ERGP Project - online resources: Learning and Teaching

This section of the website contains links to books and articles that introduce learning and teaching theories as well as some research done on learning in higher education context.

How People Learn; Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition (2000)

First released in the Spring of 1999, How People Learn has been expanded to show how the theories can translate into actions and practice, making a real connection between classroom activities and learning behavior. This edition includes far-reaching suggestions for research that could increase the impact that classroom teaching has on actual learning.

This book offers exciting new research about the mind and the brain that provides answers to a number of compelling questions. When do infants begin to learn? How do experts learn and how is this different from non-experts? What can teachers and schools do-with curricula, classroom settings, and teaching methods--to help children learn most effectively? New evidence from many branches of science has significantly added to our understanding of what it means to know, from the neural processes that occur during learning to the influence of culture on what people see and absorb.

How People Learn examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning. This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system.

Topics include:

  • How learning actually changes the physical structure of the brain.
  • How existing knowledge affects what people notice and how they learn.
  • What the thought processes of experts tell us about how to teach.
  • The amazing learning potential of infants.
  • The relationship of classroom learning and everyday settings of community and workplace.
  • Learning needs and opportunities for teachers.


Hoidn. S. (2017). Student-Centred Learning Environments for Deep Learning in Higher Education Classrooms. New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan,

This book aims to develop a situative educational model to guide the design and implementation of powerful student-centered learning environments in higher education classrooms. A paradigm and culture shift from teacher-centred to student-centred learning and instruction is proposed. The ethnographic case study research (empirical study) investigates three authentic university courses (seminars with 25 up to 38 students) for prospective educators enrolled in a 1-year Master’s programme at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, USA. Exploring authentic classroom learning, teaching and interaction practices provides rare and detailed glimpses into student-centred classrooms in order to carve out and systematise characteristic course design elements, instructional strategies, and teaching and learning challenges these classrooms present for the instructors and/or the students.

Chapter 2 focuses mainly in learning theory “ Constructivist Foundations and Common Design Principles of Students-Centered Learning Environments” (pp 24-103). 


Learning Patterns in Higher Education: Dimensions and research perspectives (2013), edited by David Gijbels, Vincent Donche, John T. E. Richardson, Jan D. Vermunt

Learning Patterns in Higher Education brings together a cutting edge international team of contributors to critically review our current understanding of how students and adults learn, how differences and changes in the way students learn can be measured in a valid and reliable way, and how the quality of student learning may be enhanced. 

There is substantial evidence that students in higher education have a characteristic way of learning, sometimes called their learning orientation (Biggs 1988), learning style (Evans et al. 2010) or learning pattern (Vermunt and Vermetten 2004). However, recent research in the field of student learning has resulted in multi-faceted and sometimes contradictory results which may reflect conceptual differences and differences in measurement of student learning in each of the studies. This book deals with the need for further clarification of how students learn in higher education in the 21st century and to what extent the measurements often used in learning pattern studies are still up to date or can be advanced with present methodological and statistical insights to capture the most important differences and changes in student learning.

This indispensable book covers multiple conceptual perspectives on how learning patterns can be described and effects and developments can be measured, and will not only be helpful for ‘learning researchers’ as such but also for educational researchers from the broad domain of educational psychology, motivation psychology and instructional sciences, who are interested in student motivation, self-regulated learning, effectiveness of innovative learning environments, as well as assessment and evaluation of student characteristics and learning process variables.


Contemporary Theories of Learning. Learning theorists … in their own words. (2009). Edited by Knud Illeris. Routledge: London, New York

In this clear and coherent overview, Professor Knud Illeris has collated chapters that explain both the complex frameworks in which learning takes place and the specific facets of learning. Each international expert provides either a seminal text or an entirely new précis of the conceptual framework they have developed over a lifetime of study, such as adult learning theory, learning strategies, and the cultural and social nature of learning processes.

Elucidating the key concepts of learning, Contemporary Theories of Learning provides both the perfect desk reference and an ideal introduction for students; it is an invaluable resource for all researchers and academics involved in the study of learning, and provides a detailed synthesis of current learning theories… all in the words of the theorists themselves (Peter Jarvis, Robert Kegan Yrjö Engeström, Sharan B. Merriam, John A. T. Hattie, Gregory M. Donoghue, Jack Mezirow, Howard Gardner,  Peter Alheit, Mark Tennant, Jerome Bruner, Robin Usher, Thomas Ziehe, Danny Wildemeersch, Veerle Stroobants, Gert Biesta)


Vermunt, J. D. & Vermetten, Y. J. (2004). Patterns in student learning: Relationships between learning strategies, conceptions of learning, and learning orientations. Educational Psychology Review 16 (4), 359-384

This paper reviews the research conducted in the last decade on patterns in student learning, mostly in higher education. More specifically, the review focuses on a series of studies that have in common (a) the use of the Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS), an instrument aimed at measuring several components of student learning, namely, cognitive processing strategies, metacognitive regulation strategies, conceptions of learning, and learning orientations; and/or (b) an integrative learning theory focussing on the interplay between self-regulation and external regulation of learning processes as a theoretical framework.


Vermunt, J. D.  Donche. V. (2017)  Learning Patterns Perspective on Student Learning in Higher Education: State of the Art and Moving Forward. Educational Psychology Review 29, 269–299

https://DOI 10.1007/s10648-017-9414-6

The aim of this article is to review the state of the art of research and theory development on student learning patterns in higher education and beyond. First, the learning patterns perspective and the theoretical framework are introduced. Second, research published since 2004 on student learning patterns is systematically identified and reviewed.


Simons, R.-J. & Ruijters, M. C.P. (2008). Varieties of work related learning. International Journal of Educational Research 47, 241–251


 Based on 30 interviews with and observations of professionals, 5 prototypical metaphors of learning are described and related to existing theories about learning. Two of the metaphors were previously described by Sfard: the acquisition and participation metaphors. As well, three new metaphors were found: the discovery metaphor, the apperception metaphor and the exercising metaphor. The discussion describes the practical use of the metaphors and suggestions for further research.


Virtanen, A. & Tynjälä, P.  (2018). Factors explaining the learning of generic kills: a study of university students' experiences. Teaching in Higher Education,

 Although generic skills have received widespread attention from both policymakers and educationalists, little is known regarding how students acquire these skills, or how they should best be taught. Hence, the aim of this study was to identify what kinds of pedagogical practices are behind the learning of eight particular generic skills. The findings from regression analyses showed that teaching practices involving collaboration and interaction as well as features of a constructivist learning environment and integrative pedagogy predicted the learning of generic skills. In contrast, the traditional forms of university teaching – such as reading, lecturing, and working alone – were negatively associated to learning generic skills.


Postareff, L. & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (2008). Variation in teachers' descriptions of teaching: Broadening the understanding of teaching in higher education. Learning and Instruction, 18 (2),109-120

In the present study 71 university teachers from several disciplines were interviewed in order to capture the variation in descriptions of teaching. Two broad categories of description were identified: the learning-focused and the content-focused approaches to teaching.


Postareff, L., Katajavuori, N., Lindblom‐Ylänne, S. & Trigwell, K. (2008). Consonance and dissonance in descriptions of teaching of university teachers. Studies in Higher Education, 33 (1).

Studies on teachers' approaches to teaching have identified two qualitatively different categories of approaches. The learning-focused approach is about teaching as facilitating students' learning and learning as knowledge construction, while the content-focused approach concerns teaching as transmission of knowledge and learning as absorbing the transmitted information. The aim of the present study is to explore consonance and dissonance in the kinds of combinations of approaches to teaching that university teachers adopt. The results showed that some teachers were clearly and systematically either learning or content focused. On the other hand, profiles of some teachers consisted of combinations of learning and content focused approaches or conceptions, making their profiles dissonant.


Stes, A.  & Van Petegem, P. (2014). Profiling approaches to teaching in higher education: a cluster-analytic study. Studies in Higher Education, 39 (4).

Teaching approaches in higher education have already been the subject of a considerable body of research. An important contribution was Prosser and Trigwell's development of the Approaches to Teaching Inventory (ATI). The present study aims to map out the approaches to teaching profiles of teachers in higher education on the basis of their scores on the ATI. The assignment of teachers to different profiles reflects a particular combination of scores on the ATI, which yields more information relative to teachers' scores on the separate scales. Our results also provide further insight into the validity of the ATI as an instrument for ascertaining teachers' approaches to teaching. Cluster analysis of the ATI data from 377 teachers revealed four profiles. Interview data with 30 teachers enabled us to obtain more detailed pictures of the profiles.


Trigwell, K., Prosser, M. & Waterhouse, F. (1999). Relations between teachers' approaches to teaching and students' approaches to learning. Higher education, 37(57)

This paper reports on an empirical study which shows that qualitatively different approaches to teaching are associated with qualitatively different approaches to learning. More specifically, the results indicate that in the classes where teachers describe their approach to teaching as having a focus on what they do and on transmitting knowledge, students are more likely to report that they adopt a surface approach to the learning of that subject. Conversely, but less strongly, in the classes where students report adopting significantly deeper approaches to learning, teaching staff report adopting approaches to teaching that are more oriented towards students and to changing the students’ conceptions. The study made use of a teaching approach inventory derived from interviews with academic staff, and a modified approach to learning questionnaire. These conclusions are derived from a factor and cluster analysis of 48 classes (involving 46 science teachers and 3956 science students) in Australian universities. The results complete a chain of relations from teacher thinking to the outcomes of student learning. Previous studies have shown relations between teachers' conceptions of teaching and learning and their approaches to teaching. Numerous studies have shown correlations between students' deeper approaches to learning and higher quality learning outcomes. The results reported here link these two sets of studies. They also highlight the importance, in attempts to improve the quality of student learning, of discouraging teacher-focused transmission teaching and encouraging higher quality, conceptual change/student-focused approaches to teaching.


Paths to Learning: Teaching for Engagement in College

Tobolowsky, Barbara F., Ed.In the book Tobolowsky, B. F. (Ed) (2014). Paths to learning: Teaching for engagement in college. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition

This book offers a succinct description of several pedagogical paths available to faculty that can actively engage all students. In addition to providing the most recent information on learning and assessment, individual chapters tackle different approaches, including critical pedagogy, contemplative pedagogy, strengths-based teaching, and cooperative/collaborative learning. While the discussion is grounded in theory, authors present examples of applying these approaches in physical and virtual learning environments. "Paths to Learning" is a valuable overview of engaging pedagogies for educators seeking to sharpen their teaching skills, which in turn, will help students become more confident and successful learners