Instructional Theory versus Learning Theory

Instructional-Design TheoryIn Instructional-Design Theories and Models: A New Paradigm of Instructional Theory, Vol II, Reigeluth proposes that instructional-design theory (also called instructional theory) is separate and distinct from learning theory. Instructional theory “offers explicit guidance on how to help people learn and develop.” Learning theory is typically a descriptive theory; it explains how people learn. Instructional theory is prescriptive and probabilistic in that it helps us create conditions that increase the probability of learning. He suggests the following characteristics among instructional theories that I think we can use to analyze an instructional design model’s value in a given situation. Instructional theories:

  • Are design-oriented. They focus on attainment of specific goals in a given situation.
  • Identify methods of instruction that are best suited for the goals and situation.
  • Have component methods which provide explicit guidance to educators and trainers.
  • Have methods that are probabilistic, that is by following the theory’s guidance in a particular situation it will increase the likelihood of learning.
  • Consider the importance of values on the instructional design which can help with decisions about what instructional methods will work best in given situations.

The link above will take you to a sample on Google Books so you can only see a chapter or two where as editor Reigeluth uses the characteristics to summarize different instructional theories by various authors (goals and preconditions, values, methods, etc.). I am intrigued by this because as an instructional designer in higher education I am often presented with dissimilar learning situations where standard content models are limited.

Learning theories, as descriptive theories, help in understanding how people learn but since they are not prescriptive or probabilistic, they are not explicit enough to guide faculty through a design-oriented approach. It also suggests that instructional designers may need different models or different instructional methods for different situations, and that values plays an important role in deciding which methods to use.

Prezi IconI created this Prezi to highlight the key points of a framework for developing or analyzing an instructional-design theory. 

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