Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica W. Tracey


Educators are in a never-ending search for identifying instructional strategies as technological resources and support for the classroom continue to evolve. In order to optimize learning results and mastery of the learning material, faculty must present instructional content in a manner that supports cognitive processing strategies, and is sequenced in an order that enables the learner to build upon prior knowledge. The primary role of the educator in higher education is to guide students through the acquisition of new skills and promote self-directed learning. Educators must continue to pursue areas for improvement in current teaching structures with a view to identify instructional strategies that are learner-centered. Designing instruction methodologies that take into consideration cognitive learning theory and how the brain processes information can assist in selecting strategies that are learner-centered for disseminating educational content to the learning audience.

The purpose of this study was to take an ethnographic approach to observe what instructional strategies educators currently use in undergraduate classroom settings. Instructional strategies that were observed through direct observation included the sequencing of course materials, interactions between educators and students, and opportunities for students to engage in active learning. Interviews were conducted with educators to discuss the various challenges that they encountered while teaching. Students were interviewed to provide information pertaining to challenges that they encountered while learning. Educators participated in a cognitive apprenticeship that provided them with tools to incorporate instructional strategies that aligned with the premises associated with cognitive learning and conditions-based theories.

Observations and extensive field notes were completed to document how faculty members taught at the outset of the cognitive apprenticeship and subsequently, during the cognitive apprenticeship intervention to determine whether there was any significant change resulting from their teaching strategies. Interviews were conducted with faculty and students to gauge their perceptions regarding the instructional strategies utilized within the classroom.

Faculty participants enrolled in the experimental group participated in a semester-long cognitive apprenticeship. The researcher worked closely with faculty participants on an individual basis following a cognitive apprenticeship framework to train them on how to incorporate more learner-centered instructional methods into their course. Surveys were administered to students enrolled in the second semester course to measure their perceptions of motivation with regards to learning the course material. Surveys were administered to the faculty to measure their perceptions of motivation with regards to teaching the course material. Interviews were held with each faculty participant and a sample of their students inquiring about the instructional strategies used in class, the sequencing of content, and the overall learning environment. Exploration as to how learner-centered instructional strategies can be incorporated within higher education was also discussed.