Philip Langer
Professor, in memoriam

Philip Langer was Professor of Education, specializing in Educational Psychology. With Dr. Verne Keenan (School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder), he conducted a number of studies analyzing the contributions of various feedback formats to specific memorial representations of expository text. In addition, Dr. Langer developed a number of multimedia auto tutorial instructional systems, both at the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research (Berkeley, CA) and at the University of Colorado Boulder. Finally, along with Dr. Robert Pois (History) he has published a book examining the psychological correlates of decision-making by military leaders, as instances of cognitive rigidity under stress.

Dr. Langer is a faculty fellow in the Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, which is an interdisciplinary institute. He was awarded a fellowship with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He has received grants from the United States Office of Scientific Research, the United States Air Force Office of Education, the United States Air Training Command, the University of Colorado CRCW Small Grant, and the Utah State University Office of Scientific Research. Dr. Langer was also a faculty fellow on an NSF Grant in the College of Engineering at the University of Colorado.


PhD Education, University of Connecticut, 1957
MA Science Education, New York University, 1951
BA Chemistry, University of Michigan, 1948

Memorial Representations and Text Comprehension

Beginning in the early 1980s, Dr. Verne Keenan and I explored the effects of various types of feedback on expository text comprehension. All our experiments were conducted within the structure of a typical 1:1 behavioral laboratory setting, with the sentences presented to the subjects one at a time to control for reading speed and strategies. Initially our research model required subjects to reconstruct a scrambled text, but eventually the text sentences were presented in the original sequence. We used as our theoretical model of text processing Walter Kintsch’s iterative construction of propositional units. Memorial representations included direct recall, distinguishing between original sentences and paraphrases, and inferential reasoning. Our findings indicate that the type of memorial representation sought is extremely sensitive to the type of feedback provided, and that non-specific or inappropriate assistance might actually hurt the specific representation sought.

Instructional Systems

Beginning with my work as a development team director at the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (Berkeley, CA), I have constructed and evaluated auto-tutorial multimedia instructional systems. The instructional units developed at the Far West Laboratory were called minicourses. They consisted of handbooks and tapes designed to assist teachers in the use of microteaching as a way of improving their skills. At the University of Colorado, I developed an auto-tutorial multimedia undergraduate course in educational and adolescent psychology. The course was organized along instructional paths, which consisted of instructional modules. The modules included text, film, and lecture materials, along with study guides and tests for each of these. Two or more modules constituted a specific curriculum topic such as behaviorism, cognition, or development. On the basis of this work, I subsequently did research for the United States Air Force on their course authoring systems.

Psychological Correlates of Military Decision Making

With Dr. Robert Pois in History, I have written a book using various psychological models to explore the correlates contributing to rigidity in decision making by various military commanders. The situations under consideration varied from specific battles to entire campaigns, with the results leading to generally unfavorable outcomes. The leaders considered ranged from Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf to Hitler at Stalingrad. The book was published by the Indiana University Press.

I began my teaching career as a high school chemistry teacher in New York City. After completing my doctorate at the University of Connecticut, I taught psychology at the State University of New York at Potsdam, Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey), and Utah State University. I left Utah State University to become a development team director in the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development (Berkeley, CA). Upon leaving the laboratory I joined the School of Education at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1971 and have been here ever since.

Prior to my tenure at the University of Colorado, I taught undergraduate and graduate courses in social and developmental psychology, along with a course in general psychology. Since coming to the University of Colorado, I have taught in the Psychology and History Departments. As a faculty member in the School of Education, my major teaching load has been in educational and adolescent psychology at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition I have taught courses in experimental design and special education at the graduate level. The latter is an outgrowth of my parenting a handicapped child. Besides my university work, I have served on a number of boards for the developmentally disabled, including a sheltered workshop, and the Boulder County Developmental Disabilities Center (now IMAGINE!).

Courses frequently taught

EDUC 4112: Educational Psychology and Adolescent Development

This course covers a number of areas of psychology relevant to instruction, including learning, motivation, development, intelligence, individual differences, diversity, personality disorders, and measurement. Specific topics relevant to adolescents include theoretical mores, physical distinction, sexuality, family problems, alienation, drugs, and ethnicity.

Professional Service

  • Reviewer, American Educational Research Journal, Review of Educational Research

  • Editorial Board, Chicorel Abstracts in Reading and Learning Disabilities

  • Editorial Board, JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology

  • Reviewer, Psychological Reports, Perceptual and Motor Skills

University Service

I serve as Chair of Panel I on the University Committee on Privilege and Tenure, and I am also a member of the Academic Program Committee for the Institute of Cognitive Science. A number of years ago I completed a six-year term as chair of the Faculty Senate Intercollegiate Athletic Committee and subsequently served as ex-officio member for one year. This was the second time I served on and chaired this committee. During this time I was also a member of the steering committee for the NCAA Certification of the University of Colorado Athletic Department. I have also served on the University Institutional Research Review Board (Chair), the University Library Committee (twice, once as Chair), the University NCAA Compliance Committee, the University Space Management Committee, and the University ROTC Advisory Committee. I have served as Chair of the Educational Psychological Studies Program for several terms, and on numerous School of Education committees.

In addition to these committee assignments, I have conducted intensive training workshops for the Graduate Teacher Education Program on a regular basis, and have provided written materials for its handbook. My materials have been reprinted at a number of institutions for use in similar programs.

State and Local Outreach

  • School Districts: Boulder (CO), Denver (CO), Ignacio (CO), Adams County RE-50 (CO), Chinle (AZ), and Page (AZ)

  • Wyoming State Department of Education

  • Professionally, I have served as member of the board, treasurer, and president of the Boulder County Sheltered Workshop (1977-87), and member and treasurer of the board for the Boulder County Developmental Disabilities Center (IMAGINE!) (1993-2001, and 2002-).

(For complete list of publications, please see the faculty member's curriculum vitae.)


This is a preprint of an article submitted for consideration in the Bilingual Research Journal © 2010 Taylor & Francis Group; Bilingual Research Journal is available online at:

Langer, P., Escamilla, K., & Aragon, L. (2010). The University of Colorado Puebla Experience: A Study in Changing Attitudes and Teaching Strategies. Bilingual Research Journal, 33, 82-94.

Langer, P. (2009). Situated learning: What ever happened to educational psychology? Educational Psychology Review, 21(2), 181-192.

Langer, P. & Pois, R. (2007). The psychological roots of Bush’s Iraq obstinacy. Clio’s Psyche, 14(1, 2), 8-10.

Langer, P., Keenan, V., & Bergman, J. (1993). Contributions of different feedback assistance to text memorial representations. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 31(3), 209-212.

Langer, P., Keenan, V., & Cumbo, K. (1992). The effects of text version and feedback type on memorial representations. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 30(5), 373-376.


Pois, R. & Langer, P. (2004). Command failure in war: Psychology and leadership. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.