Theorist: Robert Sternberg

Triarchic Learning Model

Theory: Cognitivism

Timeline: 1949-present


Sternberg is an American psychologist, psychometrican, and currently the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. His interest in human intelligence stemmed from early school experiences. Using both personal experiences and research around human intelligence he created a broader definition of intelligence. Sternberg developed a triarchic theory of intelligence because traditional intelligence tests only look at a person’s analytical skills, verbal skills, and their ability to memorize facts. Creative and practical skills are overlooked. Sternberg believes that in order for an individual to do well in life they must possess “successful intelligence”. Individuals with successful intelligence not only know what their abilities are, but they know when and how to use them. His triarchic model of human intelligence is a holistic approach to intelligence.
Sternberg also believes that thinking styles have a direct impact on how well students do in the classroom and later in life. Sternberg developed a model of cognitive styles called mental self- government. Each individual determines the style or combination of styles that will be used based on circumstances. Using a particular style may cause success in one area of our lives, but not necessarily in another. Individuals have strengths and weaknesses in all styles. A person’s style is not fixed and movement from one style to another takes place throughout life.

Major Works:

Sternberg, R. J. (1985): Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge
University Press
Sternberg, R. (1996). Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine
Success in Life. NY, Simon and Schuster
Sternberg, R. (1997). Thinking Styles. UK, Cambridge University Press

Relevant Links:

Application of Learning Transfer: In order to increase learning transfer, teachers need to match instrucion and assessment to students variou thinking styles.For example, thought-based questioning will support judicail and legislative thinking styles. An assessment that includes projects that involve analysis is most compatible with judicial styles.