Two Major Perspectives

Two major perspectives, with several variations, emerged from psychology and have dominated the way instructional designers view how people think, and, in turn, how people learn. Provided in this section are brief explanations of these two distinctly different perspectives—behaviorist and cognitivist—with mention of key individuals who have had influence on how these perspectives have developed.

As an instructional designer, it is important to keep in mind that neither perspective is inherently better than the other. Each perspective offers important contributions that help us understand how individuals think and how people learn. Although most instructional designers tend to feel more comfortable with one perspective over the other, instructional designers will use principles and practices from both as they design and develop instructional interventions. It is also important to remember that these two perspectives are two of out of many that exist. They are described here because they are two of the most influential perspectives.

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