Psychology (PSYC) 310

Learning and Instruction (Revision 2)

EDPY 351 Course website

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online (with eTextbook)

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: An introductory course in psychology or educational psychology is strongly recommended (suggested courses at Athabasca University include PSYC289, PSYC290, or EDPY200). A course in cognitive psychology (e.g., PSYC355 would be a useful pre- or co-requisite course).

Precluded Course: EDPY 310. (PSYC 310 cannot be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit in EDPY 310). In general, students in a Bachelor of Education program (or similar) would typically register for EDPY 310, whereas psychology students would register for PSYC 310. If you don’t fall into one of these categories, please consider that EDPY courses are applied studies courses at AU, and PSYC courses are social science courses. If you are registered in an applied program, choose EDPY 310; if you require a social science course, choose PSYC 310.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Psychology home page

PSYC 310 has a Challenge for Credit option.

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This course will focus on one of the primary concerns of educational psychologists: the study of learning and instruction. It will examine both how people learn traditional school subject matter and various instructional approaches designed to promote such learning. As the course is firmly grounded in empirical research, it will present research studies, their methods, and their results. As such, the course will have a much more specific focus than introductory courses in educational psychology and should appeal to both psychology and education students.


PSYC 310 comprises the following 14 units:

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Learning and Instruction
  • Unit 2: Learning to Read Fluently
  • Unit 3: Learning to Read for Comprehension
  • Unit 4: Learning to Write
  • Unit 5: Learning Mathematics
  • Unit 6: Learning Science
  • Unit 7: Teaching by Giving Productive Feedback
  • Unit 8: Teaching by Providing Concreteness, Activity, and Familiarity
  • Unit 9: Teaching by Explaining Examples
  • Unit 10: Teaching by Guiding Cognitive Processes during Learning
  • Unit 11: Teaching by Fostering Learning Strategies
  • Unit 12: Teaching by Fostering Problem-Solving Strategies
  • Unit 13: Teaching by Creating Cognitive Apprenticeship in the Classroom
  • Unit 14: Teaching by Priming Students’ Motivation to Learn

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students should be able to do the following:

  1. Explain what educational psychology is, and discuss its potential role in improving education.
  2. Describe and contrast the behaviourist and cognitive approaches to research on learning and instruction.
  3. Describe the concept of learning from each of the behaviourist and cognitive approaches with respect to three metaphors of learning.
  4. Describe the types of knowledge and the types of understanding a learner can achieve, and provide relevant examples of each. Explain which approaches to learning would typically result in knowledge and which approaches would result in understanding, and outline the underlying implications.
  5. Explain the concept of transfer with respect to a positive/negative continuum and general/specific continuum. Discuss transfer with respect to behaviourist and cognitive approaches.
  6. Describe how the cognitive processes of selecting (new) information, organizing this information, and integrating new information with existing knowledge produces understanding, and describe how these processes interact with the three memory stores.
  7. Describe the prior knowledge and cognitive processes involved in learning how to read (fluently and for comprehension) and write and in learning mathematics and science, and discuss their instructional implications.
  8. Describe, differentiate, and produce typical measures (tasks or items) used to assess different types of learning and understanding (e.g., literal/retention, inference, and transfer questions).
  9. Describe the following general instructional approaches, and indicate their efficacy in promoting learning: providing feedback, providing concrete examples and activities, providing worked out examples and cases, guiding cognitive processes, strategy instruction, and cognitive apprenticeship.
  10. Discuss how self-efficacy, (self) attributions, and goal-orientation may affect students’ motivation to learn and their approach to learning.


To receive credit for PSYC 310, you must complete all of the assignments, achieve a minimum grade of “D” (50per cent) on the final examinations, and achieve an overall grade of "D" (50 per cent) for the entire course. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Quizzes (5@4% each) Assignment 1 Assignment 2 Assignment 3 Final Exam Total
20% 5% 10% 20% 45% 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning and instruction (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

A print version of the eText may be available for purchase from the publisher through a direct-to-student link provided on the course website; you can also acquire the textbook on your own if you wish.

Other Resources

All other learning resources will be available online.

Challenge for Credit Course Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university level course.

Full information for the Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the PSYC 310 challenge registration, you must complete and achieve a grade of at least “D” (50 per cent) on an assignment and at least “D” (50 per cent) on an exam. The assignment involves locating an empirical research article about learning or instruction and then summarizing and critiquing it. The exam consists entirely of short essay questions.

Assignment Final Examination Total
35% 65% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, December 12, 2012.

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