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September 26, 2013

Theoretical Framework for Practice

by Angel Pumila


Establishing a Theoretical Framework for Practice

Angel Pumila



Theories of Adult Education

Within the field of education, there are many theories of adult learning.  Some find that behavior is the motivation for learning.  Others find that interactions with society or organization of thought processes contribute to the acquisition of knowledge.  Whatever the case may be, educators must understand the mechanisms of student learning in order to be effective in their teaching methods.


Scandura’s structural learning (SLT) is a behaviorism theory in which subject matter is broken down into smaller pieces. These pieces or rules are built upon to bring forth the higher-level concept. “SLT is generally known for its applicability to mathematics, but the ideas can be extended to other areas” (Scandura, 2001). For example in mathematics, addition and subtraction must be learned before advancing to algebra or geometry. In English, the rules of phonics need to be known before writing a research paper. Once the elements of any particular piece of knowledge were known, Scandura attempted to identify what a person knows and how it will impact behavior.

Scandura’s goal was to be able to predict behavior and knowledge through computer representation. Over a thirty year period, researchers were finally able to demonstrate their findings through directed graphs. While the graphs were able to accurately show knowledge in relation to behavioral outcomes, they could not display if the subject was an expert in the knowledge area. By 1994, Scandura had refined his method to include computer software that displayed a “relationship between data structure analysis and process analyses” (Scandura, 2007). To put it simply, when using an abstract process the data shown was more complex. On the other hand, complex processes produced simple data. This model was finally able to provide researchers with a view of the expertise level of the subject.


Vygotsky’s cognitive theory pointed to two types of processes involved with learning; 1) within their zone of proximal development in which their abilities are matched to learning 2) immediately outside this zone, where with assistance more complex learning can evolve (English, 2006). An important element of this theory is that learning occurs when it is related to previously knowledge and all individuals learn in different ways.


Similar to cognivism, constructivism is the view of learning involving connections to previous knowledge or experiences.  This theory expands to add that perception of knowledge impacts the process of learning. According to theorists, active participation and relational meaning with learning concepts is essential in education structures. 

Strategies Drawn from Theories

            Finding a place for SLT in the integrative education model is easy given the definition of integrative learning. “Integrative learning comes in many varieties: connecting skills and knowledge from multiple sources and experiences; applying theory to practice in various settings; utilizing diverse and even contradictory points of view; and, understanding issues and positions contextually” (Huber & Hutchings, 2004). Just like SLT, integrative learning is a connection of information that is built upon previous smaller bits of information. Yet unlike integrative learning, Structural Learning Theory has the ability to view current knowledge through computer generated testing, find gaps in that knowledge, and suggest which gaps are in need of being filled. It is the ‘ah ha’ moment that we experience when learning in the integrative model.

            When applying this model to a developmental psychology class, course concepts are broken down into smaller sections presented over the span of the course.  Each section is then evaluated to find smaller components to present in individual lessons.  When combined, all parts belonging to the whole create the bigger picture of the course concept.   The cognitivism theory can be used in the classroom by the presentation of relative information for independent learning and more complex matter for group learning and instructor-based learning.  Let’s use an evaluation of case studies for example.  Most students have the ability to read a study and identify the cause and effect independently.  Yet when introducing new concepts such as statistical testing of null hypothesis, a hands on group project with step-by-step definitions and instructions from a teacher would be more effective than students learning on their own. 

Constructivism models could be applied to a similar example.  The difference would be that the study would have to be on a topic that is familiar to the students’ personal experiences as a whole.  Also, it would need to include learning concepts delivered through the interpretation of the study. 

Integrative Education

Integrative studies goes beyond the one size fits all model of education and expands to include experiences and knowledge that students can relate to and apply in areas that fit their individual needs. For my goals, this path merges educational theory with psychological knowledge in order to teach psychology at a college level. The combination of graduate level courses in both subject areas allows for greater understanding of processes and theories in both subject areas. Within this program, as with many universities today, courses are taught according to the integrative approach. Students share experiences and information, expand upon content and ideas, and provide multiple perspectives of the content being taught. This approach provides a better understanding of the concepts by taking them out of the textbooks and putting them into real situations that people can relate to.

As far as preferred classroom implementation, constructivism would be the best for active, long-term retention of learning.  When students can relate their personal experiences to what they are learning, it becomes more applicable to their life.  My personal experience with applying this theory to instruction is, however, limited.  In order to become more effective in the application of constructivism learning theory, more practice in the creation of lesson plans and course materials is needed. 




English, F. (2006). Theories of Learning. Retrieved from

Huber, M. & Hutchings, P. (2004). Integrative Learning: Mapping the Terrain. Retrieved from (2013). Teacher Requirements. Retrieved from

Scandura, J.M. (2001). Structural Learning Theory: Current status and new perspectives. Instructional Science, 29 (4-5), 311-336.

Scandura, J. M. (2007). Knowledge Representation in Structural Learning Theory and Relationships to Adaptive Learning and Tutoring Systems. Technology, Instruction, Cognition & Learning, 5(2), 169-271.

The Chronicle. (2013). Psychology Instructor. Retrieved from

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