Root node

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PSLC theoretical hierarchy’s Root Node


PSLC research is primarily concerned with finding out what instructional environments, methods or activities causes students’ learning to be robust. Although normal learning can be measured with immediate, near-transfer post-tests, we measure robustness with three addition measures: long-term retention, far transfer and accelerated future learning.


PSLC General Glossary

Full Glossary

Research question

What instructional activities or methods cause students’ learning to be robust?

How can science and technology improve academic learning and make such learning more robust?

Dependent variables

Measures of basic learning (an immediate, near-transfer or "normal" post-test) and measures of robust learning (long-term retention, transfer and accelerated future learning). These measures typically appear as problems, activities, or items on paper and/or on-line tests. Measures are designed to assess whether students have acquired particular knowledge components at the right level of generality (see feature validity) and with sufficient strength to be retained for future use.

Independent variables

Independent variables in PSLC are primarily instructional activities, methods, or treatments. Studies might also include independent variables that measure individual differences, like a language students' first language.


Learning will be robust if the instructional activities are designed to include appropriate paths, and the students tend to follow those paths during instruction.


Instructional activities influence the depth and generality of the students’ acquired knowledge components, the knowledge components’ strength and feature validity, and the student’s motivation. These in turn influence the students’ performance on measures of robust learning. That is, we take a cognitive stance, rather than a radically distributed or situated stance.

At the macro level, instruction produces robust learning if it increases the frequency of:

At the micro level, instruction produces robust learning if:

  • The instruction is designed so that the learning event space has some target paths that would cause an ideal student to acquire knowledge that is deep, general, strong and retrieval-feature-valid.
  • Most students follow a target path most of the time. There are many factors outside the easy control of the experimenter or instructor, such as motivation and recall, that affect whether students actually follow the target paths designed into the instruction.