Appendix K: Principles of Learning

Student teachers should refer to the following principles as they plan, implement and analyze instruction. A student teacher may discover that instruction was less effective than he or she had hoped because consideration was not given to one or more of these principles. Or, one might discover, happily, that instruction was more effective because the principles of learning were considered.

  1. Positive reinforcement is more likely to result in learning than negative reinforcement or punishment.
  2. Reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately following the appropriate behavior.
  3. Short practice sessions held more frequently are more effective than fewer long-term sessions.
  4. Learning is more effective if the students show "readiness" for what is to be learned.
  5. Learning generally proceeds more easily if information is presented in order from simple to complex, familiar to unfamiliar, and tangible to abstract.
  6. The learner learns other things besides what the teacher is formally presenting.
  7. Learners learn best by being actively involved.
  8. More complex skills develop more slowly than simple skills.
  9. Learning is increased if time is spent on recalling what has been read.
  10. Detail must be placed in structured patterns or it is rapidly forgotten.
  11. Material that is made meaningful to the learner is more easily learned and better retained than irrelevant material.
  12. Disequilibrium--or a perceived discrepancy--promotes learning because the learner naturally seeks to resolve the discrepancy and reach a new equilibrium.
  13. Interaction enhances many types of learning.
  14. Learning is enhanced in a supportive, non-threatening atmosphere.
  15. Learning is increased by a rich and varied environment.
  16. Learning is enhanced when a single concept is related to a wide variety of experiences.

Adapted from Travers, R.M.W. (1982). Essentials of Learning . Macmillan Publishers.