33What Makes e (effective, efficient, engaging) Instruction? What Makes e (effective, efficient, engaging) Instruction?
M. David Merrill M. David Merrill
Recent activity in instructional design and development has seen a number of different approaches to instruction including problem-based learning, communities of learners, and distributed learning via the Internet. Too often these approaches are seen as alternative approaches. For the past decade Dr. Merrill has identified first principles of instruction which are believed to underlie effective, efficient and engaging instruction no matter what form it takes. This paper will discuss first principles of instruction and how they lead to an integration of the three approaches identified. This paper will also describe current work at Brigham Young University Hawaii to help the faculty adapt their courses to be problem-centered, peer-interactive, and technology-enhanced so that they can be taught both on campus and at a distance. Just as technology is converging to give us many different technologies in a single device if the future of instructional design is to
3result in e instruction then these alternative approaches in instruction must also converge to form an integrated approach to instructional design. This paper will describe such a possible integration.
BYU Hawaii is attempting to (1) improve the quality of instruction and (2) reach more students by distance learning. To accomplish these objectives the university is promoting problem-centered, peer-interactive and
technology-enhanced instruction. This brief overview is an attempt to describe these three characteristics. Why are these initiatives thought to promote effective, efficient and engaging instruction? There are two generally agreed memory processes: associative memory and mental models. Too much of our instruction is
topic-centered which relies primarily on associative memory. Associative memory is very subject to forgetting. By the time learners have an opportunity to apply their new skill much of it has already been forgotten and must be relearned.
A mental model is a set of related ideas – a holistic representation of the parts, relationships, conditions, actions and consequences of a complete problem or task. Mental models tend to be more stable and resist forgetting. A problem-centered approach facilitates the adaptation of an existing mental model or enables the learner to form a new mental model that integrates the various component skills into a meaningful whole. The learners are not forced to rely only on associative memory for a period of time before the skills are required for the whole problem or task.
Being involved in application of their new skills early in the instruction provides significant motivation to students. Learning is the greatest motivator when learners can see that they have acquired a new skill. Merely remembering concepts, terminology, principles, and facts for recall on a multiple choice test in a testing center is not motivating. However, being able to do something that they could not do before is very motivating. Students who have engaged in problem-centered courses that implement first principles of instruction express greater satisfaction and interest in the course and actually perform better than students in more traditional courses (Frick et al., 2007, in press ; 2008a; 2008b).
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Peer sharing, peer collaboration and peer critique require learners to test their mental models, to refine their mental models, and to share their ideas. These activities create flexible mental models, facilitate learners’
ability to apply their knowledge in new situations, and provide opportunities for learners to work together as they will be required to do in the world following their education.
The third initiative is to use technology to manage the instructional process in a way that engages learners in solving problems and promotes meaningful interaction in a format that can be distributed both on campus and at a distance.
In short, problem-centered, peer-interactive instruction is more motivating, produces better learning, and increases learner motivation. Our challenge is to find creative ways to use these ideas to take the instruction at BYU Hawaii to a higher level and to provide instruction to students prior to their coming to campus.
First Principles of Instruction First Principles of Instruction
After a careful study of instructional design models and research we determined that almost all approaches
3agree on some fundamental principles for effective, efficient and engaging (e) instruction (Merrill, 2002; Merrill,
Learning is promoted when learners Learning is promoted when
integrate their new skills into their learners activate relevant
everyday life. previous experience.
Learning is promoted when
learners acquire concepts
and principles in the context
of real-world tasks
Learning is promoted Learning is promoted when learners apply when learners observe a their newly acquired knowledge demonstration of the skills and skill. to be learned. .
Figure 1 First Principles of Instruction
The detailed statement of these principles is attached at the end of this paper. The reader is referred to the papers referenced for a more complete description and illustration of the activation, demonstration, application and integration principles. This paper describes a primarily method for the implementation of the problem-centered principle.
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Problem-Centered or Task-Centered Instructional Strategy Problem-Centered or Task-Centered Instructional Strategy
Problem-centered instruction is different from problem-based instruction. Problem-based instruction is often characterized by giving a group of learners a problem to solve, some resources from which to gain the necessary knowledge and skill, and then having them collaborate on the solution. This represents an unstructured instructional approach which research has shown is often not effective (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark, 2006). On the other hand problem-centered instruction involves demonstrating problem solution, directly teaching the required knowledge and skill for problem solving, and then, when they have been taught the component skills, engaging learners in the problem solving process (Merrill, 2007).
Figure 2 Problem-Centered Instructional Strategy
A problem-centered strategy involves learners in whole problems or tasks early in the instruction. The sequence is to demonstrate (show) and then apply (do). The first task in the sequence is a worked problem (demonstrate) which teaches the component skills relevant to the problem in isolation and then demonstrates these skills as they apply to the whole problem or task. Learners use these skills to solve a second problem or do a second task (application). Then, since the new problem is more difficult than the first, the instruction demonstrates new component skills relevant to this second problem. This demonstrate-apply cycle is repeated until learners have acquired all the desired component skills for this class of problems. In some courses this sequence may be repeated several times for several different classes of problems. At a minimum an effective sequence demonstrates at least one problem and learners apply their newly acquired skills to a second problem for each class of problems in a course. When possible, a sequence of three or more problems is more effective.
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Effective Peer-Interaction Effective Peer-Interaction
Effective Peer Interaction
Group Revised S2 Critique Peer Individual Solution Solution Solution Problem Collaboration Work Peer
Figure 3 Effective Peer Interaction
How do we get students to effectively teach one another? We have identified a number of different types of peer interaction – peer telling, peer sharing, peer demonstration, peer collaboration, and peer critique (Merrill & Gilbert, in press). Peer-telling is the least effective peer interaction. The remaining peer-interaction activities enhance each phase of effective instruction: peer sharing for activation, peer demonstration for demonstration, peer collaboration for application, and peer critique for integration. These peer interaction activities significantly increase learning in the context of problems. These peer interaction activities also enable scaling instruction to effectively reach more students.
Peer interaction is most effective when in the context of solving real problems or doing real tasks. An effective sequence is to have individual students first submit their individual solution for review by their peers. Then a group of peers (at least 3 but no more than 5) discuss one another’s solutions and collaborate on a consensus group solution. Peer critique is the next activity where the members of one group critique the solution of another group perhaps using a rubric that was taught as part of the component skills.
Note that this peer interaction involves the student in the solution of the problem at three levels: first, acquiring the component skills and applying them to an individual solution; second, discussing, defending, and elaborating different solutions in an attempt to come to a consensus solution; and third, critiquing another solution based on their understanding of the problem and possible solutions. By the time learners have completed this sequence of peer interaction they have a very good grasp of the underlying skills for the problem and possible solutions.
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Technology-Enhanced Interface Technology-Enhanced Interface
1 Assignment: 4 3 1. Link to problem description. 2 2. Link to component skill resources. Resources 3. Link to worked problem(s).
4. Link to new problem.
5. Post date for individual solutions.
6. Collaboration discussion dates. 5 7. Post date for collaborative solution.
6 8. Group critique discussion dates.
9. Post date for revised collaborative 7 solution. 8
6 Group 9 Collaboration
Figure 4 On-line instructional components for a problem-centered peer-interactive course. BYU Hawaii’s goal is for every course to be on-line. Course assignments, course materials, discussion boards,
and other technology facilities should be available to students. Students should be able to submit materials on-line, be able to view the work of other students for collaboration and critique, and be able to interact with each other on line. The instructor, mentor, or facilitator should be able to monitor and mentor this student interaction.
Figure 4 illustrates some of these components. An assignment should contain at least the items in the list. This same information should be available for every problem in the progression of problems. (1) The first content item is a description of the problem. (2) The second content items are the resources (papers, animations, video, power point, etc.) that teach the component skills necessary for the problem. For subsequent problems these are the new elements of each component skill or additional component skills needed for the new problem. (3) The next item is a worked problem in which learners are shown how the component skills apply to the demonstration problem. (4) The next item should describe a new problem for learners to solve. (5) Learners prepare and submit individual solutions to their respective group discussion board available to all members of their discussion group. (6) The members of the group collaborate via their group discussion board to combine their individual solutions into a group solution. (7) They post their group solution to a class wide discussion board. (8) The members of one group critique the solution of a second group. (9) The group collaborates to revise their solution based on the critique.
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An instructor has two roles: (1) Course development: the selection or development of a sequence of problems to be solved or tasks to be completed and the selection or development of reading material, video, power point, animations, graphics, and other learning materials specifically selected, sequenced and structured to implement effective instructional strategies for acquiring whole problems and their component skill. (2) During the delivery of the course the role of the instructor should shift from presenter of information to guide and coach. A technology enhanced course should enable learner interaction in the form of peer-sharing, peer-demonstration, peer-collaboration and peer-critique of each other’s work. The instructor’s role is to monitor learner interaction, provide feedback, and stimulate collaboration and critique as learners interact with the course. If a member of a group is not participating in the discussion they are admonished; if a group solution is inadequate individual solutions are examined and the group counseled to revise. Questions are inserted into the group discussions to guide or stimulate the discussion as necessary.
A technology enhanced course should be able to be taught on-campus and at-a-distance using the same course materials and interaction facilities. Students should be able to participate in the class on-campus or on-line from different locations both synchronously and asynchronously.
Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & 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.
Frick, T., Chadha, R., Watson, C. , Wang, Y., & Green, P. (2007, in press). College student perceptions of
teaching and learning quality. Educational Technology Research and Development.
Frick, T., Chadha, R., Watson, C, Wang, Y, & Green, P. (2008a). Theory-based course evaluation: Implications
for improving student success in postsecondary education. Paper presented at the annual conference of the
American Educational Research Association, New York, NY.
Frick, T., Chadha, R., Watson, C., Green, P. & Zlatkovska, E. (2008b). Improving course evaluations to improve
teaching in higher education. Paper presented at the Summer Research Symposium, Association for
Educational Communications and Technology, Bloomington, IN.
Merrill, M. D. & Gilbert, C. G. (in press). Effective peer interaction in a problem-centered instructional strategy.
Merrill, M. D. (2002). A pebble-in-the-pond model for instructional design. Performance Improvement, 41(7), 39-
Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3),
Merrill, M. D. (2007). A task-centered instructional strategy. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(1), 33-50.
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Merrill, M. D. (in press). First Principles of Instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth & A. Carr (Eds.), Instructional Design Theories and Models III (Vol. III). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. More information is available on the author’s web site: http://cito.byuh.edu/merrill
11First Principles of Instruction First Principles of Instruction
Task-centered principle Task-centered principle
; Learning is promoted when instruction is in the context of whole real-world tasks.
; Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in a task-centered instructional strategy involving a
progression of whole real-world tasks.
Activation principle Activation principle
; Learning is promoted when learners activate relevant cognitive structures by being directed to recall,
describe or demonstrate relevant prior knowledge or experience.
; Activation is enhanced when learners share previous experience with one another. ; Activation is enhanced when learners recall or acquire a structure for organizing the new knowledge, when
this structure is the basis for guidance during demonstration, is the basis for coaching during application,
and is a basis for reflection during integration.
Demonstration principle Demonstration principle
; Learning is promoted when learners observe a demonstration of the skills to be learned that is consistent
with the type of content being taught.
; Demonstrations are enhanced when learners are guided to relate general information or an organizing
structure to specific instances.
; Demonstrations are enhanced by peer-discussion and peer-demonstration.
Application principle Application principle
; Learning is promoted when learners engage in application of their newly acquired knowledge or skill that is
consistent with the type of content being taught.
; Application is effective only when learners receive intrinsic or corrective feedback.
; Application is enhanced when learners are coached and when this coaching is gradually withdrawn for each
; Application is enhanced by peer-collaboration and peer critique.
Integration principle Integration principle
; Learning is promoted when learners integrate their new knowledge into their everyday life by being
directed to reflect-on, discuss, or defend their new knowledge or skill. ; Integration is enhanced by peer-discussion and peer-critique.
; Integration is enhanced when learners create, invent, or explore personal ways to use their new knowledge
; Integration is enhanced when learners publicly demonstrate their new knowledge or skill.
1 Copyright M. David Merrill 2007
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