- The Learners -


Analyzing learner characteristics is essential since this will help you to determine what strategies to use in actual instruction. Identifying the characteristics of learners entails gathering information on the learners' cognitive, physiological, affective, and social characteristics (Smith & Ragan, 1999). Learner information can be obtained from surveys, interviews, observations, results of previous course performance, and assessment of their current knowledge/skill levels. The following list, adapted from Smith and Ragan (1999), may serve as a guideline in depicting the profile of your target learners. Note that depending on the learning task, it is not necessary to include all factors given below in your analysis.


Cognitive Characteristics


A. General characteristic
  • General aptitudes
  • Specific aptitudes
  • Development level
  • Language development level
  • Reading level
  • Level of visual literacy
  • Cognitive processing styles (read an article by G. Kearsley)
  • Learning styles (visit the Learning Styles Resource Page by J. Shindler; read an article on Myers-Briggs' learning styles by H. J. Brightman; Read an article on Kolb's learning styles by J. Blackmore)
  • Cognitive and learning strategies
  • General world knowledge
B. Specific prior knowledge


Physiological Characteristics


A. Sensory perception (read a summary of information theory by P. E. Doolittle)
B. General health
C. Age


Affective Characteristics


A. Interests
B. Motivation and motivation to learn (read an article by S. C. Tzeng 
C. Attitude toward learning and subject matter
D. Perceptions of and experiences with specific forms of mediation
E. Academic self-concept
F. Anxiety level
G. Beliefs
H. Attribution of success (i.e., locus of control)



Social Characteristics


A. Relationships to peers

B. Feelings toward authority

C. Tendencies toward cooperation or competition

D. Moral development (read an article by Y. L. LaMar)

E. Socioeconomic background

F. Racial/ethnic background, affiliations

G. Role models




Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional design (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.