As I continue to gain a deeper understanding of behaviourist, cognitivist, and constructivist learning theories, this knowledge has become a blueprint for me when designing instruction. Utilizing theoretical approaches with practical applications has provided me with a deeper understanding into how humans take in, process, and retain information. As Ertmer and Newby (2013) explain, as one moves along the learning theory continuum, “the focus of instruction shifts from teaching to learning, from the passive transfer of facts and routines to the active application of ideas to problems”. Learning is complex, and constantly evolving, both in “nature and in diversity” (Ertmer and Newby, 2013). Therefore, one approach may not be necessarily be better than the other because the act of designing instruction and learning itself can be influenced by variety of sources and factors (Shuell, 1990 as cited in Ertmer and Newby, 2013). This is where taking an empathetic approach to thinking and designing can open up learning opportunities that focus on the learner and their needs.

Instructional designers can easily lose sight of who their learners are due to the sheer volume of information, strategies, and new technology they have access to. Adopting an approach that is sensitive towards humans, design, techniques, as well as, their means of collaboration can expand the boundaries of creating enriching learning opportunities (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, and Koskinen, 2014). Incorporating the empathetic design approach not only keeps designers on track, but also focuses on the foundational needs of learners before incorporating anything else.

The synergy behind applying theoretical knowledge with practical applications can become an exciting opportunity for instructional designers to develop learning opportunities that can promote its learners to be innovate and creative. This can open up new possibilities of challenging them to think outside the box and to disrupt their “normal” means of thinking. How can I better understand the needs of my learners and how can I design training in such a way that helps to promote innovative thinking? As I continue to reflect upon my academic journey, it will be interesting to see how I can incorporate these approach and practices into my professional role.


Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to empathic design?. Design Issues, 30(1), 67-77.