Shweta Perswal

Elaboration Theory:

  • This theory was given by Charles Reigeluth (Indiana University) and associates in late 1970s.
  • It is a model for sequencing and organizing courses of instruction.
  • This theory is an extension of Ausubel's advance organizers and Bruner's spiral curriculum.
  • It is a descriptive theory concerned with the manner in which the cognitive domain (as described by Gagne) is structured.

The theory is a model for making scope and sequence decisions, to simplify the content or task. For Reigeluth this is a strategy for conceptual presentation in which concepts are organized and presented in increasing order of complexity. This is a "chunking down".Initially the instructor can use basic ideas to represent the content of the lesson and then details and variations can be filled in later classes. In each lesson the earlier ideas,skills are briefly reviewed. A main component of this theory is for the learners to identify meaningful ways to apply the information or skills learned by them in the real world.

This theory proposes seven major strategy components:

1. An Elaborative Sequence : It is the most important step in elaboration. It can take many forms such as advance organizer, spiral curriculum or an overview.
a. Conceptual sequence: It is used when there are many related concepts to be learned.
b. Procedural sequence: It is used when a task of moderate complexity is to be learned.
c. Theoretical sequence: It is used when there are many related principles to be learned.

2. Organize: This step elaborates upon organizing the content in the first level.

3. Summarization: To review systematically, a summarizer is created.

4. Synthesis: This step integrates and interrelates the ideas. It helps in facilitating deeper learning.

5. Analogy: It is the use of familiar idea or concept to introduce or define a new idea or concept.

6. Cognitive-Strategy Activator: The use of picture, diagrams and other elements force the learner to interact with sequence and content.

7. Learner Control: It deals with the freedom of learner to control the selection and sequencing of such instructional elements as content, rate, components and cognitive strategies

Effect of Elaboration:


Videos related to Elaboration Theory:

The Elaboration Theory-A Slight Irreverrent Review

Elaboration Theory Emma

Use of Elaboration Theory:

This theory can be used with directed as well as constructivist learning

Who can use Elaboration Theory:

This theory assists teacher/designer to manage instructions.

Strengths of Elaboration Theory:

  1. It allows the learners to make many scope and sequence decisions on their own.
  2. It facilitates rapid prototyping in instructional development process.
  3. The sequence of instruction is holistic.
  4. Integrates viable approaches to scope and sequence into coherent theory.

Weaknesses of Elaboration Theory:

  1. Content needs to be fairly complex.
  2. It does not accomodate learner's prior knowledge.
  3. Use of 3 primary structures (conceptual,procedural, theoretical ) is a design constraint.
  4. There is no prescription for providing authentic/situated learning.

Similarities to other models/theories:

Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory is an extension of Ausubel's advance organizers and Bruner's spiral curriculum. Bruner's spiral curriculum proposes a teaching approach in which each subject or skill area is revisited at intervals, at a more sophisticated level each time. Whereas Ausubel 's theory is concerned with how individuals learn large amounts of meaningful materials from verbal or textual presentations (in school setting). He emphasized the use of advanced organizers and considered them to act as a bridge between new learning materials and the existing related ideas.This theory is also similar to Constructivism (learning theory). According to Constructivism the instructors/facilitators should first introduce the basic ideas of the topic/subject area and then revisit to build upon these ideas repeatedly.


Clark D. (2004) Reigeluth Elaboration Theroy for Instructional Design. Retrieved July 19,2011 from
Reljic S., ED 84 Charles M.Reigeluth Elaboration Theory-An Introduction [Slideshow]. Retrieved July 19, 2011 from
Reigeluth Charles M. (2008) Elaboration Theory- Knowledge Base and Webliography. Retrieved July 20,2011 from
Reigeluth Charles M. (2009) Theories of Learning in Educational Psychology : Elaboration Theory. Retrieved July 21,2011 from
The Elaboration Theory-A Slight Irreverrent Review [Video File]. Retrieved July 21, 2011 from
Reigeluth Elaboration Theory Emma.m4v [Video File]. Retrieved July 21,2011 from