Views of knowledge acquisition and representation: A continuum from experience centered to mind centered

Ralph E. Reynolds, Gale M. Sinatra, Tamara L. Jetton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for discussing five approaches to understanding knowledge acquisition and representation. These approaches are behaviorism, schema theory, social perspective theories, connectionism, and situated cognition. We describe these approaches as lying on a continuum running from an experience-centered view of knowledge acquisition to a mind-centered view, with a more interactive view at the center. All five approaches are explicated in light of this continuum. Specifically, assumptions about knowledge acquisition and representation, the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, and the potential or actual impact on schooling are highlighted for each theory. We suggest that although each of these theories has merit in explaining certain aspects of knowledge acquisition, no approach adequately addresses the issues of consciousness, self-awareness, and self-reflection. Also, we argue that viewing cognitive functioning through the lenses of machine metaphors is never likely to lead to an understanding of these issues. Thus, what is required is a conception that embodies the sophistication of the computer metaphor with the added ability to evolve, feel, and adapt - in short, a biological metaphor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalEducational Psychologist
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


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