Structural Learning Theory

Joseph M. Scadura designed the Structural Learning Theory in 1973. This theory describes how, in his opinion, learners learn best. The major assumption of this theory is that leaners organize their knowledge into a structure, or schema, that creates rules. These rules help to make sense of the world around us. The Structural Learning Theory therefore believes that the best way to teach students is to connect new content to the pre-determined rules in the learners’ schema and help them to create new rules to classify new information by.
The first step in determining an instructional approach based on the Structural Learning Theory is to set educational goals. Once goals are set, the instructor must determine what the learners must know in order to create the goals; this is called a Prototypic Cognitive Process. The instructor must determine a structural analysis that includes sample problems in which fulfill the educational goal. These sample problems must have an identifiable common rule (“logical sequences by which the solutions of the problem may be derived) that will be applied by the learner during the lesson.
There are many real-world applications of the Structural Learning Theory. Learners use this theory when they are asked to review someone else’s work. When reviewing a peer’s essay, the student applies rules about what makes a “good” essay and applies it to the new material. Another example of real-world application is comparing and contrasting as well as making inferences. Although this learning theory is not discussed/ researched frequently (most recent research ended in the mid 1980’s), it remains applicable in understanding how students connect previous knowledge to new material in an effort to make sense of the world around them.

Ikegulu, N.(1996). Scaandura’s Structural Learning Theory: A Critique. Retrieved from