Instructional Design

Heim Upp Instructional Design System Approach Robert M Gagné


5.   Instructional design. 

The previously mentioned work of Bloom and Keller of LFM (Learning For Mastery) and PSI (Personalised System of Instruction) represent the achievements for the neo-behaviourist ´systems´ approach to instruction. Both had their foundation in the behavioural theories psychological principles to the technology of education and have shown to generate a significant educational result.

The behavioural approaches to instruction, such as programmed instruction are outcome-based and emphasise small step size, overt responses, and frequent reinforcement of responses.  From the behavioural viewpoint the learner respond to a stimuli during instruction.  Through reinforcement, successive approximations of the response are transformed into desired behaviour.  Only the overt response is accepted, learners thought is virtually ignored.  Learning is understood to be the result of casual link between instructional stimuli and student responses, which are strengthened or weakened through reinforcement.

The cognitive approaches, on the other hand, emphasise learning as a process, and the role of the student in mediating learning.  The learner construct knowledge and meaning by adjust mental representations.  The model for information processing theory explains how the cognitive approaches view learning.  Information is sensed from the environment and placed  in the short term memory, where it is either discharged or processed more completely.  Encoding occurs when new and existing data is integrated in the rehearsal buffer and then transferred into the long term memory.  Long term memory comprises schemata or content domain, which are organised networks of replaced knowledge and each schema provides slots into which new knowledge is placed.  These schemata are regularly restored and restructured through new knowledge, while additional connections among related schemata are made.  Cognitive approaches emphasise strategies that foster meaningful learning and regulate the flow of information among the environment, short term and long term memory (Hannafin,M.J., Hooper,S.R., 1993).

For instructional designers it is important to have a sound learning theory base to guide instructional design.  In an article about educational technology in the 1990´s Cass G. Gentry and Josephine Csete talk about the division between educational technologists over the theories of education, they say :

Like other beliefs, specific theories, once accepted by an individual group, may be clung to the tenaciously and passed on to disciples as the only legitimate theories for the profession.  Many of the good aspects of a prolonged period of detailed research by behaviourists are being ignored by some, while others refuse to consider the contributions that the cognitive field theories can make.  Skinner’s paper in the American Psychologist (1984) takes educators to task for their failure to effectively use the findings of behavioural research.  Currently, information processing or cognitive field theories are in the ascendancy among academicians. It is not our intention to argue here that the one theory is inherently better than another, but rather to suggest that educational technologists be more involved in a mutually beneficial relationship in which they grow by applying diverse learning theories and in turn provide a testing ground for theories(p.24).


Gentry and Csete argue that most of the educational technology research to day is characterised by lack of planned, concerted action to firmly ground discipline in research.  Because of this inadequacies of this current researches ´little is being done to relate theories of learning to other important theoretical areas, such as system, instruction, design, evaluation, communication, and change theories´.



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Sólrún B. Kristinsdóttir © 2001 Síðast uppfært 21.10.2008