Course Syllabus

Basic Course Syllabus for Graduate Credit


Architecture of Learning Basic Course


Three Graduate Credits granted through Northwest Missouri State University; 18+ hours (3 full days) of formal, in-person instruction plus text reading and summarizing, and a major curricular project with follow-up via technology


Architecture of Learning, an instructional design model based on neurocognitive and educational research findings, equips teachers to design instruction based on a comprehensive understanding of learning, subject matter types, and assessment. Because current brain and learning research informed this model’s creation, instruction designed using this model enables natural learning.

Instructional design grids—Architecture of Learning Blueprints—align methods, subject matter, and student thinking to produce learning. The type of subject matter to be taught—skill, content, or a combination—dictates the type of Blueprint selected, customizing the teaching-learning process. The Blueprint guides the selection and sequence of learning activities that compose an instructional unit.

The Architecture of Learning Basic Course is a three-day professional development event that explores:

The neurocognitive process of constructing understanding

The concept of cognitive blending and its relationship to learning

The relationships between experience, comprehension, elaboration, application, and intention

The various types of subject matter and the learning processes associated with each

Instructional design using Architecture of Learning Blueprints

The development of assessments based on the process of teaching, which is based on the process of learning, creating instructional coherence and validity

An acceptable undergraduate degree (e.g., a bachelor’s degree in education) that would qualify the student for entry into a graduate education program.


Authentic learning produces understanding and enables transfer. Effective instruction moves learners from knowing the details of content or skills to understanding how they fit together so that intentional application can be made.

However, not all learning involves the same cognitive processes. The identification of what is being taught impacts the choice of instructional methods.

Architecture of Learning enables teachers to identify the type of subject matter they are teaching (content, skill, combination), identify the underlying patterns that support that subject matter, develop instruction that engages mental processes appropriate for developing understanding, identify the form and content of appropriate assessments and develop those assessments, and teach with an emphasis on understanding, utility, and integration.
Intended Audience

Educators responsible for designing and presenting effective instruction at all levels, early childhood to post-graduate.


To become knowledgeable in the theory of conceptual blending, its connection to working memory, to the development of understanding, and to the transfer of learning.

To understand the processes of experience, comprehension, elaboration, application, and intention; how each process contributes to learning; and understand the role of pattern recognition in the transfer of learning.

To differentiate between comprehension and elaboration and develop instructional activities that engage each process.

To understand the interrelationship of the five learning processes in producing true learning and mastery.

To identify instructional subject matter type, identify the processes involved in learning such material, and develop instruction on a “Blueprint” that emphasizes those processes

To recognize the direct connections between instruction and the form and content of assessment as indicated by the critical intersections on an Architecture of Learning Blueprint.

To understand the necessity of instructive feedback in promoting optimal learning and to recognize the role well-constructed assessment instruments play in such formative assessment.

To develop assessments that match the form and content of instruction, including the development of rubrics for use in grading.

Learn to increase student understanding in learning by increasing the amount and quality of student thinking.


The course is taught by qualified, certified Architecture of Learning instructors, usually during 3 consecutive, full days of instruction. Each day of instruction has been designed using Architecture of Learning and appropriately models the processes of experience, comprehension, elaboration, application, and intention. Sessions are intense and require high levels of participation and critical thinking.


The Architecture of Learning Basic Course Book

The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain (9780984345908)


Grades awarded will be A, B, C, I, or F. It is expected that ALL student work will reflect high standards and a high degree of effort on the part of the learner. Grades will be based on the following elements:

Students will contribute to all sessions. Due to the intensity of the course, students must attend every session and participate in all activities (25% of the final grade).

Students will read The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain in its entirety and submit 3-5 sentences summaries for Chapters 1-6 (25% of the final grade).

Students will submit 1 original, complete unit plan and assessments developed using Architecture of Learning (50% of the final grade) in an area of instruction other than reading. Specifically, all of the following items should be submitted:

An outline of the unit presented on an Architecture of Learning planning grid (see examples on pages 118, 120, 122, 126, 128, 130, 132, 134, 138, and 142 of the Architecture of Learning Basic Course Book and/or pages 84, 120, and 150 of The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain

Detailed plans for each activity in the unit. These should be written with the detail of a teacher’s edition, as if the author were developing the unit so that someone who has never seen it before would know exactly what to do. See Architecture of Learning Basic Course Book pages 118-119, 121, 122-124, 127, 128-129, 130-131, 132-133, 134-136, 138-140, and 143 for examples.

Appropriate assessment instruments, including rubrics, that have obvious connections to the critical intersections on the Architecture of Learning planning grid. See pages 93-96 of the Architecture of Learning Basic Course Book for examples.

All of the above must be original work, created and completed by the individual requesting credit. All work will be evaluated using the rubrics featured on pages 252-253 and 254-255 of The Architecture of Learning: Designing Instruction for the Learning Brain. All completed work must be submitted within fourteen days of the course completion.

All work must be submitted electronically via email to Dr. Kevin D. Washburn at Questions regarding requirements and/or submission may also be directed to Dr. Washburn. Work submitted via other methods will not be reviewed and will not qualify for grading or credit. Work may be created and submitted in any of the following formats: Apple’s Pages, Microsoft Word, or Adobe Acrobat (pdf file).