An Empirically Based Instructional Design Theory for Teaching Concepts

Robert D. Tennyson, Martin J. Cocchiarella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


An instructional design theory for concept teaching is presented. The theory is based on direct empirical validation from a programmatic line of instructional systems research. Concept learning is viewed as a two-phase process: (a) formation of conceptual knowledge and (b) development of procedural knowledge. Two fundamental components of the proposed theoretical model are content structure variables and instructional design variables. A rational combination of these components, based on a content analysis that takes into account the learning model, provides the means for the selection of one of four basic instructional design strategies. Research studies that contribute to the model are reviewed, and the model is described with reference to instructional methods and cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-71
Number of pages32
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1986

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Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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