Instructional-Design Theories and Models, Volume I


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Unit Summaries

UNIT I : Instruction - What the discipline is like

UNIT II : Models and theories of instruction

UNIT III : Commentary

UNIT I : Instruction - What the discipline is like

This Unit does not describe any instructional design theories or models; rather it discusses ideas that will help the reader to understand, analyze, and/or evaluate such theories and models.

Chapter I focuses primarily on ideas that will facilitate an understanding of the theories and models presented in Unit 11. At the end of the Chapter, these ideas are synthesized in the form of some specific guidelines to follow as you read each of the chapters in Unit 11.

Chapter 2 focuses primarily on ideas that will facilitate the evaluation of theories and models of instruction. It presents a "metatheory" that can be used to quantitatively compare two or more theories or models.

Finally, Chapter 3 discusses some of the most important characteristics of instructional theories and models and contrasts them with related characteristics of learning theory and educational practice. The insights it provides will be very useful for a subsequent understanding and analysis of the chapters in Unit II.

Unit I table of contents


This unit describes integrative models and theories of instruction. Most of the chapters describe a prescriptive instructional theory-that is, a set of models and a basis for prescribing which model to use when. Each model integrates a fairly substantial number of strategy components by indicating such things as which components should be used together and the order in which those components should be offered to the student. For example, Merrill's Component Display Theory (Chapter 9) prescribes the use of a generality (e.g., the definition of a concept), instances (e.g., examples of the concept), and practice (e.g., experience in classifying new instances as to whether or not they are examples of the concept), as well as prescriptions for the optimal characteristics that each of these components should have. To the extent that these prescriptions incorporate the knowledge generated by different researchers from different theoretical orientations, they represent an integrative model of instruction.

Some models and theories in this unit appear to make no attempt to integrate the work of other theorists and researchers. Other theories attempt only to integrate the work of theorists or researchers who are within a relatively narrow part of the entire discipline (e.g., only the work of behaviorist researchers and theorists or only that of cognitive researchers and theorists). Finally, some theories have attempted to integrate the work of a broad spectrum of researchers and theorists.

It should be noted that this unit is not an extensive representation of the existing models and theories of instruction: Many have been left out due to space limitations. Our intention has been to include the most comprehensive yet substantive ones that are still under development, but even here we may not have been aware of some models or theories that we would otherwise have included. For descriptions of some that we have not included here, see Snelbecker's Learning Theory, Instructional Theory, and Psychoeducational Design and Joyce and Weil's Teaching Models. In addition, we would Eke to point out Markle's excellent work on how to teach concepts.

It becomes apparent as you read the chapters in this unit that different models and theories are designed to achieve different kinds of goals, such as the acquisition of verbal information or the mastery of cognitive strategies. In fact, this may account for the ma . r differences among most of the models, especially between cognitively oriented and behaviorally oriented ones. Discounting for the differences in goals among the various models and theories in this unit, there are great similarities among those models and theories, even though they might be from different theoretical orientations. Footnotes have been used to draw attention to some of those similarities.

The chapters in this unit are arranged in roughly the order in which the models' and theories' major development occurred, which means that behaviorally oriented ones tend to come first, followed by cognitively oriented ones, and finally by multi perspectived ones. The highly integrative Gagne-Briggs theory is the major exception to the rule.

In Chapter I we distinguished between micro strategies, which are methods for teaching a single idea, and macro strategies, which are methods that relate to teaching a number of ideas. Although most of the chapters in this unit describe both kinds of strategies to some extent, all tend to focus mainly on one of the two. The Landa, Scandura, and Reigeluth-Stein chapters all tend to emphasize macro strategies (primarily the selection and sequencing of content), whereas the Gropper, Collins-Stevens, and Merrill chapters tend to focus mainly on micro strategies (e.g., ways to facilitate the acquisition of a single concept or principle). For an overview of some of the major characteristics of each model or theory, see the foreword at the beginning of each chapter.

A recurring theme of this book is the need to draw from work in all theoretical orientations. We need a knowledge base that can prescribe optimal methods for achieving the full range of desired outcomes (i.e., goals) under different conditions (e.g., for different types of content, students, and constraints). Cognitively oriented instructional theories and models have tended to focus on optimal methods for achieving certain kinds of goals (such as "learning how to discover") whereas behaviorally oriented ones have tended to focus on optimal methods for achieving other kinds of goals (usually content- specific associations, generalizations, and discriminations). Hence, a prescriptive instructional theory must (in order to be truly comprehensive) be able to prescribe both kinds of instructional methods (plus humanistic ones such as Rogers'), depending on the desired outcomes.

However, there is also an area of overlap between different orientations-where they both prescribe methods for achieving the same kinds of goals. To what extent can method components from one orientation be integrated with method components from another'? Some people have argued that a theorist must operate within a single theoretical perspective (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, or humanistic), but others have disagreed. Perhaps a single perspective is best for generating descriptive theory, whereas a multiperspectived approach is best for generating the most useful prescriptive theory (see Chapter 12 for a discussion of this issue). As instructional researchers, theorists, and developers who are objectively searching for the best methods for achieving desired outcomes, we must approach this important question with a truly open mind. It is hoped that a careful analysis of the chapters in this unit will help reveal the answer.

Unit II table of contents


This Unit provides commentary on instructional theory in general and on each of the particular theories presented in Unit II. Chapter 12's major contribution is some insightful perspectives on instructional theory: its producers and users, its history and some of its contemporary issues, its individual theories as represented in this book, and implications for its future. Of particular interest are discussions of: (I ) the need I-or systematic synthesis of facts about instruction; (2) the role of personal values and prejudices in the constitution of instructional theory; (3) the relationship of instructional psychology to instructional theory; (4) skepticism as to whether comprehensive theories of instruction can in fact exist at all; (5) the need for systematic procedures for utilizing scientific knowledge to solve practical problems; (6) the tendency to select and restrict oneself to a single theory or theoretical orientation; (7) whether in fact any of the preceding chapters represents a true (comprehensive and valid) instructional theory; (8) the need for support for both the production and the utilization of better knowledge about instruction; and (9) the influence that the growing use of micro computers in education is likely to have on instructional theory. Discussion of these topics is complemented by an insightful commentary, comparison, and contrast of the individual theories described in earlier chapters of this book.

Unit III table of contents

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This file was last updated on March 10, 1999 by Byungro Lim
Copyright 1999, Charles M. Reigeluth