A cognitive model for the evaluation of units of instruction


This paper describes an approach to the problem of how particular pre-existing systems of cognitive structures in individuals could be brought to bear on the design and evaluation of an instructional unit. The paper takes the understanding and active use of spatial prepositions as an example of a general instructional goal, and (1) analyzes cognitive systems involved in different uses of prepositions, introducing natural units called “components”; (2) discusses in detail how pre-existing sensorymotor and conceptual knowledge is related to the instructional situation in order to build the desired components naturally; and (3) cites existing psychological research illustrating how research can be used to discover the types of components to look for in individuals. The example, thus worked out in detail, serves to demonstrate the relevance of specific pre-existing cognitive structures which most instructional theory and practice neglects. It also illustrates the heuristic value for evaluating and designing instructional procedures of inventing structures to account for organized aspects of human behavior.

Document Type





human behavior, psychological research, natural unit, cognitive system, cognitive model

Publication Date


Journal Title

Instructional Science