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(documentar pentru masteranzii MEOPE)


15 noiembrie 2008






(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Instructional Design is the practice of creating instructional tools and content to help
facilitate learning most effectively. The process consists broadly of determining the current
state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some
"intervention" to assist in the transition. Ideally the process is informed by pedagogically
tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led or communitybased settings. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically
measured or completely hidden and assumed. There are many instructional design models but
many are based on the ADDIE model with the phases analysis, design, development,
implementation, and evaluation.
As a field, instructional design is historically and traditionally rooted in cognitive and
behavioral psychology. However, because it is not a regulated, well-understood field, the term
'instructional design' has been co-opted by or confused with a variety of other ideologicallybased and / or professional fields. Instructional design, for example, is not graphic design,
although graphic design (from a cognitive perspective) could play an important role in
Instructional Design. Preparing instructional text by E. Misanchuk, Instructional-Design
Theories and Models edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, and publications by James Hartley are
useful in informing the distinction between instructional design and graphic design.

Much of the foundation of the field of instructional design was laid in World War II, when the
U.S. military faced the need to rapidly train large numbers of people to perform complex
technical tasks, from field-stripping a carbine to navigating across the ocean to building a
bomber see "Training Within Industry (TWI)". Drawing on the research and theories of B.F.
Skinner on operant conditioning, training programs focused on observable behaviors. Tasks
were broken down into subtasks, and each subtask treated as a separate learning goal.
Training was designed to reward correct performance and remediate incorrect performance.
Mastery was assumed to be possible for every learner, given enough repetition and feedback.
After the war, the success of the wartime training model was replicated in business and
industrial training, and to a lesser extent in the primary and secondary classroom. [1] The
approach is still common in the U.S. military.[2]
In 1955 Benjamin Bloom published an influential taxonomy of what he termed the three
domains of learning: Cognitive (what we know or think), Psychomotor (what we do,
physically) and Affective (what we feel, or what attitudes we have). These taxonomies still
influence the design of instruction.[3]
During the latter half of the 20th century, learning theories began to be influenced by the
growth of digital computers.
In the 1970s, many instructional design theorists began to adopt an information-processingbased approach to the design of instruction. David Merrill for instance developed Component
Display Theory (CDT), which concentrates on the means of presenting instructional materials
(presentation techniques).[4]
Later in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s cognitive load theory began to find empirical
support for a variety of presentation techniques.[5]

Cognitive load theory and the design of instruction

Cognitive load theory developed out of several empirical studies of learners, as they
interacted with instructional materials.[6] Sweller and his associates began to measure the
effects of working memory load, and found that the format of instructional materials has a
direct effect on the performance of the learners using those materials.[7][8][9]
While the media debates of the 1990s focused on the influences of media on learning,
cognitive load effects were being documented in several journals. Rather than attempting to
substantiate the use of media, these cognitive load learning effects provided an empirical basis
for the use of instructional strategies. Mayer asked the instructional design community to
reassess the media debate, to refocus their attention on what was most important learning.[10]
By the mid to late 1990s, Sweller and his associates had discovered several learning effects
related to cognitive load and the design of instruction (e.g. the split attention effect,
redundancy effect, and the worked-example effect). Later, other researchers like Richard
Mayer began to attribute learning effects to cognitive load.[10] Mayer and his associates soon
developed a Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning.[11][12][13]
In the past decade, cognitive load theory has begun to be internationally accepted [14] and
begun to revolutionize how practitioners of instructional design view instruction. Recently,
human performance experts have even taken notice of cognitive load theory, and have begun
to promote this theory base as the science of instruction, with instructional designers as the
practitioners of this field.[15] Finally Clark, Nguyen and Sweller [16] published a textbook
describing how Instructional Designers can promote efficient learning using evidence based
guidelines of Cognitive load theory.

Learning Design
The IMS Learning Design[17] specification supports the use of a wide range of pedagogies in
online learning. Rather than attempting to capture the specifics of many pedagogies, it does
this by providing a generic and flexible language. This language is designed to enable many
different pedagogies to be expressed. The approach has the advantage over alternatives in that
only one set of learning design and runtime tools then need to be implemented in order to
support the desired wide range of pedagogies. The language was originally developed at the
Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL), after extensive examination and comparison of
a wide range of pedagogical approaches and their associated learning activities, and several
iterations of the developing language to obtain a good balance between generality and
pedagogic expressiveness.
A criticism of Learning Design theory is that learning is an outcome. While instructional
theory Instructional Design focuses on outcomes, while properly accounting for a multivariate context that can only be predictive, it acknowledges that (given the variabilities in
human capability) a guarantee of reliable learning outcomes is improbable. We can only
design instruction. We cannot design learning (an outcome). Automotive engineers can design
a car that, under specific conditions, will achieve 50 miles per gallon. These engineers cannot
guarantee that drivers of the cars they design will (or have the capability to) operate these
vehicles according to the specific conditions prescribed. The former is the metaphor for
instructional design. The latter is the metaphor for Learning Design.


ADDIE model
Perhaps the most common model used for creating instructional materials is the ADDIE
Model. This acronym stands for the 5 phases contained in the model:

Analyze - analyze learner characteristics, task to be learned, etc.

Design - develop learning objectives, choose an instructional approach

Develop - create instructional or training materials

Implement - deliver or distribute the instructional materials

Evaluate - make sure the materials achieved the desired goals

Most of the current instructional design models are variations of the ADDIE model.

Rapid prototyping
A sometimes utilized adaptation to the ADDIE model is in a practice known as rapid
However, rapid prototyping is considered a somewhat simplistic type of model. At the heart of
Instructional Design is the analysis phase. After you thoroughly conduct the analysis--you can
then choose a model based on your findings. That is the area where most people get snagged-they simply do not do a thorough enough analysis. (Part of Article By Chris Bressi on
Proponents suggest that through an iterative process the verification of the design documents
saves time and money by catching problems while they are still easy to fix. This approach is
not novel to the design of instruction, but appears in many design-related domains including
software design, architecture, transportation planning, product development, message design,
user experience design, etc.[18] [19]

Dick and Carey

Another well-known instructional design model is The Dick and Carey Systems Approach
Model[20] . The model was originally published in 1978 by Walter Dick and Lou Carey in their
book entitled The Systematic Design of Instruction.
Dick and Carey made a significant contribution to the instructional design field by
championing a systems view of instruction as opposed to viewing instruction as a sum of
isolated parts. The model addresses instruction as an entire system, focusing on the
interrelationship between context, content, learning and instruction. According to Dick and
Carey, "Components such as the instructor, learners, materials, instructional activities,
delivery system, and learning and performance environments interact with each other and

work together to bring about the desired student learning outcomes" [20]. The components of
the Systems Approach Model, also known as the Dick and Carey Model, are as follows.

Identify Instructional Goal(s)

Conduct Instructional Analysis

Analyze Learners and Contexts

Write Performance Objectives

Develop Assessment Instruments

Develop Instructional Strategy

Develop and Select Instructional Materials

Design and Conduct Formative Evaluation of Instruction

Revise Instruction

Design and Conduct Summative Evaluation

With this model, components are executed iteratively and in parallel rather than linearly[20].

Other models
Some other useful models of instructional design include: the Smith/Ragan Model, the
Morrison/Ross/Kemp Model.
Learning theories also play an important role in the design of instructional materials. Theories
such as behaviorism, constructivism, social learning and cognitivism help shape and define
the outcome of instructional materials.

Robert M. Gagn
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Robert Mills Gagn (August 21, 1916 April 28, 2002) was an American educational
psychologist best known for his "Conditions of Learning". Gagn pioneered the science of
instruction during WWII for the air force with pilot training. Later he went on to develop a
series of studies and works that helped codify what is now considered to be 'good instruction.'
He also was involved in applying concepts of instructional theory to the design of computer
based training and multimedia based learning.

A major contribution to the theory of instruction was the model "Nine Events of

Gain attention

Inform learner of objectives

Stimulate recall of prior learning

Present stimulus material

Provide learner guidance

Elicit performance

Provide feedback

Assess performance

Enhance retention transfer

Gagn's work is sometimes summarized as the Gagn Assumption. The assumption is that
different types of learning exist, and that different instructional conditions are most likely to
bring about these different types of learning.
Just as Malcolm Knowles is widely regarded as the father of adult learning theory, Robert
Gagne is considered to be the foremost researcher and contributor to the systematic approach
to instructional design and training. Gagne and his followers are known as behaviorists, and
their focus is on the outcomes - or behaviors - that result from training.


A) Description
Although Gagnes theoretical framework covers many aspects of learning, "the focus of the
theory is on intellectual skills" (Kearsley, 1994a). Gagnes theory is very prescriptive. In its
original formulation, special attention was given to military training (Gagne 1962, as cited in
Kearsley, 1994a).
In this theory, five major types of learning levels are identified:

verbal information

intellectual skills

cognitive strategies

motor skills


The importance behind the above system of classification is that each learning level requires
"different internal and external conditions" (Kearsley 1994a) i.e., each learning level requires
different types of instruction. Kearsley provides the following example:
for cognitive strategies to be learned, there must be a chance to practice developing
new solutions to problems; to learn attitudes, the learner must be exposed to a credible
role model or persuasive arguments.
Gagne also contends that learning tasks for intellectual skills can be organized in a hierarchy
according to complexity:

stimulus recognition

response generation

procedure following

use of terminology


concept formation

rule application

problem solving

The primary significance of this hierarchy is to provide direction for instructors so that they
can "identify prerequisites that should be completed to facilitate learning at each level"
(Kearsley 1994a). This learning hierarchy also provides a basis for sequencing instruction.
Gagne outlines the following nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive
processes (as cited in Kearsley 1994a):
1. gaining attention (reception)
2. informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
3. stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
4. presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
5. providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
6. eliciting performance (responding)
7. providing feedback (reinforcement)

8. assessing performance (retrieval)

9. enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)
B) Practical Application
Gagnes nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive processes can serve
as the basis for designing instruction and selecting appropriate media (Gagne, Briggs &
Wager, 1992, as cited in Kearsley 1994a). In applying these instructional events, Kearsley
(1994a) suggests keeping the following principles in mind:
1. Learning hierarchies define a sequence of instruction.
2. Learning hierarchies define what intellectual skills are to be learned.
3. Different instruction is required for different learning outcomes.
The following example applies Gagne's nine instructional events:

Instructional Objective: Recognize an equilateral triangle (example from Kearsley


1. Gain attention - show a variety of computer generated triangles
2. Identify objective - pose question: "What is an equilateral triangle?"
3. Recall prior learning - review definitions of triangles
4. Present stimulus - give definition of equilateral triangle
5. Guide learning - show example of how to create equilateral
6. Elicit performance - ask students to create 5 different examples
7. Provide feedback - check all examples as correct/incorrect
8. Assess performance - provide scores and remediation
9. Enhance retention/transfer - show pictures of objects and ask students to
identify equilateral triangles.

C) Related Theories, Pedagogical Practices and Practical Web-Design Strategies

1. Provide a variety of learning activities. Instructional designers should anticipate and
accommodate alternate learning styles by "systematically varying teaching and
assessment methods to reach every student" (Sternberg 1994, as cited in Ross-Gordon

1998, 227). They should also provide alternate offline materials and activities, as well
as, present "alternate points of view and interpretations" (Fahy 1999, 237) so that the
learner is free to "[criss-cross] the intellectual landscape of the content domain by
looking at it from multiple perspectives or through multiple themes" (Jonassen et al.,
1997, 122).
2. Use Blooms "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive Domain" to
increase retention. Blooms Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive
Domain (1956, as cited in Fahy 1999, 42-43) is similar to Gagnes hierarchy of
intellectual skills. Bloom outlines the following cognitive activities organized from
least to greater complexity:
- knowledge
- comprehension
- application
- analysis
- synthesis
- evaluation (making judgements)
In the following example, Blooms taxonomy is used to illustrate different
objectives related to learning objectives for studying nails (Fahy 1999, 43):
Knowledge Know enough about nails to be able to explain what they are and
what they are used for. Be able to recognize a nail as a fastening device from a
non-fastening devices.
Comprehension Be able to identify a nail and distinguish it from other
fastening devices.
Application Be able to use a nail to fasten something competently, and
actually do so.
Analysis Be able to determine what kind of nail and nailing technique would
be required for most effective use of the device for a specific purpose.
Synthesis Be able to compare nails to other fastening devices, and to
compare various types of nails and nailing techniques for their specific
qualities and characteristics in specific situations.
Evaluation Be able to assess examples of the use of nails for fastening, and
different nailing techniques, and to pass judgement as to which were more
effective, more artistic, more secure, more skillful, more workman like, etc.


Gagne's book, The Conditions of Learning, first published in 1965, identified the mental
conditions for learning. These were based on the information processing model of the mental
events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli. Gagne created a nine-step

process called the events of instruction, which correlate to and address the conditions of
learning. The figure below shows these instructional events in the left column and the
associated mental processes in the right column.

Instructional Event

Internal Mental Process

1. Gain attention

Stimuli activates receptors

2. Inform learners of objectives

Creates level of expectation for learning

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning

Retrieval and activation of short-term memory

4. Present the content

Selective perception of content

5. Provide "learning guidance"

Semantic encoding for storage long-term


6. Elicit performance (practice)

Responds to questions to enhance encoding

and verification

7. Provide feedback

Reinforcement and assessment of correct


8. Assess performance

Retrieval and reinforcement of content as final


9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

Retrieval and generalization of learned skill to

new situation

1. Gain attention
In order for any learning to take place, you must first capture the attention of
the student. A multimedia program that begins with an animated title screen
sequence accompanied by sound effects or music startles the senses with
auditory or visual stimuli. An even better way to capture students' attention is
to start each lesson with a thought-provoking question or interesting fact.
Curiosity motivates students to learn.
2. Inform learners of objectives
Early in each lesson students should encounter a list of learning objectives.
This initiates the internal process of expectancy and helps motivate the learner
to complete the lesson. These objectives should form the basis for assessment
and possible certification as well. Typically, learning objectives are presented
in the form of "Upon completing this lesson you will be able to. . . ." The
phrasing of the objectives themselves will be covered under Robert Mager's
contributions later in this chapter.
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
Associating new information with prior knowledge can facilitate the learning
process. It is easier for learners to encode and store information in long-term
memory when there are links to personal experience and knowledge. A simple
way to stimulate recall is to ask questions about previous experiences, an
understanding of previous concepts, or a body of content.
4. Present the content
This event of instruction is where the new content is actually presented to the
learner. Content should be chunked and organized meaningfully, and typically
is explained and then demonstrated. To appeal to different learning modalities,
a variety of media should be used if possible, including text, graphics, audio
narration, and video.
5. Provide "learning guidance"
To help learners encode information for long-term storage, additional guidance
should be provided along with the presentation of new content. Guidance
strategies include the use of examples, non-examples, case studies, graphical
representations, mnemonics, and analogies.
6. Elicit performance (practice)
In this event of instruction, the learner is required to practice the new skill or
behavior. Eliciting performance provides an opportunity for learners to confirm
their correct understanding, and the repetition further increases the likelihood
of retention.
7. Provide feedback

As learners practice new behavior it is important to provide specific and

immediate feedback of their performance. Unlike questions in a post-test,
exercises within tutorials should be used for comprehension and encoding
purposes, not for formal scoring. Additional guidance and answers provided at
this stage are called formative feedback.
8. Assess performance
Upon completing instructional modules, students should be given the
opportunity to take (or be required to take) a post-test or final assessment. This
assessment should be completed without the ability to receive additional
coaching, feedback, or hints. Mastery of material, or certification, is typically
granted after achieving a certain score or percent correct. A commonly
accepted level of mastery is 80% to 90% correct.
9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job
Determining whether or not the skills learned from a training program are ever applied back
on the job often remains a mystery to training managers - and a source of consternation for
senior executives. Effective training programs have a "performance" focus, incorporating
design and media that facilitate retention and transfer to the job. The repetition of learned
concepts is a tried and true means of aiding retention, although often disliked by students.
(There was a reason for writing spelling words ten times as grade school student.) Creating
electronic or online job-aids, references, templates, and wizards are other ways of aiding
Applying Gagne's nine-step model to any training program is the single best way to ensure an
effective learning program. A multimedia program that is filled with glitz or that provides
unlimited access to Web-based documents is no substitute for sound instructional design.
While those types of programs might entertain or be valuable as references, they will not
maximize the effectiveness of information processing - and learning will not occur.

How to Apply
Gagne's Events of Instruction in e-Learning
As an example of how to apply Gagne's events of instruction to an actual training program,
let's look at a high-level treatment for a fictitious software training program. We'll assume that
we need to develop a CD-ROM tutorial to teach sales representatives how to use a new leadtracking system called STAR, which runs on their laptop computers.
1. Gain attention
The program starts with an engaging opening sequence. A space theme is used to play off the
new software product's name, STAR. Inspirational music accompanies the opening sequence,
which might consist of a shooting star or animated logo. When students access the first lesson,
the vice president of sales appears on the screen in a video clip and introduces the course. She
explains how important it is to stay on the cutting edge of technology and how the training
program will teach them to use the new STAR system. She also emphasizes the benefits of the

STAR system, which include reducing the amount of time representatives need to spend on
2. Inform learners of objectives
The VP of sales presents students with the following learning objectives immediately after the
Upon completing this lesson you will be able to:

List the benefits of the new STAR system.

Start and exit the program.

Generate lead-tracking reports by date, geography, and source.

Print paper copies of all reports.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning

Students are called upon to use their prior knowledge of other software applications to
understand the basic functionality of the STAR system. They are asked to think about
how they start, close, and print from other programs such as their word processor, and
it is explained that the STAR system works similarly. Representatives are asked to
reflect on the process of the old lead-tracking system and compare it to the process of
the new electronic one.
4. Present the content
Using screen images captured from the live application software and audio narration,
the training program describes the basic features of the STAR system. After the
description, a simple demonstration is performed.
5. Provide "learning guidance"
With each STAR feature, students are shown a variety of ways to access it - using
short-cut keys on the keyboard, drop-down menus, and button bars. Complex
sequences are chunked into short, step-by-step lists for easier storage in long-term
6. Elicit performance (practice)
After each function is demonstrated, students are asked to practice with realistic,
controlled simulations. For example, students might be asked to "Generate a report
that shows all active leads in the state of New Jersey." Students are required to use the
mouse to click on the correct on-screen buttons and options to generate the report.
7. Provide feedback

During the simulations, students are given guidance as needed. If they are performing
operations correctly, the simulated STAR system behaves just as the live application
would. If the student makes a mistake, the tutorial immediately responds with an
audible cue, and a pop-up window explains and reinforces the correct operation.
8. Assess performance
After all lessons are completed, students are required to take a post-test. Mastery is
achieved with an 80% or better score, and once obtained, the training program
displays a completion certificate, which can be printed. The assessment questions are
directly tied to the learning objectives displayed in the lessons.
9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job
While the STAR system is relatively easy to use, additional steps are taken to ensure
successful implementation and widespread use among the sales force. These features include
online help and "wizards", which are step-by-step instructions on completing complex tasks.
Additionally, the training program is equipped with a content map, an index of topics, and a
search function. These enable students to use the training as a just-in-time support tool in the
future. Finally, a one-page, laminated quick reference card is packaged with the training CDROM for further reinforcement of the learning session.

Benjamin Bloom
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Benjamin S. Bloom (21 February 1913 September 13, 1999), an American educational
psychologist, made contributions to the classification of educational objectives and to the
theory of mastery-learning.

Bloom's theories
The cognitive taxonomy One of Blooms great talents was having a nose for what is
significant. His most important initial work focused on what might be called the
operationalization of educational objectives. Ralph W. Tyler was his mentor. When Bloom
came to Chicago he worked with Tyler in the examiners office and directed his attention to
the development of specifications through which educational objectives could be organized
according to their cognitive complexity. If such an organization or hierarchy could be

developed, university examiners might have a more reliable procedure for assessing students
and the outcomes of educational practice.
One of the consequences of the categories in the taxonomy is that they not only serve as
means through which evaluation tasks could be formulated, but also provide a framework for
the formulation of the objectives themselves. Bloom was interested in providing a useful
practical tool that was congruent with what was understood at that time about the features of
the higher mental processes.
Blooms contributions to education extended well beyond the taxonomy. He was
fundamentally interested in thinking and its development. His work with Broder (Bloom &
Broder, 1958) on the study of the thought processes of college students was another
innovative and significant effort to get into the heads of students through a process of
stimulated recall and think aloud techniques. What Bloom wanted to reveal was what students
were thinking about when teachers were teaching, because he recognized that it was what
students were experiencing that ultimately mattered. The use of think aloud protocols
provided an important basis for gaining insight into the black box.
He focused much of his research on the study of educational objectives and, ultimately,
proposed that any given task favours one of three psychological domains: cognitive, affective,
or psychomotor. The cognitive domain deals with a person's ability to process and utilize (as a
measure) information in a meaningful way. The affective domain relates to the attitudes and
feelings that result from the learning process. Lastly, the psychomotor domain involves
manipulative or physical skills.
Benjamin Bloom headed a group of cognitive psychologists at the University of Chicago who
developed a taxonomic hierarchy of cognitive-driven behavior deemed important to learning
and to measurable capability. (For example, one can measure an objective that begins with the
verb "describe", unlike one that begins with the verb "understand".)
Bloom's classification of educational objectives, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,
Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain (Bloom et al., 1956), addresses the cognitive domain (as
opposed to the psychomotor and affective domains) of knowledge. Blooms taxonomy
provides a structure in which to categorize instructional objectives and instructional
assessment. He designed the taxonomy in order to help teachers and instructional designers to
classify instructional objectives and goals. The taxonomy relies on the idea that not all
learning objectives and outcomes have equal merit. In the absence of a classification system
(a taxonomy), teachers and instructional designers may choose, for example, to emphasize
memorization of facts (which makes for easier testing) rather than emphasizing other (and
likely more important) learned capabilities.


The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, often called Bloom's Taxonomy, is a
classification of the different objectives and skills that educators set for students (learning
objectives). The taxonomy was proposed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, an educational
psychologist at the University of Chicago. Bloom's Taxonomy divides educational objectives
into three "domains:" Affective, Psychomotor, and Cognitive. Like other taxonomies, Bloom's
is hierarchical, meaning that learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained
prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels (Orlich, et al. 2004). A goal of Bloom's

Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic
form of education.
Most references to the Bloom's Taxonomy only notice the Cognitive domain. There is also a
so far less referred, revised version of the Taxonomy, published in 2001 under the name of "A
Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and assessing", eds. Anderson, Lorin W., Krathwohl,
David R., Airasian, Peter W., Cruikshank, Kathleen A., Mayer, Richard E., Pintrich, Paul R.,
Raths, James and Wittrock, Merlin C.

Affective Domain
Skills in the affective domain describe the way people react emotionally and their ability to
feel another living thing's pain or joy. Affective objectives typically target the awareness and
growth in attitudes, emotion, and feelings.
There are five levels in the affective domain moving through the lowest order processes to the
The lowest level; the student passively pays attention. Without this level no learning
can occur.
The student actively participates in the learning process, not only attends to a stimulus,
the student also reacts in some way.
The student attaches a value to an object, phenomenon, or piece of information.
The student can put together different values, information, and ideas and
accommodate them within his/her own schema; comparing, relating and elaborating
on what has been learned.
The student has held a particular value or belief that now exerts influence on his/her
behaviour so that it becomes a characteristic.

Psychomotor Domain
Skills in the psychomotor domain describe the ability to physically manipulate a tool or
instrument like a hand or a hammer. Psychomotor objectives usually focus on change and/or
development in behavior and/or skills.
Bloom and his colleagues never created subcategories for skills in the psychomotor domain,
but since then other educators have created their own psychomotor taxonomies[1].

Cognitive Domain

Categories in the cognitive domain

of Bloom's Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001)

Skills in the cognitive domain revolve around knowledge, comprehension, and "thinking
through" a particular topic. Traditional education tends to emphasize the skills in this domain,
particularly the lower-order objectives.
There are six levels in the taxonomy, moving through the lowest order processes to the
Exhibit memory of previously-learned materials by recalling facts, terms, basic
concepts and answers

Knowledge of specifics - terminology, specific facts

Knowledge of ways and means of dealing with specifics - conventions, trends

and sequences, classifications and categories, criteria, methodology

Knowledge of the universals and abstractions in a field - principles and

generalizations, theories and structures

Questions like: What is...?

Demonstrative understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating,
interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas




Questions like: How would you compare and contrast...?


Using new knowledge. Solve problems to new situations by applying acquired

knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way
Questions like: Can you organize _______ to show...?
Examine and break information into parts by identifying motives or causes. Make
inferences and find evidence to support generalizations

Analysis of elements

Analysis of relationships

Analysis of organizational principles

Questions like: How would you classify...?

Compile information together in a different way by combining elements in a new
pattern or proposing alternative solutions

Production of a unique communication

Production of a plan, or proposed set of operations

Derivation of a set of abstract relations

Questions like: Can you predict an outcome?

Present and defend opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas
or quality of work based on a set of criteria

Judgments in terms of internal evidence

Judgments in terms of external criteria

Questions like: Do you agree with.....?

Some critiques of Bloom's Taxonomy('s cognitive domain) admit the existence of these six
categories, but question the existence of a sequential, hierarchical link (Paul, R. (1993).
Critical thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly changing world (3rd ed.).
Rohnert Park, California: Sonoma State University Press.). Also the revised edition of
Bloom's taxonomy has moved Synthesis in higher order than Evaluation. Some consider the
three lowest levels as hierarchically ordered, but the three higher levels as parallel. Others say
that it is sometimes better to move to Application before introducing Concepts. This thinking
would seem to relate to the method of Problem Based Learning.

The Bloom's Wheel

according to Bloom's verbs and matching assessment types
, and including only feasible and measurable verbs.
Blooms taxonomy in theory helps teachers better prepare objectives and, from there, derive
appropriate measures of learned capability and Higher order thinking skills. Curriculumdesign, usually a State (governmental) practice, did not reflect the intent of such a taxonomy
until the late 1990s. Note that Bloom, as an American academic, lacks universal approval of
his constructs.
The curriculum of the Canadian Province of Ontario offers a good example of the application
of a taxonomy of educational objectives: it provides for its teachers an integrated adaptation
of Bloom's taxonomy. Ontario's Ministry of Education specifies as its taxonomic categories:
Knowledge and Understanding; Thinking; Communication; Application. Teachers can classify
every 'specific' learning objective, in any given course, according to the Ministry's taxonomy.


Bloom, Benjamin S. (1980). All Our Children Learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Bloom, Benjamin S. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Published by Allyn and

Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 1984 by Pearson Education.

Cu toate c paradigma mastery learning s-a impus n pedagogia modern prin
contribuii de mare valoare n anii 70-80, se cuvine s atribuim paternitatea lansrii
pe pia a acestei expresii fabuloase lui John B. Carroll care a folosit-o pentru prima
dat n 1963 pentru a desemna posibilitatea de a alctui modele instruc ionale apte s
determine eficacitatea general a instruirii; adic reuita tuturor elevilor la
nvtur, realizarea visului lui Comenius ( arta de a-i nva pe toi totul ).
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mastery Learning is an instructional method that presumes all children can learn if they are
provided with the appropriate learning conditions. Specifically, mastery learning is a method
whereby students are not advanced to a subsequent learning objective until they demonstrate
proficiency with the current one.
Mastery learning curricula generally consist of discrete topics which all students begin
together. Students who do not satisfactorily complete a topic are given additional instruction
until they succeed. Students who master the topic early engage in enrichment activities until
the entire class can progress together. Mastery learning includes many elements of successful
tutoring and the independent functionality seen in high-end students. In a mastery learning
environment, the teacher directs a variety of group-based instructional techniques, with
frequent and specific feedback by using diagnostic, formative tests, as well as regularly
correcting mistakes students make along their learning path.
Teachers evaluate students with criterion-referenced tests rather than norm-referenced tests.
Mastery Learning has nothing to do with content, merely on the process of mastering
it, and is based on Benjamin Bloom's Learning for Mastery model, with refinements made
by Block. Mastery learning may be implemented as teacher-paced group instruction, one-toone tutoring, or self-paced learning with programmed materials. It may involve direct teacher
instruction, cooperation with classmates, or independent learning. It requires well-defined
learning objectives organized into smaller, sequentially organized units. Individualized
instruction, has some elements in common with mastery learning, although it dispenses with
group activities, in favor of allowing more able or more motivated students to progress ahead
of others and maximizing teacher interaction with those students who need the most


A) Description

The Minimalist theory of J.M. Carroll focuses on the instructional design of training materials
for computer users and has been "extensively applied to the design of computer
documentation" (e.g., Nowaczyk & James, 1993, van der Meij, & Carroll, 1995, as cited in
Kearsley 1994d). It is based upon studies of people learning a wide range of computer
applications including word processors and databases.
As Kearsley (1994d) explains, this theory suggests that:
1. All learning activities should be meaningful and self-contained.
2. Activities should exploit the learner's prior experience and knowledge.
3. Learners should be given realistic projects as quickly as possible.
4. Instruction should permit self-directed reasoning and improvising.
5. Training materials and activities should provide for error recognition and use errors as
learning opportunities.
6. There should be a close linkage between training and the actual system because "new
users are always learning computer methods in the context of specific preexisting
goals and expectations" (Carroll 1990, as cited in Kearsley 1994d).
The critical idea behind Carroll's Minimalist theory is that course designers must "minimize
the extent to which instructional materials obstruct learning and focus the design on activities
that support learner-directed activity and accomplishment" (Kearsley 1994d).
B) Practical Application
In applying Carrolls Minimalist theory, Kearsley (1994d) recommends the following:
1. Allow learners to start immediately on meaningful tasks.
2. Minimize the amount of reading and other passive forms of training by allowing users
to fill in the gaps themselves
3. Include error recognition and recovery activities in the instruction
4. Make all learning activities self-contained and independent of sequence.
The following is an example of a guided exploration approach to learning how to use a word
processor (Carroll 1990, chapter 5, as cited in Kearsley 1994d).
Applying the principles of Carroll's Minimalist theory, a 94-page training manual is replaced
by 25 cards. Each card is self contained and includes a meaningful task and error recognition
information. The cards do not provide complete step-by-step specifications but only key ideas
or hints about what to do. Kearsley reports that "in an experiment that compared the use of the
cards versus the manual, users learned the task in about half the time with the cards."

The following example illustrates the redesign of a Web page using Carrolls Minimalist
theory and other related web design strategies:

Problem: Below is a screen shot of The WINDeX Search Engine located at This site allows software developers to submit shareware and
freeware to be stored in their database. This page however has four serious design
flaws: (a) the banners occupy too much valuable space at the top of the screen; (b)
"The Windex Index" image banner runs a lake ripple Java applet which is highly
distracting; (c) the lake ripple Java applet significantly increases the time it takes to
download the page; (d) the white text on a blue background is difficult to read,
especially considering that the site uses four colors for text: red, blue, white and black.

Solution: (a) Carroll advises that learners should be allowed to start right away on
meaningful tasks. Jones and Farquhar (1997) advise that in web-design, important
information should be kept on the top of the page. Considering this advice, to improve
this web page, the banners should be designed to occupy less space and the user input
forms should be moved up higher so users don't have to scroll as much. (b) (c) (d)
Carroll advises that web-design should minimize the extent to which instructional
materials obstruct learning. Gillani & Relan (1997) advise that frames should be kept
simple and be consistent in design of text, graphics and sound to limit cognitive
overload. Similarly, Guay (1995, as cited in Fahy 1999) advises that Web pages should
reduce clutter and download in 30 seconds or less with a 14.4 modem. Considering
this advice, to improve the design of this web page, the Java applet should be removed
as it greatly increases the time to download the entire page without adding to its
usability. Furthermore, the ripple effect distracts from the content of the site and is just
plain "annoying." Content that is not essential, such as the "redesign notice" should
also be removed or shrunk in size. Furthermore, the range of text colors should be
reduced and a more suitable background chosen to improve readability.

C) Related Theories, Pedagogical Practices and Practical Web-Design Strategies

1. Keep important information at the top of the page. When learners come to a page,
they immediately scan for interesting and important information. Good web-design

demands that you give your learners the information they want right away and in a
hurry. Large graphics at the top of a page may be aesthetically pleasing, but take up
too much of the immediate viewable space to be considered instructionally useful
(Jones and Farquhar 1997).
2. Keep frames simple and be consistent in design of text, graphics and sound to
limit cognitive overload. Guay advises that "cognitive bandwidth should be
minimized to ensure users easily and accurately grasp the message" (as cited in Fahy
1999, 191). He also recommends that graphics and other enhancements should "never
obscure the central message of the page" (p. 191). Jones and Farquhar (1997) advise
that background to a display should not compete with or obscure the text. Simiarly
Gillani & Relan 1997, 236 maintain that "simplicity and consistency eliminates
cognitive overload." Thus, multimedia components should be used "to reinforce rather
than distract from learning."
3. Keep pages short so learners dont have to scroll. Research on the Web suggests
that "users do not like to scroll" (Nielsen 1996, as cited in Jones & Farquhar 1997,
243). Guay (1995, as cited in Fahy 1999, 191) agrees with this and advises that "each
page should fit on the screen without scrolling." West (1998, as cited in Fahy 1999,
192) similarly advises that "the requirement for the user to scroll down in Web-based
documents should be kept to a minimum, as many users will not scroll more than 3
times before abandoning a site." West also estimates that readers give only between 7
and 15 seconds to assess the probable usefulness of a site before leaving it. It should
be noted that "the problem with making pages short is that people may choose to print
out certain pieces of information, or download the entire contents of a group of pages.
This [problem can be solved] by combining all of the pages into a single document
that is labeled as such" (Jones and Farquar, 1997, 243). A print button can be provided
so that users can eaisly print longer material for off-screen reading.
4. Keep pages uncluttered by extracting unnecessary elements. Broadbents theory of
single-channel processing states that "humans are capable of processing information
through only one channel at a time and that it is not possible to process two channels
simultaneously"(Hsia 1968, as cited in Szabo 1998, 32). If this were to happen, audio
and visual stimuli would arrive at the central nervous system simultaneously, causing
the information to jam, and lead to poorer retention of material (Broadbent 1958, as
cited in Szabo 1998, 32). Guay (1995 as cited in Fahy 1999, 192) recommends that
"each page should be uncluttered, readable, and balanced."
5. Pages should download in 30 seconds or less with 14.4 modem. Guay advises that
"physical bandwidth should be minimized to ensure acceptable access and response
times" (1995 as cited in Fahy 1999, 191). Special consideration should be given to
logos, banners, .pdf files, audio, and video to make sure that these files do not slow
down the site too much. Guay also suggests that tagging graphics (in HTML) with
vertical and horizontal size can speed download. Commercial graphics tools such as
Adobe ImageReady 2.0 can also reduce graphics size by among other things reducing
the color pallet.
6. Screen excess information. Good design, as Carroll recommends, must reduce excess
information and allow learners to fill in the gaps. In support of this, Dede (1996, 13)
maintains that the curriculum is "overcrowded with low-level information" and as a

result, "teachers [must] frantically race through required material, helping students
memorize factual data to be regurgitated on mandated, standardized tests." Dede also
advises that "the core skill for todays workplace is not foraging for date, but filtering
a plethora of incoming information." He adds that as we increasingly are required to
dive into a sea of information we must master the ability to immerse ourselves in data
"to harvest patterns of knowledge just as fish extract oxygen from water via their gills"
(p. 6).
7. Structure materials as topical modules. This "simplifies selective reuse of course
materials" (Butler 1997, 422).
8. Strive for quality not quantity. Rockley (1997, as cited in Fahy 1999, 196-197) gives
the following advice for the planning and management of Web-based resources:

Design small. Make what you have effective, then add to it. Dont attempt to do
everything at once.

Keep effects simple. Assure effects ADD to the message/content.

Map out the whole site. Both for development and maintenance.

Plan for growth. Anticipate and direct it.

Get feedback from users. And pay attention to it.

Test any outside links regularly. Dont link to sites which do not appear to be will
maintained or stable.

Give only one person edit privileges. Only one person should have site maintenance

Dont post any part of a site while it is still under construction. Everything on your
site should work now. Instead of "under construction, put up announcements of the
expected availability of "coming" or "new" features.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Educational technology (also called learning technology) is the study and ethical practice of
facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate
technological processes and resources." [1] The term educational technology is often associated
with, and encompasses, instructional theory and learning theory. While instructional
technology covers the processes and systems of learning and instruction, educational
technology includes other systems used in the process of developing human capability.

Perspectives and meaning

Educational technology is most simply and comfortably defined as an array of tools that
might prove helpful in advancing student learning. Educational Technology relies on a broad
definition of the word "technology". Technology can refer to material objects of use to
humanity, such as machines or hardware, but it can also encompass broader themes, including
systems, methods of organization, and techniques. Some modern tools include but are not
limited to overhead projectors, laptop computers, and calculators.
Those who employ educational technologies to explore ideas and communicate meaning are
learners or teachers.
Consider the Handbook of Human Performance Technology.[2] The word technology for the
sister fields of Educational and Human Performance Technology means "applied science." In
other words, any valid and reliable process or procedure that is derived from basic research
using the "scientific method" is considered a "technology." Educational or Human
Performance Technology may be based purely on algorithmic or heuristic processes, but
neither necessarily implies physical technology. The word technology, comes from the Greek
"Techne" which means craft or art. Another word technique, with the same origin, also may be
used when considering the field Educational technology. So Educational technology may be
extended to include the techniques of the educator.[citation needed]
A classic example of an Educational Technology is Bloom's 1956 book, Taxonomy of
Educational Objectives.[3]
According to some, an Educational Technologist is someone who transforms basic
educational and psychological research into an evidence-based applied science (or a
technology) of learning or instruction. But the term seems very stuffy and almost arrogant to
those who work with the tools. Educational Technologists typically have a graduate degree
(Master's, Doctorate, Ph.D., or D.Phil.) in a field related to educational psychology,
educational media, experimental psychology, cognitive psychology or, more purely, in the
fields of Educational, Instructional or Human Performance Technology or Instructional
(Systems) Design. But few of those listed below as theorists would ever use the term
"educational technologist" as a term to describe themselves, preferring less stuffy terms like
educator.[citation needed]

One comprehensive history of the field is Saettler's The evolution of American educational
technology.[4] Another worthy title is Larry Cuban'sOversold and Underused - Computers in
the Classroom.[5]

For several decades, vendors of equipment such as laptop computers and interactive white
boards have been claiming that their technologies would transform classrooms and learning in
many positive ways, but there has been little evidence provided to substantiate these claims.
[citation needed]

To some extent, the history of educational technology has been marked by a succession of
innovations that arrive with much fanfare but often fade into the background once fully tested,
as Cuban argues in the above title.[citation needed]


Three main theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks have been present in the
educational technology literature. These are Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism.
Each of these schools of thought are still present in today's literature but have evolved as the
Psychology literature has evolved.

This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century with the animal learning
experiments of Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, B.F.
Skinner and many others. Many Psychologists used these theories to describe and experiment
with human learning. While still very useful this philosophy of learning has lost favor with
many educators.
Skinner's Contributions

B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis
of Verbal Behavior,[6] and wrote "The Technology of Teaching", [7] an attempt to dispel the
myths underlying contemporary education, as well as promote his system he called
programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley also developed the Celeration learning system
similarly based on behavior analysis but quite different from Keller's and Skinner's models.

Cognitive science has changed how educators view learning. Since the very early beginning
of the Cognitive Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, learning theory has undergone a great
deal of change. Much of the empirical framework of Behaviorism was retained even though a
new paradigm had begun. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based
learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning.
After memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's Working
memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new
cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. It is
important to note that Computer Science and Information Technology have had a major
influence on Cognitive Science theory. The Cognitive concepts of working memory (formerly

known as short term memory) and long term memory have been facilitated by research and
technology from the field of Computer Science. Another major influence on the field of
Cognitive Science is Noam Chomsky. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like
Cognitive load and Information Processing Theory.

Constructivism is a learning theory or educational philosophy that many educators began to

consider in the 1990s. One of the primary tenets of this philosophy is that learners construct
their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality or others with different
Constructivist learning environments require students to utilize their prior knowledge and
experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning. Under this
framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that
learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the
prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen
(1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and
that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators
utilizing technology when teaching with a constructivist perspective should choose
technologies that reinforce prior learning perhaps in a problem-solving environment.


Problem Based Learning and Inquiry-based learning are active learning educational
technologies used to facilitate learning. Technology which includes physical and process
applied science can be incorporated into project, problem, inquiry-based learning as they all
have a similar educational philosophy. All three are student centered, ideally involving realworld scenarios in which students are actively engaged in critical thinking activities. The
process that students are encouraged to employ (as long as it is based on empirical research) is
considered to be a technology. Classic examples of technologies used by teachers and
Educational Technologists include Bloom's Taxonomy and Instructional Design.

This is an area where new thinkers are coming to the forefront everyday. Many of the ideas
spread from theorists, researchers, and experts through their blogs. Extensive lists of
educational bloggers by area of interest are available at Steve Hargadon's "SupportBloggers"
site or at the "movingforward" wiki started by Scott McLeod.[8] Many of these blogs are
recognized by their peers each year through the edublogger awards. [9] Web 2.0 technologies
have led to a huge increase in the amount of information available on this topic and the
number of educators formally and informally discussing it. Most listed below have been
around for more than a decade, however, and few new thinkers mentioned above are listed

Hall Davidson[10]
Lawrence Tomei[11]
Karl Fisch[12]
Ian Jukes[13]
Jamie McKenzie[14]
Scott McLeod[15]
Alan November
Seymour Papert[16]
Will Richardson
Gary Stager[17]
John Sweller
Joyce Kazman Valenza[18]
David Warlick[19]
David Marcovitz[20]

Educational technology is used to improve education over what it would be without

technology (lets say unmeasured tutoring only). One of the benefits is having a structure that
is more amenable to measurement and improvement of outcomes. Some of the benefits of
specific educational technologies (such as online learning and computer instruction) are listed

Easy to access course materials. Most of courses have their courses

website, and instructors usually post the course material or important
information on the course websites,which means students can study at a
time and location they prefer and can obtain the study material very

Motivation to student. Computer-base instruction can give instant feedback

to students and explain correct answers. More over, computer is patient
and nonjudgmental, which gives the student motivation to continue
learning. According to James Kulik, who studies effectiveness of computers

used for instruction, students usually learn more in less time when
receiving computer-based instruction and they like classes more and
develop more positive attitudes toward computers in computer-based

Widening participation. Learning material can be used for long distance

learning and are accessible[23]

Improve student writing. It is convenient for students to edit their written

work on word processors, which in turn improves the quality of their
writing. According to some studies, the students are better at critiquing
and editing written work that is exchanged over a computer network with
students they know[21]

Subjects are easy to learn through a variety of educational softwares. A lot

different types of educational software are designed and developed to help
children or teenagers to learn specific subject, such as preschool software,
computer simulators, and graphics software[22]

Integration of technology helps students to begin and reach all cognitive

levels according to Bloom's Taxonomy. The reconstruction of Bloom's
terminology helps to guide teachers and students through the learning

Technology plays an essential role in teaching and learning nowadays. In recent years, what
technologies offered us has significantly increased, along with the introductions of new
educational terms, such as "virtual education," "virtual universities," "electronic universities,"
and "cyberspace institutions." Educational tools can help individuals acquire new concepts
and ideas; they can also encourage learners to self-test, self-question, and self-regulate
learning while looking for solution to complicated problems.[24]
Other interests
Educational technology and the humanities

Research from the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) [25] indicates that inquiry
and project-based approaches, combined with a focus on curriculum, effectively supports the
infusion of educational technologies into the learning and teaching process.

Learned societies concerned with educational technology include:

Association for Educational Communications and Technology

Association for Learning Technology

International Society for Technology in Education - (ISTE)

1. ^ Richey, R.C. (2008). Reflections on the 2008 AECT Definitions of the
Field. TechTrends. 52(1) 24-25
2. ^ Handbook of Human Performance Technology (Eds. Harold Stolovich,
Erica Keeps, James Pershing)(3rd ed, 2006)
3. ^ Bloom B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I:
The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc.
4. ^ Saettler, P. (1990), The evolution of American educational technology.
Libraries Unlimited, Inc. Englewood California.
5. ^ Larry Cuban, Oversold and Underused - Computers in the Classroom.
Harvard University Press, 2001.
6. ^ Skinner, B.F. The science of learning and the art of teaching. Harvard
Educational Review, 1954, 24, 86-97., Teaching machines. Science, 1958,
128, 969-77. and others see
7. ^ Skinner BF (1965). "The technology of teaching". Proc R Soc Lond B Biol
Sci 162 (989): 42743. doi:10.1098/rspb.1965.0048. PMID 4378497.
8. ^ See and
9. ^ Welcome to the Eddies! The Edublog Awards
11.^ Dr. Tomei's Educator Index of Web-Based Resources
12.^ The Fischbowl
14.^ FNO educational technology students schools libraries teachers parents
staff development
15.^ Scott McLeod - Home -
16.^ Professor Seymour Papert
17.^ Welcome to!
18.^ NeverEndingSearch - Blog on School Library Journal

20.^ David Marcovitz


a b

Technology Impact on Learning


a b

Technology's Impact

23.^ Technology Uses in Education

24.^ Cordes, Colleen & Miller, Edward. (1999),"Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at
Computers in Childhood"
25.^ AISI Technology Projects Research Review

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cooperative learning was proposed in response to traditional curriculum-driven education.

In cooperative learning environments, students interact in purposely structured heterogeneous
groups to support the learning of oneself and others in the same group.
In online education, cooperative learning focuses on opportunities to encourage both
individual flexibility and affinity to a learning community (Paulsen 2003). Cooperative
learning seeks to foster some benefits from the freedom of individual learning and other
benefits from collaborative learning. Cooperative learning thrives in virtual learning
environments that emphasize individual freedom within online learning communities.
Cooperative learning explicitly builds cooperation skills by assigning roles to team members
and establishing norms for conflict resolution via arbitration. Cooperative learning should also
provide the means for group reflection and individual self-assessment.
"Cooperative learning (CL) is an instructional paradigm in which teams of students
work on structured tasks (e.g., homework assignments, laboratory experiments, or
design projects) under conditions that meet five criteria: positive interdependence,
individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, appropriate use of collaborative
skills, and regular self-assessment of team functioning. Many studies have shown that
when correctly implemented, cooperative learning improves information acquisition
and retention, higher-level thinking skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and
self-confidence (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1998)."
--Deborah B. Kaufman, Richard M. Felder, Department of Chemical Engineering,
North Carolina State University
--Hugh Fuller, College of Engineering, North Carolina State University

Three Theoretical Perspectives


o Groups stimulate and punish

o Groups offer more pros than they do cons.

Cognitive / Constructivist
o Knowledge and Learning are social in nature.
o Learning comes from figuring out unexpected occurrences together.

Social Interdependence
o Cooperative

Group as a 'dynamic whole'

Positive Tension

High levels of interaction

o Competitive

Negative Tension

Heterogeneous vs. Homogeneous Grouping

Heterogeneous Groups
o High Achievers never lose
o Usually better
o Male/Female pairs most off task

Homogeneous Groups
o Low Achievers fastest to quit
o More interaction in all female groups than all male
Benefits of Cooperative Grouping

Increased Self Efficacy

Increased Retention

Higher Motivation

Preference for Future Coop-Learning Episodes

Building Better Groups

Outcome Interdependence
o Goal attainment depends on group

Means Interdependence
o Members carry out vital, distinct yet overlapping roles

Individual Accountability
o Feedback from members
o When needed assistance
o Reassign tasks to promote balance

Task Complexity
o Task is too complex for any single member to complete it.
Cooperative vs. Competitive Learning

In Cooperative Learning, learners must work together in order to succeed and personal
success only springs from group success.

In Competitive Learning, in order to succeed, other learners must fail.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In psychology and education, a common definition of learning is a process that brings

together cognitive, emotional, and enviromental influences and experiences for acquiring,
enhancing, or making changes in one's knowledge, skills, values, and world views
(Illeris,2000;Ormorod, 1995). Learning as a process focuses in what happens when the
learning takes place. Explanations of what happens are called learning theories. A learning
theory is an attempt to describe how people and animals learn, thereby helping us understand

the inherently complex process of learning. Learning theories have two chief values
according to Hill(2002). One is in providing us with vocabulary and a conceptual framework
for interpreting the examples of learning that we observe. The other is in suggesting where to
look for solutions to practical problems. The theories do not give us solutions, but they do
direct our attention to those variables that are crucial in finding solutions.
There are three main categories or philosophical frameworks under which learning theories
fall: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Behaviorism focuses only on the
objectively observable aspects of learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to
explain brain-based learning. And constructivism views learning as a process in which the
learner actively constructs or builds new ideas or concepts.
It is also important to take account of the Sudbury Model learning theory, that adduces that
learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you, and shows that there are many
ways to learn without the intervention of a teacher being imperative, of informal learning
theories, and to consider the philosophical anthropology implied by any theory.

Behavorism as a theory was most developed by B. F. Skinner. It loosely includes the work of
such people as Thorndike, Tolman, Guthrie, and Hull. What characterizes these investigators
is their underlying assumptions about the process of learning. In essence, three basic
assumptions are held to be true. First, learning is manifested by a change in behavior.
Second, the environment shapes behavior. And third the principles of contiguity (how close in
time two events must be for a bond to be performed ) and reinforcement (any means of
increasing the likelihood that an event will be repeated ) are central to explaining the learning
process. For behaviorism, learning is the acquisition of new behavior through conditioning.
There are two types of possible conditioning:
1) Classical conditioning, where the behavior becomes a reflex response to stimulus as in the
case of Pavlov's Dogs. Pavlov was interested in studying reflexes, when he saw that the dogs
drooled without the proper stimulus. Although no food was in sight, their saliva still dribbled.
It turned out that the dogs were reacting to lab coats. Every time the dogs were served food,
the person who served the food was wearing a lab coat. Therefore, the dogs reacted as if food
was on its way whenever they saw a lab coat.In a series of experiments, Pavlov then tried to
figure out how these phenomena were linked. For example, he struck a bell when the dogs
were fed. If the bell was sounded in close association with their meal, the dogs learnt to
associate the sound of the bell with food. After a while, at the mere sound of the bell, they
responded by drooling.
2) Operant conditioning where there is reinforcement of the behavior by a reward or a
punishment. The theory of operant conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner and is known
as Radical Behaviorism. The word operant refers to the way in which behavior operates on
the environment. Briefly, a behavior may result either in reinforcement, which increases the
likelihood of the behavior recurring, or punishment, which decreases the likelihood of the

behavior recurring. It is important to note that, a punisher is not considered to be punishment

if it does not result in the reduction of the behavior, and so the terms punishment and
reinforcement are determined as a result of the actions. Within this framework, behaviorists
are particularly interested in measurable changes in behavior.
Educational approaches such as applied behavior analysis, curriculum based measurement,
and direct instruction have emerged from this model.[citation needed]

The earliest challenge to the behavorists came in a publication in 1929 by Bode, a Gestalt
psycologist. He criticised behaviorists for being too dependent on overt behavior to explain
learning. Gestalt psychologists proposed looking at the patterns rather than isolated events.
Gestalts views of learning have been incorporated into what have come to be labeled
cognitive theories. Two key assumptions underlie this cognitive approach:(1) that the memory
system is an active organized processor of information and (2) that prior knowledge plays an
important role in learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based
learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning. For example,
the physiological processes of sorting and encoding information and events into short term
memory and long term memory are important to educators working under the cognitive theory.
The major difference between Gestaltists and behaviorists is the locus of control over the
learning activity . For Gestaltists it lies with the individual learner; for behaviorists it lies
with the environment.
Once memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's Working
memory model were established as a theoretical framework in Cognitive Psychology, new
cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Today
researchers are concentrating on topics like Cognitive load and Information Processing
Theory. These theories of learning are very useful as they guide the Instructional design].
Aspects of cognitivism can be found in learning how to learn, social role acquisition,
intelligence, learning and memory as related to age.

Constructivism views learning as a process in which the learner actively constructs or builds
new ideas or concepts based upon current and past knowledge. In other words, "learning
involves constructing one's own knowledge from one's own experiences." Constructivist
learning, therefore, is a very personal endeavor, whereby internalized concepts, rules, and
general principles may consequently be applied in a practical real-world context. This is also
known as social constructivism Social constructivists posits that knowledge is constructed
when individuals engage socially in talk and activity about shared problems or tasks. Learning
is seen as the process by which individuals are introduced to a culture by more skilled
members"(Driver et al., 1994) Constructivism itself has many variations, such as Active
learning, discovery learning, and knowledge building. Regardless of the variety,
constructivism promotes a student's free exploration within a given framework or structure
The teacher acts as a facilitator who encourages students to discover principles for themselves
and to construct knowledge by working to solve realistic problems. Aspects of constructivism
can be found in self-directed learning, transformational learning,experiential learning, situated
cognition, and reflective practice.

Learning as a process you do,

not a process that is done to you
Some critics of today's schools, of the concept of learning disabilities, of special education,
and of response to intervention, take the position that every child has a different learning style
and pace and that each child is unique, not only capable of learning but also capable of
Sudbury Model democratic schools assert that there are many ways to study and learn.
They argue that learning is a process you do, not a process that is done to you; That is true of
everyone. It's basic.[1] The experience of Sudbury model democratic schools shows that there
are many ways to learn without the intervention of teaching, to say, without the intervention
of a teacher being imperative. In the case of reading for instance in the Sudbury model
democratic schools some children learn from being read to, memorizing the stories and then
ultimately reading them. Others learn from cereal boxes, others from games instructions,
others from street signs. Some teach themselves letter sounds, others syllables, others whole
words. Sudbury model democratic schools adduce that in their schools no one child has ever
been forced, pushed, urged, cajoled, or bribed into learning how to read or write, and they
have had no dyslexia. None of their graduates are real or functional illiterates, and no one who
meets their older students could ever guess the age at which they first learned to read or write.
In a similar form students learn all the subjects, techniques and skills in these schools.
Describing current instructional methods as homogenization and lockstep standardization,
alternative approaches are proposed, such as the Sudbury Model of Democratic Education
schools, an alternative approach in which children, by enjoying personal freedom thus
encouraged to exercise personal responsibility for their actions, learn at their own pace and
style rather than following a compulsory and chronologically-based curriculum. [3][4][5][6]
Proponents of unschooling have also claimed that children raised in this method learn at their
own pace and style, and do not suffer from learning disabilities.


Informal theories of education deal with more practical breakdown of the learning process.
One of these deals with whether learning should take place as a building of concepts toward
an overall idea, or the understanding of the overall idea with the details filled in later. Modern

thinkers favor the latter, though without any basis in real world research. Critics believe that
trying to teach an overall idea without details (facts) is like trying to build a masonry structure
without bricks.
Other concerns are the origins of the drive for learning. To this end, many have split off from
the mainstream holding that learning is a primarily self taught thing, and that the ideal
learning situation is one that is self taught. According to this dogma, learning at its basic level
is all self taught, and class rooms should be eliminated since they do not fit the perfect model
of self learning. However, real world results indicate that isolated students fail. Social support
seems crucial for sustained learning.
Informal learning theory also concerns itself with book vs real-world experience learning.
Many consider most schools severely lacking in the second. Newly emerging hybrid
instructional models combining traditional classroom and computer enhanced instruction
promise the best of both worlds.


Other learning theories have also been developed. These learning theories may have a more
specific purpose than general learning theories. For example, andragogy is the art and science
to help adults learn.
Connectivism is a recent theory of networked learning which focuses on learning as making
Multimedia learning theory focuses on principles for the effective use of multimedia in

Other interests

Contemporary Educational Psychology/Chapter 2: The Learning Process

1. ^ Greenberg, D. (1987) The Sudbury Valley
School Experience Back to Basics.
2. ^ Greenberg, D. (1987) Free at Last, The
Sudbury Valley School, Chapter 5, The Other
3. ^ Greenberg, D. (1992), Education in America,
A View from Sudbury Valley, "Special
Education" -- A noble Cause Sacrificed to
4. ^ Greenberg, D. (1992), Education in America,
A View from Sudbury Valley, "Special
Education" -- A Noble Cause Run Amok.

5. ^ Greenberg, D. (1987), Free at Last, The

Sudbury Valley School, Chapter 1, And
6. ^ Greenberg, D. (1987), Free at Last, The
Sudbury Valley School, Chapter 19, Learning.
7. ^ Theodora Polito, Educational Theory as
Theory of Culture: A Vichian perspective on the
educational theories of John Dewey and Kieran
Egan Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol.
37, No. 4, 2005

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Active learning is an umbrella term that refers to several models of instruction that focus the
responsibility of learning on learners. Bonwell and Eison (1991) popularized this approach to
instruction. This "buzz word" of the 1980s became their 1990s report to the Association for
the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). In this report they discuss a variety of methodologies
for promoting "active learning." However according to Mayer (2004) strategies like active
learning" developed out of the work of an earlier group of theorists -- those promoting
discovery learning.
It has been suggested that students who actively engage with the material, are more likely to
recall information (Bruner, 1961), but several well known authors have argued this claim is
not well supported by the literature (Anderson Reder, & Simon, 1998; Gagn, 1966; Mayer,
2004; Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, 2006)[1]. Rather than being behaviorally active during
learning, Mayer (2004) suggests learners should be cognitively active.


Bonwell and Eison (1991) suggested learners work in pairs, discuss materials while roleplaying, debate, engage in case study, take part in cooperative learning, or produce short
written exercises, etc. While it makes sense to use these techniques as a "follow up" exercise,
it may not make sense to use them to introduce material. They can, however, be used to create
a context for the subsequent introduction of material. The degree of instructor guidance

students need while being "active" may vary according to the task and its place in a teaching
Examples of "active learning" activities include:

A class discussion may be held in person or in an online environment.

A think-pair-share activity is when learners take a minute to ponder the previous

lesson, later to discuss it with one or more of their peers, finally to share it with the
class as part of a formal discussion. It is during this formal discussion that the
instructor should clarify misconceptions.

A short written exercise that is often used is the "one minute paper." This is a good
way to review materials.

While practice is useful to reinforce learning, problem solving is not always suggested.
Sweller (1988) suggests solving problems can even have negative influence on learning,
instead he suggests that learners should study worked-examples, because this is a more
efficient method of schema acquisition. So instructors are cautioned to give learners some
basic or initial instruction first, perhaps to be followed up with an activity based upon the
above methods.


Learning by teaching (LdL)

An efficient instructional strategy that mixes guidance with active learning is "Learning by
teaching" (Martin 1985, Martin/Oebel 2007). This strategy allows students to teach the new
content to each other. Of course they must be accurately guided by instructors. This
methodology was introduced during the early 1980s, especially in Germany, and is now well
established in all levels of the German educational system [2]. "Learning by teaching" is
integration of behaviorism and cognitivism and offers a coherent framework for theory and

Active learning and Policy

Policy may be satisfied by demonstrating the instructional effectiveness of active instruction.
Rubrics (education) are a good way to evaluate "active learning" based instruction. These
instructional tools can be used to describe the various different qualities of any activity. In
addition, if given to the student, they can provide additional guidance (here is an example
Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) suggest that fifty years of empirical data does not
support those using active learning methods early in the learning process. In the past few
years Outcome-based education policy has begun to limit instructors to only using those
techniques that have been shown to be effective. In the United States for instance, the No
Child Left Behind Act requires those developing instruction to show evidence of its

Research supporting active learning

Bonwell and Eison (1991) state that active learning strategies are comparable to lectures for
achieving content mastery, but superior to lectures for developing thinking and writing skills.


The efficacy of active instructional techniques has been questioned recently (Mayer, 2004;
Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, 2006). Certainly practicing procedural skills is a necessity for
learning to be automated. But while these activities may be motivating for learners, these
unguided situations can in fact leave learners less competent than when they began the
activity (Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, 2006).
However, not all research supports Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark's views. For example, one
2007 study compared results for college students in six different versions of a computer
literacy course. In some groups, instructional elements were left out (objectives, information,
examples, practice with feedback, review). The "practice with feedback" is the active learning
component of the study. The researchers found that in all cases, students who had practice
with feedback had better performance and more positive attitudes than those students who did
not have opportunities for practice.[4]

Studying examples
as an alternative to active learning strategies
Self-guided instruction is possible, but is Sweller and Cooper claim it is often arduous,
clumsy, and less than efficient (Sweller and Cooper, 1985). Sweller (1988) suggests learners
should study worked-examples because this is a more efficient method of initial instruction.
Sweller and Cooper found that learners who studied worked examples performed significantly
better than learners who actively solved problems (Sweller & Cooper, 1985; Cooper &
Sweller, 1987). This was later called the "worked-example effect" (Clark, Nguyen and
Sweller, 2006).
Evidence for learning by studying worked-examples (the worked example effect) has been
found to be useful in many domains [e.g. music, chess, athletics (Atkinson, Derry, Renkl, &
Wortham, 2000); concept mapping (Hilbert & Renkl, 2007); geometry (Tarmizi and Sweller,
1988); physics, mathematics, or programming (Gerjets, Scheiter, and Catrambone, 2004)].
Finally the worked example effect is only useful for novices (Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, and
Sweller, 2003), so again practice, is a necessity, but only later after a student has the
underlying schema in place.

1. ^ Kirschner, P. A.,
Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006) Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work:
an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and
inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 41 (2) 75-86

2. ^ Jean-Pol Martin:Zum Aufbau didaktischer Teilkompetenzen beim Schler.

Fremdsprachenunterricht auf der lerntheoretischen Basis des
Informationsverarbeitungsansatzes. Dissertation. Tbingen: Narr. 1985; Jean-Pol Martin,
Guido Oebel (2007): Lernen durch Lehren: Paradigmenwechsel in der Didaktik?, In:
Deutschunterricht in Japan, 12, 2007, 4-21 (Zeitschrift des Japanischen Lehrerverbandes,
ISBN: 1342-6575)
3. ^ Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest, Bonwell & Eison,
4. ^ Martin, F., Klein, J. D., & Sullivan, H. (2007) The impact of instructional elements in
computer-based instruction British Journal of Educational Technology 38 (4), 623636.


Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M. & Simon, H. (1998). Radical constructivism and

cognitive psychology. In D. Ravitch (Ed.) Brookings papers on education policy 1998.
Washington, DC: Brookings Institute Press.

Atkinson, R. K., Derry, S. J., Renkl, A., & Wortham, D. W. (2000). Learning from
examples: Instructional principles from the worked examples research. Review of
Educational Research, 70, 181214.

Bonwell, C. & Eison, J. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the

Classroom AEHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1. Washington, D.C.: JosseyBass. ISBN 1-87838-00-87.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). "The act of discovery". Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21


Clark, R., Nguyen, F., and Sweller, J. (2006). Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based
Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. ISBN 0-7879-7728-4.

Gagn, R. (1966). Varieties of learning and the concept of discovery (pp.135-150) In

Shulman, L. S. and Keislar, E. R. (Eds) Learning by discovery: A critical appraisal.
Chicago: Rand McNally and Co.

Gerjets,P. Scheiter,K. and Catrambone, R. (2004).Designing instructional examples to

reduce intrinsic cognitive load: molar versus modular presentation of solution
procedures. Instructional Science. 32(1) 3358

Kalyuga,S., Ayres,P. Chandler,P and Sweller,J. (2003). "The Expertise Reversal

Effect". Educational Psychologist 38 (1): 2331. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3801_4.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006) Why minimal guidance during
instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery,
problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 41
(2) 75-86

Hilbert, T. S., & Renkl, A. (2007). Learning how to Learn by Concept Mapping: A
Worked-Example Effect. Oral presentation at the 12th Biennial Conference EARLI
2007 in Budapest, Hungary

Mayer, R. (2004). "Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery

learning? The case for guided methods of instruction". American Psychologist 59 (1):
1419. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.14.

Sweller, J. (1988). "Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning".

Cognitive Science 12 (1): 257285. doi:10.1016/0364-0213(88)90023-7.

Sweller, J., & Cooper, G. A. (1985). "The use of worked examples as a substitute for
problem solving in learning algebra". Cognition and Instruction 2 (1): 5989.

Tarmizi, R.A. and Sweller, J. (1988). Guidance during mathematical problem solving.
Journal of Educational Psychology, 80 (4) 424-436

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Discovery Learning is a method of inquiry-based instruction and is considered a

constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists
and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert. Although this form of
instruction has great popularity, there is considerable debate in the literature concerning its
efficacy (Mayer, 2004).
Jerome Bruner is thought to have originated discovery learning in the 1960s, but his ideas are
very similar those of earlier writers (e.g. John Dewey). Bruner argues that Practice in
discovering for oneself teaches one to acquire information in a way that makes that
information more readily viable in problem solving" (Bruner, 1961, p.26). This philosophy
later became the discovery learning movement of the 1960s. The mantra of this philosophical
movement suggests that we should 'learn by doing'.
Discovery learning takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his
own experience and prior knowledge and is a method of instruction through which students
interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with
questions and controversies, or performing experiments.

Bruners Constructivist Theory

A) Description
Bruner's constructivist theory is based upon the study of cognition. A major theme in this
theory is that "learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts
based upon their current/past knowledge" (Kearsely 1994b). Cognitive structures are used to
provide meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to go beyond the
information given.
According to Bruner, the instructor should try and encourage students to construct hypotheses,
makes decisions, and discover principles by themselves (Kearsley 1994b). The instructor's
task is to "translate information to be learned into a format appropriate to the learner's current
state of understanding" and organize it in a spiral manner "so that the student continually
builds upon what they have already learned."
Bruner (1966, as cited in Kearsley 1994b) states that a theory of instruction should address the
following aspects:
1. the most effective sequences in which to present material
2. the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily
grasped by the learner
B) Practical Application
Bruners constructivist theory can be applied to instruction, as Kearsley (1994b) surmises, by
applying the following principles:
1. Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student
willing and able to learn (readiness).
2. Instruction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student (spiral
3. Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps (going
beyond the information given).
The following example is taken from Bruner (1973, as cited in Kearsley 1994b):
The concept of prime numbers appears to be more readily grasped when the child,
through construction, discovers that certain handfuls of beans cannot be laid out in
completed rows and columns. Such quantities have either to be laid out in a single file
or in an incomplete row-column design in which there is always one extra or one too
few to fill the pattern. These patterns, the child learns, happen to be called prime. It is
easy for the child to go from this step to the recognition that a multiple table, so called,
is a record sheet of quantities in completed multiple rows and columns. Here is
factoring, multiplication and primes in a construction that can be visualized.

Instructional Objective: Recognize and define a prime number.


1. Ask the student to get a handful of pennies, beans, or any other countable object.
2. Show the students 6 pennies. Show that six pennies can be organized into two groups
of three, three groups of two, or one group of six.
3. Ask the student to count out 8 pennies and organize the pennies into as many EQUAL
groups as they can.
4. Show answer.
5. Ask the student to count out 18 pennies and organize the pennies into as many
EQUAL groups as they can.
6. Show answer.
7. Ask the student to count out 7 pennies and organize the pennies into as many EQUAL
groups as they can.
8. Show answer.
9. Ask the student to count out 13 pennies and organize the pennies into as many
EQUAL groups as they can.
10. Show answer.
11. State that 7 and 13 are prime numbers, while 6, 8, and 18 are not. Ask the following
questions: What is a prime number? What is the rule or principle for determining
whether a number is prime or not?
12. Explain the principle that when a certain number of pennies can only be grouped into
one equal row or column, then that number is called a prime number.
13. Show a selection of numbers or examples of different groups of coins. Ask the student
to identify which ones are prime.
14. Show answer.
C) Related Theories, Pedagogical Practices and Practical Web-Design Strategies
1. Attract, hold and focus attention so students can learn principles. Fahy (1999, 59)
lists the following ways to attract attention:

To draw attention, use novelty, differences, motion, changes in intensity or

brightness, the presence of moderate complexity, and lean and focussed
displays. NOTE: Merill cautions against the overuse of attention-getting
strategies, especially on the computer. "Screen motion and animated movement
are very powerful in attracting and holding attention. The program should

therefore not require the user to read while watching an animated display"
(1989, as cited in Fahy 1999, 60).

To increase attention and maintain learner focus, create moderate uncertainty

about what is about to happen next or what the eventual outcome of a
presentation will be.

To sustain attention, maintain change and variety in the learning environment.

To focus attention, teach learners to interpret certain cues such as specific

colors, sounds, symbols, fonts, screen or display arrangement, underlining, etc.

To focus attention, use captions in pictures, graphics and illustrations.

Improve retention by sequencing screens and presenting related materials

together. In designing materials of all kinds sequence is important. "Material
presented together will be associated in the learners memory" (Fahy 1999, 79) and
more easily recalled especially if repetition is used. Fahy believes that "events ideas,
words, concepts and stimuli in general which are not organized in some meaningful
way are harder to understand and remember than those which are embedded in some
organizational context" (p. 60). Fahy also advises that when sequencing consider that
the first and last displays in any sequences are especially important. "Introductions and
summaries are key learning opportunities" (p. 61).

Provide structural cues to avoid information vertigo. Jones and Farquhar (1997,
241) recommend arranging information "in a non-threatening manner through
techniques such as chunking, overviews, advance organizers, maps, and a fixeddisplay format." They also advise that "the consistent placement and style of section
titles is [an] important cue to the structure of information."

Several groups of educators have found evidence that pure discovery learning is a less
effective as an instructional strategy for novices, than more direct forms of instruction (e.g.
Tuovinen & Sweller, 1999). While discovery learning is very popular, it is often used
inappropriately, to teach novices (Kirschner et al, 2006).
People can "learn by doing." A debate in the instructional community now questions the
effectiveness of this model of instruction (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Bruner (1961)
suggested that students are more likely to remember concepts if they discover them on their
own. This is as opposed to those they are taught directly. However, Kirschner, Sweller, and
Clark (2006) report there is little empirical evidence to support discovery learning. Kirschner
et al suggest that fifty years of empirical data does not support those using these unguided
methods of instruction.
Debates about instructional strategies (like direct instruction and discovery learning) are
driven by research and empirical studies that can be found in the literature. Mayer (2004)

proposes that interest in discovery learning has waxed and waned since the 1960s. In each
case the empirical literature has shown that the use of pure discovery methods is not
suggested, yet time and time again researchers have renamed their instructional methods only
to be discredited again, to rename name their movement again. Mayer asked the question
"Should There Be a Three-Strikes Rule Against Pure Discovery Learning?" While discovery
for one's self may be an engaging form of learning, it may also be frustrating. Mayer's critique
is not the only one; other well known authors have begun to question the efficacy of this form
of instruction (Kirschner et al, 2006; Tuovinen and Sweller , 1999).
The main idea behind these critiques is that learners need guidance (Kirschner et al, 2006),
later as they gain confidence and become competent then they may learn though discovery.

Discovery Based Learning

in Special Needs Education
With the push for special needs students to take part in the general education curriculum,
prominent researchers in the field doubt if general education classes rooted in discovery based
learning can provide an adequate learning environment for special needs students. Kauffman
has related his concerns over the use of discovery based learning as opposed to direct
instruction. Kauffman comments,
Nothing is gained by keeping students guessing about what it is they are supposed to learn. In all or
nearly all of the education programs in which the majority of students can be demonstrated to be
highly successful in learning the facts and skills they need, these facts and skills are taught directly
rather than indirectly. That is the teacher is in control of instruction, not the student, and information is
given to students (2002).

This view is exceptionally strong when focusing on students with math disabilities and math
instruction. Fuchs et al (2008) comment,
Typically developing students profit from the general education mathematics program, which relies, at
least in part, on a constructivist, inductive instructional style. Students who accrue serious
mathematics deficits, however, fail to profit from those programs in a way that produces
understanding of the structure, meaning, and operational requirements of mathematics Effective
intervention for students with a math disability requires an explicit, didactic form of instruction

Fuchs et al go on to note that explicit or direct instruction should be followed up with

instruction that anticipates misunderstanding and counters it with precise explanations.
It must be noted, however, that few studies focus on the long-term results for direct
instruction. Long-term studies may find that direct instruction is not superior to other
instructional methods. For instance, a study found that in a group of fourth graders that were
instructed for 10 weeks and measured for 17 weeks direct instruction did not lead to any
stronger results in the long term than did practice alone (Dean & Kuhn, 2006). Other
researchers note that there is promising work being done in the field to incorporate
constructivism and cooperative grouping so that curriculum and pedagogy can meet the needs
of diverse learners in an inclusion setting (Brantlinger, 1997). However, it is questionable how
successful these developed strategies are for student outcomes both initially and in the long

Further reading

Brantlinger, E. (1997). "Using ideology: Cases of non-recognition of the politics of

research and practice in special education". Review of Educational Research 67 (4):

Bruner, J. S. (1961). "The act of discovery". Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21


Dean, D., Jr., & Kuhn, D. (2006). "Direct instruction vs. discovery: The long view".
Science Education 91 (3): 384-397.

Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Powell, S. R., Seethaler, P. M., Cirino, P. T., & Fletcher, J. M.
(2008). "Intensive intervention for students with mathematics disabilities: Seven
principles of effective practice". Learning Disability Quarterly 31 (2): 79-92.

Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006). "Why minimal guidance during
instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery,
problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching". Educational Psychologist
41 (2): 7586.

Mayer, R. (2004). "Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery

learning? The case for guided methods of instruction". American Psychologist 59 (1):

McCarthy, C.B. (2005). "Effects of thematic-based, hands-on science teaching versus

a textbook approach for students with disabilities". Journal of Research in Science
Teaching, 42 (3): 245-263.

Kauffman, J. M. (2002). Education Deform. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Tuovinen, J. E., & Sweller, J. (1999). "A comparison of cognitive load associated with
discovery learning and worked examples". Journal of Educational Psychology 91 (2):

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Inquiry-based learning or inquiry-based science describes a range of philosophical,

curricular and pedagogical approaches to teaching. Its core premises include the requirement
that learning should be based around student's questions. Pedagogy and curriculum requires
students to work together to solve problems rather than receiving direct instructions on what
to do from the teacher. The teacher's job in an inquiry learning environment is therefore not to
provide knowledge, but instead to help students along the process of discovering knowledge
themselves. In this form of instruction, it is proposed that teachers should be viewed as
facilitators of learning rather than vessels of knowledge. Even though this form of instruction
has gained great popularity of the past decade, there is plenty of debate about the effectiveness
of this form of instruction.
Inquiry-based learning is an instructional method developed during the discovery learning
movement of the 1960s. It was developed in response to a perceived failure of more
traditional forms of instruction, where students were required simply to memorize fact laden
instructional materials (Bruner, 1961). Inquiry learning is a form of active learning, where
progress is assessed by how well students develop experimental and analytical skills rather
than how much knowledge they possess.
This type of instruction has great popularity, but like other approaches to education, its
effectiveness is open to debate.

Inquiry-based learning
in science education
Inquiry-based learning has been of great influence in science education, where it is known as
Inquiry-based science, especially since the publication of the National Science Educational
Standards in 1996. Since this publication some educators have advocated a return to more
traditional methods of teaching and assessment. Others feel inquiry is important in teaching
students to research and learning.
Scientists use their background knowledge of principles, concepts and theories, along with the
science process skills to construct new explanations to allow them to understand the natural
world. This is known as "science inquiry".
When students are learning using inquiry-based science they use the same ideas as scientists
do when they are conducting research. Students become 'mini-scientists.'

The philosophy of inquiry based learning finds its antecedents in the work of Piaget, Dewey,
Vygotsky, and Freire among others.
Deweys theory of learning is that optimal learning and human development and growth occur
when people are confronted with substantive, real problems to solve. He believed that

curriculum and instruction should be based on integrated, community-based tasks and

activities that engage learners in forms of pragmatic social action that have real value in the
The focus on the teacher as expert is central to Vygotskys learning theory. He proposed that
cognitive development is the product of social and cultural interaction around the
development and use of tools of a cognitive, linguistic and physical nature. Learning occurs in
a zone of proximal development where authoritative tool users teachers acting as mentors
initiate and lead students as novices into the use of technologies. This structured introduction
into using tools is called scaffolding. Work should be structured around projects that demand
students engage in the solution of a particular community-based, school-based or regional
problem of significance and relevance to their worlds.
Freires work is premised on the assumption that the most authentic and powerful pedagogy is
one that focuses on the identification, analysis and resolution of immediate problems in
learners worlds. Hence, his approach is referred to as a problem-posing and problem solving
pedagogy. Freire argues that any pedagogy must be of demonstrable relevance to the
immediate worlds of the students and it must enable them to analyse, theorise and
intellectually engage with those worlds.

Open Learning
An important aspect of inquiry-based science is the use of open learning. Open learning is
when there is no prescribed target or result which students have to achieve. In many
conventional traditional science experiments, students are told what the outcome of an
experiment will be, or is expected to be, and the student is simply expected to 'confirm' this.
In open teaching, on the other hand, the student is either left to discover for themselves what
the result of the experiment is, or the teacher guides them to the desired learning goal but
without making it explicit what this is. Open teaching is an important but difficult skill for
teachers to acquire.
Open learning has many benefits. It means students do not simply perform experiments in a
routine like fashion, but actually think about the results they collect and what they mean. With
traditional non-open lessons there is a tendency for students to say that the experiment 'went
wrong' when they collect results contrary to what they are told to expect. In open lessons there
are no wrong results, and students have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the results
they collect themselves and decide their value. Because the path taken to a desired learning
target is uncertain, open lessons are more interesting and less predictable then traditional
Open learning has been developed by a number of science educators including the American
John Dewey and the German Martin Wagenschein. Wagenschein's ideas particularly
complement both open learning and inquiry teaching. He emphasized that students should not
be taught bald facts, but should be made to understand and explain what they are learning. His
most famous example of this was when he asked physics students to tell him what the speed
of a falling object was. Nearly all students would produce an equation. But no students could
explain what this equation meant. Wagenschien used this example to show the importance of
understanding over knowledge.

Characteristics of inquiry-learning

The teacher does not communicate knowledge, but is rather there to help students to
learn for themselves.

The topic, problem to be studied, and methods used to answer this problem are
determined by the student and not the teacher.

Inquiry learning emphasizes constructivist ideas of learning. Knowledge is built in a

step-wise fashion. Learning proceeds best in group situations.

Examples of inquiry-based science

Students work in groups to build bridges to hold marble weights. By doing so they
discover how to build strong bridges.

Students learn about inertia and movement by studying what affect rolling of marbles
on different surfaces has.

Students develop a method to find which antacid tablets are the best at neutralizing

Mayer (2004) asked the question, should there be "a three strikes rule" given discovery-based
instruction? He points out that discovery-based teaching practices have been with us since the
discovery learning movement of the 1960s, and that there has been little evidence to support
this practice. He describes this as the constructivist teaching fallacy (Mayer, 2004, p15). He
suggests constructivist often take the learning by doing mantra to mean learners learn most
efficiently via this method, while there is little evidence to support this notion, quite the
contrary in fact. Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) [1] review the literature and have found
that although constructivist often cite each others work, that empirical evidence is not often
cited. None the less the constructivist movement gained great momentum in the 1990s,
because many educators began tot write about this philosophy of learning.
Inquiry-based science has been increasingly promoted as a mainstream teaching approach,
especially since the publication of the 1996 Standards in Science Education document.
However, there are many critics of inquiry-based science.
Science testing has become increasingly important with the No Child Left Behind program,
and the rewriting of the National Assessment of Educational Progress to emphasize facts. This
has led to a decrease in emphasis on inquiry as a method of teaching science and a fall back to
more traditional 'chalk and talk' methods.
Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn cite several studies supporting the success of the
constructivist problem-based and inquiry learning methods. For example, they describe a
project called GenScope, an inquiry-based science software application. Students using the

GenScope software showed significant gains over the control groups, with the largest gains
shown in students from basic courses. [2]
Hmelo-Silver et al also cite a large study by Geier on the effectiveness of inquiry-based
science for middle school students, as demonstrated by their performance on high-stakes
standardized tests. The improvement was 14% for the first cohort of students and 13% for the
second cohort. This study also found that inquiry-based teaching methods greatly reduced the
achievement gap for African-American students.[2]
During the 1990s when the calls for the use of inquiry-based science were strongest many
teachers felt overwhelmed by what was being demanded of them. The Thomas B. Fordham
Institute concludes that while inquiry-based learning is fine to some degree, it has been
carried to excess.[3] and can damage students.

References and further reading

1. ^ Kirschner, P. A.,
Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006) Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work:
an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and
inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 41 (2) 75-86
2. ^ a b Scaffolding and Achievement in Problem-Based and Inquiry Learning: A Response to
Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn. (2007). Educational
Psychologist, 42(2), 99107
3. ^ [1] Wall Street Journal, 19 January 2006 (p. A09)

Bruner, J. S. (1961). "The act of discovery". Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21


Dewey, J (1997) How We Think, New York: Dover Publications

Freire, P. (1984) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Continuum Publishing


Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006) Why minimal guidance during
instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery,
problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 41
(2): 7586

Mayer, R. (2004). "Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery

learning? The case for guided methods of instruction". American Psychologist 59 (1):
1419. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.14.

Teaching inquiry-based science Downloadable book about the teaching of science


Vygotsky, L.S. (1962) Thought and Language, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). "The act of discovery". Harvard Educational Review 31 (1): 21


Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006). "Why minimal guidance during
instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery,
problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching". Educational Psychologist
41 (2): 7586.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (Russian: ) (November 17

(November 5 Old Style), 1896 June 11, 1934) was a Russian Jewish developmental
psychologist and the founder of cultural-historical psychology.

Vygotsky was born in 1896 in Orsha, in the Russian Empire (today in Belarus). He was
tutored privately by Solomon Ashpiz and graduated from Moscow State University in 1917.
Later, he attended the Institute of Psychology in Moscow (192434), where he worked
extensively on ideas about cognitive development, particularly the relationship of work that is
still being explored. He died in Moscow of tuberculosis.

A pioneering psychologist, Vygotsky was also a highly prolific author: his major works span 6
volumes, written over roughly 10 years, from his Psychology of Art (1925) to Thought and
Language [or Thinking and Speech] (1934). Vygotsky's interests in the fields of
developmental psychology, child development, and education were extremely diverse. His
innovative work in psychology includes several key concepts such as psychological tools,
mediation, internalization and the zone of proximal development. His work covered such
diverse topics as the origin and the psychology of art, development of higher mental
functions, philosophy of science and methodology of psychological research, the relation
between learning and human development, concept formation, interrelation between language
and thought development, play as a psychological phenomenon, the study of learning
disabilities and abnormal human development (aka defectology).
Cultural mediation and internalization

Vygotsky investigated child development and how this was guided by the role of culture and
interpersonal communication. Vygotsky observed how higher mental functions developed

historically within particular cultural groups, as well as individually through social

interactions with significant people in a child's life, particularly parents, but also other adults.
Through these interactions, a child came to learn the habits of mind of her/his culture,
including speech patterns, written language, and other symbolic knowledge through which the
child derives meaning and affected a child's construction of her/his knowledge. This key
premise of Vygotskian psychology is often referred to as cultural mediation. The specific
knowledge gained by children through these interactions also represented the shared
knowledge of a culture. This process is known as internalization.
Internalization can be understood in one respect as knowing how. For example, riding a
bicycle or pouring a cup of milk are tools of the society and initially outside and beyond the
child. The mastery of these skills occurs through the activity of the child within society. A
further aspect of internalization is appropriation in which the child takes a tool and makes it
his own, perhaps using it in a way unique to himself. Internalizing the use of a pencil allows
the child to use it very much for his own ends rather than draw exactly what others in society
have drawn previously.
Psychology of play

Lesser known is his research on play, or child's game as a psychological phenomenon and its
role in the child's development. Through play the child develops abstract meaning separate
from the objects in the world which is a critical feature in the development of higher mental
The famous example Vygotsky gives is of a child who wants to ride a horse but he cannot. As
a child under three, he would perhaps cry and be angry, but around the age of three the child's
relationship with the world changes, "Henceforth play is such that the explanation for it must
always be that it is the imaginary, illusory realization of unrealizable desires. Imagination is a
new formation that is not present in the consciousness of the very raw young child, is totally
absent in animals, and represents a specifically human form of conscious activity. Like all
functions of consciousness, it originally arises from action." (Vygotsky, 1978)
He wishes to ride a horse but cannot, so he picks up a stick and stands astride of it, thus
pretending he is riding a horse. The stick is a pivot. "Action according to rules begins to be
determined by ideas, not by objects..... It is terribly difficult for a child to sever thought (the
meaning of a word) from object. Play is a transitional stage in this direction. At that critical
moment when a stick i.e., an object becomes a pivot for severing the meaning of horse
from a real horse, one of the basic psychological structures determining the childs
relationship to reality is radically altered".
As children get older, their reliance on pivots such as sticks, dolls and other toys diminishes.
They have internalized these pivots as imagination and abstract concepts through which they
can understand the world. "The old adage that childrens play is imagination in action can be
reversed: we can say that imagination in adolescents and schoolchildren is play without
action" (Vygotsky, 1978).

Another aspect of play that Vygotsky referred to was the development of social rules that
develop, for example, when children play house and adopt the roles of different family
members. Vygotsky cites an example of two sisters playing at being sisters. The rules of
behavior between them that go unnoticed in daily life are consciously acquired through play.
As well as social rules the child acquires what we now refer to as self-regulation. For
example, as a child stands at the starting line of a running race, she may well desire to run
immediately so as to reach the finish line first, but her knowledge of the social rules
surrounding the game and her desire to enjoy the game enable her to regulate her initial
impulse and wait for the start signal.
Thought and Language

Perhaps Vygotsky's most important contribution concerns the inter-relationship of language

development and thought. This concept, explored in Vygotsky's book Thought and Language,
(alternative translation: Thinking and Speaking ) establishes the explicit and profound
connection between speech (both silent inner speech and oral language), and the development
of mental concepts and cognitive awareness. It should be noted that Vygotsky described inner
speech as being qualitatively different from normal (external) speech. Although Vygotsky
believed inner speech to develop from external speech via a gradual process of internalization,
with younger children only really able to "think out loud," he claimed that in its mature form
it would be unintelligible to anyone except the thinker and would not resemble spoken
language as we know it (in particular, being greatly compressed). Hence, thought itself
develops socially.
An infant learns the meaning of signs through interaction with its main care-givers, e.g.,
pointing, cries, and gurgles can express what is wanted. How verbal sounds can be used to
conduct social interaction is learned through this activity, and the child begins to
utilize/build/develop this faculty: using names for objects, etc.
Language starts as a tool external to the child used for social interaction. The child guides
personal behavior by using this tool in a kind of self-talk or "thinking out loud." Initially, selftalk is very much a tool of social interaction and it tapers to negligible levels when the child is
alone or with deaf children. Gradually self-talk is used more as a tool for self-directed and
self-regulating behavior. Then, because speaking has been appropriated and internalized, selftalk is no longer present around the time the child starts school. Self-talk "develops along a
rising not a declining, curve; it goes through an evolution, not an involution. In the end, it
becomes inner speech (Vygotsky, 1987, pg 57). Inner speech develops through its
differentiation from social speech.
Speaking has thus developed along two lines, the line of social communication and the line of
inner speech, by which the child mediates and regulates her activity through her thoughts
which in turn are mediated by the semiotics (the meaningful signs) of inner speech. This is not
to say that thinking cannot take place without language, but rather that it is mediated by it and
thus develops to a much higher level of sophistication. Just as the birthday cake as a sign
provides much deeper meaning than its physical properties allow, inner speech as signs

provides much deeper meaning than the lower psychological functions would otherwise
Inner speech is not comparable in form to external speech. External speech is the process of
turning thought into words. Inner speech is the opposite, it is the conversion of speech into
inward thought. Inner speech for example contains predicates only. Subjects are superfluous.
Words too are used much more economically. One word in inner speech may be so replete
with sense to the individual that it would take many words to express it in external speech.


In the Soviet Union, Russia, and Eastern Europe

In the Soviet Union, the work of the group of Vygotsky's students known as the Kharkov
School of Psychology was vital for preserving the scientific legacy of Lev Vygotsky and
identifying new avenues of its subsequent development. The members of the group laid a
foundation for Vygotskian psychology's systematic development in such diverse fields as the
psychology of memory (P. Zinchenko), perception, sensation and movement (Zaporozhets,
Asnin, A. N. Leont'ev), personality (L. Bozhovich, Asnin, A. N. Leont'ev), will and volition
(Zaporozhets, A. N. Leont'ev, P. Zinchenko, L. Bozhovich, Asnin), psychology of play (G. D.
Lukov, D. El'konin) and psychology of learning (P. Zinchenko, L. Bozhovich, D. El'konin), as
well as the theory of step-by-step formation of mental actions (Gal'perin), general
psychological activity theory (A. N. Leont'ev) and psychology of action (Zaporozhets).
In the West

In the West, most attention was aimed at the continuing work of Vygotsky's Western
contemporary Jean Piaget. Vygotsky's work appeared virtually unknown until its
"rediscovery" in the 1960s, when the interpretative translation of Thought and language
(1934) was published in English (in 1962; revised edition in 1986, translated by A. Kozulin;
and as Thinking and speech in 1987, translated by N. Minick). In the end of the 1970s, truly
ground-breaking publication was the major compilation of Vygotsky's works that saw the light
in 1978 under the header of Mind in society: The development of higher psychological
Vygotsky's views are reported to have influenced development of a wide range of
psychological and educational theories such as Ecological Systems Theory, activity theory,
distributed cognition, cognitive apprenticeship, second language acquisition theory, gesture
theory, and narrative therapy. Strong influences of Vygotskian thought can be found in the
work of a number of scholars such as Urie Bronfenbrenner, Jerome Bruner[1], Michael Cole,
James V. Wertsch, Sylvia Scribner, Vera John-Steiner, Ann L. Brown, Courtney Cazden,
Gordon Wells, Ren van der Veer, Jaan Valsiner, Pentti Hakkarainen, Seth Chaiklin, Alex
Kozulin, Dorothy Robbins, Nikolai Veresov, Anna Stetsenko, Kieran Egan, Fred Newman,
David McNeill, Lois Holzman, and Michael White.[2][3]

Western scholars have also begun to apply the Vygotskian paradigm to the domain of moral
development. In Educational Psychology, first published in English in 1997,Vygotsky devotes
a chapter to the discussion of moral development and moral education. Vygotsky viewed
moral development as involving similar processes as other areas of cognitive development.
Examples of scholars applying Vygotskian theory to moral development include Mark Tappan
and Val D. Turner.


The school of Vygotsky and, specifically, his cultural-historical psychology was much
criticized during his lifetime as well as after his death. By the beginning of the 1930s the
school was defeated by Vygotsky's scientific opponents who criticized him for "idealist
aberrations", which at that time equaled with the charge in disloyalty to the Communist Party
and frequently entailed very serious consequences not only for the academic work but also for
freedom and even life itself. As a result of this criticism of their work a major group of
Vygotsky's students including Luria and Leontiev had to flee from Moscow to Ukraine where
they established the Kharkov school of psychology. Later the representatives of the school
would, in turn, in the second half of the 1930s criticize Vygotsky himself for his interest in the
cross-disciplinary study of the child that was developed under the umbrella term of paedology
(also spelled as pedology) as well as for his ignoring the role of practice and practical, objectbound activity and arguably his emphasis on the research on the role of language and, on the
other hand, emotional factors in human development. Much of this early criticism of the
1930s was later discarded by these Vygotskian scholars themselves. Another line of the
critique of Vygotsky's psychological theory comes from such major figures of the Soviet
psychology as Sergei Rubinshtein and his followers who criticized Vygotsky's notion of
mediation and its development in the works of students.

1. ^ Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
2. ^ White, M. (2006). Narrative practice with families and children:
Externalising conversations revisited. In M. White & A. Morgan, (2006).
Narrative therapy with children and their families, pp. 1-56. Adelaide,
South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
3. ^ White, M. (2007). Maps of narrative practice. New York: W.W. Norton.

Major monographs about Vygotsky's Work

Wertsch, J. V. (1985). Vygotsky and the Social Formation of Mind, Harvard

University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London.

Kozulin, A. (1990). Vygotsky's Psychology: A Biography of Ideas.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Van der Veer, R., & Valsiner, J. (1991). Understanding Vygotsky. A quest for
synthesis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Newman, F. & Holzman, L. (1993). Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary scientist.

London: Routledge.

Van der Veer, R., & Valsiner, J. (Eds.) (1994). The Vygotsky Reader. Oxford:

Daniels, H. (Ed.) (1996). An Introduction to Vygotsky, London: Routledge.

Vygodskaya, G. L., & Lifanova, T. M. (1996/1999). Lev Semenovich

Vygotsky, Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, Part 1, 37 (2),
3-90; Part 2, 37 (3), 3-90; Part 3, 37 (4), 3-93, Part 4, 37 (5), 3-99.

Veresov, N. N. (1999). Undiscovered Vygotsky: Etudes on the pre-history of

cultural-historical psychology. New York: Peter Lang.

Daniels, H., Wertsch, J. & Cole, M. (Eds.) (2007). The Cambridge

Companion to Vygotsky

Van der Veer, Rene (2007). Lev Vygotsky: Continuum Library of

Educational Thought. Continuum.

A) Description
Vygotsky's theory of social cognitive development is complementary to Bandura's social
learning theory. Its major thematic thrust is that "social interaction plays a fundamental role in
the development of cognition" (Kearsley 1994e). Most of the original work of this theory was
done in the context of language learning in children.
An important concept in Vygotsky's theory is that "the potential for cognitive development is
limited to a certain time span which he calls the 'zone of proximal development' (Kearsley
1994e). He defines the 'zone of proximal development' as having four learning stages. These
stages "range between the lower limit of what the student knows and the upper limits of what
the student has the potential of accomplishing" (Gillani and Relan 1997, 231). The stages can
be further broken down as follows (Tharp & Gallimore 1988, 35):

Stage 1 - assistance provided by more capable others (coaches, experts, teachers);

Stage 2 - assistance by self;

Stage 3 - internalization automatization (fossilization); and

Stage 4 - de-automatization: recursiveness through prior stages.

Another notable aspect of Vygotsky's theory is that it claims "that instruction is most efficient
when students engage in activities within a supportive learning environment and when they
receive appropriate guidance that is mediated by tools" (Vygotsky 1978, as cited in Gillani &
Relan 1997, 231). These instructional tools can be defined as "cognitive strategies, a mentor,
peers, computers, printed materials, or any instrument that organizes and provides information
for the learner." Their role is "to organize dynamic support to help [learners] complete a task
near the upper end of their zone of proximal development [ZPD] and then to systematically
withdraw this support as the [learner] move to higher levels of confidence."
B) Practical Application
In applying Vygotsky's theory of social cognitive development, Kearsley (1994e) suggests
keeping the following principles in mind:
1. Full cognitive development requires social interaction.
2. Cognitive development is limited to a certain range at any given age.
Gillani and Relan (1997, 232) contend that "the interactive nature of frames in
interdisciplinary instructional design has the potential of implementing cognitive theories as
its theoretical foundation."
Based on David Ausubel's idea of advance organizers "as a cognitive strategy that links prior
knowledge structure with new information" (1968 as cited in Gillani and Relan 1997, 232), as
well as, Vygotsky's idea of instructional tools and the four learning stages as defined by his
'zone of proximal development', Gillani and Relan proposed an instructional design model
having four phases:

advance organizer phase,

modeling phase,

exploring phase, and

generating phase.

Gillani and Relan argue that it was not until the introduction of frame technology introduced
with Netscape Navigator 2.0 that these four phases could realistically be applied to
instructional design. They say:

Basically, frames enable the Web designer to create multiple, distinct, and
independent viewing areas within the browsers window . . . each frame then
becomes a window that can have its own URL (Uniform Resource Locator),
scrollbar, and links to frames in the same document or other documents. Such
internal connections among the frames of a browser enable the designer to
create interactive links that can update and control the content of other frames
(p. 232).
Gilanni and Relan proposed the following model made up of four distinct frames, with the
Instructional Model Frame having four distinct phases:

Instructional Model Frame

[Advance Organizer] [Model] [Explore] [Generate]



Vibrant Frame The small top left area frame above the navigation frame
determines the underlying theme for content. Each time the user clicks on it, a new
theme will appear which changes the thematic nature of instruction. For example, this
frame could be used to provide multiple versions of content (e.g., frames, no frames,
modules, no modules). This frame could also be used to show QuickTime movies. It
should be noted that proper use of this frame adds a considerable investment in
instructional design.

Instructional Model Frame - The top right frame, includes four buttons representing
the four stages of learning as proposed by Vygotskys zone of proximal development:
Advance Organizer, Modeling, Exploring, and Generating. Each button in this frame
updates and controls the content of the navigation frame.

Navigation Frame The left frame just below the Vibrant Frame is the Navigation
Frame. Depending upon which button is clicked in the Navigation Frame, determines
the content of the Presentation Frame.

The Presentation Frame The main central frame displays dynamic instructional
content as selected from the navigation frame.

Two examples which illustrate design features of Gillani and Relan's instructional model are
shown in the following links to screen shots, one of Sookmyung Women's University
Continuing Cyber Education Program, and the other of the home page of this tutorial:

C) Related Theories, Pedagogical Practices and Practical Web-Design Strategies

1. Simplify navigation. Szabo (1998) defines navigation as "the process of acquiring
information from a rich multimedia data base that has no obvious organizational
pattern" (p. 6). Guay (as cited in Fahy 1999, 191-192) advises that navigation should
be intuitive, clear, flowing. "Poorly thought out hypertext is a navigational nightmare
of tangled mazes, infinite loops, cul-de-sacs, and dead links. So dont start linking
without thinking." Similarly Dede (1996, 13) argues that "without skilled facilitation,
many learners who access current knowledge webs will flounder in a morass of
unstructured data."
2. Create effective menus. Well-designed menus help learners develop an accurate
mental model of the structure being searched. To design more effective menus, Szabo
(1996, 55) advises: (a) avoid using conflicting or confusing orienting devices, as
disorientation interferes with the learning task; (b) develop organizational systems that
are highly visual, interactive, and intuitive; (c) use embedded menus as a search aid,
but make sure these menus actually meet learning needs and do not create
disorientation; and (d) keep menus shallow but meaningful; use icons supplemented
by text.
3. Include indexes, table of contents, and search capabilities. Fahy (1999, 188)
advises that navigation, for instructional purposes, can be aided substantially if the
following functions and capabilities are designed into WebPages:
index - of contents of the site;
glossary - of terms, vocabulary, etc., with pronunciation;
related links page - to enable further study, but to avoid unnecessary browsing;
searching - using an efficient engine;
online help - to ensure no user is left without assistance;
bookmarking - to simplify return to specific parts of the site; and
notebook - to allow recording of notes, including cut-and-paste from on-line
4. Clearly identify content with appropriate headings and titles. The title of the site
should reflect its purpose and audience.
5. Place most important information on the top-left. Important information should
go to the top-left. The lower-left is the least noticed area of the page/screen (Rockley
1997 as cited in Fahy 1999, 145).
To make online teaching and training materials more effective, an agency should first
establish suitable learning goals and objectives. Since the priority of instruction is to "benefit"
or "instruct" the learner, instructional designers should then strive to facilitate the learning
process i.e., make learning easier. This can be accomplished by applying proven learning
theories and pedagogical practices, as well as, practical web-design strategies and guidelines,
to their instructional design:

However, "program planners need to exercise caution in assuming that adult development
theories apply [equally] to females, racial, ethnic minority adults, individuals with disabilities,
or others" (Ross-Gordon 1998, 225). They must also bear in mind that the limitations of the
Web as a teaching and training vehicle and that it can potentially be a major cause of wasted
time. To its disadvantage, the Web is (Fahy 1999, 181-182):

Easy to get lost in (users can get confused bouncing around from one link to the next)


Non-interactive (although this is changing)

Complex (the amount of information on the Web is mind-boggling)

Time-consuming (because it is non-linear and invites exploration. NOTE: Research

by Thaler [1997, as cited in Fahy 1999, 181] shows that "employees in a 1997 survey
reported spending an average of 90 minutes per day visiting sites unrelated to their

To sum up the future of the Web as an educational tool, McDonald (1996 as cited in Fahy
1999, 182) provides us with the following insights. He claims that the Web will only become
a useful educational tool when it exhibits the following characteristics:

Ease of use: the Internet must become as easy to use as a telephone

Accessibility: learners and teachers must have access to the Internet as convenient as
the telephone

And solves the following three problems:

Lack of speed

Absence of security

A relatively small number of users

Summary of Five Learning Theories

1. Gagnes Conditions of Learning Theory is based on a hierarchy of intellectual skills
organized according to complexity that can be used to identify prerequisites necessary
to facilitate learning at each level. Instruction can be made more efficient by following
a sequence of nine instructional events defined by the intellectual skills that the learner
is required to learn for the specific task at hand.
2. Bruners Constructivist Theory asserts that learning is an active process in which
learners construct new ideas based upon their current knowledge. Instruction can be
made more efficient by providing a careful sequencing of materials to allow learners

to build upon what they already know and go beyond the information they have been
given to discover the key principles by themselves.
3. Banduras Social Learning Theory emphasizes the importance of observing and
modeling the behaviors and attitudes of others. Instruction can be made more efficient
by modeling desired behaviors of functional value to learners and by providing
situations which allow learners to use or practice that behavior to improve retention.
4. Carrolls Minimalist Theory advises that course designers must minimize
instructional materials that obstruct learning and focus the design on activities that
support learner-directed activity. Instruction can be made more efficient when the
amount of reading is minimized and learners are allowed to fill in the gaps themselves.
5. Vygostkys Theory of Social Cognitive Development reasons that social interaction
plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. Instruction can be made
more efficient when learners engage in activities within a supportive environment and
receive guidance mediated by appropriate tools.



From EduTech Wiki

The Jerold Kemp instructional design method and model defines nine different components of
an instructional design and at the same time adopts a continous implementation/evaluation
Kemp adopts a wide view, the oval shape of his model conveys that the design and
development process is a continuous cycle that requires constant planning, design,
development and assessment to insure effective instruction. The model is systemic and
nonlinear and seems to encourage designers to work in all areas as appropriate (Steven
The model is particularly useful for developing instructional programs that blend technology,
pedagogy and content to deliver effective, inclusive (reliable) and efficient learning.

The model
According to Steven McGriff's web page (retrieved 18:37, 19 May 2006 (MEST)), Kemp
identies nine key elements
1. Identify instructional problems, and specify goals for designing an instructional program.
2. Examine learner characteristics that should receive attention during planning.
3. Identify subject content, and analyze task components related to stated goals and
4. State instructional objectives for the learner.
5. Sequence content within each instructional unit for logical learning.
6. Design instructional strategies so that each learner can master the objectives.
7. Plan the instructional message and delivery.
8. Develop evaluation instruments to assess objectives.
9. Select resources to support instruction and learning activities.
According to Elena Qureshi's web-page on instructional design: The Kemp (1994) design
model takes a holistic approach to instructional design. Virtually all factors in the learning
environment are taken into consideration including subject analysis, learner characteristics,
learning objectives, teaching activities, resources (computers, books, etc.), support services
and evaluation. The process is iterative and the design is subject to constant revision. The
immediate feel of being iterative and inclusive, and particularly the fact that the central focus
is the learner needs and goals are the strengths of this model. There is also a focus on content
analysis, as there would be in any educational design and a focus on support and service,
which is not present in other ID models. Much like the Knirk and Gustafson design model,
Kemp's model is also small scale and can be used for individual lessons.
Instructional Design
Learning Theory

Brenda Mergel (1998 )

To students of instructional design the introduction and subsequent "sorting out" of the
various learning theories and associated instructional design strategies can be somewhat
confusing. It was out of this feeling of cognitive dissonance that this site was born.

Why does it seem so difficult to differentiate between three basic theories of learning? Why
do the names of theorists appear connected to more than one theory? Why do the terms and
strategies of each theory overlap?
The need for answers to these questions sparked my investigation into the available literature
on learning theories and their implications for instructional design. I found many articles and
internet sites that dealt with learning theory and ID, in fact, it was difficult to know when and
where to draw the line. When I stopped finding new information, and the articles were
reaffirming what I had already read, I began to write.
The writing process was a learning experience for me and now that I have finished, I want to
start over and make it even better, because I know more now than I did when I began. Every
time I reread an article, there were ideas and lists that I would wish to add to my writing.
Perhaps in further development of this site I will change and refine my presentation.
Reading about the development of learning theories and their connection to instructional
design evoked, for me, many parallels with the development of other theories in sciences. I
have included some of those thoughts as asides within the main body of text.
Besides behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism one could discuss such topics as
connoisseurship, semiotics, and contextualism, but I decided that a clear understanding of the
basic learning theories would be best. The main sections of this site are as follows:

What are Theories and Models?

The Basics of the Learning Theories

The Basics of Behaviorism

The Basics of Cognitivism

The Basics of Constructivism

The History of Learning Theories in Instructional Design


Behaviorism and Instructional Design

Cognitivism and Instructional Design

Constructivism and Instructional Design

Comparing The Development of Learning Theories to the Development of the Atomic


Learning Theories and the Practice of Instructional Design

Learning Theories - Some Strengths and Weaknesses

Is There One Best Learning Theory for Instructional Design?


References and Bibliography


What is a theory?

A theory provides a general explanation for observations made over time.


A theory explains and predicts behavior.

A theory can never be established beyond all doubt.


A theory may be modified.

Theories seldom have to be thrown out completely if thoroughly tested but sometimes a theory may be
widely accepted for a long time and later disproved.
(Dorin, Demmin & Gabel, 1990)

What is a model?

A model is a mental picture that helps us understand something we cannot see or experience directly.
(Dorin, Demmin & Gabel, 1990)


Behaviorism: Based on observable changes in behavior. Behaviorism focuses on a new
behavioral pattern being repeated until it becomes automatic.
Cognitivism: Based on the thought process behind the behavior. Changes in behavior are
observed, and used as indicators as to what is happening inside the learner's mind.
Constructivism: Based on the premise that we all construct our own perspective of the world,
through individual experiences and schema. Constructivism focuses on preparing the learner
to problem solve in ambiguous situations.
(Schuman, 1996)

The Basics of Behaviorism

Behaviorism, as a learning theory, can be traced back to Aristotle, whose essay "Memory"
focused on associations being made between events such as lightning and thunder. Other
philosophers that followed Aristotle's thoughts are Hobbs (1650), Hume (1740), Brown
(1820), Bain (1855) and Ebbinghause (1885) (Black, 1995).
The theory of behaviorism concentrates on the study of overt behaviors that can be observed
and measured (Good & Brophy, 1990). It views the mind as a "black box" in the sense that
response to stimulus can be observed quantitatively, totally ignoring the possibility of thought
processes occurring in the mind. Some key players in the development of the behaviorist
theory were Pavlov, Watson, Thorndike and Skinner.

Pavlov (1849 - 1936)

For most people, the name "Pavlov" rings a bell (pun intended). The Russian physiologist is
best known for his work in classical conditioning or stimulus substitution. Pavlov's most
famous experiment involved food, a dog and a bell.
Pavlov's Experiment

Before conditioning, ringing the bell caused no response from the dog.
Placing food in front of the dog initiated salivation.

During conditioning, the bell was rung a few seconds before the dog was
presented with food.

After conditioning, the ringing of the bell alone produced salivation

(Dembo, 1994).

Stimulus and Response Items of Pavlov's Experiment


Unconditioned Stimulus


Unconditioned Response (natural, not



Conditioned Stimulus


Conditioned Response (to bell)

Other Observations Made by Pavlov

Stimulus Generalization: Once the dog has learned to salivate at the sound
of the bell, it will salivate at other similar sounds.

Extinction: If you stop pairing the bell with the food, salivation will
eventually cease in response to the bell.

Spontaneous Recovery: Extinguished responses can be "recovered" after

an elapsed time, but will soon extinguish again if the dog is not presented
with food.

Discrimination: The dog could learn to discriminate between similar bells

(stimuli) and discern which bell would result in the presentation of food and
which would not.

Higher-Order Conditioning: Once the dog has been conditioned to

associate the bell with food, another unconditioned stimulus, such as a
light may be flashed at the same time that the bell is rung. Eventually the
dog will salivate at the flash of the light without the sound of the bell.
(What was the name of that dog??)

Thorndike (1874 - 1949)

Edward Thorndike did research in animal behavior before becoming interested in human
psychology. He set out to apply "the methods of exact science" to educational problems by
emphasizing "accurate quantitative treatment of information". "Anything that exists, exists in
a certain quantity and can be measured" (Johcich, as cited in Rizo, 1991). His theory,
Connectionism, stated that learning was the formation of a connection between stimulus and

The "law of effect" stated that when a connection between a stimulus and
response is positively rewarded it will be strengthened and when it is
negatively rewarded it will be weakened. Thorndike later revised this "law"
when he found that negative reward, (punishment) did not necessarily
weaken bonds, and that some seemingly pleasurable consequences do not
necessarily motivate performance.

The "law of exercise" held that the more an S-R (stimulus response) bond is
practiced the stronger it will become. As with the law of effect, the law of
exercise also had to be updated when Thorndike found that practice
without feedback does not necessarily enhance performance.

The "law of readiness" : because of the structure of the nervous system,

certain conduction units, in a given situation, are more predisposed to
conduct than others.

Thorndike's laws were based on the stimulus-response hypothesis. He believed that a neural
bond would be established between the stimulus and response when the response was
positive. Learning takes place when the bonds are formed into patterns of behavior (Saettler,

Watson (1878 - 1958)

John B. Watson was the first American psychologist to use Pavlov's ideas. Like Thorndike, he
was originally involved in animal research, but later became involved in the study of human
Watson believed that humans are born with a few reflexes and the emotional reactions of love
and rage. All other behavior is established through stimulus-response associations through
Watson's Experiment

Watson demonstrated classical conditioning in an experiment involving a young child (Albert)

and a white rat. Originally, Albert was unafraid of the rat; but Watson created a sudden loud
noise whenever Albert touched the rat. Because Albert was frightened by the loud noise, he
soon became conditioned to fear and avoid the rat. The fear was generalized to other small
animals. Watson then "extinguished" the fear by presenting the rat without the loud noise.
Some accounts of the study suggest that the conditioned fear was more powerful and
permanent than it really was. (Harris, 1979; Samelson, 1980, in Brophy, 1990)
Certainly Watson's research methods would be questioned today; however, his work did
demonstrate the role of conditioning in the development of emotional responses to certain
stimuli. This may explain certain fears, phobias and prejudices that people develop.
(Watson is credited with coining the term "behaviorism")

Skinner (1904 - 1990)

Like Pavlov, Watson and Thorndike, Skinner believed in the stimulus-response pattern of
conditioned behavior. His theory dealt with changes in observable behavior, ignoring the
possibility of any processes occurring in the mind. Skinner's 1948 book, Walden Two , is
about a utopian society based on operant conditioning. He also wrote,Science and Human
Behavior, (1953) in which he pointed out how the principles of operant conditioning function
in social institutions such as government, law, religion, economics and education (Dembo,

Skinner's work differs from that of his predecessors (classical conditioning), in that he studied
operant behavior (voluntary behaviors used in operating on the environment).

Difference between Classical and Operant Conditioning

Skinner's Operant Conditioning Mechanisms

Positive Reinforcement or reward: Responses that are rewarded are likely

to be repeated. (Good grades reinforce careful study.)

Negative Reinforcement: Responses that allow escape from painful or

undesirable situations are likely to be repeated. (Being excused from
writing a final because of good term work.)

Extinction or Non-Reinforcement : Responses that are not reinforced are

not likely to be repeated. (Ignoring student misbehavior should extinguish
that behavior.)

Punishment: Responses that bring painful or undesirable consequences will

be suppressed, but may reappear if reinforcement contingencies change.
(Penalizing late students by withdrawing privileges should stop their

(Good & Brophy, 1990)

Skinner and Behavioral Shaping
If placed in a cage an animal may take a very long time to figure out that pressing a lever will
produce food. To accomplish such behavior successive approximations of the behavior are
rewarded until the animal learns the association between the lever and the food reward. To
begin shaping, the animal may be rewarded for simply turning in the direction of the lever,

then for moving toward the lever, for brushing against the lever, and finally for pawing the
Behavioral chaining occurs when a succession of steps need to be learned. The animal would
master each step in sequence until the entire sequence is learned.
Reinforcement Schedules
Once the desired behavioral response is accomplished, reinforcement does not have to be
100%; in fact it can be maintained more successfully through what Skinner referred to as
partial reinforcement schedules. Partial reinforcement schedules include interval schedules
and ratio schedules.

Fixed Interval Schedules: the target response is reinforced after a fixed

amount of time has passed since the last reinforcement.

Variable Interval Schedules: similar to fixed interval schedules, but the

amount of time that must pass between reinforcement varies.

Fixed Ratio Schedules: a fixed number of correct responses must occur

before reinforcement may

Variable Ratio Schedules: the number of correct repetitions of the correct

response for reinforcement varies.

Variable interval and especially, variable ratio schedules produce steadier and more persistent
rates of response because the learners cannot predict when the reinforcement will come
although they know that they will eventually succeed.
(Have you checked your Lottery tickets lately?)

The Basics of Cognitivism

As early as the 1920's people began to find limitations in the behaviorist approach to
understanding learning. Edward Tolman found that rats used in an experiment appeared to
have a mental map of the maze he was using. When he closed off a certain portion of the
maze, the rats did not bother to try a certain path because they "knew" that it led to the
blocked path. Visually, the rats could not see that the path would result in failure, yet they
chose to take a longer route that they knew would be successful (Operant Conditioning [Online]).
Behaviorists were unable to explain certain social behaviors. For example, children do not
imitate all behavior that has been reinforced. Furthermore, they may model new behavior days

or weeks after their first initial observation without having been reinforced for the behavior.
Because of these observations, Bandura and Walters departed from the traditional operant
conditioning explanation that the child must perform and receive reinforcement before being
able to learn. They stated in their 1963 book, Social Learning and Personality Development,
that an individual could model behavior by observing the behavior of another person. This
theory lead to Bandura's Social Cognitive Theory (Dembo, 1994).
What is Cognitivism?
"Cognitive theorists recognize that much learning involves associations
established through contiguity and repetition. They also acknowledge the
importance of reinforcement, although they stress its role in providing feedback
about the correctness of responses over its role as a motivator. However, even
while accepting such behavioristic concepts, cognitive theorists view learning as
involving the acquisition or reorganization of the cognitive structures through
which humans process and store information." (Good and Brophy, 1990, pp. 187).

As with behaviorism, cognitive psychology can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, Plato
and Aristotle. The cognitive revolution became evident in American psychology during the
1950's (Saettler, 1990). One of the major players in the development of cognitivism is Jean
Piaget, who developed the major aspects of his theory as early as the 1920's. Piaget's ideas did
not impact North America until the 1960's after Miller and Bruner founded the Harvard
Center for Cognitive studies.
Key Concepts of Cognitive Theory

Schema - An internal knowledge structure. New information is compared to

existing cognitive structures called "schema". Schema may be combined,
extended or altered to accommodate new information.

Three-Stage Information Processing Model - input first enters a sensory

register, then is processed in short-term memory, and then is transferred
to long-term memory for storage and retrieval.

Sensory Register - receives input from senses which lasts from less
than a second to four seconds and then disappears through decay or
replacement. Much of the information never reaches short term
memory but all information is monitored at some level and acted
upon if necessary.

Short-Term Memory (STM) - sensory input that is important or

interesting is transferred from the sensory register to the STM.
Memory can be retained here for up to 20 seconds or more if
rehearsed repeatedly. Short-term memory can hold up to 7 plus or
minus 2 items. STM capacity can be increased if material is chunked
into meaningful parts.

Long-Term Memory and Storage (LTM) - stores information from STM

for long term use. Long-term memory has unlimited capacity. Some

materials are "forced" into LTM by rote memorization and over

learning. Deeper levels of processing such as generating linkages
between old and new information are much better for successful
retention of material.

Meaningful Effects - Meaningful information is easier to learn and

remember. (Cofer, 1971, in Good and Brophy, 1990) If a learner links
relatively meaningless information with prior schema it will be easier to
retain. (Wittrock, Marks, & Doctorow, 1975, in Good and Brophy, 1990)

Serial Position Effects - It is easier to remember items from the beginning

or end of a list rather than those in the middle of the list, unless that item
is distinctly different.

Practice Effects - Practicing or rehearsing improves retention especially

when it is distributed practice. By distributing practices the learner
associates the material with many different contexts rather than the one
context afforded by mass practice.

Transfer Effects- The effects of prior learning on learning new tasks or


Interference Effects - Occurs when prior learning interferes with the

learning of new material.

Organization Effects - When a learner categorizes input such as a grocery

list, it is easier to remember.

Levels of Processing Effects - Words may be processed at a low-level

sensory analysis of their physical characteristics to high-level semantic
analysis of their meaning. (Craik and Lockhart, 1972, in Good and Brophy,
1990) The more deeply a word is process the easier it will be to remember.

State Dependent Effects - If learning takes place within a certain context it

will be easier to remember within that context rather than in a new

Mnemonic Effects - Mnemonics are strategies used by learners to organize

relatively meaningless input into more meaningful images or semantic
contexts. For example, the notes of a musical scale can be remembered by
the rhyme: Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit.

Schema Effects - If information does not fit a person's schema it may be

more difficult for them to remember and what they remember or how they
conceive of it may also be affected by their prior schema.

Advance Organizers - Ausebels advance organizers prepare the learner for

the material they are about to learn. They are not simply outlines of the
material, but are material that will enable the student to make sense out of
the lesson.

The Basics of Constructivism

Bartlett (1932) pioneered what became the constructivist approach (Good & Brophy, 1990).
Constructivists believe that "learners construct their own reality or at least interpret it based
upon their perceptions of experiences, so an individual's knowledge is a function of one's
prior experiences, mental structures, and beliefs that are used to interpret objects and events."
"What someone knows is grounded in perception of the physical and social experiences which
are comprehended by the mind." (Jonasson, 1991).
If each person has their own view about reality, then how can we as a society communicate
and/or coexist? Jonassen, addressing this issue in his article Thinking Technology: Toward a
Constructivist Design Model, makes the following comments:

"Perhaps the most common misconception of constructivism is the

inference that we each therefore construct a unique reality, that reality is
only in the mind of the knower, which will doubtlessly lead to intellectual

"A reasonable response to that criticism is the Gibsonian perspective that

contends that there exists a physical world that is subject to physical laws
that we all know in pretty much the same way because those physical laws
are perceivable by humans in pretty much the same way."

"Constructivists also believe that much of reality is shared through a

process of social negotiation..."

If one searches through the many philosophical and psychological theories of the past, the
threads of constructivism may be found in the writing of such people as Bruner, Ulrick,
Neiser, Goodman, Kant, Kuhn, Dewey and Habermas. The most profound influence was Jean
Piaget's work which was interpreted and extended by von Glasserfield (Smorgansbord, 1997).
Realistic vs. Radical Construction
Realistic constructivism - cognition is the process by which learners eventually construct
mental structures that correspond to or match external structures located in the environment.
Radical constructivism - cognition serves to organize the learners experiential world rather
than to discover ontological reality
(Cobb, 1996, in Smorgansbord, 1997).
The Assumptions of Constructivism - Merrill

knowledge is constructed from experience

learning is a personal interpretation of the world

learning is an active process in which meaning is developed on the basis of


conceptual growth comes from the negotiation of meaning, the sharing of

multiple perspectives and the changing of our internal representations
through collaborative learning

learning should be situated in realistic settings; testing should be

integrated with the task and not a separate activity
(Merrill, 1991, in Smorgansbord, 1997)

It Boggles the Mind!

If you are reading about learning theories, you may notice that it is difficult to pin down
what theory a certain theorist belongs to. This can confuse you, since, just as you think
you have it cased, a name you originally thought was in the behavioral category shows up
in a constructivism article.
This problem is often the result of theorists and their ideas evolving over time and changes
they make to their original ideas. Davidson includes the following example in an article
she wrote:
"Considered by most to be representative of [a] behaviourist learning paradigm, Gagne's
theory of learning and events of instruction have evolved progressively to approach a
more cognitive theory. His discussion of relating present information and past knowledge
(event #3) and the inclusion of learning transfer (event#9) are indicative of this shift
toward constructivism." (Davidson, 1998)
Okay? Okay. :-)



Atomic Theory
Since the beginning of history, people have theorized about the nature of matter. The ancient
Greeks thought that matter was composed of fire, water, earth and air. Another view, the
continuous theory, was that matter could be infinitely subdivided into smaller and smaller
pieces without change. The Greek philosophers, Democritis and Lucippus, came up with the
idea that matter made up of particles so small that they cannot be divided into anything
smaller. They called their particles "atomos", which is the Greek word for "indivisible". It
wasn't until the 18th century that anyone could prove one theory was better than another. John
Dalton in 1803, with his law of multiple proportions, proposed a theory of matter based on the
existence of atoms. The rest is history:

1803 Dalton's Atomic Theory.

1870 Crookes finds the first evidence of electrons.

1890's J.J. Thompson realized cathode rays are negative particles


1909 Rutherford discovered alpha particles and said that atoms consist of
small positively charged particles surrounded by mostly empty space
where electrons moved around.

1913 Niels Bohr develops a new model of the atom with electron energy
levels or orbits.

1930's and 1940's The atom had a positive nucleus with an electron
charge cloud. This theory was referred to as the orbital model and the
quantum-mechanical model.
(Dorin, Demmin & Gabel, 1990)

Learning Theory
Given that we will most likely never "see" an atom, we will never "see" learning either.
Therefore our learning models are mental pictures that enable us to understand that which we
will never see. Does the development of learning theory follow a similar pattern as the atomic
It seems that learning theories, like the study of matter can be traced back to the ancient
Greeks. In the 18th century, with the onset of scientific inquiry, people began in ernest to
study and develop models of learning. The behaviorist learning theory centered around that
which was observable, not considering that there was anything occurring inside the mind.
Behaviorism can be compared to Dalton's atom, which was simply a particle. Using overt
behavior as a starting point, people began to realize that there is something happening inside
the organism that should be considered, since it seemed to affect the overt behavior. Similarly,
in physical science, people such as Crookes, Thompson, Rutherford and Bohr realized that
there was something occurring within the atom causing its behavior. Thus the cognitive model
of learning was born. Soon, however, theorists realized that the "atom" is not stable, it is not
so "cut and dried". Enter the constructivist learning theory which tells us that each organism is
constantly in flux, and although the old models work to a certain degree, other factors most
also be considered. Could the constructivist approach be considered to be the quantum theory
of learning?
The quantum theory builds upon the previous atomic theories. Constructivism builds upon
behaviorism and cognitivism in the sense that it accepts multiple perspectives and maintains
that learning is a personal interpretation of the world. I believe that behavioral strategies can
be part of a constructivist learning situation, if that learner choses and finds that type of
learning suitable to their experiences and learning style. Cognitive approaches have a place in
constructivism also, since constructivism recognises the concept of schema and building upon
prior knowledge and experience. Perhaps the greatest difference is that of evaluation. In
behaviorism and cognitivism, evaluation is based on meeting specific objectives, whereas in

constructivism, evaluation is much more subjective. Of course, what if I, as a learner,

negotiate my evaluation and wish to include objective evaluation? Then isn't behavioral and
cognitive strategy a part of constructivism?
Perhaps the learning theory used depends upon the learning situation, just as the atomic theory
used, depends upon the learning situation. The bohr atom is often used to introduce the
concept of protons, neutrons and electrons to grade school students. Perhaps behaviorism is
suitable to certain basic learning situations, whereas "quantum" constructivism is better suited
to advanced learning situations.

A Biological Analogy to Learning Theory Classification

The classification of learning theories is somewhat analogous to the classification system

designed by biologists to sort out living organisms. Like any attempt to define categories,
to establish criteria, the world does not fit the scheme in all cases. Originally there was a
plant kingdom and an animal kingdom, but eventually organisms that contained
cholophyll and were mobile needed to be classified. The protist kingdom was established.
The exact criteria for protists are still not established, but it is a classification that gives us
a place for all of the organisms that don't fit neatly into either the plant or animal
To extend the analogy, biologists continued to modify the classification system as know
knowledge and insights into existing knowledge were discovered. The advent of new
technology such as the electron microscope enabled the addition of the monera kingdom.
Recently, the distinctive features of fungi have brought about a proposal for a fifth
kingdom, fungi. This development and adjustment of the taxonomy remins one of
behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism, postmodernism, contextualism, semiotics...




** This section on behaviorism is largely a synopsis of information from Paul Saettler's book,
The History of American Educational Technology, (1990).
In Paul Saettler's book The History of American Educational Technology, he states that
behaviorism did not have an impact on educational technology until the 1960s, which was the
time that behaviorism actually began to decrease in popularity in American psychology.
Saettler identified six areas that demonstrate the impact of behaviorism on Educational
Technology in America: the behavioral objectives movement; the teaching machine phase; the
programmed instruction movement; individualized instructional approaches, computerassisted learning and the systems approach to instruction.

Behavioral Objectives Movement:

A behavioral objective states learning objectives in "specified, quantifiable, terminal

behaviors" (Saettler, pp. 288, 1990). Behavioral objectives can be summed up using the
mnemonic device ABCD (Schwier, 1998).
Example: After having completed the unit the student will be able to answer correctly 90% of
the questions on the posttest.

A - Audience - the student

B - Behavior - answer correctly

C - Condition - after having completed the unit, on a post test

D - Degree - 90% correct

To develop behavioral objectives a learning task must be broken down through analysis into
specific measurable tasks. The learning success may be measured by tests developed to
measure each objective.
The advent of behavioral objectives can be traced back to the Elder Sophists of ancient
Greece, Cicero, Herbart and Spencer, but Franklin Bobbitt developed the modern concept of
behavioral objectives in the early 1900s (Saettler, 1990).

Taxonomic Analysis of Learning Behaviors

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning - In 1956 Bloom and his colleagues

began development of a taxonomy in the cognitive, attitudinal (affective)
and psychomotor domains. Many people are familiar with Bloom's
Cognitive taxonomy:







Gagne's Taxonomy of Learning - Robert Gagne developed his taxonomy

of learning in 1972. Gagne's taxonomy was comprised of five categories:

verbal information

intellectual skill

cognitive strategy


motor skill

Mastery Learning
Mastery learning was originally developed by Morrison in the 1930s. His formula for mastery
was "Pretest, teach, test the result, adapt procedure, teach and test again to the point of actual
learning." (Morrison, 1931, in Saettler, 1990). Mastery learning assumes that all students can
master the materials presented in the lesson. Bloom further developed Morrison's plan, but
mastery learning is more effective for the lower levels of learning on Bloom's taxonomy, and
not appropriate for higher level learning (Saettler, 1990).

Military and Industrial Approach

For military and industrial training, "behavioral objectives were written descriptions of
specific, terminal behaviors that were manifested in terms of observable, measurable
behavior." (Saettler, 1990) Robert Mager wrote Preparing Instructional Objectives, in 1962
which prompted interest and use of behavioral objectives among educators. Gagne and Briggs
who also had backgrounds in military and industrial psychology developed a set of
instructions for writing objectives that is based on Mager's work.

Gagne's and Brigg's Model





Tools and Constraints

Capability to be Learned

By the late 1960's most teachers were writing and using behavioral objectives. There were, of
course, people who questioned the breaking down of subject material into small parts,
believing that it would lead away from an understanding of the "whole" (Saettler, 1990).

Accountability Movement
A movement known as scientific management of industry arose in the early 1900s in
response to political and economic factors of that time. Franklin Bobbitt proposed utilization
of this system in education stressing that the standards and direction of education should stem

from the consumer - society. Bobbitt's ideas exemplified the idea of accountability,
competency-based education and performance-based education, which because of similar
economic and political factors, experienced a revival in America during the late 1960s and
1970s (Saettler, 1990).

Although the elder Sophists, Comenius, Herbart and Montessori used the concept of
programmed instruction in their repertoire, B.F. Skinner is the most current and probably best
known advocate of teaching machines and programmed learning. Contributors to this
movement include the following:

Pressey - introduced a multiple-choice machine at the 1925 American

Psychological Association meeting.

Peterson - a former student of Pressey's who developed "chemosheets" in

which the learner checked their answers with a chemical-dipped swab.

W.W.II - devises called "phase checks", constructed in the 1940s and

1950s, taught and tested such skills and dissassembly-assembly of

Crowder - designed a branched style of programming for the US Air force in

the 1950s to train troubleshooters to find malfunctions in electronic

Skinner - based on operant conditioning Skinner's teaching machine

required the learner to complete or answer a question and then receive
feedback on the correctness of the response. Skinner demonstrated his
machine in 1954.
(Saettler, 1990)

Early use of programmed instruction

After experimental use of programmed instruction in the 1920s and 1930s, B. F. Skinner and
J.G. Holland first used programmed instruction in behavioral psychology courses at Harvard
in the late 1950s. Use of programmed instruction appeared in elementary and secondary
schools around the same time. Much of the programmed instruction in American schools was
used with individuals or small groups of students and was more often used in junior high
schools than senior or elementary schools (Saettler, 1990).

Early use of programmed instruction tended to concentrate on the development of hardware

rather than course content. Concerned developers moved away from hardware development to
programs based on analysis of learning and instruction based on learning theory. Despite these
changes, programmed learning died out in the later part of the 1960s because it did not appear
to live up to its original claims (Saettler, 1990).


Similar to programmed learning and teaching machines individualized instruction began in
the early 1900s, and was revived in the 1960s. The Keller Plan, Individually Prescribed
Instruction, Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs, and Individually Guided
Education are all examples of individualized instruction in the U.S. (Saettler, 1990).
Keller Plan (1963)

Developed by F.S. Keller, a colleague of Skinner, the Keller plan was used
for university college classes.

Main features of Keller Plan


individually paced.

mastery learning.

lectures and demonstrations motivational rather than critical


use of proctors which permitted testing, immediate scoring, tutoring,

personal-social aspect of educational process.
(Saettler, 1990)

Individually Prescribed Instruction (IPI) (1964)

Developed by Learning Research and Development Center of the

University of Pitsburgh.

Lasted into the 1970s when it lost funding and its use dwindled

Main features of IPI:


prepared units.

behavioral objectives.

planned instructional sequences.

used for reading, math and science.

included pretest and posttest for each unit.

materials continually evaluated and upgraded to meet behavioral


(Saettler, 1990)
Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs (PLAN) (1967)

Headed by Jon C. Flanagan, PLAN was developed under sponsorship of

American Institutes for Research (AIR), Westinghouse Learning Corporation
and fourteen U.S. School districts.

Abandoned in late 1970s because of upgrading costs

Main features of PLAN


schools selected items from about 6,000 behavioral objectives.

each instructional module took about two weeks instruction and

were made up of approximately. five objectives.

mastery learning.

remedial learning plus retesting.

(Saettler, 1990)

Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI)

Computer-assisted instruction was first used in education and training during the 1950s. Early
work was done by IBM and such people as Gordon Pask, and O.M. Moore, but CAI grew
rapidly in the 1960s when federal funding for research and development in education and
industrial laboratories was implemented. The U.S. government wanted to determine the
possible effectiveness of computer-assisted instruction, so they developed two competing
companies, (Control Data Corporation and Mitre Corporation) who came up with the PLATO
and TICCIT projects. Despite money and research, by the mid seventies it was apparent that
CAI was not going to be the success that people had believed. Some of the reasons are:

CAI had been oversold and could not deliver.

lack of support from certain sectors.

technical problems in implementation.

lack of quality software.

high cost.

Computer-assisted instruction was very much drill-and-practice - controlled by the program

developer rather than the learner. Little branching of instruction was implemented although
TICCIT did allow the learner to determine the sequence of instruction or to skip certain
(Saettler, 1990)


The systems approach developed out of the 1950s and 1960s focus on language laboratories,
teaching machines, programmed instruction, multimedia presentations and the use of the
computer in instruction. Most systems approaches are similar to computer flow charts with
steps that the designer moves through during the development of instruction. Rooted in the
military and business world, the systems approach involved setting goals and objectives,
analyzing resources, devising a plan of action and continuous evaluation/modification of the
program. (Saettler, 1990)

Although cognitive psychology emerged in the late 1950s and began to take over as the
dominant theory of learning, it wasn't until the late 1970s that cognitive science began to have
its influence on instructional design. Cognitive science began a shift from behavioristic

practices which emphasised external behavior, to a concern with the internal mental processes
of the mind and how they could be utilized in promoting effective learning. The design
models that had been developed in the behaviorist tradition were not simply tossed out, but
instead the "task analysis" and "learner analysis" parts of the models were embellished. The
new models addressed component processes of learning such as knowledge coding and
representation, information storage and retrieval as well as the incorporation and integration
of new knowledge with previous information (Saettler, 1990). Because Cognitivism and
Behaviorism are both governed by an objective view of the nature of knowledge and what it
means to know something, the transition from behavioral instructional design principles to
those of a cognitive style was not entirely difficult. The goal of instruction remained the
communication or transfer of knowledge to learners in the most efficient, effective manner
possible (Bednar et al., in Anglin, 1995). For example, the breaking down of a task into small
steps works for a behaviorist who is trying to find the most efficient and fail proof method of
shaping a learner's behavior. The cognitive scientist would analyze a task, break it down into
smaller steps or chunks and use that information to develop instruction that moves from
simple to complex building on prior schema.
The influence of cognitive science in instructional design is evidenced by the use of advance
organizers, mnemonic devices, metaphors, chunking into meaningful parts and the careful
organization of instructional materials from simple to complex.
Cognitivism and Computer-Based Instruction
Computers process information in a similar fashion to how cognitive scientists believe
humans process information: receive, store and retrieve. This analogy makes the possibility of
programming a computer to "think" like a person conceivable, i.e.. artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence involve the computer working to supply appropriate responses to
student input from the computer's data base. A trouble-shooting programs is one example of
these programs. Below is a list of some programs and their intended use:

SCHOLAR - teaches facts about South American geography in a Socratic


PUFF - diagnoses medical patients for possible pulmonary disorders

MYCIN - diagnoses blood infections and prescribes possible treatment

DENDRAL - enables a chemist to make an accurate guess about the

molecular structure of an unknown compound

META-DENDRAL - makes up its own molecular fragmentation rules in an

attempt to explain sets of basic data

GUIDION - a derivative of the MYCIN program that gave a student

information about a case and compared their diagnosis with what MYCIN
would suggest

SOPIE - helps engineers troubleshoot electronic equipment problems

BUGGY - allows teachers to diagnose causes for student mathematical


LOGO - designed to help children learn to program a computer

Davis' math programs for the PLATO system - to encourage mathematical

development through discovery
(Saettler, 1990)

The shift of instructional design from behaviorism to cognitivism was not as dramatic as the
move into constructivism appears to be, since behaviorism and cognitivism are both objective
in nature. Behaviorism and cognitivism both support the practice of analyzing a task and
breaking it down into manageable chunks, establishing objectives, and measuring
performance based on those objectives. Constructivism, on the other hand, promotes a more
open-ended learning experience where the methods and results of learning are not easily
measured and may not be the same for each learner.
While behaviorism and constructivism are very different theoretical perspectives, cognitivism
shares some similarities with constructivism. An example of their compatibility is the fact that
they share the analogy of comparing the processes of the mind to that of a computer. Consider
the following statement by Perkins:
"...information processing models have spawned the computer model of
the mind as an information processor. Constructivism has added that this
information processor must be seen as not just shuffling data, but wielding
it flexibly during learning -- making hypotheses, testing tentative
interpretations, and so on." (Perkins, 1991, p.21 in Schwier, 1998 ).

Other examples of the link between cognitive theory and constructivism are:

schema theory (Spiro, et al, 1991, in Schwier, 1998)

connectionism (Bereiter, 1991, in Schwier, 1998)

hypermedia (Tolhurst, 1992, in Schwier, 1998)

multimedia (Dede, 1992, in Schwier, 1998)

Despite these similarities between cognitivism and constructivism, the objective side of
cognitivism supported the use of models to be used in the systems approach of instructional
design. Constructivism is not compatible with the present systems approach to instructional
design, as Jonassen points out :
"The conundrum that constructivism poses for instructional designers,
however, is that if each individual is responsible for knowledge
construction, how can we as designers determine and insure a common set
of outcomes for leaning, as we have been taught to do?" (Jonasson, [Online])

In the same article, Jonassen (Jonasson, [On-line]) lists the following implications of
constructivism for instructional design:
"...purposeful knowledge construction may be facilitated by learning
environments which:

Provide multiple representations of reality - avoid oversimplification of

instruction by by representing the natural complexity of the world

Present authentic tasks - contextualize

Provide real-world, case-based learning environments, rather than predetermined instructional sequences

Foster reflective practice

Enable context- and content-dependent knowledge construction

Support collaborative construction of knowledge through social

negotiation, not competition among learners for recognition
"Although we believe that constructivism is not a prescriptive theory of
instruction, it should be possible to provide more explicit guidelines on how
to design learning environments that foster constructivist learning"

Jonassen points out that the difference between constructivist and objectivist, (behavioral and
cognitive), instructional design is that objective design has a predetermined outcome and
intervenes in the learning process to map a pre-determined concept of reality into the learner's
mind, while constructivism maintains that because learning outcomes are not always
predictable, instruction should foster, not control, learning. With this in mind, Jonassen looks
at the commonalties among constructivist approaches to learning to suggest a "model" for
designing constructivist learning environments.
"...a constructivist design process should be concerned with designing
environments which support the construction of knowledge, which ..."

Is Based on Internal Negotiation


Is Based on Social Negotiation


processes that are regulated by each individual's intentions, needs,

and/or expectations

Results in Mental Models and provides Meaningful, Authentic Contexts for

Learning and Using the Constructed Knowledge

a process of sharing a reality with others using the same or similar

processes to those used in internal negotiation

Is Facilitated by Exploration of Real World Environments and Intervention of

New Environments

a process of articulating mental models, using those models to

explain, predict, and infer, and reflecting on their utility (Piaget's
accommodation, Norman and Rumelhart's tuning and restructuring.)

should be supported by case-based problems which have been

derived from and situated in the real world with all of its uncertainty
and complexity and based on authentic realife practice

Requires an Understanding of its Own Thinking Process and Problem

Solving Methods

problems in one context are different from problems in other


Modeled for Learners by Skilled Performers but Not Necessarily Expert


Requires Collaboration Among Learners and With the Teacher


the teacher is more of a coach or mentor than a purveyor of


Provides an Intellectual Toolkit to Facilitate an Internal Negotiation

Necessary for Building Mental Models
(Jonasson, [On-line])

The technological advances of the 1980s and 1990s have enabled designers to move toward a
constructivist approach to design of instruction. One of the most useful tools for the
constructivist designer is hypertext and hypermedia because it allows for a branched design
rather than a linear format of instruction. Hyperlinks allow for learner control which is crucial
to constructivist learning; however, there is some concerns over the novice learner becoming
"lost" in a sea of hypermedia. To address this concern, Jonassen and McAlleese (Jonnassen &

McAlleese, [On-line]) note that each phase of knowledge acquisition requires different types
of learning and that initial knowledge acquisition is perhaps best served by classical
instruction with predetermined learning outcomes, sequenced instructional interaction and
criterion-referenced evaluation while the more advanced second phase of knowledge
acquisition is more suited to a constructivist environment.
If a novice learner is unable to establish an "anchor" in a hypermedia environment they may
wander aimlessly through hypermedia becoming completely disoriented. Reigeluth and
Chung suggest a prescriptive system which advocates increased learner control. In this
method, students have some background knowledge and have been given some instruction in
developing their own metacognitive strategies and have some way to return along the path
they have taken, should they become "lost". (Davidson, 1998)
Most literature on constructivist design suggests that learners should not simply be let loose in
a hypermedia or hypertext environment, but that a mix of old and new (objective and
constructive) instruction/learning design be implemented. Davidson's (1998) article,
suggesting a criteria for hypermedia learning based on an "exploration of relevant learning
theories", is an example of this method.
Having noted the eclectic nature of instructional design, it is only fair to point out that not all
theorists advocate a "mix and match" strategy for instructional design. Bednar, Cunningham,
Duffy and Perry wrote an article that challenges the eclectic nature if instructional systems
design by pointing out that "...abstracting concepts and strategies from the theoretical position
that spawned then strips them of their meaning." They question objectivist epistemology
completely and have adopted what they consider a constructivist approach to instructional
design. In the article they compare the traditional approaches of analysis, synthesis, and
evaluation to that of a constructivist approach. (Bednar, Cunningham, Duffy & Perry, 1995)



What is the difference between the learning theories in terms of the practice of instructional
design? Is one approach more easily achieved than another? To address this, one may consider
that cognitive theory is the dominant theory in instructional design and many of the
instructional strategies advocated and utilized by behaviorists are also used by cognitivists,
but for different reasons. For example, behaviorists assess learners to determine a starting
point for instruction, while cognitivists look at the learner to determine their predisposition to
learning (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). With this in mind, the practice of instructional design can
be viewed from a behaviorist/cognitivist approach as opposed to a constructivist approach.
When designing from a behaviorist/cognitivist stance, the designer analyzes the situation and
sets a goal. Individual tasks are broken down and learning objectives are developed.
Evaluation consists of determining whether the criteria for the objectives has been met. In this
approach the designer decides what is important for the learner to know and attempts to
transfer that knowledge to the learner. The learning package is somewhat of a closed system,
since although it may allow for some branching and remediation, the learner is still confined
to the designer's "world".
To design from a constructivist approach requires that the designer produces a product that is
much more facilitative in nature than prescriptive. The content is not prespecified, direction is
determined by the learner and assessment is much more subjective because it does not depend
on specific quantitative criteria, but rather the process and self-evaluation of the learner. The
standard pencil-and-paper tests of mastery learning are not used in constructive design;
instead, evaluation is based on notes, early drafts, final products and journals. (Assessment
Because of the divergent, subjective nature of constructive learning, it is easier for a designer
to work from the systems, and thus the objective approach to instructional design. That is not
to say that classical instructional design techniques are better than constructive design, but it
is easier, less time consuming and most likely less expensive to design within a "closed
system" rather than an "open" one. Perhaps there is some truth in the statement that
"Constructivism is a 'learning theory', more than a 'teaching approach'." (Wilkinson, 1995)

Learning Theories
- Some Strengths and Weaknesses-

What are the perceived strengths and weaknesses of using certain theoretical approaches to
instructional design?
Weakness -the learner may find themselves in a situation where the stimulus for the correct
response does not occur, therefore the learner cannot respond. - A worker who has been
conditioned to respond to a certain cue at work stops production when an anomaly occurs
because they do not understand the system.
Strength - the learner is focused on a clear goal and can respond automatically to the cues of
that goal. - W.W.II pilots were conditioned to react to silhouettes of enemy planes, a response
which one would hope became automatic.
Weakness - the learner learns a way to accomplish a task, but it may not be the best way, or
suited to the learner or the situation. For example, logging onto the internet on one computer
may not be the same as logging in on another computer.
Strength - the goal is to train learners to do a task the same way to enable consistency. Logging onto and off of a workplace computer is the same for all employees; it may be
important do an exact routine to avoid problems.
Weakness - in a situation where conformity is essential divergent thinking and action may
cause problems. Imagine the fun Revenue Canada would have if every person decided to
report their taxes in their own way - although, there probably are some very "constructive"
approaches used within the system we have.
Strength - because the learner is able to interpret multiple realities, the learner is better able to
deal with real life situations. If a learner can problem solve, they may better apply their
existing knowledge to a novel situation.
(Schuman, 1996)


Why bother with Theory at all?

A solid foundation in learning theory is an essential element in the preparation of ISD
professionals because it permeates all dimensions of ISD (Shiffman, 1995). Depending on the
learners and situation, different learning theories may apply. The instructional designer must
understand the strengths and weaknesses of each learning theory to optimize their use in
appropriate instructional design strategy. Recipes contained in ID theories may have value for
novice designers (Wilson, 1997), who lack the experience and expertise of veteran designers.
Theories are useful because they open our eyes to other possibilities and ways of seeing the
world. Whether we realize it or not, the best design decisions are most certainly based on our
knowledge of learning theories.
An Eclectic Approach to Theory in Instructional Design
The function of ID is more of an application of theory, rather than a theory itself. Trying to tie
Instructional Design to one particular theory is like school vs. the real world. What we learn
in a school environment does not always match what is out there in the real world, just as the
prescriptions of theory do not always apply in practice, (the real world). From a pragmatic
point of view, instructional designers find what works and use it.
What Works and How Can We Use It?
Behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism - what works where and how do we knit
everything together to at least give ourselves some focus in our approach to instructional
design? First of all we do not need to abandon the systems approach but we must modify it to
accommodate constructivist values. We must allow circumstances surrounding the learning
situation to help us decide which approach to learning is most appropriate. It is necessary to
realize that some learning problems require highly prescriptive solutions, whereas others are
more suited to learner control of the environment. (Schwier, 1995)
Jonnassen in Manifesto for a Constructive Approach to Technology in Higher Education ([Online]) identified the following types of learning and matched them with what he believes to be
appropriate learning theory approaches.
1. Introductory Learning - learners have very little directly transferable prior
knowledge about a skill or content area. They are at the initial stages of schema
assembly and integration. At this stage classical instructional design is most
suitable because it is predetermined, constrained, sequential and criterionreferenced. The learner can develop some anchors for further exploration.

2. Advanced Knowledge Acquisition - follows introductory knowledge and precedes expert

knowledge. At this point constructivist approaches may be introduced.

3. Expertise is the final stage of knowledge acquisition. In this stage the learner is able to
make intelligent decisions within the learning environment. A constructivist approach would
work well in this case.
Having pointed out the different levels of learning, Jonassen stresses that it is still important
to consider the context before recommending any specific methodology.
Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory which organizes instruction in increasing order of complexity
and moves from prerequisite learning to learner control may work in the eclectic approach to
instructional design, since the learner can be introduced to the main concepts of a course and
then move on to more of a self directed study that is meaningful to them and their particular
After having compared and contrasted behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism, Ertmer
and Newby (1993) feel that the instructional approach used for novice learners may not be
efficiently stimulating for a learner who is familiar with the content. They do not advocate one
single learning theory, but stress that instructional strategy and content addressed depend on
the level of the learners. Similar to Jonassen, they match learning theories with the content to
be learned:
... a behavioral approach can effectively facilitate mastery of the content
of a
profession (knowing what); cognitive strategies are useful in teaching
-solving tactics where defined facts and rules are applied in unfamiliar
(knowing how); and constructivist strategies are especially suited to
dealing with
ill-defined problems through reflection-in-action. (Ertmer P. & Newby, T.,

... tasks requiring a low degree of processing (e.g., basic paired
discriminations, rote memorization) seem to be facilitated by strategies
frequently associated with a behavioral outlook (e.g., stimulus-response,
of feedback/reinforcement).


Tasks requiring an increased level of processing (e.g., classifications, rule

procedural executions) are primarily associated with strategies
having a stronger cognitive emphasis (e.g., schematic organization,
reasoning, algorithmic problem solving).

Tasks demanding high levels of processing (e.g., heuristic problem solving,
personal selection and monitoring of cognitive strategies) are frequently
est learned with strategies advanced by the constructivist perspective
situated learning, cognitive apprenticeships, social negotiation.
(Ertmer P. & Newby, T., 1993)

Ertmer and Newby (1993) believe that the strategies promoted by different learning theories
overlap (the same strategy for a different reason) and that learning theory strategies are
concentrated along different points of a continuum depending of the focus of the learning
theory - the level of cognitive processing required.

Ertmer and Newby's suggestion that theoretical strategies can complement the learner's level
of task knowledge, allows the designer to make the best use of all available practical
applications of the different learning theories. With this approach the designer is able to draw
from a large number of strategies to meet a variety of learning situations.

Upon completion of this site on learning theories and instructional design, I have not only
accomplished my objective, but gained insight and appreciation for the different learning
theories and their possible application to instructional design.
It was interesting for me to find that I am not alone in my perspective regarding learning
theories and instructional design. There is a place for each theory within the practice of
instructional design, depending upon the situation and environment. I especially favor the idea
of using an objective approach to provide the learner with an "anchor" before they set sail on
the open seas of knowledge. A basic understanding of the material in question provides the
learner with a guiding compass for further travel.
Another consideration is the distinction between "training" and "education". In today's
competitive business world, the instructional designer may be required to establish and meet
the objectives of that business. On the other hand, in a school setting, the designer may be
challenged to provide material that fosters an individual to find divergent approaches to
problem solving. Whichever situation the instructional designer finds themselves in, they will
require a thorough understanding of learning theories to enable them to provide the
appropriate learning environment.
Finally, though Instructional Design may have a behaviorist tradition, new insights to the
learning process continue to replace, change and alter the process. Advancements in
technology make branched constructivist approaches to learning possible. Whether designing
for training or education, the instructional designer's toolbox contains an ever changing and
increasing number of theoretical applications and physical possibilities. With intelligent
application of learning theory strategies and technology, the modern designer will find
solutions to the learning requirements of the 21st century.

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Brent G. Wilson
University of Colorado at Denver
To appear in C. R. Dills and A. A. Romiszowski (Eds.), Instructional development paradigms.
Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology Publications, in press (to be published in
March 1997). Also available at:
To order a copy of the forthcoming book, call 1-800-952-BOOK.
The constructivist movement is changing the way many of us think about instructional design
(ID), but still, postmodern critics of educational technology are often seen as too radical, too
iconoclastic. Streibel (1986), for example, offers a devastating critique of computers in
education that makes many educational technologists feel uncomfortable. Computers are our
stock in trade, after all. Other postmodern writers offer critiques of practice, but relatively few
directly address the interests of instructional designers. This paper suggests that (1)
postmodern perspectives about the world underlie much constructivist writing, and (2) a
postmodern stance can offer positive, constructive critiques of ID practice. After a brief
introduction to postmodern ideas, a set of recommendations are offered for changing ID
For more than ten years, a small clique of postmodern researchers and theorists has existed
within the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). For years,
they behaved like a small, persecuted minority-a "cult" of sorts. They complained that journal
editors were biased, ignorant, and unwilling to publish their radical writings. They struggled
to have AECT papers and symposia accepted on the program.
The main forum for the postmodern clique was an annual "foundations symposium," which
year by year found its way onto AECT's program. I have attended these symposia for the last
several years, and have noticed two things. First, the crowds are getting bigger and seemingly
better informed. Second, I have noticed a change in the presenters. I see less defensiveness

and fewer signs of being persecuted. Instead, I see a growing maturity of perspective and a
growing confidence that a postmodern perspective has something hopeful and positive to say
to our field. It is in that same spirit of hopefulness and honesty that I approach this chapter. I
am not a member of the postmodern clique. I am an instructional designer-a moniker
unpopular in many postmodern circles. But I approach the task of articulating postmodernism
with a belief that there are some worthwhile ideas here, and that the field of ID can be
improved by listening closely to "alternate voices" currently abounding in our field.
Three recent publications symbolize the growing acceptance of postmodern thinking within
educational technology:
--Dennis Hlynka and Andrew Yeaman prepared a carefully written two-page digest of
postmodern thinking for publication as an ERIC Digest (Hlynka and Yeaman, 1992). This is
the first source I would recommend for instructional designers interested in a brief and clear
introduction to postmodern thinking.
--In 1992, Educational Technology Publications published a collection of postmodern writing
edited by Dennis Hlynka and John Belland, titled Paradigms regained: The uses of
illuminative, semiotic, and post-modern criticism as modes of inquiry in educational
technology: A book of readings This book serves as a valuable resource for educational
technologists in search of alternative perspectives for interpreting their field.
--The March 1994 issue of Educational Technology was devoted to postmodern topics. The
issue again made postmodernism more visible within the educational technology community,
but also included some real dialogue, spurred by Barbara Martin's (1994) call for better
communications between postmodern critics and the educational technology community.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a short guided tour of postmodern thinking for
practicing instructional designers raised in the "old school" of Gagn, Briggs, and Merrill. I
will assume that you have been exposed to some measure of constructivist thinking, yet
postmodern philosophy remains a mystery. To help make a transition to postmodern ways of
thinking, the second half of the chapter offers a set of recommendations for doing traditional
ID steps in ways more sensitive to postmodern perspectives.
Also at the outset, please remember that labels such as "constructivist" or "postmodern"
embrace a whole range of ideas and methods. This chapter is my best shot at elucidating
postmodern philosophy for an ID audience, yet I approach the task as an admiring outsider,
not really an expert. What I can bring to the discussion is my understanding of instructional
designers and their preconceptions. The next step for any reader would be to consult original
sources-either the educational technologists referred to above, or the postmodern philosophers
and critics they rely upon in their writing.
An Introduction to Postmodern Thinking
I have decided that the best way to provide a conceptual overview is to tell a simple story.
This story is not true, but it has some truth in it. It is meant to serve as a scaffold for making
sense out of the word 'postmodern.'
A Story about Worldviews

The ancient worldview. In many ways, the ancients of Greece and Rome were a lot like us.
They faced some of the same questions we face now-namely-How is it that we know things?
How can we get at the truth? How is the world made up? The ancients recognized that
appearances can be deceiving-that what looks reliable and stable on the surface may actually
be in flux and changing. How can we get at the way things really are? To address this
problem, the ancients differentiated between the world that we see with our eyes and the
"real" world, which was perfect, whole, and divine. The divine, in fact, was what made it
possible for us to catch glimpses of the "real," idealized world. Left to our own inclinations,
we see imperfection, weakness, and lots of jagged edges. With the help of divine logic and
mathematics, the jagged edges become smooth, and the perfect thing-behind-the-thing is
made manifest to us. Concepts are divine revelations of the way the world really is-our
everyday usage of "ideas" stems from the ideal forms sought by the ancients.
The modern worldview. The ancient view of things dominated our thinking for many years, in
fact through the Medieval Era. Beginning with the Renaissance, however, we gradually
shifted our focus. Taught to look to God for truth-and for God in the Church and in received
texts-many bright thinkers instead started to believe their own eyes and faculties. Rather than
God assuming the central role in the universe, man himself became the standard for judging
the truth of things. Man's intellect was capable of discerning truth from error. Certain defined
methods for discovering truth and evaluating evidence came to be considered reliable and
sufficient for gaining access to the "truth." Superstition and tradition were replaced by
rationality and the scientific method. Technology and the progress of science would signal a
corresponding progress in society, until man perfected himself and controlled nature through
his knowledge and tools.
Still, philosophers troubled themselves over the same questions of how do we know the truth?
Kant realized that we will never really get at the way things really are, but that we can get
pretty close-we create schemas in our mind that roughly match up with how things are. The
word 'phenomenon' comes from Kant, and means essentially "close to the real thing."
Over the years, however, it became clear to philosophers that there remained an
insurmountable gulf between ourselves and the truth. We live in a specific time and place,
conditioned by a particular culture and set of experiences. Without God to connect us to the
truth, how can we get there? How can we transcend our limitations and reach beyond
ourselves to the way things really are? These are tough questions that have not gone away
through the ages.
The postmodern worldview. 'Postmodernism', as the term implies, is largely a response to
modernity. Whereas modernity trusted science to lead us down the road of progress,
postmodernism questioned whether science alone could really get us there. Whereas
modernity happily created inventions and technologies to improve our lives, postmodernism
took a second look and wondered whether our lives were really better for all the gadgets and
toys. Postmodernism looked at the culmination of modernity in the 20th century-the results of
forces such as nationalism, totalitarianism, technocracy, consumerism, and modern warfareand said, we can see the efficiency and the improvements, but we can also see the
dehumanizing, mechanizing effects in our lives. The Holocaust was efficient, technical, coldly
rational. There must be a better way to think about things.
So what about the age-old questions about truth and knowledge? A postmodernist might say,
"Truth is what people agree on," or "Truth is what works," or "Hey, there is no Truth, only lots

of little 'truths' running around out there!" Postmodernists tend to reject the idealized view of
Truth inherited from the ancients and replace it with a dynamic, changing truth bounded by
time, space, and perspective. Rather than seeking for the unchanging ideal, postmodernists
tend to celebrate the dynamic diversity of life.
In their ERIC Digest, Hlynka and Yeaman (1992) outline some key features of postmodern
thinking (liberally paraphrased for simplicity):
1. A commitment to plurality of perspectives, meanings, methods, values-everything!
2. A search for and appreciation of double meanings and alternative interpretations, many of
them ironic and unintended.
3. A critique or distrust of Big Stories meant to explain everything. This includes grand
theories of science, and myths in our religions, nations, cultures, and professions that serve to
explain why things are the way they are.
4. An acknowledgment that-because there is a plurality of perspectives and ways of knowingthere are also multiple truths.
In a lovely section, Hlynka and Yeaman (1992) suggest (ironically!) four easy steps to
becoming a postmodernist:
1. Consider concepts, ideas and objects as texts. Textual meanings are open to interpretation.
2. Look for binary oppositions in those texts. Some usual oppositions are good/bad,
progress/tradition, science/myth, love/hate, man/woman, and truth/fiction.
3. "Deconstruct" the text by showing how the oppositions are not necessarily true.
4. Identify texts which are absent, groups who are not represented and omissions, which may
or may not be deliberate, but are important. pp. 1-2.
Postmodern thinking grew out of the humanities tradition-philosophy, literary criticism, the
arts. This helps to account for some of the misunderstandings that can occur between
instructional designers and postmodern critics. As C. P. Snow argued in The Two Cultures
(1969), people in science see things very differently than people in the humanities. The field
of instructional design, evolving from behavioral psychology, systems technology, and
management theory, sees the world through the "scientific" lens, whereas postmodernists tend
to see things through a critical, humanities type of lens. The goal of an artist or critic is not so
much to explain, predict, and control, but to create, appreciate and interpret meanings. Over
the years, postmodern approaches have expanded to encompass science, feminism, education,
and the social sciences, but the orientation remains that of interpretation rather than prediction
and control.
An Example of "Deconstruction":
Conditions-of-Learning Models

As an illustrative exercise, I have attempted a postmodern deconstruction of traditional ID

models. Conditions-of-learning or "CoL" models are the type of models we find in Reigeluth
(1983b). Gagn, Briggs, Merrill, and Reigeluth are the classic "CoL" theorists. Wilson and
Cole (1991) described the basic conditions-of-learning paradigm:
[CoL] models are based on Robert Gagn's conditions-of-learning paradigm (Gagn, 1966),
which in its time was a significant departure from the Skinnerian operant conditioning
paradigm dominant among American psychologists. The conditions-of-learning paradigm
posits that a graded hierarchy of learning outcomes exists, and for each desired outcome, a set
of conditions exists that leads to learning. Instructional design is a matter of clarifying
intended learning outcomes, then matching up appropriate instructional strategies. The
designer writes behaviorally specific learning objectives, classifies those objectives according
to a taxonomy of learning types, then arranges the instructional conditions to fit the current
instructional prescriptions. In this way, designers can design instruction to successfully teach
a rule, a psychomotor skill, an attitude, or piece of verbal information.
A related idea within the conditions-of-learning paradigm claims that sequencing of
instruction should be based on a hierarchical progression from simple to complex learning
outcomes. Gagn developed a technique of constructing learning hierarchies for analyzing
skills: A skill is rationally decomposed into parts and sub-parts; then instruction is ordered
from simple subskills to the complete skill. Elaboration theory uses content structure
(concept, procedure, or principle) as the basis for organizing and sequencing instruction
(Reigeluth, Merrill, Wilson, & Spiller, 1980). Both methods depend on task analysis to break
down the goals of instruction, then on a method of sequencing proceeding from simple to
gradually more complex and complete tasks. p. 49.
The critique below is an edited revision of an e-mail post I sent to some author-friends who
are writing a chapter on "conditions-of-learning" models; hence the especially informal tone.
In spite of the informality, however, the concepts are rather abstract and difficult. If this
section proves too confusing, please skip to the next section!
Conditions-of-learning (CoL) models rely on a number of assumptions and distinctions,
Description versus prescription. The precise stance of CoL models is somewhat ambiguousare they "scientific" models or are they "engineering" procedures? In some ways CoL models
are descriptive-"There are these kinds of learning outcomes, these kinds of strategies"-but
descriptive only of highly artificial activities and structures (cf. Simon, 1983). CoL models
rest on a loosely defined knowledge base-a little psychology, a little instructional research, a
little systems theory, a little information theory. CoL models also serve a prescriptive function
for ID, but in a strange sense. Because of their difficulty, they are more than simple "recipes"
or "hooks" for the novice to use and then grow out of. They are kind of saying: "Instruction
should be like this, so do it this way." To complement instructional systems development
(ISD) models-which focus more on procedures and processes-CoL models focus more on the
product, saying "Good instruction should look this way; go and do likewise."
Another way of looking at this question is to consider what defines good instruction:
1. Craft/process definition. Instruction made by jumping certain hoops. Instruction made in a
certain way-following ISD steps-is good.

2. Empirical definition. Instruction that demonstrably results in targeted learning. This is an

assessment-based definition. This is a pragmatic, commonsense approach to it-if it works, it's
3. Analytic/scientific definition. Instruction that has all the desired attributes. This is the
product definition of goodness. The product incorporates effective principles, contains certain
features, looks a certain way. You can tell by examining the product, rather than the process
used to create it or its effect on learners. This approach is most characteristic of CoL models,
defining good instruction in terms of its use of certain instructional strategies and
components. If the lesson has an advance organizer, clear writing, lots of examples, lots of
practice, etc.-then it is good instruction.
Orthogonal independence of content and method. This is analogous to Richard Clark's claims
about media and strategy-that they're independent and crossable. I may learn a concept via
examples or via a definition or via a bunch of practice. In each case, however, I've learned the
same thing-the target concept. An alternative view (that would need some defense) would be
that different strategies necessarily lead to qualitatively different outcomes, even if some of
the behaviors exhibitable by the person may be the same.
CoL models assume that there is a class of methods that fits a class of learning goals, and that
I can reliably draw upon one in service of the other. But let's say your goal is to make a "Yale
man" out of me. Can I accomplish those learning goals by attending Front Range Community
College? Can I generalize the strategy used in one setting and replicate it in another setting?
How transferable/generalizable are different "contents" and "methods"?
The "real" status of content and method. Trying to find "content" in the experiences of experts
can be as hard as finding "method" in the experiences of teachers and designers. Where
precisely is the content? Does it "exist" in the objectives list? In people's heads? Where is the
"method"? Do I look it up in Charlie's books (Reigeluth, 1983, 1987)? Both content and
method are rooted in the actual experience and practice of people engaged in instructional
activities. Yet CoL models tend to treat textbook objectives and strategies as if they had a
clear, unproblematic, unambiguous ontological status. I think that the challenge for designers
is not so much in following the models properly, but in determining how a model relates to a
practical situation. How can you make sense out of a CoL model when you encounter a messy
real learning situation?
Instructional theory versus the practice of design. CoL approaches are all built on the
conditions-goals-method framework that Charlie Reigeluth articulates in the "Green Book"
(Reigeluth, 1983b): Depending on the conditions and your instructional goals, you "select"
the appropriate instructional strategy to accomplish those goals. Such a view defines ID as
adherence to a set of rules, and places the expertise or knowledge into the textbook-or the
rule-based expert system. The advantages of this approach are that the knowledge can be
codified, owned, controlled, and communicated unambiguously to others. Technician-level
people can even do it, even if they don't really understand what they're doing, just following
numbers. What an advance! The down side is that it doesn't work beyond a poor level of
Schn (1987) calls this aspect of practice "technical rationality." He doesn't deny its place; all
disciplines have a technical component. But he says that's only a starting point for design or
for professional practice. Technical rationality is the formal, abstract statement of theory that

gets all the attention of the researcher but which utterly fails to "capture" the real expertise of
the practitioners' culture. When David Merrill first attempted to convert his theories into
expert systems, he found a whole new layer of problems and decisions he had previously
ignored. I am saying that between expert systems and real life, there is yet again a whole huge
layer of expertise, and that expert systems are inherently incapable of capturing it. Hence the
chasm between theory and practice, between researcher and practitioner. The theorist takes
seriously this formalism, this set of algorithmic rules for practice; the practitioner depends on
a huge "bank" of additional knowledge and values-including how to use the technical rulesthat accounts for successful practice.
The situation is similar to research on cognitive strategies. Researchers (Butterfield &
Belmont, 1975) found that retarded learners were perfectly capable of mastering the specific
strategies-it was in knowing when and where to use those strategies, and how to adapt them to
situations, that they failed. Our theories are like the strategy repertoires of retarded learners-of
themselves they do not add up to true expertise because they are missing the intangible,
unanalyzable ingredients that go into everyday cognition and decision-making.
Of course, the same criticism can be leveled at attempts to define content via standard
objectives and task analyses. It can't be done. Over-reliance on objectives and analyses can
easily lead to failed instruction for the same reason that dogmatic adherence to CoL models
will lead to failed instruction: There's more to it than what's written down in the books. People
need to have experiences that place them in positions where they'll learn important things.
Who knows exactly what they'll learn, but one thing for certain: If you sterilize and control
the learning environment and teach only your targeted objectives, learners will fail to learn
how to be the thing you want them to be. They may learn some things you want them to learn,
but they will fail at the role you're asking them to play in a real world of practice.
Design versus implementation. CoL models assume that intended learning outcomes and
instructional strategies can be made in a context removed in time and setting from practice.
Winn (1990) developed this argument fairly well. Following traditional ID procedures,
designers and subject experts sit together in a room over a table and make decisions about
how teachers and students are going to spend their lives. We can make these decisions out of
context. Sometimes we may not know that much about the context of use. Marty Tessmer's
(Tessmer & Harris, 1990) work on environmental analysis is an attempt to re-introduce some
"systems" thinking back into instructional design, realizing that contexts of use are inexorably
related to the design.
In an interesing self-analysis, Clancey (1993) noted that after years of work developing
GUIDON and other expert systems for medical problem-solving, virtually no product ever
achieved day-to-day use by medical practitioners. He faulted the design team's removal from
the context of practice. The design team assumed that practitioners would welcome an expert
system into their work; they thought the transition to the field would be relatively
unproblematic. They failed to include implementation factors in their design, failed to achieve
praxis-the interaction between theory and practice that keeps both fresh. There is a danger that
when ID decisions are removed from the context of real instruction, similar problems will
The role of the instructional designer. According to typical ID models, the instructional
designer comes onto a new subject, gets fed the content by the subject-matter expert (SME),
and spits it back out in the form of quality instruction. By contrast, Shulman (1987) found a

whole array of different kinds of knowledge that an effective teacher must have in order to
teach effectively. There is accumulating research to suggest that teachers who don't know the
content inside out don't teach it as well. That's the problem with elementary math-too many
elementary teachers are math phobic, don't really understand the concepts and underlying
structure, and hence don't teach it well. It is amazing to me how we can expect designers who
are neophytes to a subject to somehow design good instruction for it.
Instructional strategies (and types of learning outcomes) "selected" from a pool. Beside the
problems of technical rationality stated above, having a finite set of strategies (or objectives
types) carries a unique danger-that of locking ourselves into set ways of thinking and not
being open to innovations or new solutions. Following a CoL model will likely "bias" me
toward a certain defined class of strategies or learning outcomes and "blind" me to other
possible ways of viewing learning outcomes or strategies. The examples are obvious-CoL
models tend to view motivational variables as "add-on"; they tend to neglect social cognition
and cultural variables; they still don't have a good language for metacognitive and problemsolving outcomes. On the strategy side, a variety of constructivist strategies-simulations,
games, cognitive tools-were neglected in "classic" CoL models, with updating and revisions
currently going on.
The point is that traditional CoL models grew out of a particular time and place and its
attending ways of seeing the world. The two Reigeluth books reflect pretty much a 1970s
psychology, translated into 1980s instructional theory. Any model or theory reflects a
perspective of a defined time and place. In contrast, professional practice is never ending,
always changing, just as our views are always changing. In the real world, change is the norm;
unfortunately, we don't yet have a mechanism for continually updating our formal theoretical
models in the same continuous way.
Of course, none of the assumptions above need be devastating to the use of CoL models. Each
carries a set of risks (which I have emphasized above) but also yields a certain economy or
efficiency in practice. The cumulative danger, though, is that use of CoL models will result in
lowest-common-denominator, mediocre-at-best instruction rather than creative or genuinely
good instruction. Certainly failure to even think about assumptions like these increases the
probability that CoL models will be uncritically and inappropriately used.
Postmodern Roots of Constructivism
There may be some confusion as to how postmodernism is different from constructivismcertainly the more common term found in the ID literature. I confess to some confusion
myself, and to occasionally mixing up the two terms (see Wilson, Osmon-Jouchoux, &
Teslow, 1995). I think it helps to clarify the issue to think of postmodernism as an underlying
philosophy about the world, and constructivism as a very general theory of cognition,
suggesting how the mind works and how we know things. The roots of many constructivist
beliefs about cognition are traceable to postmodern philosophies which depart from the
rationalist, objectivist, and technocratic tendencies of "modern" society. Table 1 illustrates this
relationship between constructivism and an underlying postmodern philosophy.

Underlying Philosophy

Theory about Cognition

cognition Flavor)



-Mind is real. Mental events are

philosophy worthy of study.
construction of meaning and the -Knowledge is dynamic.
validity of multiple perspectives.
Key ideas include:
-Meaning is constructed.
--Knowledge is constructed by -Learning is a natural consequence
people and groups of people;
of performance.
--Reality is multiperspectival;

-Reflection/abstraction is critical to
expert performance and to becoming
--Truth is grounded in everyday an expert.
life and social relations.
--Life is a text; thinking is an construction of meaning.
interpretive act.
-Thinking and perception are
are inseparable.
-Problem solving is central to
--Science and all other human cognition.
activities are value-laden.
-Perception and understanding are
also central to cognition.
Table 1. A situated-cognition flavor of constructivism and its underlying postmodern
In truth, not all constructivists are postmodern in their orientation. In psychology,
constructivism originally reflected the thinking of people like Piaget and Vygotsky, who were
basically modern in orientation. The current instructional models of Spiro, Jonassen, Bereiter,
Resnick, Lesgold, etc.-while definitely constructivist-show varying degrees of postmodern
influence (although some may be postmodern without realizing it!). It is possible to have a
constructivist view of cognition while still retaining a fairly traditional, modern view of
science, method, and technology.
It should also be noted that postmodern thinking can lead to what I consider positive or
negative outlooks on life. On the down side, some postmodernist theories can lead to despair,
cynicism, moral indifference, wimpishness, and a kind of myopic self-centeredness. At the
same time, other theorists are using postmodern ideas to fashion very positive, hopeful-even
spiritual-approaches to life (Spretnak, 1991; Tarnas, 1991). My slant on postmodernism in this
paper has been positive, as I believe it must be to have an impact on instructional design.
Guidelines for Doing Postmodern ID

In the spirit of subtly changing the meaning of traditional terms, I offer the following laundry
list of tips for doing ID with a postmodern twist. The list should provide a clearer idea of how
postmodern concepts can infiltrate and change designers' conceptions of their work.
General Methodology
Be willing to break the rules. Theories and models are meant to serve human needs. Wise use
of these models implies when and where to use them, and where to change the rules or forget
about them altogether.
Place principles above procedures, and people above principles. The skilled designer will
find ways to follow the principles underlying the procedures. Procedural models of ID are
seen as flexible and changeable. Even key principles should be continually tested against the
real needs of the people involved in the project.
Include all interested parties in the design and development process. Incorporate participatory
design techniques, with design activity moving out of the "lab" and into the field. Include end
users (both teachers and students) as part of the design team. Make sure all interested partiesthe "constituencies"-have some kind of voice contributing to the outcome of the project.
Don't believe your own metaphors. Be aware of the pervasive influence that labels and
metaphors have on our thinking-e.g., "delivery" of instruction, memory "storage," learning
"prerequisites," "systems" design, strategy "selection," instructional "feedback," and learning
"environments." While such metaphors are necessary for our thinking, they each carry a
certain connotative baggage that may blind us to alternative ways of seeing.
Needs Assessment
Make use of consensus needs assessment strategies, in addition to gap-oriented strategies.
Gap models of needs assessment attempt to portray the "ideal" situation, compare it against
the present state, leaving a need in the gap. The technical fix suggested by gap models of
needs assessment may be appropriate for certain work settings. However, not all instruction is
designed to improve performance in a specific work setting. Schools may develop curriculum
based on a consensus among very different constituencies; the "ideal" situation may be a
political compromise.
Do an "environmental impact" analysis. Gap analyses always need to be supplemented with
consideration of the "environmental impact" of proposed fixes. After addressing the targeted
needs, what kinds of unintended outcomes may be anticipated?
Resist the temptation to be driven by easily measured and manipulated content. Many
important learning outcomes cannot be easily measured. It may or may not be possible to
reduce value down to a number. The postmodern designer will be sensitive to subtle yet
highly valued outcomes and effects.
Ask: Who makes the rules about what constitutes a need? Are there other perspectives to
consider? What (and whose) needs are being neglected? These questions arise out of the
postmodern notion that all human activity is ideologically based. The possible political and
social consequences of our actions need to inform our decisions.

Goal/Task Analyses
Allow for instruction and learning goals to emerge during instruction. Just as content cannot
be fully captured, learning goals cannot be fully pre-specified apart from the actual learning
context. See Winn (1990) for a thorough discussion of this issue.
Don't sacrifice educational goals for technical training. Acknowledge that education and
training goals arise in every setting. Schools train as well as educate, and workers must be
educated-not just trained in skills-to work effectively on the factory floor. The postmodern
designer will be especially tuned to the need for educational goals that strengthen conceptual
understanding and problem-solving skills in a domain.
Use objectives as heuristics to guide design. There is no special value in operational
descriptions of intended learning outcomes; in fact, these may constrain the learners' goals
and achievement. Pushing goal statements to behavioral specifications can often be wasted
work-or worse, lead to misguided efforts. The "intent" of instruction can be inferred by
examining goal statements, learning activities, and assessment methods. Goals and objectives
should be specific enough to serve as inputs to the design of assessments and instructional
Don't expect to "capture" the content in your goal- or task analysis . Content on paper is not
the expertise in a practitioner's head (even if you believed expertise resided in someone's
head!). The best analysis always falls short of the mark. The only remedy is to design rich
learning experiences and interactions where learners can pick up on their own the content
missing between the gaps of analysis.
Consider multiple models of expertise. Expertise is usually thought of as having two levels:
Expert or proficient performance and novice or initial performance. Of course, a two-level
model is insufficient for accurate modeling of student growth over time. A series of qualitative
models of expertise may be needed for modeling students' progression in learning critical
tasks (Dreyfus & Dreyfus, this volume; White & Frederiksen, 1986). Postmodern theorists
would pose an even more radical thought: that expertise does not follow a linear progression
of stages, but takes on different forms in different people. Instruction needs to respond to
where a learner "is," and support their growth, regardless of their positioning in the expertise
Give priority to contextualized problem-solving and meaning-constructing learning goals.
Instead of rule-following, emphasize problem solving (which incorporates rule-following but
is not limited to it). Rules change according to context. But even problem solving is not all
there is to cognition-perception is also central. Instead of simple recall and memory tasks, ask
learners to practice seeing-making sense out of material and demonstrating their
understanding of it (Prawat, 1993).
Define content in multiple ways. Use cases, stories, and patterns in addition to rules,
principles, and procedures. Human memory, according to some theorists, is largely story- or
narrative-based (Schank, 1991). Other theories, such as situated cognition (Brown, Collins,
and Duguid, 1989; Clancey, 1992, 1993) and connectionism (Marshall, 1991), emphasize
pattern development and learning from authentic cases. Rich cases, stories, and patterns of
performance can be alternative metaphors for finding and representing content. These

multiple modes of representation can then find their way into instruction, providing richer,
more meaningful experiences for students.
Appreciate the value-ladenness of all analysis. Defining content and goals for learning is a
political, ideological enterprise. Valuing one perspective means that other perspectives will be
given less value. One approach is given prominence; another is neglected. Somebody wins,
and somebody loses. Be sensitive to the value implications of your decisions.
Ask: Who makes the rules about what constitutes a legitimate learning goal? What learning
goals are not being analyzed? Whose interests does the project serve? What is the hidden
agenda (Noble, 1989)? Twenty-five years ago, a designer using 'understand' as a verb in a
learning objective would have been laughed out of the office. 'Understanding' was fuzzy; it
was forbidden. Are there other expressions of learning outcomes that remain taboo? Are there
other dimensions of human performance that remain undervalued within ID discourse? The
cultural? The spiritual? Good postmodern ID would pursue answers to these questions and be
unafraid of reexamining current practice.
Instructional Strategy Development
Distinguish between instructional goals and learners' goals; support learners in pursuing
their own goals. Ng and Bereiter (1991) found that students showed signs of having three
kinds of goals: (1) student task-completion goals or "hoop jumping," (2) instructional goals
set by the system, and (3) personal knowledge-building goals set by the student. The three do
not always converge. A student motivated by task-completion goals doesn't even consider
learning, yet many students' behavior in schools is driven by just such performance
requirements. Postmodern instruction would nourish and encourage pursuit of personal
knowledge-building goals, while still supporting instructional goals. As Mark Twain put it: "I
have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
Appreciate the interdependency of content and method. Traditional design theory treats
content and the method for teaching that content as orthogonally independent factors.
Postmodern ID says you can't entirely separate the two. When you use a Socratic method, you
are teaching something quite different than when you use worksheets and a posttest. Teaching
concepts via a rule definition results in something different than teaching the same concepts
via rich cases and class discussion. Just as McLuhan discerned the confounding of "media"
and "message," so designers must see how learning goals are not uniformly met by
interchangeable instructional strategies.
Allow for the "teaching moment." Situations occur within instruction at which the student is
primed and ready to learn a significant new insight. Good teachers create conditions under
which such moments occur regularly, then they seize the moment and teach the lesson. This
kind of flexibility requires a level of spontaneity and responsiveness not usually talked about
in ID circles.
Be open to new ways of thinking about education and instruction. The postmodern designer
will always feel somewhat ill at ease when "applying" a particular model, even the more
progressive models such as cognitive apprenticeship, minimalist training, intentional learning
environments, or case- or story-based instruction. Designers should always be playing with
models, trying new things out, modifying or adapting methods to suit new circumstances.

Think in terms of designing learning environments and experiences rather than "selecting"
instructional strategies. Metaphors are important. Does the designer "select" a strategy or
"arrange" a learning experience? Postmodern designers would usually think of instruction in
interactive, experiential terms rather than as a simple product or presentation.
Think of instruction as providing tools that teachers and students can use for learning; make
these tools user-friendly. This frame of mind is virtually the opposite of "teacher-proofing"
instructional materials to assure uniform adherence to designers' use expectations. Instead,
teachers and students are encouraged to make creative and intelligent use of instructional tools
and resources. In some respects the designer is surrendering control over the use of the
product, but in so doing participates more meaningfully in the total design of the experience.
Consider strategies that provide multiple perspectives that encourage the learner to exercise
responsibility. Resist the temptation to "pre-package" everything. Let learners generate their
own questions and goals, then seek out information and experiences to address those
questions. Of course, this runs the risk of not giving the learner enough guidance, or of
exposing too much confusion and complexity. Certainly there are times to simplify and reduce
complexity; the designer needs to exercise best judgment and find methods for support in the
midst of complexity.
Appreciate the value-ladenness of instructional strategies. Sitting through a school board
meeting is enough to convince anyone of this. Instructional strategies grow out of our
philosophies of the world and our value systems. Not only the content, but the strategy can be
a threat to particular ideological positions or to learner motivation. Good designers will be
sensitive to the "fit" between their designs and the situation.
Media Selection
Include media biases as a consideration in media decisions. Different media send different
"messages" to an audience, independently of the instructional content. A TV show means
something different to a child than another worksheet. Look for any "hidden curriculum"
elements in different media choices. Avoid negative stereotypes and cultural biases. Consider
the rhetorical goodness of fit between media choice and overall instructional purposes.
Include media literacy as a planning consideration. Designers should be sensitive to an
audience's media sophistication and literacy, paying particular attention to humor, media
conventions, and production values.
Student Assessment
Incorporate assessment into the learning experience where possible. Skilled teachers will be
assessing students informally all the time. Also, technologies are available for incorporating
continuous, "dynamic assessment" into learning materials (Lajoie & Lesgold, 1992).
Assessment should be seamlessly integrated into meaningful learning experiences and not
tacked on at the end.
Critique and discuss products and performances grounded in authentic contexts, including
portfolios, projects, compositions, and performances. Product and performance reviews can
complement more traditional measures of knowledge acquisition and understanding (Cates,
1992). Include different perspectives in the critiquing process.

Use informal assessments within classrooms and learning environments. Informal

assessments refer primarily to teacher observations of eye contact, body language, facial
expressions, and work performance. These observations can complement formal assessments
as a basis for instructional adjustments.
If my purpose has been accomplished, you will have gained an appreciation of postmodern
ideas and how they can relate to ID practice. As we continue to grow professionally, the same
old terms begin to take on different meanings. At the same time, I hope you are cautious and
critical in evaluating these ideas. Avoid any bandwagon phenomenon. Test any of the ideas in
this chapter or book against the reality of your practice. All theories and ideas need to be put
into the service of real-world practice and usability. Remember the postmodern slogan:
"Question authority (before they question you!)"
Author Notes
Brent Wilson is an associate professor of instructional technology at the University of
Colorado at Denver and may be reached at Brent's
research interests include instructional-design theory, constructivist learning environments,
and technology in the classroom. Parts of this chapter are adapted from one published in B.
Seels (Ed.), Instructional design fundamentals. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology
Publications, 1995. That chapter, "The Impact of Constructivism (and Postmodernism) on ID
Fundamentals", was co-authored by Jim Teslow and Rionda Osman-Jouchoux. The former
chapter focused on constructivism, whereas here the focus is on postmodern thinking that
underlies much of the constructivist discussion. A special thanks goes to Charles Dills for his
encouragement and patience in the production of the manuscript.
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Englewood Cliffs NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Postmodernist Thoughts
From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Instructional Systems Design's team approach to design is considered postmodern because it

rejects the idea of a central authority. Instruction should be designed based on individual
needs as individuals are viewed as decentered by postmodernists. Constructivist theory and
hypertext both emphasize the individual learner. If we veiw ourselves as postmodernists,

when developing instruction, we should focus on the process rather than the content or
information because information changes rapidly.
Although Instructional Design is based on a scientific, systematic and quantitative paradigm,
postmodernists perceive it as an art as well as a science and suggest that instructional
designers become "Connoisseurs."
Andrew Yeaman (1994) outlined nine ideas for postmodern instructional design:
1. Accept that there a e several workable solutions to every design problem.
2. Expect that students or trainees will interpret instruction in different ways.
3. Examine and learn from instruction that fails as well as instruction that succeeds.
4. Metaphors, symbols and models should be used cautiously.
5. Determine if technological fixes have improved problems or created more.
6. Avoid idealism that all students/trainees will have absolute correspondence in
theirunderstanding - there is never a true
7. Avoid authoritarian approach - give some control to learners.
8. Look for contradictions in your messages and in other's.
9. Plan instruction based on learners' needs not just technologies.
With UNESCO's Education for Everyone by 2015 initiatives underway, this philosophy is
extremely applicable, especially in terms of creating instruction across geographical,
linguistic, and cultural boundaries. Culture, language and societal contexts color contextual
meaning. Culture not only affects how we learn, but determines how we think, and how we
think about learning. As instructional designers, we need to be thinking more wholistically
about the design of instruction. This is especially true as we move from local design,
development and deployment to more global implementations.
Yeaman, A.R.J. (1994). Nine ideas for postmodern instructional design. In D.H. Jonassen
(Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 285-286).
New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan.


By Sylvia Morgan- Vista University English Dept

1. Introduction
Both postmodernism and computer-based simulations have attracted increasing attention since
the late 1980's. This paper is a review of postmodernist theories which can be applied to an
understanding of late twentieth century computer culture and; a survey of the available
research literature on the nature, use and possibilities of computer-based simulations in an
instructional context.

2. From a Modernist Culture of Calculation to a Postmodernist Culture of Simulation

The effort to provide a definitive conceptualization of postmodernism has inspired an
increasingly extensive literature in recent years . [The Humanities Index shows no book titles
or books on postmodernism published between1980 and 1983, but a total of 241 appearing
between 1987 and 1991 (Strinati 1995:222)]. Postmodernism is commonly understood as
having three distinct but intrinsically related elements: as a mode of analysis; as a particular
type of practice or style; and as a cultural context. It is with cultural context that this study is
concerned in an attempt to synthesize postmodernist theories into an analysis of the
contribution of computers to the cultural aesthetic of the late twentieth century: utilizing the
theories of Baudrillard (1983), Jameson (1984), Lyotard (1984), Turkle (1996), Usher &
Edwards (1994) and Wakefield (1990) of the ways in which language, power, social factors
and history shape our views about reality, truth and knowledge.

Postmodernist thought is complex and multiform, resisting reductive and simplistic

explanation. Perhaps all that can be said with a certain degree of certainty is what
postmodernism is not. It is not a term that designates a systematic theory or comprehensive
philosophy. Neither does it refer to a system of ideas or concepts in the conventional sense,
nor is it the name denoting a unified social or cultural movement. It is not a fixed body of
ideas, or a clearly worked out position, or a specific set of critical methods and techniques.
The term 'postmodernism' originated as a critique of 'modernism', which is the classical
worldview that has dominated Western thinking since the Enlightenment. Modernism can be
broadly defined as the entire culture of modernity. The terms 'modern' and 'modernity' denote
the types of societies that developed in the West through the process of 'modernization', by
which traditional societies were transformed into modern societies in the age of
industrialization (Hollinger 1994).
It is Lyotard's (1984) contention that the impact of the technological changes that have
occurred since World War II, has resulted in a loss of credibility in the production and
legitimization of knowledge under late twentieth-century capitalism. Following on this
analysis, Giroux (1988) maintains that educational theory and practice continues to be
founded on the discourse of modernity. He argues that education, knowledge production and
legitimization is a vehicle by which modernity's "grand narratives" (the Enlightenment ideals
of critical reason, individual freedom, progress and change), are substantiated and realized.
Consequently, Usher and Edwards (1994) propose that contemporary education is going
through profound changes in terms of purposes, content and methods, and is currently a site of
conflict which a postmodernist perspective can help us to understand.
Wakefield (1990) avers that postmodernism short-circuits modernism's claims to a timeless
transparency of reality and truth, premised as such a claim is on the historically specific
discourses of originality and authenticity. He bases his analysis on Baudrillard's (1983) theory
of the late twentieth century as a "Society of the Simulation" . Defining simulacra as copies
for which there are no originals, Baudrillard claims that in the postmodernist age: "the very
definition of the real has become that which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction
The real is not only that which can be reproduced, but that which is already reproduced
which is entirely simulation." Wakefield argues that the irony of contemporary (postmodern)
existence is, therefore, "what we accept as reality is already simulated, a massive fabrication
of effects that stand in for reality's absence"(1990: 33).
Jameson (1984) has defined postmodernism as the dominant cultural theory of the late
twentieth century, characterized by, amongst other things, an emphasis of the "precedence of
simulation over the real", He argues that postmodernism undermines the epistemologies of
depth that stood behind traditional representation, but lacks the powerful objects for imaging
that the nature of industrial modernity provided. He suggests that what is needed is a new
"aesthetic of cognitive mapping", a new way of spatial thinking that will allow us to register
the complexities of our world.

Turkle (1996) has applied the theories of Baudrillard (1983), Jameson (1984) and Lyotard
(1984) to an examination of the role which computer technology is playing in the creation of a
new social and cultural sensibility. Turkle refers to "the modernist computational aesthetic" of
the 1970's as that which presented computational ideas as one of the great modern
metanarratives: where computers had a clear intellectual identity as "a linear, calculating
machine which could explain and unpack, reduce and clarify ". Turkle's argument is that in
the past decade, the changes in the intellectual identity and cultural impact of the computer
have taken place in a culture "still deeply attached to the quest for a modernist understanding
of the mechanisms of life" (1996:26).
Turkle claims that Jameson's call for "a new aesthetic of cultural mapping", is answered by
the use of computers in the late twentieth century, which are "an evocative object that causes
old boundaries to be renegotiated". She believes that postmodernism's objects now exist in the
information and connections of the Internet and the World Wide Web, in the windows, icons,
and layers of personal computing, in the creatures on a SimLife computer game and in
simulations (1996:45). Turkle's thesis is that the aesthetic of computers is moving from "a
modernist culture of calculation towards a postmodernist culture of simulation" in which
representations of reality are increasingly substituted for the real. Accordingly, the distinctions
between real and artificial become blurred, causing a transformation in "not only what
computers do for us but what they do to us - to our relationships and our ways of thinking
about ourselves". For Turkle the ideas contained in postmodernist thought are embodied in the
same qualities that characterize the new computer aesthetic, "computers heighten and
concretize the postmodern experience" (1996:18).
Postmodernism describes the emergence of a social order in which the importance and power
of the mass media images and popular cultural signs increasingly dominate our sense of
reality and the way we define ourselves and the world around us. Accordingly they govern
and shape all forms of social relationships. Strinati (1995:224) argues that only the media can
now constitute our sense of reality. Moreover, "virtual reality computer graphics can allow
people to experience various forms of reality at second hand". These surface simulations can
therefore, potentially, replace their real-life counterparts.

3. Simulations as a Learning Strategy

Simulations are a method of learning which existed in the complex fantasy world of children's
games long before their use in formalized instruction. Since WWII extensive use has been
made of psychomotor training with simulators in areas such as aircraft training, driver
education, and weapons systems operation in the military, and for tactical training with war
games. Simulations such as role-playing became popular in the 1960's in teacher education,
the social sciences, and management decision-making (Wittich &Schuller 1973).
A simulation can be broadly defined as an abstraction or simplification of some real life
situation or process. Simulations can vary greatly in the extent to which they fully reflect the

realities of the situation they are intended to model. An instructional simulation provides a
specific framework for implementing what has become known as discovery learning, the
inquiry approach and experiential learning, in order to facilitate better understanding and
functioning of the situation modeled or in comparable situations (Heinich, Molenda & Russell
1985). According to Thurman (1993) a common definition of the phrase "to simulate" means
to duplicate the essential features of a task or situation.
Oxford and Crookall (1988) claim that instructional simulations foster the development of
many learning strategies, including: organizational strategies (paying attention, selfevaluating, and self-monitoring), affective strategies (anxiety reduction and selfencouragement), memory strategies (grouping, imagery, and structured review),
compensatory strategies, (guessing meaning intelligently and using synonyms to represent an
unknown precise expression) .

4. Computer- Based Instructional Simulations

The advent of microcomputers resulted in an increased interest on the design and use of
instructional simulations. Jacobs and Dempsey (1993) contend that along with advances in
computer technology, it is the general criticism regarding the lack of motivational features
within current computer-based instruction, that has facilitated increasing interest in
developing simulations.
Before the development of the microcomputer, the technology for teaching was limited to
audiovisual devices and distance learning by television. In the 1960's most pioneers in
computers and education advocated a drill-and-practice approach based on behavioural
psychology. This approach is still dominant in instructional software, but simulations offer the
possibility of a computer mediated learning experience that incorporates progressive
educational theories of learning through exploration, interaction and learner control.
The most comprehensive definition of computer simulations is provided by Alessi and Trollip
In an educational context, a simulation is a powerful technique
that teaches about some aspect of the world by imitating or
replicating it. Students are not only motivated by simulations,
but learn by interacting with them in a manner similar to the
way they would react in real situations. In almost every
instance, a simulation also simplifies reality by omitting or
changing details. In this simplified world, the student solves
problems, learns procedures, comes to understand the
characteristics of phenomena and how to control them, or learns
what actions to take in different situations. In each case, the
purpose is to help the student build a useful mental model of

part of the world and to provide an opportunity to test it safely

and efficiently. (Alessi and Trollip1991:119 )

A simulation is a computer representation of some environment or system, either real or

imaginary. Simulation programs present reasonable imitations of real events without requiring
students to participate in the real situations themselves. Simulations make certain experiences
practical and other experiences possible, allowing learners to observe phenomena that are not
normally visible, to control processes that are not normally controllable, or to participate in
activities that would normally be too expensive or too dangerous. Simulations concretize
abstract phenomena, and those that are difficult or impossible to observe. For example, the
revolving of the planets, the flow of electrons, the movement of glaciers., continental drift,
economic principles of supply and demand, how a signal is passed between neurons, and the
interrelatedness of populations in a food chain (Grabe and Grabe 1996:87).
Simulations provide the opportunity for students to make decisions with logical
consequences, providing learner control of situations with which they would seldom be
allowed to experiment under normal circumstances. Learner control of certain aspects of a
simulation encourages the active creation and testing of hypotheses and consequently the
ability of the learner to explain why and how the simulation operates. Although simulation
programs cannot replace direct experience, they do permit students to "see the real and
hypothetical results of decisions that would otherwise not be possible for any but a fortunate
few" (White and Hubbard (1988:111). Certain useful educational activities cannot occur in the
classroom because they are too expensive, dangerous, time-consuming, unethical, or
impractical. The computer can help simulate these activities in an inexpensive, safe, efficient,
ethical, and practical environment (Vockell And Schwartz 1992:50-55).
When computers are compared to other media, a primary advantage claimed for them is
increased transfer of learning through the teaching of complex mental and procedural tasks in
an environment that approximates a real world setting (Reigeluth and Schwartz 1989). The
effects of simulations are revealed not by tests of knowledge but by tests of transfer and
application (Thomas and Hooper 1991). Transfer refers to the ability of the learner to apply to
a new situation that has been learned during. Transfer is believed to increase proportionately
with the increase of fidelity, which is the extent to which a simulation imitates reality.
Levin and Waugh (1988) distinguish between: perceptual fidelity - which is the extent to
which the program is seen (and heard) in a way similar to the situation being taught;
manipulative fidelity - which is the extent to which the learner's actions correspond to the
actions to be taken in the simulation; and functional fidelity - which measures the
correspondence between the internal structure of the model and the internal structure of the
lesson content being taught. Alessi (1988) maintains that maximum fidelity does not
necessarily provide the most effective instruction. Transfer depends on the degree of learning
and on the extent to which the student has contextualized or related what has been learned to

the situations in which the skills or knowledge are to be applied. The dilemma here is that
extreme high fidelity would appear to reduce learning but increase transfer.
According to Grabe and Grabe (1996:82) the simplification allowed by simulations can help
learners focus on critical information or skills and make learning easier. Simulations provide
controlled learning environments that replicate key elements of real world environments. A
simulation's focus on a limited number of key elements provides a simplified version of the
real world that allows the student to learn a topic or skill very efficiently. Malone (1981)
maintains that the simulation should be neither too complicated nor too simple with respect to
the learner's existing knowledge. Both sensory and cognitive curiosity can be aroused and
maintained by providing an optimal level of information complexity. To provide a challenge
the simulation should be novel and surprising, but not completely incomprehensible in order
to enhance motivation. Learners require differing amounts of support in computer
simulations. Dynamic support refers to the sequence of systematically decreasing the amount
of assistance provided to learners by the simulation as they progress from novices to experts.
This learning principle is derived from Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development" (Levine &
Waugh 1988, and Alessi & Trollip 1991).

5. Important Factors in Computer Simulation Design and Evaluation

Most educationists would agree that rich information presentation and multimedia interaction
techniques are desirable features for learning environments. In a comparison of interactive
computer learning environments Bosser (1991) concludes that those which most closely
resemble simulated realities are preferred by learners.
Simulations should concentrate on essential elements of the learning situation, omitting
irrelevant or unimportant elements of the real-life situation so as to avoid unnecessary
complexity and confusion, and so that the learner can more easily acquire the specific learning
for which the simulation is intended.
For Hubbard and White (1988) if a problem exists with CAI simulations , it is the need to
restrict the number of variables that are used. "Once the system becomes the least bit
complex, it becomes increasingly difficult to specify all its parts, to represent those parts in a
program, and to reproduce the relationships among the parts". Representing those
relationships becomes particularly difficult if they change in complicated, perhaps
unpredictable ways. Simulations in the social sciences are especially difficult to produce
because of the complexity of social systems. Special criteria need to be applied to simulations
then in order to assess their match with reality and, thus, their effectiveness for instruction.
Faced with the challenge of reducing complexity into a computerized facsimile, designers of
computer-based simulations use simplified models of systems or environments that deviate
from reality in certain respects. According to Vockell and Schwartz (1992:53) it is important
for simulation software packages to describe the model of the system or environment on

which the simulation is based; its underlying assumptions (and those excluded), and how the
parts of the model relate to each other. " Evaluating simulations requires judgement of
whether the designers really have included the key factors, and have not omitted important
Beyond the assumptions about the simulated environment, teachers evaluating simulations
should assess the nature and quality of learner intervention allowed by the software. Not only
should the learner be able to become directly involved in the environment or system, but that
intervention should occur at credible points in the simulation. The kinds of decisions learners
make in the simulation should model the decisions made by real people in the actual
environment or system. The decision alternatives should be believable and consistent with key
assumptions about the workings of the system or process simulated. The consequences of
student decisions must also be credible, again based on the model's assumptions. Finally, a
good simulation allows the teacher (and perhaps the student) to alter some of the simulation's
assumptions and to examine the results of those changes (Hubbard and White 1988).
Jacobs and Dempsey (1993) emphasize the link between feedback and assessment. Computer
technologies include the ability to track and measure a wide variety of instructional variables
in an ongoing manner (eg. Learning pace, response time/accuracy, or use of prompts).
Simulations offer the additional benefit of providing a relevant context for couching
performance feedback. Alessi and Trollip (1991) maintain that a good simulation could start
out with helpful, immediate and corrective artificial feedback. As the learner progresses and
performance improves, it could reduce the amount of artificial feedback, replacing it with
more natural feedback (which better prepares the learner for performing in the real world).
With feedback as with dynamic support, levels of difficulty should be built into the
instructional design so that as the learner advances he is presented with ever more challenging
State-of-the -art computer simulations are expected to include integrated user support and
learning facilities ( & error messages) designed to make systems easy to use and to
learn, graphical user interfaces , and multimedia capabilities (, voice). Bosser
(1991:210) claims that a realistic goal for interactive environments for teaching and learning
is to make printed technical user documentation obsolete. Systems should become easier to
use than to describe, and simulations should be "better than a book".

6. Practical Instructional Applications of Simulations

It is not within the scope of this paper to provide a comprehensive overview of the computer
instructional simulations available on the market. However a brief discussion follows of some
of the types and applications most frequently mentioned in the literature.
The lack of a definition of the term "simulation" has resulted in its application to a variety of
instructional products (Thomas and Hooper 1991; Thurman 1993). Alessi and Trollip (1991)

provide a distinction between instructional simulations, and instructional tutorials. Tutorials

help the student learn by providing information and using appropriate question-answer
techniques. In a simulation the student learns by actually performing the activities to be
learned in a context that is similar to the real world. They divide simulations into: those that
teach about something - physical and process simulations; and those that teach how to do
something - procedural and situational simulations.
Computer-base instructional simulations range from simple games, having relatively few
overt instructional features, to comprehensive instructional packages designed for specific
content areas (eg. Chemistry, experimental design, pedestrian safety programs, the human
circulatory system, demographic changes, physical changes that occur under conditions of
heat and pressure, economic variables affecting society), to complex systems, as in the case of
some aircraft simulators. Simulations can be used to learn about properties of physical or
biological objects or the principles by which a variety of physical, social, and biological
phenomena function.
There are already a number of computer models that teach biology. The most frequently
mentioned example is Operation Frog. "Dissecting an electronic frog on a personal computer
can teach one aspect of biology without offending animal rights supporters or overextending
the budget - the same electronic frogs are dissected by hundreds of students year after year"
(Gates 1995).
Negroponte (1995:199) contends that since computer simulation "of just about anything" is
now possible, one need not learn about a frog by dissecting it. Instead, "children can be asked
to design frogs, to build an animal with frog-like behaviour, to simulate the frog muscles, to
play with the frog". Simulations facilitate the accessibility of meaning through playing with
information. This becomes particularly pertinent when applied to abstract subjects. "Modern
computer simulation techniques allow the creation of microworlds in which children can
playfully explore very sophisticated principles".
Gates advocates that creating or using a computer model can be a valuable educational tool,
particularly in mathematics and science. Education is not about making kids give the 'right'
answer, but about giving kids methods by which to decide an answer is 'right'. " Kids now
learn trigonometry by measuring the height of real mountains. They triangulate from two
points rather than just doing abstract exercises" Gates contends that when science is made
more interesting in these ways, it should appeal to a broader set of students" (1995:199).
Simulations are not limited to the science lab. The Simseries produced by Maxis is also
frequently mentioned in the literature. SimLife allows an experience the process of evolution
by designing plants and animals and then watching how they interact and evolve in the
ecosystem that you also design. SimCity teaches about politics and finance in the real world
through the learner designing a virtual city with all of its interrelated systems, and defining
the goals for the community, rather than goals artificially imposed by the software's design.

One of the most popular preschool computer games for children is Playroom which presents a
virtual world with virtual objects such as alphabet blocks and a clock for telling the time.
Computer simulations are frequently cast in the form of competitive games to stimulate
motivation and interest through competition, skill and/or chance, and played according to
rules. Jacobs and Dempsey (1993) claim that the use of gaming in conjunction with training
simulations increases learner interest, due, in part, to the infusion of competition, and may
even add to the fidelity of the simulation if competition is an important aspect of the real-life
(operational) environment being simulated. Simulation and other thinking-skills software
(such as Oregon Trail and Decisions, Decisions) can be used to reinforce comprehension
skills, since critical thinking and problem solving are important components in
comprehension (Vockell and Schwartz 1992).

Alessi and Trollip (1991) advocate that simulations can be used for all four stages of
instruction: presentation, guidance, practice, and assessment. This does not imply that every
simulation is intended to provide an isolated educational experience, but rather that
simulations are the most versatile of the different categories of computer-assisted instruction.
They can be used: before the formal presentation of new material to generate learner interest;
to activate what learners already know about the topic; and to provide a concrete example to
relate to the more general discussion that follows. Simulations can also be used after learners
have been exposed to a new topic to attempt the transfer of what they have learned to an
actual application and perhaps to reveal misconceptions. Grabe and Grabe (1996:82) claim
that research suggests that using a simulation prior to formal instruction is particularly
effective. However Thomas and Cooper (1991) contend that simulations are most effective
when used before or after formal instruction.

7. Future Predictions for Simulations

The computer science research community as well as industry pundits maintain that the
exponential expansion of computing power will keep opening new possibilities for the
creation of simulations, and that new forms and formats will be developed that will go
significantly beyond what is currently known. According to Negroponte (1995:91) the
challenge for computer simulations over the next decade will be the development of
increasingly sophisticated interface design "to make computers that know you, learn about
your needs, and understand verbal and nonverbal languages" Turkle (1996:19) believes that in
the near future we can expect to interact with computers by communicating with simulated
people on our screen, agents who will help organize our personal and professional lives".
Gates (1995:132) emphasizes that computers will be able to increasingly "simulate the world
as well as explain it". He proposes that at the rate technology is developing, computer
software will soon be available "that can figure out how to describe the look, sound, and feel
of the artificial world down to the smallest detail" (1995:132). As the fidelity of visual and

audio elements improves, reality in all its aspects will be more closely simulated. "This
'virtual reality' will allow us to 'go' places and 'do' things we never would be able to
otherwise" (1995:87). Soon " schools will have virtual reality equipment to allow students to
explore a place, an object, or a subject in this engrossing, interactive way" (1995:200).
Goodman (1995: 147) maintains that computer simulation stands to fill a huge gap caused by
declining budgets for science equipment in schools. Simulations will also open the way for
student interaction in other disciplines through the connection of classes in different schools
via the information superhighway, "where students from different socio-economic
backgrounds can work together on simulations, learning a lot more about each other's
Predictions for computers are always uncertain and often wrong. Turkle (1996:20) describes
how for many years the professional mainstream of the computer culture (although always
including dissenters and deviant subcultures) predicted that computers would become more
powerful, both as tools and as metaphors, by becoming better and faster "calculating
machines" or " analytical engines". Instead, the nascent culture of simulation is now affecting
our ideas about mind, body, and self, eroding the boundaries between the real and the virtual.
The meaning of the computer presence in people's lives is very different from what most
expected in the late 1970's. It is Turkle's contention that the future computer culture of
simulation will create fundamental shifts in the way we create and experience human identity:
"we are dwellers on the threshold between the real and virtual".
Computer simulations offer educational benefits of a kind that cannot be matched by other
means. The potential for simulations has barely been touched. The cost of developing
simulation programs is high, and it is hard to design creative ones. Nonetheless, computerbased simulations hold out the prospect of making unique educational contributions in the
future as they harness instruction in such a way that has no parallel elsewhere.

8. Conclusion
Much of the literature surveyed in this study indicates a dissatisfaction with the current state
of research into computer-based instructional simulations. Stead (1990) notes the contrast
between the increasing popularity of simulations and the relative lack of information about
their contribution to students' learning. Thurman (1993) acknowledges that the computer
based instructional simulations being produced today are often poorly designed from a
psychological standpoint, provide an ineffective learning environment, and there is a lack of
information concerning how to specify and implement appropriate instructional designs for
the medium.
It is alleged by Thomas and Hooper (1991) that the literature on computer based simulations
is dominated by contradictions concerning their use and effectiveness. They attribute the
causes of this to be the diversity of supporting instructional environments, the multitude of

goals for which they are used, and mainly to the encompassing definition of simulations.
Thurman (1993) also comments on the fact that, in the current research on computer
simulations, the term "simulation" is applied to a wide variety of instructional products. Levin
and Waugh (1988) assert that although there are a wide range of computer-based learning
environments, they have been underutilized, and even underdeveloped, because of "a lack of a
systematic way to think about their use".
Thomas and Hooper's (1991) contention is that currently, simulation research literature covers
practically any computer program that is used for any purpose and supported in any manner.
They argue that until this confusion is removed, "the potential of simulations will go
unrealized, and the morass of contradicting literature will continue to increase". They suggest
that the mystification can be eliminated by giving computer based instructional simulation a
meaningful definition, by classifying the instructional functions for which the simulations are
used, and by identifying the key characteristics of simulations as well as the instructional
environment needed to support them.
This paper has been a theoretical overview of some of the pertinent literature currently
available on postmodernism and simulations, with no attempt made at evaluation or synthesis
of the two sections. Extensive research is needed on simulation design and use, and a follow
up study will attempt an application of postmodernist principles to this task, and to a more
meaningful definition of computer based instructional simulations.

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Alessi, S.M. & Trollip, S.R.(1991) Computer Based Instruction: Methods and Development.
New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Baudrillard, J. (1983) Simulations, New York: Semiotext(e).
Bosser, T. ((1991) Interactive Environments for Learning and Tutoring', Cognitive
Modelling and Interactive Environments in Language Learning, 210-217. Berlin"SpringerVerlag
Gates, B. (1995) The Road Ahead. London: Viking.
Giroux, H. (1988) 'Postmodernism and the Discourse of Educational Criticism', Journal of
Education 170, 3:5-30.

Grabe, M. & Grabe, C. (1996) Integrating Technology for Meaningful Learning. Boston:
Houghton Miflin
Goodman, D. (1995) Living at Light Speed. London: Arrow.
Hollinger, R. (1994) Postmodernism and the Social Sciences: A Thematic Approach. London:
Jameson, F. (1984) 'Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism', New Left
Review 146:53 - 93.
Jacobs, J.W & Dempsey J.V. (1993) Simulation and Gaming: Fidelity, Feedback, and
Motivation. Interactive Instruction and Feedback. New Jersey:Educational Technology
Levine, J. & Waugh, M (1988) Educational Simulations, Tools, Games, and Microworlds:
Computer Based Environments for Learning. Journal of Educational Research 12(1) 72-79
Lyotard, J.F. (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, Manchester:
Manchester University Press.
Malone, T.W. (1981) Towards a Theory of Intrinsically Motivating Instruction. Cognitive
Science (4) 333-369
Negroponte, N. (1995) Being Digital. London: Coronet.
Oxford ,R. & Crookall, D. (1988) Simulation Gaming and Language Learning Strategies.
Simulations and Games 19(3) 349-353.
Reigeluth, C.M & Schwartz, E (1989) An Instructional Theory for the Design of ComputerBased Simulations. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction 16(1) 1-10
Stead, R. (1990) Problems with Learning from Computer-based Simulations. British Journal
of Educational Technology 21(2) 106-117
Strinati, D. (1995) An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. London: Routledge.
Thomas, R. & Hooper, E. (1991) Simulations: An Opportunity We Are Missing. Journal of
Research on Computing in Education. 23(4) 497-513
Thurman, R.A. (1993) Instructional Simulation from a Cognitive Psychology Viewpoint.
Educational Technology Research & Design 41(3) 75-89.
Turkle, S. (1996) Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. London: Weidenfeld
& Nicolson.

Usher, R. & Edwards, R. (1994) Postmodernism and Education. London: Routledge.

Vockell, E.L. & Schwartz, E.M. (1992) The Computer in the Classroom. New York: McGrawHill.
Wakefield, N. (1990) Postmodernism. London: Pluto
White, C.S. & Hubbard, G. (1988) Computers and Education. New York: Macmillan
Wittich, W.A. & Schuller C.F. (1973) Instructional Technology: Its Nature and Use. New
York: Harper & Row.


One has to be struck by the diverse nature of university programs that offer
instructional design degrees. We have Instructional Systems Programs, Instructional
Technology Programs, and Educational Technology Programs, all with slightly different
curricula, drawing students from diverse populations, and headed for different
employment venues. Common to all programs is that graduates will be confronted with
instructional or learning problems they will be expected to solve. In solving these
problems some instructional designers will apply a design model they learned in their
graduate programs. Others might have to apply a model used by the organization where
they work. Still others will engage in evaluation or research projects, where they will
have to develop a model to fit the situation. How can an instructional systems program
help prospective graduates to meet each of these challenges?
The thesis on this paper is that we must provide our students with a toolbox of
both skills and theory that are adaptable to a variety of learning environments. What is in
the instructional designers toolbox? If we look into a carpenters toolbox, wed expect to
find a square, hammer, saw, tape measure, drills, screwdrivers and chisels tools of the

trade. These tools do the basic jobs of cutting, shaping and fastening wood. The basic
tasks of an instructional designer are learning task analysis, learner analysis, learning
activities (strategies) design, and learning assessment. What do we look for to determine
if our graduates have these tools, and how do we help them acquire them?
Of course its our desire to prepare our graduates to be productive and employable
when they leave our programs with a degree. Masters students are generally viewed as
entry-level designers, and doctoral graduates will go into research positions in academia,
or business and industry. Each position requires different levels of knowledge and skills.
We can teach our students to apply design models, but they must also know why they
work. What will prepare them to think most reflectively about what they will be doing?
Can our designers answer the question, Why should the strategies/ materials/ methods I
am designing using (whatever model), make a difference in how these particular students
learn? In order to answer these questions students must have a theory of how people
learn, and the factors that affect learning.
Legacy models
It seems we are at no lack for models in instructional systems. Most ID models
are based on one or more theories of learning or instruction. For example, linear small
frame programmed instruction was B. F. Skinners expression of Behaviorism. The Dick,
Carey & Carey model is an expression of the information processing model as interpreted
by R. M. Gagne. More recently, theories like Situated Cognition and Authentic Learning
have led to deign models for anchored instruction (CTVG, 1992), and Social Cognition
theories underlie models for collaborative learning and learning communities. The
questions for designers are how to optimize the effects of the learning environments
through the application of the principles derived from the theories.
A cursory web review of the descriptions and curriculum for ID programs indicate
that masters students usually get one survey course in learning and cognition. The
learner in these courses is typically exposed to a number of different learning theories,

but it is not likely that the theories will be translated into instructional design models.
Most ID programs have multiple hands-on technology courses. Often, these courses
focus on the application of technology, or a design model with only a cursory discussion
of the underlying theories. Students come away from these courses knowing how to
hammer a nail, but with little understanding of how a nail holds the wood together. But
what is the importance of theory in a field mostly dominated by practice? The
importance, as expressed by Nealon & Giroux (2003), is that we all have opinions
personal beliefs about the nature and causes of phenomena, but, Unless we can ask
theoretical questions about the origins of knowledges [sic], who holds them, and how
such knowledges were formed and might be changed were stuck in a go-nowhere
exchange of opinions: he said, she said. (p. 4) The importance of theory is that it makes
us question our existing opinions. If we believe that how we think determines how we
act, the importance of theory becomes clear.
For example, opponents of traditional models of instructional design, such as the
Dick and Carey model, claim that they are linear and objectivist and that they are
somehow inadequate. Some opinions Ive heard expressed are, there are too many steps
and they are too tedious, they lead to one-size-fits all instruction, and that
behaviorism is an outdated theory. These are all descriptions based on opinions about

the models, and global generalizations about the adequacy of their foundations. However,
opinions about the models and criticism of the theories are confounded. The logistics of
practicing the model shouldnt damn the theory. Just because the model contains
learning objectives, doesnt mean the instruction produced is based on Skinners model
of operant conditioning (if our students even know what that implies).
What we think, determines what we do. However, if we arent critical about our
opinions, or what we do, we dont grow intellectually. Critical thinking is a necessary
tool if our students are going to construct theory, and knowledge from relevant
practice. To paraphrase Nealon and Giroux, we are interested in theory as a toolbox of
questions and concepts to be built and experimentally deployed rather than as a menu of
methods to be chosen and mechanically applied.
Recent research by Christensen and Osguthorp (2004) found that only
approximately 50% of the respondents report using theories in making instructional
strategy decisions. Does this mean they dont reflect on the efficacy of their practice?
Another interesting finding of their study is that the most frequently cited sources of new
instructional theories, trends and strategies are peers or co-workers. Does this imply our
programs need to engage in more continuing education? They also found that as a group,
ID practitioners do not rigidly subscribe to either objectivist or constructivist
philosophical biases, from this Christensen and Osguthorp conclude ID has migrated
away from its objectivist roots (p. 64). How might this inform our program decisions?
As the paradigm world turns
Recently, it seems, other programs are infringing on what was instructional design
territory. Educational psychology has become learning sciences, library science has
become information studies, and communications programs have started teaching courses
in multimedia design. Educational psychologists, by designing instructional materials for
public schools, have attracted money from the National Science Foundation. Among
other things, research money will get the attention of academicians. Cognitive science, as
defined in the study of situated cognition and anchored instruction, became an underlying
theory for authentic instruction and learning communities. Since instructional design
models reflect educational theories, it wasnt long before the methods associated with
design began to change to accommodate the new theories. Was instructional design to
slow to see new applications, or was it lacking the theoretical perspective to lead this
field of inquiry?
How did this affect instructional design? Theories supporting self-paced,
replicable instruction were out, collaborative learning was in, and the models of design
for individualized learning materials were no longer seen as relevant How people think
affects how they act. However, nothing within an established program changes all that
quickly. Instructional design had never really penetrated public school instruction
anyhow, and the legacy models still worked in many venues with clear learning
outcomes. Instructional designers, at least FSUs Masters graduates, mostly go into
business and industry to design training, so we still teach the classic models, based
mostly on information processing theory. However, the currently popular educational
psychology paradigms became the foundation for new ways to conceive of instructional
design, and systems programs have picked up on the need to design learning
environments (in the broad sense), and the social-cultural theories have become
foundations for new models of design, as suggested by Christensen and Osguthorp.
It seems we live in a world of posts: were post-modern, post-industrial, postfeminist, post-colonial, and, given the advent of e-mail, perhaps were becoming post-

post office. (Nealon & Giroux, p. 125.) Nealon &Giroux conclude it is some deliberate
sense of indeterminacy or uncertainty that would seem to make an artifact postmodern
(p. 129). Are we entering a period of post-instructionalism? Is a postmodern paradigm
appropriate for educational institutions that reflect our culture? What does it mean for an
educational institution to be post-modern?
Professional identity as an instructional designer
Our identity as practitioners is reflected in our identity as a discipline. Are we
cognitive scientists, or materials developers? Are we learning architects or builders of
learning environments? This is a current thread of discussion on the ITForum as I type
this paper, Is there really an identity crises? Andy Gibbons sees us as interventionists,
i.e., we apply a process to a problem to affect an outcome. Like a doctor, when we
intervene, and what remedy we apply depends upon a diagnosis of the symptoms of the
patient, the progress of the disease. However, even doctors as practitioners depend upon a
theory of disease for the design of successful interventions. What are our core theories?
How robust are they?
I am presently on a curriculum committee that is considering what the Masters
program should be. What courses should a student be required to take? What
competencies will they have to demonstrate in their portfolio? What should an entry-level
instructional designer be able to do? These questions all relate to identity. How do
students gain an identity as an instructional designer and how do we know when they
have this identity?

The roles of Instructional Design Programs and Professors

First, we work at two different levels. At the Masters level we produce
practitioners. They learn the models and some of the related theory, but the emphasis is
on the practice. At the doctoral level, the emphasis switches to a more theoretical level, as
it should, for the preparation of researchers. As professors we author or identify the
knowledge we expect our students to know. First, we want them to know what we have
found to be useful. Second, we want them to be able to talk and think like we do. When
they identify with us they also gain identity as instructional designers, and we validate
their knowledge. However, in order to continue to develop theory we must be able to
question our assumptions and encourage our students to do likewise.
One question we might consider is; how would we certify an instructional
designer who didn't come through one of our formal educational programs? How would
we recognize whether they had the skills? What evidence would convince us that this
person was truly an instructional designer? Of course every teacher designs instruction,
but they arent instructional designers. What sets us apart? Id contend that it is our
beliefs about learning and instruction, our theory as well as our practice or
A changing but resistant culture
The culture of instructional design has changed and grown from when I first
entered the field. The technology has changed, and models of instruction have changed.
Information is available from many more sources, and we have production capabilities on

our desktops that were unavailable 30 years ago. These technologies extend our
capabilities to communicate, publish, and retrieve information. Slower to change are
educational institutions, but they are changing. Students are hooked into the technology,
so they expect more services. Teachers know they cant continue to ignore the
technology, and they are no longer the only authoritative source of information.
At the same time new technologies are clashing with traditional structures.
Whereas authority used to rest with the teacher in the classroom, it is now moving to a
higher level. Legislatures are developing or contracting for exit exams for high school.
Check out the accreditation requirements for universities. Look at academic learning
compacts that require measurable learning outcomes for undergraduate courses.
Consider legislative mandates for block tuition and standardized university exit exams.
Faced with accountability for student performance, how will teachers and designers
incorporate new thinking into public education?
ID career paths
Instructional designers work in amazingly diverse venues. Today, I am the
coordinator of faculty development at FSU. The modest mission of my unit is to improve
instruction on the campus of FSU. This means offering personal consultation to faculty
and Teaching Assistants, offering professional development workshops to help faculty
integrate technology into their teaching. It involves thinking about instruction and
learning, and the effects instructors have on students through their classroom curriculum,
policies, and procedures. I often reflect on Carrolls model of school learning, and
Kellers ARCS models when I attempt to diagnose instructional problems. I dont design
instruction for faculty, but I can help them think about what they want their students to
accomplish, and how they might help them learn.
If using technology can help improve instruction, great, but many problems are
far more basic, for example, creating a syllabus that clearly communicates course
expectations, or explains assessment and grading policies. It means explaining how
instructors communicate respect and concern to their students. This position has
convinced me that as an instructional designer, theories about organizational behavior,
change, and diffusion/adoption are far more relevant than I thought they would be at the
time I studied them. I perceive myself, as Rick Schwier described in his paper, as a
change agent. The people I work with acquire new perspectives, and reflections on what
it means to be a teacher. But changing an individuals present practice is tough. You have
to work within the parameters of that persons culture. Helping people change requires
good theory, and a practical way to apply it and see it work.
I view instructional designers as problem solvers. A good problem solver has a
toolbox of knowledge and skills based in theory. A good problem solver learns from
experience. A good problem solver knows how to determine the difference between
opinion and theory. A good problem solver knows how to use the different tools in the
toolbox to effect different results. There is no one best way to do everything, and a good
instructional designer can consider the situation, the desired outcomes, and select or
develop a means to facilitate the outcomes.
What should an instructional designer know? What should an instructional
designer be able to do? These are the questions that require us to investigate our opinions,
and the actions we take on them. I never want to be completely comfortable with regard
to what I know or what I believe as truth. It doesnt take much to see how quickly

knowledge changes. But on the other hand, I dont want to discard a good tool simply
because a new one is available. I might watch others use it, see what they say. Try it out
for myself, see how it works. If it is better than the old tool, keep it and learn to use it
wisely. If not, stick with what works. And, if I should find something that works better,
share it with others.
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (CTGV). (1992). The Jasper Series as an
example of anchored instruction: Theory, program description, & assessment data
Educational Psychologist, 27(3) 291-315.
Christensen, T. K., & Osguthorp, R. T. (2004). How do instructional design practitioners
make instructional strategy decisions? Performance Improvement Quarterly, 17(3) 45-65.
Nealon, J. and Giroux, S. S. (2003). The Theory Toolbox, Rowman& Littlefield Pub.,

- Updated: 2002-09-12 9:25 am


Organisation internationale de l'enseignement catholique - Conference, Brasilia, Brazil

It is a pleasure to be with you today for this important conference of the International
Organisation for Catholic Education. I bring you greetings from UNESCO and its DirectorGeneral, Mr Kochiro Matsuura. He regrets that he is unable to be with you today and I bring
you his warm salutations.
Thank you for giving me the topic that I shall address today, Education in a New Postmodern
World. Preparing these remarks has forced me to extend my knowledge and understanding of
postmodernism and postmodernity.
My remarks fall naturally into two parts. First, I shall explore what we mean by 'a new
postmodern world'. What is postmodernism? What are its implications for education? I shall
then suggest some principles for our work as educators in the postmodern world.
I must make two preliminary comments. Postmodernism is not a coherent framework of
concepts built around a central principle. If modernism was essentially objective,
postmodernism is largely subjective.
My other preliminary comment follows from that. Normally, as an international civil servant
addressing a conference like this, I would not talk about myself. However, because
postmodernism emphasises subjectivity, postmodernists believe that the views of any

commentator only reflect his personal situation. They would argue that my analysis of the
implications of postmodernism for education is deeply prejudiced by my own life experience.
So what do you need to know about me to detect my prejudices?
You can see that I am white, male and more than middle-aged. I am a European who has lived
his life primarily in the United Kingdom, France and Canada. I now work for the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO. Knowing about my job
is important because, as I shall explain later, UNESCO is an international pinnacle of
modernism, and modernism is the body of principles that postmodernism seeks to undermine.
Before joining UNESCO I spent my career in universities, notably in open universities. I
believe in the academic dogma that knowledge is important and treasure the academic mode
of thinking that goes with it. Finally, because you are the International Organisation for
Catholic Education, I should add that I belong to a church that is both catholic and reformed,
namely the Anglican Church.
Normally, as an international civil servant, I try hard to speak from a universal perspective,
which usually means a secular perspective. But you, as catholic educators, have a particular
view of the world. If I ignore your own beliefs I would simply play along with the
postmodern critique. I shall therefore risk some comments from a Christian perspective.
What is postmodernism?
How shall I describe postmodernism? It is difficult because a description is a narrative that
tries to bring order to our objective knowledge of what we are describing. Yet postmodernism
denies all three of these elements of description. It does not believe in general narrative, it
doubts the possibility of order and it denies that there is objective knowledge.
Postmodernism first surfaced in architecture, not as a new and distinct style but as an eclectic
collage of items and styles from anywhere. Postmodernism is the architectural equivalent of
the hypertext that enables you to hop from one site to another on the World Wide Web.
Indeed, the computer hacker is a pretty good symbol of postmodernism. From architecture
postmodernism has spread to most areas of the social and human sciences, picking up more
and more items to add to the collage as it goes along.
So there is no central core to postmodernism. It stands for relativism and the mixture of the
diverse, not least in our personal lives. To quote from a beginner's guide to postmodernism:
"Your typical New Ager sees no contradiction in attending a Quaker meeting in the morning,
eating a Zen macrobiotic breakfast, sitting for Chinese Taoist meditation, eating an Indian
Ayurvedic lunch, doing a Cherokee sweat before Tai Chi, and munching down a soy burger
for dinner, dancing in a full-moon witching ceremony with her neo-Pagan goddess group, and
then coming home and making love to her New Age boyfriend according to Hindu Tantric
You probably do not find that description of a postmodern person either helpful or
sympathetic. It is also difficult to translate into other languages - but that difficulty, in and of
itself, captures something of the spirit of postmodernism.
Let us try a historical approach. How did we get to postmodernism? That question, at least, is
easy. We first went through the stages of pre-modernity and modernity. In the pre-modern
world meaning derived from authority and tradition strongly influenced the behaviour of

individuals. Postmodernists cite the Roman Catholic Church as an example of a pre-modern

Pre-modernity was followed by modernity, which derived its inspiration and momentum from
the humanist Enlightenment of the 18th century. The Enlightenment rejected authority and
tradition, putting reason and science in their place. Autonomous individuals can find meaning
and truth through reason and science. This leads naturally to the idea of progress and an
attitude that values novelty as well as rationality. Through the use of reason and science we
can discover new knowledge that is objectively true.
During Jesus' trial, Pontius Pilate asked, 'What is truth?' Modernism thought that it could
answer that question. It also held that knowledge and truth could be applied to advance the
condition of society through orderly human progress. Order was an important feature of
modernism. For example, the 19th century parliamentary act that gave Canada its first
constitution expressed the aspirations of the country as 'peace, order and good government', a
thoroughly modernist statement.
In this world of science, reason and progress, the written word is very important. Modernism
itself, with its focus on science and knowledge, could be called the generic narrative of the
Enlightenment. This generic narrative creates a model for other grand narratives such as the
Christian narrative or the Marxist narrative.
Postmodernism takes a quite different view. It rejects the idea of the sovereign, autonomous
individual and focuses instead on our anarchic and anonymous collective experience. It
dislikes distinctions and stresses how things merge together.
In his famous poem, The Second Coming, written in early in last century, the Irish poet, W B
Yeats wrote:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
As a modernist, Yeats regrets that the centre cannot hold, whereas for the postmodernist it is
cause for celebration. For postmodernism the world is meaningless so we should not try to
make meaning from it. We must content ourselves with mini-narratives about small parts of
our experience and make no claim to their universality. Postmodernists oppose grand
narratives because they are no longer believable. For them the bloody history and multiple
horrors of the 20th century show that human progress is an illusion.
This view also gives postmodernists a different attitude to knowledge. The modernist holds
that knowledge is important for its own sake because it is the result of the application of
reason and science. For the postmodernist the only value of knowledge is functional. It is
there to be used. Postmodernist knowledge is knowledge that can be stored in a computer. The
rest is noise. The television quiz, where people win large prizes for knowing isolated facts, is
a postmodern expression of the use of knowledge.
Postmodernists devalue the importance of knowledge because they claim it cannot be

legitimated. Knowledge is not objective but something we each construct with our own
language games. Constructivism and deconstruction are key words in the postmodern
I have said enough to show that the acid of postmodernism corrodes the intellectual systems
of previous eras. By denying the possibility of human progress and replacing universality with
fragmentation postmodernism attacks the beliefs of liberals and socialists alike.
Take the example of UNESCO. I called it an international pinnacle of modernism. UNESCO
was created after World War II in a spirit of enlightened humanism, reflecting the belief that a
better world was possible. UNESCO's constitution declares that its member states believe 'in
full and equal opportunities for education for all, in the unrestricted pursuit of objective truth,
and in the free exchange of ideas and knowledge'.
UNESCO is a member of the United Nations family that has as its core texts - its grand
narrative if you like - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the many international
conventions and declarations derived from it. Postmodernism, with its stress on relativism and
fragmentation, strikes at the heart of the notion that there are universal human rights. If all
cultures are equally valid, then why should the idea of a human right that developed in one
culture be applied within another?
Socialism is rooted in a belief in human progress through orderly collective action. Such a
belief, whether expressed as nostalgia for communism or as the search for a third way
between communism and capitalism, is also the antithesis of postmodernism. So, obviously,
are the great monotheistic faiths with their claim to universality. I'll come back to them in
That is a brief and inadequate summary of the intellectual collage called postmodernism.
I now turn to the implications of postmodernism for education. Clearly postmodernism
challenges all educators, whether secular or religious. If all our pupils and students came to
school or college with postmodernist attitudes we would be in difficulty.
Fortunately, to quote the rear-view mirror on some car doors, objects in the mirror are closer
than they appear. Humanity's past legacy of shared knowledge, that is to say our common
sense, evolves rather slowly. In education we face pupils and students whose attitudes are a
blend of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. But this cannot be an excuse for
inaction for two reasons.
First, as educators, we have an intellectual duty to engage with the postmodern assertions that
strike at the foundations of our work. Second, many of our pupils spend much of their lives in
an electronic popular culture that carries a heavy freight of postmodern attitudes. One of our
tasks is to help students to interpret their environment.
The postmodernists themselves provide no help in understanding the implications of
postmodernism for education. This is partly because postmodernism, by its very nature, is
weak on prescriptions. One prominent postmodern writer even suggests that elementary and
secondary education should focus on teaching children the prevailing culture and knowledge
of society and let them discover later that they have been misled. We should try to do better
than that.
We can start by accepting those aspects of postmodernism that are positive within our own
terms of reference. Although they deny that anything is universal, the postmodernists promote

some values that we do hold to be universal - but that we often neglect.

One is respect for diversity. My beginner's guide to postmodernism included the bald
statement that:
"The grand narratives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have a difficult time dealing with
differences (but) there are two major traditions - Buddhism and Hinduism that can and do
embrace the differences in our increasingly pluralistic world."
This statement should make Catholics ashamed that they have done such a poor job of
proclaiming the gospel that Christ himself declared to be universal.
Another lesson from postmodernism is an appreciation of the equal value of all human beings.
Again, this should not be a difficult idea for Christians who believe that all people are equally
and infinitely dear to God. This belief provides Christians with a clear basis for upholding
universal human rights.
Other postmodernist views are tolerance and respect for the freedom of others. We should
celebrate of the diversity, equality and freedom of others. Nevertheless, if we believe in
human rights because all of us are equal before God, we should not tolerate the idea that a
particular culture can define away the human rights of its people in the name of difference.
Finally, on the positive side, we might re-visit some other qualities that postmodernists value
such as creativity, emotion and intuition.
But we must also stand for critical thinking and intellectual rigour. A few years ago two
physicists, Sokal and Bricmont, published a paper in the serious academic journal Social Text.
They then revealed that their paper was written as a meaningless spoof on the obscure
language of postmodern scholarship. These two physicists have also been critical of way in
which some postmodernists appeal to contemporary theories in science, which they have not
taken the trouble to understand, in support of their theories about relativism. The postmodern
writers who were criticised did not refute the charge but simply complained that Sokal and
Bricmont were being rude to them.
The lesson here is that educators need to teach intellectual rigour and full understanding.
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, for example, does not mean that everything in the
physical world is uncertain.
More generally, I suggest that education in the new postmodern world should pay particular
attention to two areas, balance and motivation.
We must seek balance in both the content of education and in the means of its delivery. I find
the new Euro banknotes, which were introduced across Europe this year, provide a nice
analogy for balance in content. One side of each note depicts a door or a window. Education
must be a window on the world. It must draw out the potential of each individual and develop
the skills and knowledge that will help her to find fulfilment in the various facets of life. Call
this the formation of competent human beings.
The other side of each Euro note shows a bridge. Education must also build bridges between
individuals and communities. It must help us learn to live together, to create networks of
social relationships and to work together in communities for the common good. Call this the
education of responsible citizens.

The analogy of the Euro notes is also useful in thinking about the methods of education. I find
it useful to distinguish between independent learning and interactive learning. We learn
independently when we read a book, watch a TV programme, listen to the radio or a live
lecture, or work at our computers. For adults most learning is independent. However, even for
adults independent learning is not usually sufficient if the content or the skill they are
studying is difficult to master. Then they also need interactive learning, that is to say they
need a bridge to someone else.
By interactive learning I mean that another human being, who may be a teacher or another
student, responds to the specific actions or questions of the learner. They may answer a
question in class, comment on homework, or respond to a query by e-mail.
Much nonsense is talked about the potential contribution of technology to learning because of
a failure to understand the need for a balance between independent and interactive learning.
Children, in particular, need plenty of interaction with real people who are committed to real
education, that is to say teachers who lead their learners to knowledge and understanding,
rather than cramming information into them.
This brings me to my final point, closely related to the need for interaction, which is the need
for education that motivates people. The postmodern world is a difficult world for young
people. Many of the traditions and role models that provided stability and frameworks of
reference to generations past are no longer there. Usually they have been swept away by
social changes or civil conflict rather than by postmodern thinking. However, when
youngsters do come to wonder about the meaning of life, postmodern thinking is unlikely to
help them. They need sympathetic adults - teachers, parents and others - who can motivate
them and give them the confidence to find their own answers.
In my previous job, as head of the UK Open University, I spoke individually to some 50,000
graduating students over a period of eleven years. I particularly appreciated the graduate who
told me, with both frustration and satisfaction, that after doing a degree at the Open University
he could not see less than six sides of any question. That is what we must motivate people to
do. We should first help people to develop the attitude of systematic scepticism that makes
them ask questions. Then we must give them the tools to find answers to those questions and
to assess the quality of those answers. Their judgements can then form the basis for individual
In this way we can equip our students to engage with the new postmodern world and act
within it as autonomous individuals, not as faceless members of an anarchic, anonymous
collective. It would seem to me that the members of the International Organisation for
Catholic Education are well placed to undertake these tasks and I wish you well in your
important work.

Source Reference

Organisation internationale de l'enseignement catholique - Conference,

Brasilia, Brazil




March 9, 2007
Jos Maria J. Yulo

For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be
awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to
irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the
sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature
will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.
C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

A few semesters ago, a student remarked with a semblance of popular support, that he
received his nightly news from comedic, mock news programs on cable television. The
immediate ramifications of this seemed quite telling.
It is difficult, if not nigh impossible to promote greater public knowledge via news gathering
in a population which has all too many diversionary and at times fraudulent outlets at their
disposal. In addition to this, the myriad of actual news sources only serves to add to the
confusion due to the attendant and varying levels of spin or editorial slant within each
media outlet. Lastly, cost, in both time and money, are prevailing factors in a college students
search for information. Whatever media outlet that provides cheap, quick, easily digestible,
and as an added bonus, flippantly clever programming would appear to be in this regard the
One is inevitably led to the following conclusion. Considering all the abovementioned factors,
many in this generation of college students choose to get their daily dose of information,
information which will hopefully one day allow them a greater facility for critical political
and moral judgments, from the polished, primped, and packaged routines of comedians.
Naturally, out of concern for this oddity, a question may be raised. Why do young people,
gifted with everything the most influential society on the earth can provide, seek knowledge
from paid comics? The question of course is wrongly posed. It is not serviceable knowledge
the student is seeking in one nights engagement with such personalities. Rather, what is being
sought out, at the expense of all else, is entertainment.
It is little different within academia itself. As they ceaselessly pass from classroom to
classroom, todays students are told that they are immersing themselves in a world of letters
and thought, which, after a set number of years, will lead them to enter the world of
educated citizens. Sifting through a multiplicity of courses and fields however, there is a
perceptible ethos felt permeating many of the available choices.
In relation to the earlier propensity to favor the counsels of comics, many students are drawn
to the ethos of adversarial posturing adopted in many an ivory tower. Though an old tune, it
briefly deserves mention. It is the sense that somehow, student and faculty member share a
sense of solidarity that is qualified not merely through the relationship between both parties,

but by the tie between both against the society outside academias hallowed halls. Separated
by both distance, and varying income backgrounds, members of this union frame the
educational experience as a lengthy (and undeniably tedious) tome of self-validation at the
expense of those who could not possibly understand the collective pathos now on display. All
past and existing semblances of order, familial, clerical, and professional, are now posited as a
monolithic, although curiously ill-defined atavism; the adversary by which a society defines
itself and its charge. In older times this dragon was something to tilt at and gallop towards.
This being a different age, a less daring stabbing at the heels suffices. And, since all the
previous elements are stirred up within protective walls with little regard for accountability,
what is ultimately proffered up on a students tray is yet another form of entertainment.
Clearly, lost in all of this is the very crux and purpose of an education. Lost and drowned out
by the incessant self-gratification and posturing against the institutional flavor of the day is a
students receiving something which will make ones life, for lack of any other way of putting
it, better.
In this current state, education resembles, what the ancient Greeks would clearly call tragedy:
a downward progression, or fall from a once elevated, more exalted position. The bodies of
research and results pointing to this have by now been extensively documented. Students do
not know the Constitution from the Declaration of Independence. Undergraduates fail to
learn, let alone master, the rudiments of writing a passable paragraph. Instead of boldly
venturing to examine a new field or ancient discipline, college courses entailing students
examining only those areas they are most familiar with are flooded to capacity. The academic
landscape appears a conglomeration of diversified fiefdoms, each expert a duke or baron
ruling over an ever shrinking and alienating domain. As a final insult, and ironically a gift
from the latest television programming, adult college graduates struggle to vainly compete
with of all people, fifth graders on a game show.
It may be considered by some unduly optimistic, and unlikely, to see comedy arise from this
predicament. Perhaps the only humorous value present is akin to the flippancy of the comicjournalists, a rather barren mirth possible only at the expense of others. Yet, as in the sense of
comedy written of in Dantes Divina Comedia, a renewed sense of elevation may indeed
prevail. Though lacking the guidance of Virgil, todays students can still benefit from an
authentic educations upward climb.
A few integral directions, if taken in earnest, would more ably allow beneficial reform to take
First, without necessarily undoing the more student- or faculty-centered approaches to
learning dominating the academic landscape, a renewed emphasis should be placed on a
universitys establishing a core curriculum. Great works from past and present can be
evaluated by each institution and tailored to fit each particular circumstance. If an institution
chooses to forego this adaptation, there are existing colleges and universities with working
models of Great Books programs available for research.

The benefits of a successful core curriculum exceed solidly grounding students in the
foundations of their civilization. The comedians and academic showmen both attract students
by representing themselves as the outsiders or rebels of society. The reality of the situation is
the reverse. Comic journalists perform largely in front of settings and demographics they
know will be friendly or receptive to their messages of urbane, cosmopolitan flippancy.
Postmodern academics have an even better audience: a captive one. What both groups fail to
reveal is that they are not the intrepid challengers to the system they claim to be. This
conclusion is achieved by the realization that, shrill protestations aside, they constitute the
dominant ethos, therefore the majority within the system. It is logically most difficult to tilt at
dragons when one is the dragon. Perhaps, this is another reason for logic being revisited as a
core curriculum subject.
Core curriculums need not depose existing fields. The former can draw in students for reasons
other than being authentically rebellious. These programs are noteworthy not because of
novelty, but due to their adherence to substance in learning. Assimilating the early
development of Greek philosophy not only adds something of external worth to a students
acumen. It challenges that student to critically and responsively engage in introspective
inquiry, inquiry that goes beyond self-revelation to a captive audience.
Second, in the effort to develop a list of texts to be read in such a core program, special
attention needs be paid to each source possessing what Russell Kirk called moral imagination.
Citing Edmund Burke, Kirk related this concept as pertaining to that power of ethical
perception which strides beyond the barriers of private experience and momentary events.
When the heroes of Homer, sung of in The Iliad, made their decisions to pursue glory and
thereby be remembered throughout eternity, they did not believe glory required a competent
public relations department. Much has been made in the last academic generation of how
some age-old conspiracy cryptically mandates certain books to be read in a prescribed canon.
This effort, as has been told, maintains what postmodernists view as an eternal desire for
control through power over a society. The only insight postmodern thought exudes in this
tired account is its own obsession of viewing anything and everything through this pseudoNietzschean lens. One has to ask whether these sources are incapable of veering away from
this habit, or whether they are simply unwilling, being power-holders themselves, of
relinquishing it.
No, Homeric warriors were memorable because they did memorable things, emphasizing
timeless beliefs. When Achilles brashly challenges god, man, and river, we are reminded of
our own capacity for irrational excesses. When noble Hector falls defending his city, we
inwardly weep for the fated death of a citys, and civilizations true champion.
Lastly, the texts read in core curriculums need to be introduced to the student by the instructor
keeping in mind the students intrinsic capabilities. As C. S. Lewis would remind, the tapping
of just sentiments should be carefully attended to.

Unlike sophists both ancient and modern, who would ply the youth with diversionary,
sensibility-stripping entertainment as a prelude to the seduction of their own agendas, an
educator buttresses the dormant decency found in all. By showing students the substance
behind a solid core curriculum, selecting these works with moral imagination in mind, and
fostering the inborn sense of proportion and rectitude in each human soul, educators engage in
legitimate teaching. This teaching allows students to see for themselves what separates the
clarifying journey of elevation, from the meandering, ultimately waylaid descent into salon
Plato and Burke would have seen this fork along parallel sides of the road. If, as Plato
maintained, evil was the absence of good, thus darkness was the absence of light. Burke held
that evil only prevailed when the good did nothing. The light in the modern academy always
has a chance of prevailing. All the darkness ever strives to do is to monopolize power, simply
because it knows it cannot stand to face its dread rival.

Jos Maria J. Yulo is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He received his doctoral degree in the philosophy of
education from the University of San Francisco and teaches philosophy and western civilization at the Academy of Art

la acest documentar, o...ntrebare:

Se poate spune c gndirea postmodernist s-a auto-compromis iremediabil cu

prilejul Afacerii Sokal i, ca urmare, ar trebui repudiat total i definitiv din
cmpul dezbaterilor pedagogice ?

Alan Sokal, a theoretical physicist at New York University, submitted an essay
entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of
Quantum Gravity," to Social Text. It was accepted and published in a special edition
of Social Text which was concerned to counter charges that cultural studies'
presentation and use of contemporary scientific ideas was often incompetent. The
article was a parody of much cultural studies commentary on science. It was riddled
with non-sequiturs and unscientific nonsense, but was also riddled with quotations
from, and references to, the patron saints of post-modernity and, no doubt in part as a
result of those references, it was published in its entirety. The quotations were, in

Sokal's words, 'absurd or devoid of meaning'. After publication, Sokal immediately

revealed his hoax, sparking off an extraordinary broadside from the cultural theorists.
Writing in the Times Literary Supplement on the affair, Paul A Boghossian described
how Sokal's satire revealed for all to see the extent of
the brush-fire spread, within vast sectors of the humanities and social sciences, of the cluster
of simple-minded relativistic views about truth and evidence that are commonly identified as
`postmodernist'. These views license, and on the most popular versions insist upon, the
substitution of political and ideological criteria for the historically more familiar assessment in
terms of truth, evidence and argument.

Boghossian (1995)
[If you wish to investigate the affair in further detail, I recommend that you examine
the very comprehensive selection of articles at the site devoted to the affair.]
In the article in which he revealed that his essay was a hoax, Sokal alludes to a factor
about much post-modernist/post-structuralist 'Theory' which also puzzles and disturbs
me, namely the fact that it lays claim to being of the political Left:
Politically, I'm angered because most (though not all) of this silliness is emanating from the selfproclaimed Left. We're witnessing here a profound historical volte-face. For most of the past two
centuries, the Left has been identified with science and against obscurantism; we have believed
that rational thought and the fearless analysis of objective reality (both natural and social) are
incisive tools for combating the mystifications promoted by the powerful -- not to mention being
desirable human ends in their own right. The recent turn of many "progressive"'' or "``leftist"''
academic humanists and social scientists toward one or another form of epistemic relativism
betrays this worthy heritage and undermines the already fragile prospects for progressive social
critique. Theorizing about ``the social construction of reality'' won't help us find an effective
treatment for AIDS or devise strategies for preventing global warming. Nor can we combat false
ideas in history, sociology, economics and politics if we reject the notions of truth and falsity .

Sokal (1996)
This sums up the profound misgivings I share with Sokal about the turn which is
being taken by the whole cultural studies project, summarized in my article elsewhere
in the website (it's a long and rambling whinge, but, if you want to follow it up
nevertheless, you'll find it here). In a later article (1996b) Sokal explains that, as 'an
unabashed Old Leftist who never quite understood how deconstruction was supposed
to help the working class' and 'a stodgy old scientist' who continues to believe, rather
unfashionably, in the existence of an external world, Sokal had intended his original
article to highlight the growth in subjectivism in the humanities, which he believes to
be inimical to the values and future of the Left.
Among the comments on Sokal's article were one from Stanley Fish and one from
Stanley Aronowitz. These both made points about the nature and rle of cultural
studies and the sociology and philosophy of science. Although the points they made

were valuable in themselves, Aronowitz's in particular serving almost as a manifesto

of cultural studies, they both set up a straw man Sokal and waste time on countering
allegations which he had not actually made in the first place. Sokal's satire was
intended essentially to expose sloppy scholarship and the spouting of nonsense. In my
view, it was spot on.
Sokal's hoax was followed by the publication of the book Impostures Intellectuelles
written together with Belgian physicist Jean Bricmont. In the opening chapter the
authors briefly describe the satire and the response to it, including a number of
congratulatory letters. One of these was from a student who had worked to pay his
way through a university course in the humanities only to find that he had purchased
a full set of the emperor's new clothes and one from another who fully supported
Sokal and was anxious to take his discipline forward, but asked Sokal not to reveal
his identity until he had secured a full-time post. As a number of Sokal's colleagues
could hardly believe that the quotations in his original article were really genuine, he
put together a collection of lengthier excerpts and circulated them amongst them.
Once they had all stopped laughing, he turned to writing Impostures Intellectuelles,
the particular aim of which was to deconstruct 'postmodern' texts' reputation for being
difficult because profound and to show that in many cases, if they seem
incomprehensible, then that is for the simple reason that they do not actually mean
I can't help feeling somewhat vulnerable in this respect myself. The renowned
immunologist, Sir Peter Medawar, comments somewhere in one of his essays that
scientists who don't know their Shakespeare are treated with disdain by students of
the humanities, whereas the latter seem almost to consider it a mark of their
civilization that they know nothing of quantum mechanics. The trouble I have is that
science is simply too bloody difficult. I am keenly aware that when I do bring to bear
on communication and cultural studies anything from the 'exact' sciences (for
example Shannon's and Weaver's information theory or aspects of chaos theory), then
I've probably got it round the back of my neck. So, Sokal's attack may appear to be
counterproductive since it may frighten us 'humanists' off trying to know anything
about science. Well, I suppose it might, but I don't really see why it should. As long as
we try honestly to apply what we believe we have understood, there's no shame in
being told we've got it wrong if we're prepared to listen. Sokal's point is, as he
explains it, not to mock humanists who get all addled when they speak of Gdel or
Einstein, but rather to 'defend the canons of rationality and intellectual honesty which
are (or should be) common to both the exact and the human sciences'. Not being
experts in the humanities, Sokal and Bricmont do not consider themselves to be in a
position to judge of the whole of the work of the authors they are dealing with. They
are aware also that by confining themselves to a critique of those sections of such
authors' works which deal with natural sciences, they are open to the objection that
they may be giving a very partial view. That is probably so; however, I feel some
sympathy with their view that, if an author's writing is difficult and obscure, then

concentrating on those areas where an author deals with subjects where his or her
opinions are verifiable should give us some idea as to whether the rest of their work is
likely to stand up to scrutiny. Further, it should be noted that they do not spend a great
deal of time on the critique of authors in whose works reference to natural science is
rare. Rightly, however, they do spend time on Baudrillard, Virilio and others who
frequently draw on the natural sciences in an apparently knowledgeable and erudite
fashion. (I should say in passing that they take Baudrillard a good deal more seriously
than I do, though they wonder ultimately 'what would be left of Baudrillard's thought
if the verbal veneer covering it were stripped away'. I am reasonably certain that he
died some while ago and has been replaced by the Postmodernism Generator at
Monash University.)
Inevitably, although Bricmont's and Sokal's book was often fted in the general press,
it was none too well received by those who make their living from the kind of stuff
they criticized. They were accused of every manner of sin from being antiintellectual, nit-picking, arrogant, dishonest, pedantic francophobes through to being
in league with American neo-liberal economists. There might be some justification
for all of these accusations, though I don't see it myself. I think Sokal and Bricmont
have administered a salutary shock to the humanities, but I leave you to make up your
own minds - the book has just appeared in Britain: Intellectual Impostures by Sokal A
& Bricmont J, published by Profile (1998). For a penetrating and, in my view,
balanced commentary of the Sokal affair and postmodernism, see Barbara Epstein
Postmodernism and the Left [from New Politics, vol. 6, no. 2 (new series), whole no.
22, Winter 1997]
For a reasonably balanced discussion of the Sokal affair from the point of view of
cultural studies theorists, see Kellner and Best (1997), who present Sokal's agenda as
not, as he claimed, an attempt to defend rationality from irrationality, clarity from
obfuscation, but rather as an attempt to defend a positivistic, reductionist and
scientistic view of reality from those (many within the natural sciences) who seek to
challenge science's claims to ahistorical, context-free truth and theoretical purity.
They argue that Sokal's presentation of cultural theorists' understanding of science as
a social construction is a silly exaggeration. No cultural theorist who emphasizes the
constructedness of science would expect to be able to defy the laws of gravity as
Sokal ironically suggests, either now or 100 years in the future, but what such a
theorist might well expect to find in 100 years time is that the description of what
occurs with falling bodies has changed - and that description, a part of scientific
'reality', is a social construction. Thus science, whether Sokal likes it or not, is not
immutable and is not immune from changing paradigms of knowledge and inquiry,
which themselves are not immune from influences from outside the scientific

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a

Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum
Alan D. Sokal
Department of Physics
New York University
4 Washington Place
New York, NY 10003 USA
Telephone: (212) 998-7729
Fax: (212) 995-4016
November 28, 1994
revised May 13, 1995
Typeset in LaTeX
Note: This article was published Social Text Spring/Summer 1996.
Biographical Information: The author is a Professor of Physics at New York University. He
has lectured widely in Europe and Latin America, including at the Universit di Roma ``La
Sapienza'' and, during the Sandinista government, at the Universidad Nacional Autnoma de
Nicaragua. He is co-author with Roberto Fernndez and Jrg Frhlich of Random Walks,
Critical Phenomena, and Triviality in Quantum Field Theory (Springer, 1992).

Transgressing disciplinary boundaries ...[is] a subversive undertaking since it is likely

to violate the sanctuaries of accepted ways of perceiving. Among the most fortified
boundaries have been those between the natural sciences and the humanities.
-- Valerie Greenberg, Transgressive Readings (1990, 1)

The struggle for the transformation of ideology into critical science ...proceeds on the
foundation that the critique of all presuppositions of science and ideology must be the
only absolute principle of science.
-- Stanley Aronowitz, Science as Power (1988b, 339)

There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion
that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to
contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the
idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such
criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony
over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there
exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and
indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ``eternal'' physical laws;
and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these

laws by hewing to the ``objective'' procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the