Instructional development: a key to bridging the gap between educational research and learning

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<ul><li><p>Trends and cases </p><p>Inst ruct ional d e v e l o p m e n t : a key to br idging t h e g a p b e t w e e n educa t iona l research and learning </p><p>Leslie P. GreenhiU </p><p>During the past twenty-five years there has been a considerable amount of research on learning, especially on the development of new edu- cational methods and the use of instructional media such as films, television and the com- puter. Yet, in the view of many, application of this research in formal learning situations ap- pears to be small in relation to its potential. </p><p>The causes of this comparatively low level of application are several. First, educational prac- tices tend to be bound by tradition, and hence, change slowly. Second, many teachers are un- familiar with the educational research and its results and are not in a position to apply them. Third, in many instances there appears to be a lack of the physical, financial and human re- sources which are required to bring about the innovations that are needed to solve educational problems. Fourth, even where resources are available there is often a lack of knowledge as to how to marshal them and to bring them into focus on the improvement of learning. </p><p>During the past ten years or so a process has been evolved by instructional technologists which provides a useful approach to bridging the gap between educational research and its practical application to the solution of edu- </p><p>Leslie P. Greenhill (United States of America). Pro- fessor of education, Assistant Vice-president for Aca- demic Services and Director of the University Division of Instructional Services at the Pennsylvania State Uni- versity (University Park, Pa.). He has conducted extensive research on instructional films and television and is author of a large number of publications on instructional technology, especially as applied to uni- versity teaching. </p><p>cational problems. This is a process now com- monly called 'instructional development'. It in- volves a systematic approach to the analysis and solution of educational problems, and by its nature the process requires an application of the results of research on learning in general and especially of research on educational methods and media. </p><p>Incidentally, it should be noted in passing: that 'instructional tectmology' includes not only the use of andio-visnal equipment and materials such as projectors, television, slides, f i l l s and videotapes, but it also includes the systematic design and evaluation of the whole process of teaching and learning in terms of specific ob- jectives, and employing a wide range of human and non-human resources. 'Instructional devel- opment' is the process by which it is all put together. </p><p>What is instructional development? </p><p>In simplest terms instructional developmem involves the formulation of answers to the fol- lowing questions: Who are the learners? What are they to learn? How are they to learn it? How will we know if they have learned it? How successful was the instructional procedure? </p><p>Finding answers to these questions requires a knowledge and consideration of the results of educational research, but the process is not a difficult one to apply, and it results in tested, effective instruction. For the process to work effectively, however, a 'team' approach is necessary. </p><p>505 </p><p>Prospects~ Vol. V, No. 4~ r975 </p></li><li><p>Trends and cases </p><p>The team members should include: an indi- vidual with a background in educational re- search and a familiarity with instructional devel- opment (such an individual is often referred to as an 'instructional developer'); subject-matter specialists (these usually include teachers or professors and possibly a curriculum specialist); production specialists who can produce films, slides, videotapes, graphics or other needed materials; and an evaluation specialist who has a background in test construction and the evalu- ation of instruction. It is also helpful to have an educational administrator on the team who can marshal the needed resources. In some cir- cumstances, several of the above competencies may be found in one individualmfor example in an educational technologist who is familiar with the research, who knows the instructional de- velopment process and who has a background in testing. In other cases, consultants in some of these areas may be brought in to work on a specific project. </p><p>The instructional development process has been in operation for several years at the Pennsylvania State University under the direc- tion of the author, where it has been applied principally to the improvement of university level courses. However, the basic principles can be adapted and applied to instruction at any level from primary school to post-graduate work. The following sections of this article will describe the steps in the instructional develop- ment process as they have been applied at the Pennsylvania State University. </p><p>The instruct ional deve lopment t e a m s </p><p>In actua! practice it has been found useful to have two groups of people work on each instructional project. The first, an 'advisory committee', is concerned with over-all planning. It includes a course developer, subject matter specialists, and an educational administrator. It has fairly heavy representation from those who </p><p>506 </p><p>will be involved in implementing the instruction. The second group, known as the 'working group', is concerned with the actual execution of the project. It includes the instructional devel- oper, subject-matter specialists who are know- ledgeable about content, production specialists in one or more areas who will develop materials, and an evaluation specialist. There is a necessary overlap between the personnel on each group and occasionally the groups meet together. </p><p>Lest it be thought that the instructional development process can be carried out only with a large team of specialists, let it be said that, at the simplest level, the process could be carried out by a team of two people--an educational psychologist]instructional developer and a teacher]subject-matter specialist. How- ever, such a team would be limited in what it could do as far as the production of materials is concerned, and in practice it has been found that wider participation is more likely to result in the incorporation of useful viewpoints and to gain better acceptance of final solutions. </p><p>W h o are the learners? </p><p>All too frequently the learners in a given edu- cational situation are described in very general terms, for example they are I I-year-old boys and girls, or they are university students in their first year, or adults who need to improve their job qualifications. Even in a university course, a professor rarely has detailed information about the educational backgrounds of the individuals in his class which describes their levels of prior knowledge about the subject, reasons why they are taking this course, and whether they all have the necessary skills to succeed. </p><p>In an instructional development project it is common to start by conducting a pre- development survey which elicits such rel- evant information from students entering the course. As a results of this survey a pre-test may be warranted which would permit qualified </p></li><li><p>Trends and cases </p><p>students to by-pass all or parts of the course. Or corrective measures may be needed for some students who do not have the necessary skills to succeed in the particular course. Or some options may be developed to suit the needs of learners who are interested in different appli- cations of, say, certain basic principles. This is in line with recent research on the 'individu- alizing' of instruction, i.e. adapting instruction to the differing needs of individual learners. </p><p>W h a t are t h e learners to learn? </p><p>Frequently learning objectives are stated in terms of instructional content, and, if they are written down, it is in the very general terms of a course description. While such an approach describes the general area of knowledge to be acquired it tells neither the instructional de- signer nor the learner exactly what is to be done with that knowledge in order to satisfy these general educational purposes. </p><p>The instructional development process re- quires that, in addition to stating general edu- cational purposes, specific learning objectives also be stated. In other words, what do we want the learners to be able to do as a result of the instruction or what competencies do we want them to develop? Again, when efforts have been made to do this in traditional teaching situations, such learning objectives are often stated in gen- eral terms such as 'to understand this', or 'to appreciate that', or 'to be able to write well', or 'to criticize thoughtfully'. The principles of instructional development require that learning objectives be specified in observable, testable terms. These are sometimes referred to as 'behavioral objectives'. In stating such objectives it is helpful to begin with active verbs. For example, at the level of learning of information, appropriate verbs might be: summarize, define, identify, list, etc. At the level of application of facts and principles, learning objectives might begin with: solve, prove, construct, compare, </p><p>contrast, etc., and at the level of learning that requires synthesis of knowledge, statements of learning objectives might start with such verbs as analyse, predict, discover, discuss, etc. In each instance, the objective states what the learner will be required to do with the know- ledge that is to be acquired. </p><p>Here are some examples that will illustrate the difference between a general statement of purpose and learning objectives stated in terms of competencies the learners are expected to acquire as a result of the instruction. </p><p>The first example is drawn from a course in mathematics and concerns the topic of para- metric equations. General statements of pur- pose might be as follows: 'the student wiU be required to understand parametric equations', or 'the course will include the study of para- metric equations'. </p><p>These statements leave unidentified exactly what the learners should be able to do with parametric equations. Translated into learner competencies, the learning objectives could be stated as follows: 'as a result of completing this section of the course on parametric equations you should be able to: (a) define parametric equations; (b) sketch a graph from parametric equations; (c) eliminate the parameter for a pair of parametric equations; (d) find the de- rivatives of a function in parametric form.' </p><p>The second example is drawn from a course in writing and concerns the writing of para- graphs. A general statement of purpose might be as follows: 'the students will learn to write a good paragraph as a part of the course', or 'one of the topics to be covered in this course is the writing of acceptable paragraphs'. Neither of these statements indicates what a 'good' or 'acceptable' paragraph is. </p><p>Written in terms of desired learner com- petencies the objectives could be stated as follows: 'as a result of completing the instruction on the topic of paragraphs, you should be able to write a paragraph that: (a) has a clearly identifiable main point of focus; (b) states </p><p>507 </p></li><li><p>Trends and cases </p><p>assumptions clearly; (c) contains sufficient evi- dence or supporting information to clarify the main point or focus; (d) has the parts of the main point and supporting evidence arranged in a definable, logical order; (e) uses transitions between parts; (f) is expressed in grammatical terms that are mechanically sound, economical and appropriate; (g) uses words that are cor- rectly spelled and exactly suited to the intended purpose of the paragraph.' </p><p>There has been much debate about the value of stating specific learning objectives. Some claim that it inhibits learning by making it too easy or too specific, others say it is difficult to write such objectives for more complex types of learning, especially learning that relates to atti- tudes and values. Yet, without such objectives it is really difficult to develop a good instruc- tional strategy, and it is almost impossible to have a satisfactory assessment of learning. How- ever, it has been the writer's experience that, with a little help from someone who understands the principles, most subject-matter specialists can come up with good, specific statements of learning objectives. </p><p>Having agreed upon operational objectives for each segment of the instruction, the task of selecting the content of what is to be learned and of structuring it so as to facilitate achieve- ment of the specific objectives, is relatively easy. </p><p>Major topics and subtopics should be listed, facts and principles outlined, and applications, including practical work, specified as appro- priate to the achievement of the learning objec- tives for each unit of the instruction. </p><p>H o w are t h e l e a r n e r s t o learn it? </p><p>Now we come to a consideration of the learning activities, methods and resources that will be required to help the learners to attain the objec- tives. Are the learners attending formal classes or are they at home? What human teaching resources exist? What materials are needed? </p><p>508 </p><p>What exists and what needs to be produced in order to facilitate the desired learning? Is it appropriate to use television, slides, films, audio- tapes to bring the outside world into the class- room or to bring instruction to learners at scat- tered locations? What combinations of methods will be most effective, for example printed ma- terial, non-print media, discussions, practical work, etc.? How should these materials and methods be structured? What guidance will learners need in order to maximize the use of the learning resources? What help will teachers need in order to make best use of the materials and methods? </p><p>Much research has been done on the use of television, films, and other audio-visual media to stimulate learning. A knowledge of this research is essential if effective combinations of methods and media are to be used. There has also been a good deal of research in recent years into methods of 'individualizing' instruction, in order to permit individual learners to move at their own speed, to provide a choice of learn- ing resources (e.g. auditory, print, or non verbal visual materials) to suit the learning character- istics of different individuals, or to provide choices of topics within courses to meet the needs or interests of different learners (some- times called 'mini courses'). </p><p>Some of this recent research has dealt with the audio-tutorial method of instruction, with modular construction of study material (each module or unit is self-contained with its own ob- jectives, content and tests), and with computer- assisted and computer-managed instruction. At the secondary school and university levels in- creased emphasis is being placed on indepen- dent learning by students in order to develop study skills which will be useful thr...</p></li></ul>