Presentation in Nursing : Learning Theories & Instructional Design Models

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Nursing education requires the development of special programs that take into consideration specificities of work of nurses. Nursing programs have their specificities but they need a solid theoretical ground. In this regard, it is possible to distinguish behaviorist, cognitive and constructivist learning theories as the most appropriate for nursing programs. These are three fundamental theories that are applied successfully to the field of nursing and nursing education. They have proved to be efficient, although the behaviorist theory was the first to emerge, followed up by the cognitive and constructivist theories. Today, behaviorist, cognitive and constructivist theories laid foundations to many theories which use behaviorist, cognitive and constructivist principles as their backbone.

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One of the first theoretical frameworks created for nursing education was the behaviorist theory. The behaviorist theory is grounded on the idea of the stimulation and rewarding positive behavioral patterns and elimination of negative ones. This is why educators that develop their instructional system on the ground of the behaviorist theory focus on the enhancement of the positive behavioral patterns and provide students with a positive feedback for positive and right response to the stimuli. In contrast, wrong and negative response and behavioral patterns are excluded and educators do not approve them that leads to the student strife for positive and right responses and behavior patterns than wrong ones. The principle of the stimulation of positive behavior and suppression of the negative one is the core of the behaviorist theory. These principles define the curriculum and methods used by educators in the course of nurse training.

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The cognitive theory is grounded on ideas of Vygotsky, Piaget and other scientists, who emphasized the role of cognition in the development of personality. Their core idea is the development of thinking, language and other skills as the steady process of the formation of the personality of an individual. The cognitive theory holds the premise that cognitive skills of students play the key part in their learning. Educators have to develop their cognitive skills and use those cognitive skills as the major drivers of learning/ This is why educators have to develop learning skills of students through the stimulation of their thinking and knowledge acquisition capabilities. Therefore, the cognitive learning theory focuses on the inner thinking patterns and knowledge acquisition. The cognitive learning theory uses the inner potential of students to facilitate learning and the acquisition of new knowledge. Effective cognitive processes facilitate learning, while negative ones make it more difficult. This is why educators should develop positive learning skills and encourage independent learning of students.

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The constructivist theory emerged as the theory focused on the knowledge as the milestone of learning. The constructivist theory holds the premise that learning is a knowledge construction. Students construct their knowledge in response to external stimuli. In such a situation, educators have to introduce activities that stimulate the construction of knowledge of students. They have to provide students with information that they will have to process to construct new knowledge or they may set problems, which students have to solve and in the course of their solution, they construct new knowledge. Thus, students learn and acquire new knowledge and educators have to facilitate the construction of knowledge in their students to make their learning process more effective and prepare students for the independent learning due to knowledge and skills they have acquired during the training.

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Today, online education is very popular but the practical implementation of online learning has to take into consideration specificities of the online learning, such as the remote communication and the lack of the direct interaction between students and educators. Such specificities determine the necessity of the adaptation of learning theories to online education. Learning theories may be adapted to online modalities and setting. Behaviorist theory implies that the focus on giving positive feedback from educators to students in case of students positive academic performance. The negative feedback in case of the poor performance of students. The problem is that educators have to give their feedback remotely and they have to choose effective tools to communicate their feedback and to get the response of students to know the effect of their feedback that will help to choose the right strategy for further teaching of students.

The cognitive theory implies that educators use cognitive skills of students and develop their autonomous learning. Online learning is autonomous and this theory is suitable for online learning but educators may have difficulties with control of the student progress and development of their cognitive skills.

The constructivist theory holds the premise that educators set instructions that stimulate independent knowledge construction of students. However, the remote stimulation needs different tools compared to conventional classroom education. Educators have to maintain the online communication and choose tools that work without direct, face-to-face communication with students.

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Learning theories applied to classroom modalities and setting are traditional and well-developed. They are conventional for nursing education, but now they are not as popular as they used to be in the past. Learning theories applied to classroom modalities and setting have to take into consideration the classroom specificities. The behaviorist theory implies the direct interaction with students and stimulation of positive behavior and suppression of negative one.

The cognitive theory implies the understanding of psychological specificities of each student and their level of academic development in the course of their face-to-face interaction in the classroom. Setting tasks that are challenging but which students are capable to complete successfully. The constructivist theory involves the knowledge construction is stimulated by the educator that occurs in the classroom environment. Educator manages the learning process and introduces stimuli to activate knowledge construction of students, whenever necessary

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Learning theories have to take into consideration specificities of the clinical environment. Behaviorist theory implies that educators have to stimulate positive practical skills and eliminate negative ones. In such a way, students learn and keep progressing focusing on right actions and decisions and suppressing risky and wrong ones. The Cognitive theory involves the development of learning skills that help to improve the performance of students in the clinical  environment based on the regular practice and interaction between educators and students, students and patients. The Constructivist theory involves setting real world problems and their solution helps students to construct new knowledge. In such a way, students can construct new knowledge that enhance their professional skills.

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ADDIE and Dick and Carey models are quite similar but there are two distinct features that make Dick and Carey model quite different from ADDIE. First, Dick and Carey model uses the assessment for learning objectives before design stage to ensure that learning objectives to meet actual needs of students and to align learning objectives with the overall evaluation of students’ academic performance. Another distinct feature of Dick and Carey model is the use of formative evaluation which involves the evaluation of materials and approaches as they are being formed. In such a way, Dick and Carey model can evaluate and identify the most effective models and approaches and apply them further in the learning process.

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The Interactive Instruction models, the students interact with each other and with the information and materials. Such models are effective for classroom education but are also applicable for online education as well, when educators interact with students with the help of contemporary digital technologies and communication tools. Another model implies that the teacher is organizer and facilitator. Experiential Learning models mean that the students experience and feel; they are actively involved. In Independent Study models, the students interact with the content more or less exclusive of external control of the teacher.

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Accrediting standards set quality standards and requirements which professionals have to match. Curriculum has to take into consideration those standards and requirements. Educators focus on the development of specific skills and knowledge students need to meet accredited standards. Accrediting standards are milestone for teaching standards and they help to set clearly goals educators have to achieve. This is why accrediting standards have a considerable impact on curriculum and teaching process, methods, and goals.

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  • Benner, P. (1984). From novice to expert: Excellence and power in clinical nursing practice. Menlo Park: Addison-Wesley, pp. 13-34.
  • Billings, D.M., & Halstead, J.A. (2016). Teaching in nursing: A guide for faculty (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
  • Ellis, P., Halstead, J. (2012). Understanding the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education Accreditation Process and the Role of the Continuous Improvement Progress Report, Journal of Professional Nursing, 28 (1), 18-26.
  • McTighe, J., Thomas, R. (2003). Backward Design for Forward Action. Educational Leadership, 60 (5), 52-55. Retrieved from:
  • Sink, D.L. Instructional Design Models and Learning Theories.

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[Accessed: October 1, 2020]

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[Accessed: October 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 1, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 1, 2020]