Designing your teaching sessions using Laurillard’s learning types

This article explains the six learning types introduced by Professor Diana Laurillard of University College London. They are essentially different activities that you can build into your course. They are underpinned by Laurillard’s pedagogical theory of the Conversational Framework [1], but in practice if you aim to cover these six learning types across your module they will support your students in all the key elements of learning.

What are the six learning types?

Laurillard’s Learning Types (accessible PDF)


In the above PDF the learning types are listed with a summary, further explanation and relevant examples, and a description based on Bloom’s taxonomy to give an indication of the level of learning covered. This is largely to highlight that Acquisition promotes only a very basic level of learning, and should therefore be supplemented by other learning types.

Additional activities

The final two, not covered by Laurillard, have been added as further suggestions for activities. The original learning types were based on five media forms; narrative, interactive, adaptive, communicative and productive (see [2] and [3]). For integration with the theory, a reflection activity could potentially be considered an adaptive form (as it prompts students to change their practice), whereas peer teaching would be a further communicative form.

Using learning types in practice

When applying learning types to module design, don’t worry too much about the precise amount of time spent on each; the point is to ensure that there is a variety of learning activities. In particular, note that the traditional student activities of attending lectures and reading textbooks only count as one learning type – Acquisition. The purpose of acquisition activities is to give students the basic information they need to understand the subject, but it does not particularly help them to engage with or process that information and turn it into knowledge. They may not even remember it very clearly without having deliberated on and contextualised it. So while it is impossible to be prescriptive, as some topics will require a considerable amount of core concepts to be covered and facts to be recalled, it is advisable to keep acquisition activities to a minimum – some suggest 20% [4].

The Learning Designer online tool

UCL have produced an online Learning Designer based on the six learning types. You can sign up for free and use it to create lesson plans which will show you the balance of not just the learning types but also synchronous versus asynchronous activities, individual versus group and face to face versus online.

See also our article for using Laurillard’s learning types for online and blended learning.


[1] Laurillard, D, 2002. Rethinking University Teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies, 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

[2] Laurillard conversational framework

[3] Learning as conversation

[4] This is the figure used by Cambridge Education Group Digital in their online training course Learning Design: Frameworks and Applications.

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