Friday, February 09, 2007


First principles of instruction
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1 Definition
2 The five principles of instruction
3 Implications for educational technology
4 Links
5 References

First principles of instruction is a attempt by M. David Merrill to identify fundamental invariant principles of good instructional design, regardless pedagogic strategy. It can be used both as an instructional design model and as evaluation grid to judge the quality of a pedagogical design
First principles of instruction is the title of a frequently cited on-line paper in several versions, e.g.
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instructions, Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59.
Merrill, M. D. (in press). First Principles of instruction, in C. M. Reigeluth and A. Carr (Eds.). Instructional Design Theories and Models III. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
The five principles of instruction

Merrill's first and central principle of instruction is task-centered learning. Task centered learning is not problem-based learning, although it shares some features.
The task / problem
A task is a problem that represents a problem that may be encountered in a real-world situation. Learning objectives or samples of the types of problems learners will be able to solve at the end of the learning sequence may also substitute for a problem. A progression through problems of increasing difficulty are used to scaffold the learning process into manageable tiers of difficulty.
Does the courseware relate to real world problems?
... show learners the task or the problem they will be able to do/solve ?
are students engaged at problem or task level not just operation or action levels?
... involve a progression of problems rather than a single problem?
This progressive teaching approach is also related to Merriënboer's 4C/ID model.
The five principles of instruction (Merrill, 2006)
The demonstration principle: Learning is promoted when learners observe a demonstration
The application principle: Learning is promoted when learners apply the new knowledge
The activation principle: Learning is promoted when learners activate prior knowledge or experience
The integration principle: Learning is promoted when learners integrate their new knowledge into their everyday world
The task-centered principle: Learning is promoted when learners engage in a task-centered instructional strategy

Phases / Components of Merrill's First Principles of Instruction
The task (or problem) is center stage. Here is a summary of the four remaining components
Activation of relevant previous experience promotes learning by allowing them to build upon what they already know and giving the instructor information on how to best direct learners. Providing an experience when learners previous experience is inadequate or lacking to create mental models upon which the new learning can build. Activities that stimulate useful mental models that are analoguous in structure to the content being taught can also help learners build appropriate schemas to incorporate the new content.
Does the courseware activate prior knowledge or experience?
do learners have to recall, relate, describe, or apply knowledge from past experience (as a foundation for new knowledge) ?
does the same apply to the present courseware ?
is there an opportunity to demonstrate previously acquired knowledge or skill ?
Demonstration through simulations, visualizations, modelling, etc. that exemplify what is being taught are favoured. Demonstration includes guiding learners through different representations of the same phenomena through extensive use of a media, pointing out variations and providing key information.
Does the courseware demonstrate what is to be learned ?
Are examples consistent with the content being taught? E.g. examples and non-examples for concepts, demonstrations for procedures, visualizations for processes, modeling for behavior?
Are learner guidance techniques employed? (1) Learners are directed to relevant information?, (2) Multiple representations are used for the demonstrations?, (3) Multiple demonstrations are explicitly compared?
Is media relevant to the content and used to enhance learning?
Application requires that learners use their knew knowledge in a problem-solving task, using multiple yet distinctive types of practice Merrill categorizes as information-about, parts-of, kinds-of, and how-to practice that should be used depending upon the kind of skill and knowledge identified. The application phase should be accompanied by feedback and guidance that is gradually withdrawn as the learners' capacities increase and performance improves.
Can learners practice and apply acquired knowledge or skill?
Are the application (practice) and the post test consistent with the stated or implied objectives? (1) Information-about practice requires learners to recall or recognize information. (2) Parts-of practice requires the learners to locate, name, and/or describe each part. (3) Kinds-of practice requires learners to identify new examples of each kind. (4) How-to practice requires learners to do the procedure. (5) What-happens practice requires learners to predict a consequence of a process given conditions, or to find faulted conditions given an unexpected consequence.
Does the courseware require learners to use new knowledge or skill to solve a varied sequence of problems and do learners receive corrective feedback on their performance?
In most application or practice activities, are learners able to access context sensitive help or guidance when having difficulty with the instructional materials? Is this coaching gradually diminished as the instruction progresses?
Integration in effective instruction occurs when learners are given the opportunity to demostrate, adapt, modify and transform new knowledge to suit the needs of new contexts and situations. Reflection through discussion and sharing is important to making new knowledge part of a learner's personal store and giving the learner a sense of progress. Collaborative work and a community of learners can provide a context for this stage.
Are learners encouraged to integrate (transfer) the new knowledge or skill into their everyday life?
Is there an opportunity to publicly demonstrate their new knowledge or skill?
Is there an opportunity to reflect-on, discuss, and defend new knowledge or skill?
Is there an opportunity to create, invent, or explore new and personal ways to use new knowledge or skill?
Implications for educational technology

The task-centered principle
This section needs to be completed a lot, see [ First principles of instruction: a synthesis, p 7ff.
Learning is promoted when learners engage in a task-centered instructional strategy 'and' when a progression through problems of increasing difficulty is used to scaffold the learning process into manageable tiers of difficulty and whole-tasks are broken down to part-tasks (components)

The Instructional Sequence in Merrill's First Principles of Instruction
To design the first four phases (activation - demonstration - application - integration), whole tasks have to be broken down into components and the components have to be analyzed. Then one has to decide what should be taught in what way.
Merrill suggests to teach individual components with a direct instruction approach (which is more efficient and often also more effective). Most tasks or problems include five different instructional compontents. Firstly. initial "telling" should always activate prior knowledge. Demonstration (phase 2) should focus on adequate portayals of components (but linked to the whole), before the application phase is entered. Here are few hints on how to tell/demonstrate different sorts of components:
Tell facts or associations and link them to previous knowledge
Tell names and descriptions
Portrayal: Show location
Tell definition
Portrayal: Show examples and counter-examples
Tell about steps and sequence
Portrayal: Illustrate steps for specific cases (work-through examples)
Tell about the process as a whole, conditions, consequences
Portrayal: Illustrate specific conditions and consequences for specific cases
In the third (application) phase students have to work on skills related to portayals and then put "things together" in the forth (integration) phase.
Each increasingly difficult whole task (problem) requires going back and forth from (1) demonstration of the whole task (2) to component "teaching" and (2) back to integration. Once the whole task is mastered, this procedure is repeated which the next whole task until the "real world" problem is mastered without much "direct component teaching".
A few principles for teaching materials and learning activities

Components of Merrill's First Principles of Instruction
Learners should see how contents are organized
They should be able go forth and back, correct themselves
Learning environments should be interesting, relevant and achievable
Real tasks are more motivating than formal objectives, glitz and novelty
Known content is not motivating, students should be able to skip over
Performing whole tasks is more motivating then decontextualized actions and operations
Immediate feed feedback decreases motivation - delayed judgement increases (interesting, this is not like direct instruction)
Favor small groups (2-3) to optimize interactions
Group assigments should be structured around problems (whole tasks), i.e. "real" products or processes
Navigation is not interaction (i.e. it is not cognitive interactivity)
Interaction means solving real-world problems or tasks
Key elements are: a context, a challenge, a learner activity and feedback.
See also the pebble in the pond model that outlines a simple instructional design method that can be used to design a learning environment according to Merrill's principles of instruction. Additionnally there is also the issue of levels of instructional strategies , i.e. what we get when we do less ...

M. David Merrill's home page (more articles)
A New Framework for Teaching in the Cognitive Domain by Molenda, Michael, ERIC Digest.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43-59. PDF Preprint, retrieved, 17:17, 15 September 2006 (MEST)
Merrill, M. D. (in press). First Principles of instruction, in C. M. Reigeluth and A. Carr (Eds.). Instructional Design Theories and Models III. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. PDF Preprint, retrieved, 17:17, 15 September 2006 (MEST)
Merrill, M. D. (In Press). First principles of instruction: a synthesis. In R. A. Reiser and J. V. Dempsey (Eds.) Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. Columbus: Ohio, Merrill Prentice Hall. PDF Preprint, retrieved, 17:17, 15 September 2006 (MEST)
Categories: Incomplete | Instructional design models | Evaluation methods and grids



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Beginner Basics >
Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction: An Introduction
by Kevin Kruse
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.

Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction

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 memory

6. Elicit performance (practice)

Responds to questions to enhance encoding and verification

7. Provide feedback

Reinforcement and assessment of correct performance

8. Assess performance

Retrieval and reinforcement of content as final evaluation

9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

Retrieval and generalization of learned skill to new situation

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 performance.

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 lead-tracking 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 paperwork.

2. Inform learners of objectives

The VP of sales presents students with the following learning objectives immediately after the introduction.

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 memory.
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 CD-ROM for further reinforcement of the learning session.

Jigsaw Cooperative Groups

JIGSAW GROUPS FOSTER UNDERSTANDING among students from a variety of racial, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. This learning method enables teachers to effectively respond to a diverse student population by promoting academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding. Jigsaw groups facilitate learning because each student is responsible for a particular piece of a task and then is responsible to contribute his/her portion of the task to bring about mutual interdependence.

The Set Up

To create five groups of four students, have each student sit in his/her regular seat and number off each student one through five. Next, call all students that were given the number one to sit at a table together, then the twos, threes, etc. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and ability.

Student and Group Roles

Divide the task into four segments. For example, in a project about the California Gold Rush, you may divide the lesson into the following topics: 1) Businesses that began as a result of the Gold Rush, 2) How they panned for gold, 3) Who were the gold seekers who moved to California, and 4) Where were the successful gold mines.

Assign each student in each group one of the four segments. Students who are assigned the same segment may meet to form an "expert group." The members of each expert group work together to learn the topic, making sure each member understands the information. During this time, the experts construct a plan to teach their topic to the members of their jigsaw cooperative group.

Final Outcome

Students then return to their jigsaw cooperative group. Each student teaches his or her topic to the members of the group. There is a sense of positive interdependence among the members of the groups. To demonstrate knowledge, each jigsaw group may present a summary of their understanding to the whole class.

Benefits of Heterogeneous Groups

Research shows that jigsaw cooperative groups, when students work together in heterogeneous groups, may improve race relations within a classroom (Eby, 1994). Working together within teams generates a more accepting and realistic view of other students than competitive and individualistic learning experiences.

Jigsaw cooperative groups provide an equitable learning environment. When students of different ethnic, racial, and linguistic backgrounds work together, they develop respect for one another. In jigsaw groups, students are interdependent. Social acceptance of others increase because students need to help each other and learn from each other. Also, research shows that cooperative learning improves the social acceptance of mainstreamed students with learning disabilities (Slavin, 1990).

Students' academic achievement is raised when all students work together towards a common goal. High achieving students learn tolerance and understanding of individual differences. Lower achieving students develop a greater understanding of subject matter. Students are highly motivated to work within a group. Also, teamwork helps students learn interpersonal skills, which is especially beneficial to second language learners.


The State, Territory and Australian Government Ministers of Education met as the 10th Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) in Adelaide, 22-23 April 1999, chaired by the Minister for Education, Children's Services and Training in South Australia, the Hon Malcolm Buckby MP. Conscious that the schooling of Australia's children is the foundation on which to build our future as a nation, Council agreed to act jointly to assist Australian schools in meeting the challenges of our times. In reaching agreement to address the following areas of common concern, the State, Territory and Australian Government Ministers of Education made an historic commitment to improving Australian Schooling within a framework of national collaboration.

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Australia’s future depends upon each citizen having the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and values for a productive and rewarding life in an educated, just and open society. High quality schooling is central to achieving this vision.

This statement of national goals for schooling provides broad directions to guide schools and education authorities in securing these outcomes for students.

It acknowledges the capacity of all young people to learn, and the role of schooling in developing that capacity. It also acknowledges the role of parents as the first educators of their children and the central role of teachers in the learning process.

Schooling provides a foundation for young Australians’ intellectual, physical, social, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development. By providing a supportive and nurturing environment, schooling contributes to the development of students’ sense of self-worth, enthusiasm for learning and optimism for the future.

Governments set the public policies that foster the pursuit of excellence, enable a diverse range of educational choices and aspirations, safeguard the entitlement of all young people to high quality schooling, promote the economic use of public resources, and uphold the contribution of schooling to a socially cohesive and culturally rich society.

Common and agreed goals for schooling establish a foundation for action among State and Territory governments with their constitutional responsibility for schooling, the Australian Government, non-government school authorities and all those who seek the best possible educational outcomes for young Australians, to improve the quality of schooling nationally .

The achievement of these common and agreed national goals entails a commitment to collaboration for the purposes of:

further strengthening schools as learning communities where teachers, students and their families work in partnership with business, industry and the wider community
enhancing the status and quality of the teaching profession
continuing to develop curriculum and related systems of assessment, accreditation and credentialing that promote quality and are nationally recognised and valued
increasing public confidence in school education through explicit and defensible standards that guide improvement in students’ levels of educational achievement and through which the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of schooling can be measured and evaluated.
These national goals provide a basis for investment in schooling to enable all young people to engage effectively with an increasingly complex world. This world will be characterised by advances in information and communication technologies, population diversity arising from international mobility and migration, and complex environmental and social challenges.

The achievement of the national goals for schooling will assist young people to contribute to Australia’s social, cultural and economic development in local and global contexts. Their achievement will also assist young people to develop a disposition towards learning throughout their lives so that they can exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of Australia.

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1. Schooling should develop fully the talents and capacities of all students. In particular, when students leave school, they should:
1.1 have the capacity for, and skills in, analysis and problem solving and the ability to communicate ideas and information, to plan and organise activities, and to collaborate with others.
1.2 have qualities of self-confidence, optimism, high self-esteem, and a commitment to personal excellence as a basis for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members.
1.3 have the capacity to exercise judgement and responsibility in matters of morality, ethics and social justice, and the capacity to make sense of their world, to think about how things got to be the way they are, to make rational and informed decisions about their own lives, and to accept responsibility for their own actions.
1.4 be active and informed citizens with an understanding and appreciation of Australia’s system of government and civic life.
1.5 have employment related skills and an understanding of the work environment, career options and pathways as a foundation for, and positive attitudes towards, vocational education and training, further education, employment and life-long learning.
1.6 be confident, creative and productive users of new technologies, particularly information and communication technologies, and understand the impact of those technologies on society.
1.7 have an understanding of, and concern for, stewardship of the natural environment, and the knowledge and skills to contribute to ecologically sustainable development.
1.8 have the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle, and for the creative and satisfying use of leisure time.2. In terms of curriculum, students should have:
2.1 attained high standards of knowledge, skills and understanding through a comprehensive and balanced curriculum in the compulsory years of schooling encompassing the agreed eight key learning areas:
the arts;
health and physical education;
languages other than English;
studies of society and environment; and
and the interrelationships between them.

2.2 attained the skills of numeracy and English literacy; such that, every student should be numerate, able to read, write, spell and communicate at an appropriate level.
2.3 participated in programs of vocational learning during the compulsory years and have had access to vocational education and training programs as part of their senior secondary studies.
2.4 participated in programs and activities which foster and develop enterprise skills, including those skills which will allow them maximum flexibility and adaptability in the future.
3. Schooling should be socially just, so that:
3.1 students’ outcomes from schooling are free from the effects of negative forms of discrimination based on sex, language, culture and ethnicity, religion or disability; and of differences arising from students’ socio-economic background or geographic location.
3.2 the learning outcomes of educationally disadvantaged students improve and, over time, match those of other students.
3.3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have equitable access to, and opportunities in, schooling so that their learning outcomes improve and, over time, match those of other students.
3.4 all students understand and acknowledge the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures to Australian society and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
3.5 all students understand and acknowledge the value of cultural and linguistic diversity, and possess the knowledge, skills and understanding to contribute to, and benefit from, such diversity in the Australian community and internationally.
3.6 all students have access to the high quality education necessary to enable the completion of school education to Year 12 or its vocational equivalent and that provides clear and recognised pathways to employment and further education and training.

More information about the work of MCEETYA in relation to the National Goals for Schooling, the measurement of student performance and the National Report on Schooling in Australia can be found on the MCEETYA website.

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