Walberg's Theory of Educational Productivity

19 February, 2021
Walberg's theory of educational productivity has a fundamental objective: to analyze what causes poor student performance.

Herbert J. Walberg is an educator turned researcher emeritus in pedagogy and psychology at the University of Illinois. He authored the theory of educational productivity, along with over 50 books. In addition, he conducted nearly 300 research studies. He’s mainly known for the model mentioned above.

Walberg’s theory of educational productivity had a fundamental objective: to determine what factors influenced students’ academic performance and how they did so. Its backbone rests on four fundamental pillars, detailed below.

Walberg’s theory of educational productivity

As noted above, Walberg’s theory sought to explain student performance. Being aware of the factors and variables that condition it, as these are clues as to why a student isn’t reaching their full potential. That’s why their grades don’t match their capabilities.

To determine all this, this theory has four fundamental elements that can help understand student performance. These are part of the article “Evaluation Effect of Critical Variables in Student Learning”. Continue reading for detailed information about each one of them.

“The cure to boredom is curiosity. There’s no cure for curiosity.”

-Dorothy Parker-

A woman studying.


This is the first element on which Walberg’s theory is based upon. It’s the student’s aptitude to progress and perform adequately. However, four elements comprise aptitude:

  • Prior performance. The knowledge the student has already acquired. Many teachers give a test before starting a subject to find out the level of the students and, thus, adapt to it.
  • Cognitive variables. Students with an above-average IQ or the opposite will potentially perform differently. They need activities that are specially designed for their characteristics.
  • Motivation. This is the intention of each student to conduct activities, solve problems, and get actively involved in their classes. There’s a clear lack of motivation nowadays and many students wonder why they need to study at all.
  • The maturity stage. This has a strong influence on student performance and the assimilation of new concepts. Likewise, it has an influence on what goes on in the classroom.


The environment in which learning takes place is another fundamental element to take into account when evaluating a student’s performance. For example, one should test the climate in their classroom. Are there many students? Do they continuously talk?

Also, keep in mind that there are other types of environments, such as the library or the home. This is because these spaces can also affect performance. For example, the student’s performance is likely to suffer if there are problems or arguments between parents at home.

Learning according to the theory of educational productivity

This is another key factor in Walberg’s educational productivity model. You’ll realize that the climate and methodology are far from motivating if you go into the classroom and look at how the current educational model is put into practice.

The long hours of classes, mostly theoretical, generate boredom and weariness in students. This is why they’re beginning to incorporate new educational methods such as Montessori to avoid this. However, public education is still based on a model that doesn’t promote the diversity of students. Walberg pointed to cooperative learning as an underappreciated and valuable source of access to knowledge.


Both quality and quantity come into play in this last element. Thus, the quality of teaching is important to build on everything mentioned here about learning. Once you have the right tools, you must focus on quantity.

Quantity and quality can improve the performance of a student who requires motivation and actively participates in learning. There are many stipulated hours but one can extend them by tutoring or booster classes.

A teacher talking to a student.

As you can see, the elements of Walberg’s theory are basic and most are familiar with them. However, there’s something fundamental that’s yet to be brought up: the commitment of parents.

One could place this in the environmental part, specifically within the home. Parents who attend meetings and take an interest in improving their children’s performance are an important point of support. However, work, relationship problems, and a range of other concerns can distract them. The consequences are clear and unmotivated students may even take a few days off school.

One can’t influence parental behavior but there’s something teachers can do. Firstly, one can look at all those elements established by Walberg’s theory to find out where the problem lies and try to find a solution.

Also, keep in mind that educators must give positive feedback to their students. This means they should also point out the successes along with the mistakes. Don’t take for granted the fact that a student has to perform a certain way and ignore those things they do right. It’s also important to encourage them to improve, being flexible and fair to those who find it more difficult to excel in a given subject.

  • Ballester, Carmen Pilar Martí. (2012). Análisis de los Factores que Influyen en el Desempeño Académico de los Alumnos de Contabilidad Financiera a través de Modelos de Elección Binaria. Revista Brasileira de Gestão de Negócios14(45), 379-399. https://dx.doi.org/10.7819/rbgn.v14i45.1080
  • Marti Ballester, C. P. (2012). Análisis de los Factores que Influyen en el Desempeño Académico de los Alumnos de Contabilidad Financiera a través de Modelos de Elección Binaria. Revista Brasileira de Gestão de Negócios14(45).
  • Serrano, J. M., Moreno Olivos, T., Pons Parra, R. M., & Lara Villanueva, R. S. (2008). Evaluación de programas de formación de profesores en métodos de aprendizaje cooperativo, basada en análisis de ecuaciones estructurales. Revista electrónica de investigación educativa10(2), 1-30.
  • Wallace, T., Stariha, W., & Walberg, H. (2004). Cómo enseñar a hablar, a escuchar ya escribir. Serie: Prácticas Educativas-14.