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This week, I have read the papers of Ertmer & Newby (2013) and Merrill (2002) to understand learning theories and their application in instructional design. Ertmer & Newby (2013) focused on instructional strategies and techniques applied in Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism, while Merrill (2002) proposed five principles on how learning is prompted, and also talked about seven instructional design theories in the context of these five principles.  

As I reflect on the learning theories I have been applying in my previous experience as a Learning and Development Director in the hospitality industry, I realized that there was a mix of learning theories applied in my instructional design depending on the employees’ seniority. Teaching Frontline employees included several examples of applying Behaviorism learning theory while teaching middle and senior management employees included the application of Constructivism learning theory.  

(Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p.49) states several examples of Behaviorism principles used in the instructional design. One of these principles is “Emphasis on mastering early steps before progressing to more complex levels of performance [sequencing of instructional presentation, mastery learning].” I have applied mastery learning in creating the hotel annual training plan for frontline employees were at the beginning of the year, we started teaching simple customer service course, and as the year progresses, so does the complexity level of the courses. We had to make sure employees understand the basics of customer service before shifting to more complex courses that included, for example, problem-solving skills.

(Merrill, 2002, p.56) argues that in Constructivism learning theory, “learners are encouraged to construct their own understandings and then to validate, through social negotiation, these new perspectives.” Similarly, in teaching middle and senior-level employees, leadership courses are designed to include employees from different departments (I.e. Front Office, Housekeeping, Food and beverage…etc.). During the leadership courses, employees were actively engaged in learning activities that encourage understanding new concepts based on previous experience by working on mini-projects in a social context where employees were formed in groups to share different perspectives and find solutions to the real-world hotel problems.  

Finally, I must say that my instructional design is built upon problem-centred instruction to fit the needs of the hospitality industry. Therefore, Merrill’s “five principles” are integrated into the hotel training curriculum. (Merrill, 2002, p.43) described the five principles that prompt learning as:  

(a) Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems. (b) Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge. (c) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. (d) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. (e) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world. 


Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/piq.21143 

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1007/BF02505024