Instructional Technology/Bases of the Field

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A theory is a set of statements that allow us to explain, predict, or control events (Smith and Ragan, 1993). A theory provides an explanation for observations made over time. A theory explains and predicts behavior. A theory can be modified. Theories are rarely discarded if tested, but sometimes a theory may be widely accepted for a long time and later disproved. There are two kinds of theories on which instructional design is based:

  1. Descriptive Theories
  2. Predictive Theories

Descriptive theories describe how learning occurs. Prescriptive theories describe what to do to achieve certain outcomes. Most instructional theories are prescriptive. They suggest that if instruction follows a certain form and process, then learning will occur. This will be a section on the theoretical bases for the field of Instructional Design. By many accounts, there are four, sometimes referred to as the pillars of the field (McGriff, n.d.):


Audio-Visual Foundations[edit]

Visualization enhances the learning process[edit]

Hoban, Hoban and Zisman (1937) explained impact of visuals on the learning process based on the mental processing including differentiation and integration to reach ultimate goal of education generalization. An object cannot be understood totally without making connection to the differentiated situations concretely in real life. In this process, visual aids play a key role for presentation of differentiated situations. However, differentiation is the secondary process of integration because the differentiated object must be put into a category or class again in real life situation. The integration of several differentiated concrete experiences related to an object produces abstraction and generalization. In this process, visual aids support not only alone differentiation but also integration of lower to higher level for the generalization purpose. The other role of the visual aids is supporting the progress of concrete to abstract. In fact, concrete and abstract forms of an object are relative terms. One is start; another is end points. During the integration to generalization process, the transition from concrete to abstract must be smoothly otherwise the process sounds meaningless. For the concrete differentiation, real sample of the object that provides sense of weight, volume and textures are appropriate. To take this process one step further for abstract forms, the visuals are very critical. Hence, visuals can be still concrete to the person without some senses and Hoban, Hoban and Zisman called them as semiconcrete. They can support that smooth transition to the abstraction. In some cases, direct concrete experience is not possible so the visual aids take the direct experiences role, such as in geography or history subjects.

The similar type of support came from Dale’s Cone of Experience (1946) related to visualization and learning. Like Hoban, Hoban and Zisman (1937), Dale talked about the decreasing concrete experiences of motion pictures and its place between direct purposeful experiences and verbal symbols. The visual materials both motion and still pictures put the transition point. He also stressed the efficiency of the visualization; that one can reduce unnecessary part of the experience and concentrate the related parts. In 1949, another forerunner of audio-visual education movement Jim Finn joined Hoban and Dale (as cited in Januszewski, 2001) and supported the idea of rich concrete experiences providing with audio-visual materials rather than just presentation of eye and ear experiences.

In other words, visualization is important for making learning process meaningful via diverse representations of the content to support both retention – within relations and transfer – relations between the other contents. Moreover, learning processes become more effective and efficient if unnecessary and unimportant parts are dismissed via utilization of visuals. Like the vision of Oettinger (1969), the visual materials are still very important manipulative to teach abstract concepts currently. However, the role of visual materials are not limited to the progress of concreteness to abstraction but also tied to individualized instruction regarding learning style or type of an intelligence of a person. For example, Gardner’s (1983) multiple intelligence theory includes visual/spatial intelligence.

Communications Theory[edit]

Communications theory is related to information processing and longterm storage and retrieval of knowledge. In the information processing model, the source of a message works its way through a channel which is influenced by noise. Sending a message involves encoding and transmitting it. Receiving a message involves receiving a message and then decoding its meaning. The form and structure of the message is of concern to instructional designers. The purpose of communications theory is to increase knowledge and understanding of some knowledge or skill; and, to persuade and/or motivate retention of the same. Communications theory can aid in the design of instructional materials by facilitating the transmission of messages and information from one person to another.

Communication is a two-way process that permeates all aspects of instruction[edit]

The fundamental starting point of communication in field of AV was the basic discussion of Harold Lassweell in 1948; that “who says what in which channel to whom with what effect?” (p. 250, as cited in Januszewski, 2001). Based on that model, other scholars of AV field got their attentions to the communication. The following to this theory, the two field were connected to each other with the Journal of AV Communication Review in 1953.

According to Dale (1953), communication is the process of taking the other in order to reach the common experiences mutually. To understand each other clearly, communicator must establish two-way communication where the feedback is the critical part. As experience sharing process between the teacher and learner, instruction must be realized in the context of two-way communication. Although Gerbner (1956) was one of the advocator of social framework of communications, he mostly emphasized situation, perceived context, and all aspects of the content, which are the important variables of instructional environments. The social framework of communication is more detailed explained than behavioral one in which AV communication was accepted as a one-way communication and linear act where the messages were transferred form one person to another (Januszewski, 2001). In this framework, the AV field was more associated with machine and equipment perspective.

Like Dale (1953), Hoban (1977) criticized open communication systems and proposed monitoring and correction or evaluation for the process where the user could be part of information flows. With this way, he believed, the effectiveness of information transfer could be increased. The evaluation process was based on observations. For the instruction environment, teacher must understand the reaction of students to audio-visual materials and make necessary corrections if there are some problems. He stated that without evaluations it has been impossible to improve effectiveness of the materials.

At this time, two-way communication is the still very important principle of instruction. For example, in a form of distance learning web based instruction provides tools for communication to enhance outcomes. Moreover, most of the message design principle are the stemmed from effective communication. The most common type of message design is screen design for educational software or web based course in the field of IT. In constructivist perspective, I believe, the source of the communication process is the students and the receivers are the teachers who send feedback to facilitate students again.

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Systems Theory[edit]

One definition of a system is that it is a set of interrelated objects working together toward a common goal (Hall & Fagen, 1975). In other words, the system has a purpose or goal; its parts are organized and hierarchical. General systems theory assumes that the natural world is ordered and rational; and, planning and creation of order are valuable activities. Systems theory provides a framework for us to order the world around us in our own minds. It helps us understand relationships between people and other people, people and things, and things and other things.

The environment places constraints on a system. Through feedback mechanisms, dynamic systems change when interacting with the environment. These changes can lead to progress or self-destruction.

Instruction is a system because it is purposeful, organized, governed by processes and is comprised of a set of interrelated part working together toward a common goal. It is used to create meaning out of existing structures, create new structures and ways to organize information, and solve problems.

Systems thinking and relation to historical roots of IT[edit]

The systems thinking in education was explained as an iterative, high speed, mental process of the frequent analysis and synthesis, called anasynthesis (Silvern, 1968). Analysis process is explained as breaking down of a whole into the parts with demonstrating all relationships of the parts to each others and to the whole itself. For a system, the relationships must be meaningful from each peace to the whole. Silvern identified process of analysis into four steps: (a) identify, (b) relate, (c) separate, and (d) limit. Synthesis is the process of combining non-related elements into meaningful relationships that produces the new product as a whole system. The main distinctive characteristic of synthesis is production of new or innovative things. As well as analysis, Silvern expressed synthesis contains five basic steps: (a) identify, (b) relate, (c) combine, and (d) limit.

Over and above of Silvern’s system explanation, Churchman (1965) proposed two principles to keep the system works. One is housekeeping principle that supports the idea of when you see a mess, clean it up. This principle fosters immediate straighten of an existing system. However, if the system becomes more complex, housekeeping principle cannot be simple to apply. In addition to housekeeping principles, Churchman talked about two fundamental design properties of any part of a system: its benefit to the whole and its price. When the change made in any part of the system, the expected benefits of it must be assessed for the whole cost to the system. Hoban (1977) explained the efficiency of the AV field by using the communication systems. He also proposed that AV communication system that indicates interaction among basic components of communication system. He advocated that in order to understand huge social system that are really difficult to analyze, we need manageable sub-systems, such as AV communication system.

The common characteristics of educational engineering process are classified into four ways by Charters (Januszewski, 2001): (a) systematic process, (b) applications of science, (c) efficiency for the utilization of resources, and (d) aims to produce for wealth. With the systematic process, the emphasized concepts were thoroughness or step-by-step procedure and impartiality of the truth. The systematic development of instructional methods and product was the part of educational engineering. Educational engineering’s basic areas were psychology, sociology, and mathematics, like industrial engineering and its basic sciences psychics, chemistry. Educational engineering were derived from these basic sciences. Based on the discussion of Silvern (1968), Churchman (1965), and Hoban (1977), it can be proposed that system thinking is related to systematic step-by-step procedures, efficiency, and production of wealth characteristics of educational engineering. Two different ideas focus on a production system including meaningful relations by using the most efficient ways for the valuable outcomes to the outer system in a standardized way.

The risen interest on exact measurement and prediction-based methods and outcomes by emphasized by science of education view could be easily adapted to a procedural concept of educational engineering. For the science of education perspective, we can easily observe that system thinking ensures the consistent outcomes via using comparative exact measures of benefits and costs to control system for continuous production.

Especially, Hoban’s (1977) AV communication system was a kind of reusable module for all types of growing technologies. Hence, Hoban developed that model for the systems difficult to analyze and complex social systems. In other words, it is the effective representation why we need to use technology in complex educational environments. This is the rationale for the efficient and effective use of technology.

As far as the programmed instruction is concerned, keeping consistency of a system production and its expected benefits and cost is closely associated because the programmed instruction includes immediate correction of the system components - housekeeping, such as reinforcement. However, Hoban emphasized that the housekeeping principle of the programmed instruction could be thought as the efficient way for instruction unless its benefits and cost to whole system were considered. He added that one of the common methods for immediate correction was supplementing the problem part with emerging technologies. In my opinion, this point is one the most critical evidence for the disappearance of the programmed instruction tools in education systems. It also must be considered for the current applied technologies nowadays.

Go here to learn more about Systems Theory and its implications for instructional design.

Learning Theory[edit]

Behaviorism, Cognitivism and Constructivism - The Basics

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).

For a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the basic learning theories

Learning Theory - Strengths/Weaknesses


Contructivist Learning Theory [1][edit]

What we call contructivism is based on the assumption that learning occurs as a result of what learners understand about their world. It is about the individual construction of knowledge. Constructivism is not a learning theory, per se, but rather philosophical approach to teaching and student learning. Constructivist education involves the creation of student-centred learning environments. Teachers adopt strategies and techniques that assist students in constructing knowledge by making links between old and new knowledge and experiences, in recognition that students bring old knowledge and experience to new learning experiences.

Mental constructs (schema, mental models, etc.) are constructed by past experience, and modified through assimilation and accommodation of new knowledge and experience per the Piagetian framework of thinking about human learning processes. Constructivism, then, is a way of thinking about how we know what we know and understand things; and, a referent for models of instruction and learning (Tobin & Tippin, 1993). In this sense, it is more of a philosphical approach to education which has implications for instructional design and practice.

Instructional Theory[edit]

Reigeluth (1983) defines Instructional Theory as "identifying methods that will best provide the conditions under which learning goals will most likely be attained." In other words, the focus on instructional theory is on how to structure instruction and instructional material so it can be learned. Many researchers have contributed to the base of instructional theory, but Robert Gagne is considered the first to have direct connections to instructional technology. His most notable work includes his conditions of learning, nine events of instruction, learning hierarchies and taxonomy of learning objectives, (see Gagne's Contributions).


Go here to learn more about Instructional Theory and its implications for instructional design.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Churchman, C. W. (1965). On the design of educational systems. Audiovisual instruction, 10(5). In D. P. Ely & T. Plomp (Eds.), Classic Writings on Instructional Technology (Vol. 1, pp. 39 – 46). Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
  • Dale, E. (1946). The cone of experience. In Audio-visual methods in teaching. (pp. 37-51). New York: Dryden Press. In D. P. Ely & T. Plomp (Eds.), Classic Writings on Instructional Technology (Vol. 1, pp. 169 – 180). Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
  • Dale, E. (1953).What does it mean to communicate? AV Communication Review, 1(1), 3 – 5.
  • Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic.
  • Gerbner, G. (1956). Toward a general model of communication. AV Communication Review, 4(3), 171-199.
  • Hoban, C.F. Jr. (1977). A systems approach to audiovisual communications. In L.W. Cochran (Ed.) Okoboji: A 20 year review of leadership 1955-1974. Dubuque, IO: Kendall/Hunt. In D. P. Ely & T. Plomp (Eds.), Classic Writings on Instructional Technology (Vol. 1, pp. 57 - 64). Englewood: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
  • Hoban, C.F., Hoban, C.F. Jr. & Zisman, S.B. (1937). Why visual aids in teaching? In Visualizing the curriculum (pp. 3-26). New York: The Cordon Company.
  • Januszewski, A. (2001). Educational Technology: The Development of a Concept. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
  • Oettinger, A. G. (1969). Prologue I: A vision of technology and education. . In A. G. Oettinger (Ed.), Run, Computer, Run (pp. 3-13). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Reigeluth, C. M. (1983). Instructional design: What is it and why is it. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Silvern, L.C. (1968). Systems engineering of education I: Evolution of systems thinking in education (selected pages). Los Angeles: Education and Training Consultants Co.
  • Smith, P., & Ragan, T. (1993). Instructional design. New York, NY: Merrill.


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