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Home Course Design Developing a CourseUnderstanding How People Learn
Understanding How People Learn

Faculty members often begin course design by focusing on the course content - what to teach. It is equally important to consider what the students need to learn, and for this it may be helpful to understand how people learn. The following resources suggest how to incorporate research-based principles and theories of learning into course design.

General theories/models of learning

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education provides a brief overview of learning models, including the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic model; Kolb’s model; the cognitive ability model; and the personality style model.
  • The National Academies Press provides an electronic text of How People Learn, by the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. The text provides a comprehensive review of research on learning, including the design of learning environments, effective teaching, teacher learning, and technology to support learning.
  • The Theory into Practice (TIP) database contains brief summaries of 50 major learning theories and strategies, which can be accessed by concept or learning domain. 
  • William J. Rappaport from SUNY Buffalo provides a brief overview of Perry's scheme of intellectual and ethical development

Theories of adult learning

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Reading publications on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning will provide instructors with theoretical and practical information from a field that is constantly contributing insights on how people learn and how that research can be applied to teaching and learning.

DePaul Resources

Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS)

  • Writing course goals and learning objectives for online, hybrid, or web-enhanced courses.
  • Identify and design learning activities and assessment tools to help online students achieve learning objectives.

Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment

  • Research on teaching and learning in higher education