of a sound instructional theory, however, is that it deals primarily with the role of a teacher. While the student is important, these theories often seek to find the most effective ways for teachers to present information. Developments in such theories have led to some wide-ranging changes in education, including the idea of a teacher as a facilitator for the learning process.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By ddljohn — On Oct 18, 2014

I don't think it's really necessary to know how people learn because I don't think that everyone uses the same method. We all have different methods of learning. For example, some people memorize information, others like to learn in practice, some people have good picture memory and so forth.

It's much easier to see how a teacher is teaching and how effective it is. It's not too difficult to measure this. If students get better grades and learn better with the use of instructional exercises for example, we know that this is a method that works.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 17, 2014

@discographer-- I don't think that instructional theory wants to disregard how students learn information. The article already talked about how it is difficult to observe how a student learns since it occurs in the mind. It's not possible to observe the process that occurs in the mind when learning occurs.

What instructional theory can do is develop methods of teaching that best produce observable learning. I'm talking about the behavioral model.

By discographer — On Oct 17, 2014

I don't think I understand this. How can people look at how information can be taught without considering how information is learned? Isn't it necessary to know the latter to develop instructional theory? Otherwise, I don't think it would be as helpful as it should be.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.