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Greetings from Inside Instructional Design

By Kathy Strickland, Boise State MET Candidate

Table of Contents
Slides 3-4: Slides 5-6: Slides 7-8: Slides 9-10: History of Instructional Design Instructional Design Defined Systematic Instructional Design Instructional Design Models

Slides 11-12: Constructivism Slides 13-14: Empiricism Slides 15-16: Behaviorism Slides 17-18: Information-Processing Theory Slides 19-20: Educational Technology Slide 21: References

Stamp clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator.

Seeing this little girl on the stairs today made me think about the history of instructional design. As B.F. Skinner described in his groundbreaking 1954 article titled The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching, effective instructional materials should present instruction in small steps, require overt responses to frequent questions, provide immediate feedback, and allow for learner self-pacing (Reiser, 2001, p. 59). Instructional design has its roots in psychology, and Skinners concept led to formative evaluation and a data-driven, empirical approach. The young child on the stairs appears to be ready for a journey. She is wearing a backpack and has taken steps at her own pace down a staircase, which represents history in terms of where weve been with instructional design. Having arrived at the landing, she is now free to run, skip, jump the future is wide open.

History of Instructional Design Step by Step From Research to Practice

Photo by Johnny Hall

When I saw this picturesque image of mountains and clouds reflected in water, I had to reflect on the meaning of instructional design. The process of translating principles of learning and instruction into plans for instructional materials, activities, information resources, and evaluation (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 4) is, in reality, more of an expression. Instructional designers do the difficult work of climbing the mountain through analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE) (Allen, 2006) while simultaneously expressing their creativity in HOW they choose to accomplish these steps (represented by endless possibilities in the clouds). To me, instructional design means reaching across media to build the experiences that will best meet the learning needs and objectives you have identified. A good designer will reflect on every step of the process and will not be afraid to look down from the mountain, up to the sky, and across the horizon.

Instructional Design Defined Reflective and Creative Process The Skys the Limit

Photo by Simone A. Bertinotti

After drinking some questionable tap water today, I realized that you dont have to be a mathematician to understand that nature works in systems--from our solar system right down to our digestive system. Without systems, the world would literally fall apart. The same goes for instructional design. The word systematic implies a thorough process of planning, development, implementation, and evaluation, which is cyclical rather than linear. Like this fractal image, titled Stained Glass Solar System, instructional design has many arms or branches, but they all come together to culminate in the best possible learning experience. When instructional design implements a systematic approach, the steps of the process work like the neurons in our brains, communicating with one another and continuously transmitting data to inform, refresh, and revise the learning experience. A systematic approach also supports coordination among designers, developers, and those who will implement the instruction (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 11).

Systematic Instructional Design Coherent and Connected Coming Full Circle

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Everywhere I turn, there are street vendors selling their homemade trinkets. Somehow, however, they all look nearly identical from village to village. It makes me think there must be a central factory where molds are made and painted, to be sold by savvy young villagers who claim to have worked for days or weeks on their craft. Likewise, there are hundreds if not thousands of instructional design models out there, and filtering through them can be like looking for a diamond in the sand. It is, therefore, useful to identify guiding principles common to a number of models, lest you find yourself in an Alice in Wonderland setting where any term means whatever the author wants it to mean (Gustafson & Branch, 2002, p. xiv). Instructional design models can be useful in providing practical tools and techniques that we can adapt to our specific context, conditions, and instructional objectives. Rather than meticulously painting the mold, an instructional designer would use this well-established figurine as a guiding model to create his or her own work of art.

Instructional Design Models One in a Million Build What Works for You

Image by McKay Savage

This odd-looking fellow reminded me of constructivism, an educational philosophy positing that we all construct our own personal realities. A man with a Lego head would likely build a Lego world based on his own experience, which would be fully rational in the eyes of constructivists. A key tenet of constructivism is that knowledge is not transmitted; it is constructed from the learners experience (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 19). This emphasis on the learner can contribute to a sense of ownership in the learning experience. It has also been credited with a shift toward realistic problem-solving experiences in realworld learning environments (Reiser, 2001, p. 63). While what is real remains subjective, the practicality of personalized learning has increased leaps and bounds with adaptive learning technology. In game/simulation environments, students can actually construct their own worlds and become the Lego character who learns best in that reality.

Constructivism Your Own Personal Reality Design Built to Order

Photo by Sam Webster

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? We can only answer that question if we hear it, an empiricist might argue. It may not be enough to be watching a muted video of the tree falling and seeing forest animals scatter the moment its trunk hits the earth. A deaf learner would have no chance of answering this question in the strict empiricist view, as knowledge is acquired through experience (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 22). Inferring the sound would not constitute true learning. I see (or should I say conceive) huge problems with this theory in our modern world of educational technology. Learning happens all around us, and the learning environment grows more and more varied and flexible. If reality is objective and singular, as empiricism posits, then many learners are lost in a dream one that is teaching them a great deal. If one is not allowed to learn vicariously, then social media is for naught. And virtual reality/simulation training is a paradox. I would advise empiricists to open their eyes and other senses to a reality that is broader than ones own physical boundaries.
Image by Inge Vandormael

Empiricism Objective Reality Sensory Experience

Focusing in on this pattern today reminded me of how behaviorists look for patterns when observing responses to particular stimuli. Behaviorism posits that learning happens when the correct response is given. I would argue that observers find whatever pattern they are looking for--in other words, they create the pattern by their own behavior. Just as there is a bird missing from this pattern, there will inevitably be an exception to the behaviorists rule. Smith and Ragan point out that principles of behaviorism in terms of classical and operant conditioning have relatively no influence on instructional design practice today (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 25). This is probably a good thing, as the most famous experiments Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner performed were on animals rather than children.* Conditioning has a place in science but not in the classroom.

Behaviorism Patterns of Learning Stimulus and Response

*No children should be harmed in the creation of instruction.

Photo by Sharon Drummond

As I watched this butterfly emerge from its cocoon, I thought of how extreme its transformation appears to us but how gradual and natural it must seem to the creature who started out as a caterpillar. While in the cocoon, the insects body undergoes a process of transformation, just as a learners brain engages in cognitive processing (Clark & Mayer, 2011). The butterfly will not remember the process, but its body has learned how to be a butterfly. Likewise, the human learner has limited capacity to retain instruction in working memory, but if the instruction is effective, he or she will store it in long-term memory and integrate it with prior knowledge. Transfer of information into long-term memory is the most critical process of all the information processing to those who are interested in learning (Smith & Ragan, 2005). When students crack the code, or when knowledge clicks, teachers see the change in students and know how meaningful it is. If instructional design is transparent, the student may never fully realize the transformation that has occurred.
Photo by Sid Mosdell

Information-Processing Theory Series of Transformations Active Learning

Well, this is the last day of my trip, and my journey through the fundamentals of instructional design has been eye-opening. I have explored different perspectives not only on education but on reality itself. No matter what approach you take or what model guides you in designing instruction, I believe that one thing is certain: technology must be involved in both the development and the implementation. Learners are using a wide variety of technologies in their academic, personal, and professional lives. The tree of knowledge is growing organically for each individual, nurtured by interactionsboth online and inpersonwith peers, teachers, mentors, and media. Instructional designers are more like gardeners than builders, analyzing the root structure, growth patterns, and surrounding environment of each tree. The soil today is technology-rich, and we should take advantage of this, meeting learners where they areon their own technical turfby incorporating these technologies into multimedia learning experiences.

Educational Technology Organic Growth Endless Perspectives

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Allen, W. C. (2006). Overview and evolution of the ADDIE training system. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 8(4). Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). Survey of instructional development models. Syracuse, N.Y: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information & Technology. Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part II: A history of instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(2). Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken, N.J: J. Wiley & Sons.