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Explore Learning Theories With an Online Master of Education Program

As a student in an online master’s degree of education in curriculum and instruction program, you will learn about past and present educational theories that have guided our learning systems. Educational or learning theories can be thought of as frameworks that describe how a learner absorbs, processes and retains information. As a teacher, it is important to understand how these theories shape school education and what type of environment will work best for your classroom. Over time, research conducted by educational researchers and philosophers has greatly influenced the theories used in schools worldwide.


In the early part of the 20th century, it was believed that each student was essentially a blank slate. Philosophers believed that people were passive learners and were simply responding to stimuli in their environments. This theory, called behaviorism, is generally considered outdated now. It essentially viewed education as something that happened to a learner. This theory greatly contrasts with more recent educational theories, which posit that learning happens from the inside out and involves cognitive processing as well as social-emotional- and cultural factors.

Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory is an educational theory that focuses on the brain as the most important learning instrument. Cognitive theory suggests that when a person has intact and functioning cognitive processes, learning is much easier. This theory is concerned with both intrinsic and external factors, both of which help to shape a learner. Intrinsic factors include biological factors, personal beliefs and motivation. External factors, such as environment, also play a role in developing cognitive processing. Cognitivist teaching methods help students absorb new information and add it to their existing information bank. Sometimes the introduction of new knowledge requires a student to modify the information that he or she already possesses. Methods such as asking students to re-explain new material in their own words, monitoring their own learning progress, journaling and providing study questions are all examples of cognitive teaching methods.


Constructivism is an educational theory that posits that people build their understanding of the world around them through having experiences and reflecting upon them. Thus, when a learner encounters a new idea, he or she must reflect on how it compares to what he or she already knows. This theory maintains that each student is active in creating his or her own understanding of the world. In the classroom, constructivist teaching methods focus on problem solving and consistent reflection on the learning topic at hand.

As research continues to advance the educational system, learning theories are regularly shifting. An online master’s degree in education program provides coursework that allows you to become familiar with important educational theories from the past and present. Such knowledge helps teachers identify practices that stem from specific learning theories, as well as the practices and theories they would most like to utilize in the classroom.

Learn more about the LSUS online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.


Learning Theories

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