Learning, Training, and Human Performance Glossary

Words beginning with the letter “C” are listed below. For words starting with a different letter, use the below table:

S T U V W X Y Z Acronyms

case study

A text-based description of a problem or situation that contains enough detail to enable the learners to recommend a solution. The learners encounter a real-life situation under the guidance of an instructor or computer in order to achieve an instructional objective. Control of the discussion comes through by the amount of the detail provided. Examples, The Fall of Quest, Jack In The Box, and The Tylenol Crises.


What gets in the way of individual and organizational performance. There are normally four kinds of causes: absence of skills, knowledge, or information; weak motivation; improper environment; and flawed incentives.


Program and process where a learner completes prescribed training and passes an assessment with a minimum acceptable score. To increase validity and assure authentication, the certification process should be proctored by an independent agent.


An instructional technique that transforms a learned response into a stimulus for the next desired response. See, Robert Gagnè.


The process of dividing instructional materials into sections in order to promote understanding. What is known as "sequencing and organizing epitomes" in Reigeluth's Elaboration theory, is commonly referred to as "chunking."


Classroom learning or conventional learning as compared to e-learning (electronic).


A process of organizing many tasks into groups for the purpose of deciding upon the optimal instructional setting mix for that group of tasks. Also pertains to sequencing groups of objectives within a course of instruction.


A person who instructs, demonstrates, directs, and prompts learners. Generally concerned with methods rather than concepts. There are four coaching roles/styles:
  • hands-on - acting as an instructor for inexperienced learners
  • hands-off - developing high performance in experienced learners
  • supporter - helping learners use a flexible learning package
  • qualifier - helping a learner develop a specific requirement for a competence-based or professional qualification


From the Latin cogito; "I think". The mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning. Cognitive also refers to attempts to identify a perspective or theory in contrast to emphasizing observable behavior.

cognitive domain

Involves mental processes. The Taxonomy of categories arranged in ascending order of difficulty are:
  • Knowledge: Recognition and recall of information.
  • Comprehension: Interprets, translates or summarizes given information.
  • Application: Uses information in a situation different from original learning context.
  • Analysis: Separates wholes into parts until relationships are clear.
  • Synthesis: Combines elements to form new entity from the original one.
  • Evaluation: Involves acts of decision making based on criteria or rationale.

cognitive engagement

The intentional and purposeful processing of lesson content. Engagement, in effect, requires strategies that promote manipulation rather than memorization, as the means through which learners acquire both lesson knowledge and deeper conceptual insight. Engagement can be elevated through a variety of activities such as inducing cognitive dissonance, posing argumentative questions requiring the development of a supportable position, and causing learners to generate a prediction and rationale during a lesson.

cognitive load theory

This theory describes learning structures (schemas). Intrinsic cognitive load is associated with task difficulty, while extraneous cognitive load is associated to task presentation. The theory states that if both intrinsic cognitive load and extraneous cognitive load are high, then problem solving will either fail or be extremely difficult. The idea is to lower or modifying the task presentation to a lower level in order to facilitate problem solving. See, Five Years later: A Review of Kirschner, Sweller and Clark's Why Minimal Guidance during Instruction Does Not Work.


Believe that learning occurs when learners are able to add new concepts and ideas to their cognitive structure by recognizing a relationship between something they already know and what they are learning. The focus of cognitivists is on the inputs of the learning process. Cognitive theorists emphasize internal processes and knowledge representations which are impossible to observe directly, but which are inferred.

cognitive task analysis (CTA)

The study of what people know, how they think, how they organize and structure information, and how they learn when pursuing an outcome they are trying to achieve.

collaborative learning

A more radical departure from "cooperative learning." It involves learners working together in small groups to develop their own answer through interaction and reaching consensus, but not necessarily a known answer. Monitoring the groups or correcting "wrong" impressions is not the role of the trainer since there is no authority on what the answer should be. 

collective task

A task that requires more than one individual to complete with each individual performing a discreet part of the collective task.

common learning objective

A learning objective written for a task element (supporting skill or knowledge) that is common to two or more tasks.

Communities of Practice

A group of individuals who share a common interest, profession or craft who support informal and collaborative learning. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger describe a Community of Practice as "a set of relations among persons, activity and world, over time and in relation with other tangential and overlapping CoPs."


(1) Areas of personal capability that enable people to perform successfully in their jobs by completing task effectively. A competency can be knowledge, attitudes, skills, values, or personal values. Competency can be acquired through talent, experience, or training. (2) Competency comprises the specification of knowledge and skill and the application of that knowledge and skill to the standard of performance required in employment. For a competency model example, see Building the Leadership Competency Model.

competency-based instruction

Instruction that is organized around a set of learning objectives based upon the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to perform a set of skills called competencies. Evaluation of student success is based on competent performance of the skills. Normative measurement is specifically excluded from competency-based instruction.


A learning process in which learners embed declarative knowledge in highly domain specific rules or productions.

computer-assisted instruction (CAI)

The use of computers to aid in the delivery of instruction in which the system allows for remediation based on answers but not for a change in the underlying program structure.

computer-based training (CBT)

Interactive instructional experience between a computer and a learner in which the computer provides the majority of the stimulus and the learner responds, resulting in progress toward increased skills or knowledge. It has a more complicated branching program of mediation and answering than CAI. Computer-Based Training is now an all-encompassing term used to describe any computer-delivered training including CD-ROM and the World Wide Web. Some people still use the term CBT to refer only to old-time text-based training.


A mental picture of a group of things that have common characteristics. A generalization is a person's idea of the relationships between two or more concepts. Concepts represent a group of solid objects, such as an airplane or book; or abstract ideas, such as leadership and honesty. A concept is an idea about a group of things. A concept involves thinking about what it is that makes those things belong to that one group.

concept map (learning map)

The arrangement of major concepts from a text or lecture into a visual arrangement. Lines are drawn between associated concepts, and relationships between the connected concepts are named. These concept maps reveal the structural pattern in the material and provide the big picture.


The component of a learning objective that describes the situation, environment, or limitations in which the learner must exhibit the specified behavior.

conditional branching

Branching which occurs when a specified condition or set of conditions is satisfied.

conditioned response

A response that has been learned through employing a specific stimulus.


Giving each learner knowledge of the results of each exercise throughout the instructional process. This reinforces or rewards the learner during the entire learning situation.


Any element or factor that prevents a person from reaching a higher lever of performance with respect to her goal.

constructed response

An answer requiring recall or completion as opposed to recognition (e.g., drawing a diagram, filling in a form, and labeling the parts of a piece of equipment).


School of human learning that believes knowledge is a mental construct that is built on and added to. Learners create an image of what the world is like and how it works and they adapt and transform their understanding of new experiences. This theory of learning has consequences for teaching and learning strategies. By starting where the learners are at, that is, engaging prior knowledge with present learning, the trainer then assists the learners to build on their understanding of the world and its workings.

contextual interference

Factors that inhibit a quick and smooth mastery of a skill.

controlled pacing

A programming principle that implies self-pacing within an instructional system. The information and learner activity are developed so that the learners can progress toward the criterion objectives according to their own learning ability.

cooperative learning

Involves the more conventional notion of cooperation (see collaborative), in that learners work in small groups on an assigned project or problem under the guidance of the trainer. Also see collaborative learning.


The relationship between two sets of data, that when one changes, the other is likely to make a corresponding change. If the changes are in the same direction, then there is a positive correlation. If it is in the opposite direction, then it is a negative correlation.


A means of assisting and developing students and subordinates. A leader/instructor counsels subordinates: to praise and reward good performance, to develop teamwork, to inform students on how well or how poorly they are performing, to assist students to reach required standards, to cause students to set personal and professional goals, and to help students resolve personal problems.


A complete integrated series of lessons which are identified by a common title and/or number.

course management plan

A document that includes the course description and the administrative directions for managing a course. Sometimes called a training management plan.

course map

A chart that depicts the designed sequence for events of a course. See, Sequencing and Structuring Learning Activities in Instructional.

course trial

A full length course conducted in a target environment (facilities, instructors and students) using the curriculum and supporting training material prepared for that course. It has as its purpose the "shaking down" or "validating" of the curriculum and materials in a classroom situation to determine their effectiveness in attaining the approved learning objectives or training goals. Also called a pilot course.


The media, such as text, computer program, or CD-ROM, that contains the instructional content of the course.

covert behavior

Mental activity usually referred to as thinking. Behavior that is not directly observable but may be inferred from overt behavior that is observable. See, cognitive task analysis.


The standard by which something is measured. In training, the task or learning objective standard is the measure of student performance. In test validation, it is the standard against which test instruments are correlated to indicate the accuracy with which they predict human performance in some specific area. In evaluation it is the measure used to determine the adequacy of a product, process, or behavior. See, Testing Instruments in Instructional Design.

criterion referenced instruction

Testing of the objectives as a learner progresses through the course of instruction. Learners pass or fail depending upon their attainment of the objectives and NOT in accordance with their rank or standing among peers.

critical incident technique

A methodology of task analysis which determines the tasks to be included in instruction. Experts identify the critical job incidents and their products. Incidents are edited for redundancy, grouped into similar tasks, and then classified as positive or negative incidents. The incidents are summarized and then validated by the experts for completeness. This is a useful means for obtaining a list of relevant, real-world tasks to be included in instruction. See, cognitive task analysis.


Providing training in several different areas or functions. This provides backup workers when the primary worker is unavailable.


A prompt that signals performance is needed. An initiating cue is a signal to begin performing a task or task performance step. An internal cue is a signal to go from one element of a task to another. A terminating cue indicates task completion.


The aggregate of courses of study given in a learning environment. The courses are arranged in a sequence to make learning a subject easier. In schools, a curriculum spans several grades, for example, the math curriculum. In business, it can run for days, weeks, months, or years. Learners enter it at various points depending on their job experience and the needs of the business.
S T U V W X Y Z Acronyms