Instruction is an illusive term that is often used indiscriminately to describe any presentation of information. In this discussion instruction is limited to those situations that, in addition to providing relevant information, include the following characteristics: (1) a particular educational goal has been specified; (2) the information has been organized to facilitate the acquisition of the desired knowledge or skill; (3) appropriate practice with feedback has been provided; and (4) guidance is available to assist learners to acquire the desired knowledge or skill.
Learning is also a term that is often equated with instruction. Learning occurs in all situations, whether or not there was a deliberate attempt to promote acquisition of a particular goal. Instruction is limited to those situations where there is a deliberate attempt to promote learning of specified knowledge or skill.
Direct instruction is a subset of instructional situations in which there is some instructor or instructional agent that is not only providing information but also monitoring the instructional activities of the student and providing guidance and feedback as appropriate. Ruth Clark describes four instructional architectures: receptive, directive, guided discovery, and exploratory. Receptive instruction is typified by a lecture where information is provided, but there is no attempt to ensure learning by providing practice or guidance. Directive instruction, often called tutorial instruction, involves presenting segments of information followed by appropriate practice with feedback and guidance. This is the type of instruction that is the subject of this entry. Guided discovery provides students with problems to solve and engages them in microworlds or simulations of the real world where they can explore a variety of approaches. The amount of guidance provided varies widely in this type of instruction. Highly guided situations are very similar to direct instruction, whereas those with little or no guidance depend more on student discovery of the knowledge or skill being promoted. Exploratory architectures are typically unstructured. Learners are provided some problem to solve and given a rich library of resource material. Students must structure their own learning as they investigate various resources and attempt to solve the problem.
Types of Instructional Models
There are a wide variety of instructional models and theories available to guide the design of directive instructional products. Charles M. Reigeluth includes summaries of more than twenty such models. Robert Tennyson et al. and Sanne Dijkstra et al. include summaries of a number of international models of instruction. David Jonassen includes a number of articles summarizing research related to direct instruction. Perhaps the most widely used model for direct instruction is the 1985 work of Robert Gagné, elaborated and extended by David Merrill in 1994. A newer model of some importance is the 4C/ID model of J. J. G. van Merriënboer.
The author has examined the above and other sources to identify instructional principles prescribed by this body of theory and research to which all of these authors would agree. These instructional design models represent a wide range of philosophical orientation and each emphasizes different aspects of the instructional situation. Some of these models apply more directly to architectures other than direct instruction but have implications for direct instruction nevertheless.
Many of these instructional models suggest that the most effective learning situations are those that are problem-based and involve students in four distinct phases of learning: (1) activation of prior experience; (2) demonstration of skills; (3) application of skills; and (4) integration of these skills into real-world activities.
Principles for Direct Instruction
The various instructional theorists and researchers all seem to agree on the following underlying principles for direct instruction:
- 1. Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.
- a. Learning is promoted when learners are shown the task that they will be able to do or the problem they will be able to solve as a result of completing a module or course.
- b. Learning is promoted when learners are engaged at the problem or task level, not just the operation or action level.
- c. Learning is promoted when learners solve a progression of problems that are explicitly compared to one another.
- 2. Learning is promoted when relevant previous experience is activated.
- a. Learning is promoted when learners are directed to recall, relate, describe, or apply knowledge or skill from relevant past experience that can be used as a foundation for the new knowledge or skill.
- b. Learning is promoted when learners are provided relevant experience that can be used as a foundation for the new knowledge or skill.
- c. Learning is promoted when learners are provided or encouraged to recall a structure than can be used to organize the new knowledge.
- 3. Learning is promoted when the instruction demonstrates what is to be learned rather than merely telling information about what is to be learned.
- a. Learning is promoted when the demonstration is consistent with the learning goal: examples and nonexamples for concepts, demonstrations for procedures, visualizations for processes, and modeling for behavior.
- b. Learning is promoted when learners are provided appropriate learner guidance including some of the following: learners are directed to relevant information, multiple representations are used for the demonstrations, and multiple demonstrations are explicitly compared.
- c. Learning is promoted when media plays a relevant instructional role.
- 4. Learning is promoted when learners are required to apply their new knowledge or skill to solve problems.
- a. Learning is promoted when the application (practice) and the posttest are consistent with the stated or implied objectives: information-about practice is to recall or recognize information; parts-of practice is to locate, name, and/or describe each part; kinds-of practice is to identify new examples of each kind; how-to practice is to do the procedure; and what-happens practice is to predict a consequence of a process given conditions, or find faulted conditions given an unexpected consequence.
- b. Learning is promoted when learners are guided in their problem solving by appropriate feedback and coaching, including error detection and correction, and when this coaching is gradually withdrawn.
- c. Learning is promoted when learners are required to solve a sequence of varied problems.
- 5. Learning is promoted when learners are encouraged to integrate (transfer) the new knowledge or skill into their everyday life.
- a. Learning is promoted when learners are given an opportunity to publicly demonstrate their new knowledge or skill.
- b. Learning is promoted when learners can reflect on, discuss, and defend their new knowledge or skill.
- c. Learning is promoted when learners can create, invent, and explore new and personal ways to use their new knowledge or skills.
See also: INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN, subentry on OVERVIEW.
ANDRE, THOMAS. 1997. "Selected Microinstructional Methods to Facilitate Knowledge Construction: Implications for Instructional Design." In Instructional Design: International Perspective: Theory, Research, and Models, Vol. 1, ed. Robert D. Tennyson, Franz Schott, Norbert Seel, and Sanne Dijkstra. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
CLARK, RUTH. 1998. Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Development. Washington, DC: International Society for Performance Improvement.
DIJKSTRA, SANNE; SEEL, NORBERT; SCHOTT, FRANZ; and TENNYSON, ROBERT D. 1997. Instructional Design International Perspective, Vol. 2: Solving Instructional Design Problems. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
GAGNÉ, ROBERT M. 1985. The Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction, 4th edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
JONASSEN, DAVID H. 1996. Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. New York: Macmillan.
McCARTHY, BERNICE. 1996. About Learning. Barrington, IL: Excell.
MERRILL, M. DAVID. 1994. Instructional Design Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.
REIGELUTH, CHARLES M. 1999. Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Vol. 2. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
SCHWARTZ, DANIEL; LIN, XIAODONG; BROPHY, SEAN; and BRANSFORD, JOHN D. 1999. "Toward the Development of Flexibly Adaptive Instructional Designs." In Instructional Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Vol. 2. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
TENNYSON, ROBERT D.; SCHOTT, FRANZ; SEEL, NORBERT; and DIJKSTRA, SANNE. 1997. Instructional Design: International Perspective, Vol. 1: Theory, Research, and Models. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
VAN MERRIËNBOER, JEROEN J. G. 1997. Training Complex Cognitive Skills. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology.
M. DAVID MERRILL
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