Scientific Pedagogy


Teacher-directed approaches to influencing learning

Principal Metaphors

Instructivism is not associated with a specific perspective on learning. It is most often linked to the full spectrum Correspondence Discourses, across which notions associated with the Acquisition Metaphor and the Attainment Metaphor figure most prominently:
  • Knowledge is … skills
  • Knowing is … applying; performing
  • Learner is … recipient; seeker; worker (individual)
  • Learning is … acquiring; attaining; practicing
  • Teaching is … instructing (literally: giving instructions)




Instructivism is a generic term used in reference to teacher-directed learning contexts. Currently, the term is most often heard as a pejorative. Thus, Instructivism is typically described in terms of teacher-centered and delivery-focused lessons in which passive, undifferentiated learners are expected to master pre-specified content. It is also associated with directive modes of teaching inspired by Behaviorisms. Associated discourses include:
  • Vestibule Training (Industry, late 1700s) – instruction (i.e., literally, giving instructions) on how to operate machinery, provided in factory-based classrooms near the actual work floor. Vestibule Training affords important insight into how “instruction” came to be synonymous with “teaching” during the industrial era.
  • Instructionism (Seymour Papert, 1980s) – a term coined by Papert to contrast with his Constructionism. It is roughly synonymous with Instructivism.


In many contexts, it is out of fashion to explicitly embrace Instructivism in any form. Nevertheless, the teaching mode persists, suggesting that is resides in a robust and resilient network of associations on knowledge and learning. As well, it is important to acknowledge that, for learners with appropriate backgrounds, treating knowledge as conveyable information can be an efficient way to proceed on some matters. Indeed, this point is constantly being demonstrated by platforms and strategies devoted to the dissemination of information (e.g., social media, cable news).

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

Instructivism is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Instructivism is a generalized notion that encompasses many, more specific theories of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

To the surprise (and, sometimes, consternation) of many, there is actually a substantial body of evidence that supports the utility and effectiveness of Instructivism, provided learners are adequately prepared and motivated. That said, proponents of the approach are notoriously unaware of (and/or uncritical of) assumptions about learning and other considerations necessary for Instructivism to be broadly considered scientific.


  • Instructionism
  • Vestibule Training

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Instructivism” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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