Design training programs based on appropriate learning principles and theories

Competency K

Librarian and information professionals organize and select resources for their users. Often the collections they build along with the electronic resources used comprise a large amount of material. Finding information can be a daunting process with the vast number f resources available, so in addition to the long-standing goal of promoting literacy, librarians must also promote information literacy. The goal of librarians should not only be to find information for their users, but to ensure that users learn how to use the resources available to them. In some academic positions, teaching information literacy is a standard job duty. There are many learning principles that librarians can use when creating programs to teach others, and I will discuss a few outlooks on learning theory below.

Constructivist theory is based on the concept that learning comes through experiences which learners incorporate into their existing knowledge. Learners construct knowledge for themselves, and therefore it is a highly individualized process. There are many different learning theories that fall under constructivist theory. According to Bruner, "As far as instruction is concerned, the instructor should try and encourage students to discover principles by themselves" (TIP, Bruner). Instruction should be structured in such a way that is most easily grasped by the student, and the role of the instructor is to guide the learning process. Gagne's "Conditions of Learning" lists the following events as a way of providing the appropriate conditions for learning (TIP, Gange):

  • gaining attention (reception)

  • informing learners of the objective (expectancy)

  • stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)

  • presenting the stimulus (selective perception)

  • providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)

  • eliciting performance (responding)

  • providing feedback (reinforcement)

  • assessing performance (retrieval)

  • enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)

Maturationism is similar to constructivist theory in that it also proposes that learning comes through experiences and builds on current knowledge. However, where constructivist theory proposes that instructors guide students, maturationism believes that students should guide themselves, going where there interests take them. Also, it assumes that learners will develop at their own pace and and that instruction should be tailored to the student's natural abilities (NCREL).

Behaviorist theory believes that learning comes through doing. According to behaviorists, "learning can be defined as the relatively permanent change in behavior brought about as a result of experience or practice" (Huitt, 2006). Huitt describes three types of behaviorist learning theories:


  • Contiguity: any stimulus and response connected in time and/or space will tend to be associated

  • Classical (Respondent) Conditioning: association of stimuli

  • Operant (Instrumental) Conditioning: connection of emitted behavior and its consequences

(Huitt, 2006). Thus the emphasis of behavioral learning is repetition and practice, with the idea of if you do something long enough it will become engrained.


Cover Processing Specifications – Sybex, Inc. – September 2003
I developed this process as part of my position at Sybex, Inc. and independent publishing company. It is a training document that outlines the process and various staff roles involved in the processing and distribution of cover images. It builds on current knowledge of the various parties, and provides an view of the entire process and how each part works together.


Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2006). An overview of the behavioral perspective. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved October 27, 2007 from

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. Theories of Child Development and Learning. Retrieved Ocober 27, 2007 from

Theories of child development and learning. Retrieved October 27, 2007 from

TIP: Theories: Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner). Retrieved October 26, 2007 from

TIP: Theories: Conditions of Learning (R. Gagne). Retrieved October 26, 2007 from

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© 2017 Deirdre Stretton