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Editorial

Learning Architect

Words lose their meaning from over-use or misuse. Instructional Design is one of those terms. It implies that instruction is based on a science of learning including theory, research, and practice. Jerold E. Kemp from San Jose State University published Instructional Design in 1971 listing just five references. His second edition in 1977 listed 29 references. Kempís design model was based on current theories of learning, taxonomy of objectives, levels of learning, and methods of teaching and evaluation. It was a cyclic process that foreshadowed the concept of continuous quality improvement.

During World War II, the military conducted extensive research on design of instruction using audiovisual media. Much of this work was focused around Charles Hoban and researchers at Pennsylvania State University. It was Hoban who determined that audiovisual was too limiting a term for educational technologies and coined the term instructional technology to encompass new learning sciences and methodologies for individualized and interactive learning. The military were early adopters of instructional design, supported by the research capabilities of Florida State University. Instructional System Design (ISD) became the standard for contractors and internal development of military instruction. ISD was much more than a systematic way of designing instruction; it incorporated much of the existing knowledge and research about adult learning.

Key elements of instructional design were incorporated into the ADDIE model Ė Assess, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. This became the pattern for production lines developing instructional materials. The instructional designer no longer guided the entire process but one of a series of specialists in the production team.

In the second half of the twentieth century publishers and industries made numerous attempts to develop products based on new communication technologies. They envisaged their role as part of a technological revolution to solve the problems of American education. Most failed for a variety of reasons: inadequate research, faulty technology, poor instructional design, and failure to achieve overblown predictions of success. Other factors contributed to failure. Education was still a folk culture and teaching was a craft. There was little money for research, technology, instructional materials, and training to use them.

Sputnik led to an infusion of federal money to update science curricula and teaching methods in the United States. Many of these innovations died when funding ceased. The plight of U.S. public schools was a focus of attention for half a century with proposed solutions ranging from back to basics to instructional technology and instructional design. American education is an under-funded over-regulated industry with continual political interference and freeloading of new programs. For example, bussing students to other communities was the political solution to segregation; mainstreaming reduced the need for specialized institutions for students with disabilities, and homogenous grouping was terminated so that each classroom could encompass children from difference language and cultural backgrounds, ability levels, and special needs. All of this could have been achieved successfully with smaller classes, highly trained teachers, appropriate funding, and learning materials designed for this kind of learning environment. Instead, schools and teachers were mandated to achieve prescribed levels of performance on standardized tests that had little relevance to the needs of the twenty first century.

A blueprint with relevant goals and new learning structures is needed for the new millennium. Rather than return to basics, it is necessary to incorporate the best research and practices to design appropriate curriculum, dissemination tools and teacher training. Learning Architects must Assess needs and Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate relevant learning experiences to support individuals and societies within the rapidly changing global community.

 


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