Bruner’s Theory of Instruction

Jerome Bruner (1915–) was one of the 20th century’s most influential educational psychologists. Here, he writes about the process of pedagogy. He describes the key instructional components of curriculum: its sequence of activities in which learners become self-sufficient problem-solvers:

Instruction consists of leading the learner through a sequence of statements and restatements of a problem or body of knowledge that increase the learner’s ability to grasp, transform, and transfer what he is learning. In short, the sequence in which a learner encounters materials within a domain of knowledge affects the difficulty he will have in achieving mastery …

If it is true that the usual course of intellectual development moves from enactive through iconic to symbolic representation of the world, it is likely that an optimum sequence will progress in the same direction …

Optimal sequences … cannot be specified independently of the criterion in terms of which final learning is to be judged. A classification of such criteria will include at least the following: speed of learning; resistance to forgetting; transferability of what has been learned to new instances; form of representation in terms of which what has been learned in terms of cognitive strain imposed; effective power of what has been learned in terms of its generativeness of new hypotheses and combinations …

Instruction is a provisional state that has as its object to make the learner of problem-solver self-sufficient … The tutor must correct the learner in a fashion that eventually makes it possible for the learner to take over the corrective function himself. Otherwise the result of instruction is to create a form of mastery that is contingent upon the perpetual presence of the teacher.


Bruner, Jerome S. 1966. Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 49–53. || Amazon || WorldCat


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