Applying Theories to Practice: Challenges for Instructional Designers

While cleaning up some files on my computer this weekend, I ran across an article that was apparently introduced in ADLT 640. Written by Stephen Sorden, the article was entitled, “A Cognitive Approach to Instructional Design for Multimedia Learning”. Although not required reading for this class, I found it interesting and certainly relevant to what we’ve been studying. In his paper, Sorden elaborates on a number of cognitive theories such as the Theory of Working Memory, Dual Encoding Theory, Cognitive Load Theory, ACT-R Production System Theory and the Cognitive Theory of Multi-media Learning and basically and asserts that unfortunately, much of what we are currently seeing in multimedia instruction may actually hinder the learning that it claims to promote. This really made me think about the importance of not only learning about theories but also how one must carefully explore and consider appropriate application of these theories into the practice of instructional design.

To summarize, Sorden cautioned that:

1) The incorporation and use of visual and auditory components for the purpose of stimulation rather than education can be counter productive and do not make for sound instructional design.

2) The human mind is limited in the amount of information that it can process. It’s important for instructional designers to understand the principles of cognitive science in order to apply to effective instruction design.

3) This is particular relevant as education begins to incorporate “gaming” into learning. One concern should be that using video games as educational mediums may actually decrease learning in comparison to more traditional manners of presenting information through text and pictures.

Sorden emphasizes the need for a learner-centered approach and concludes with a number of principles which may guide to a more effective incorporation of multi-media instruction. I won’t attempt to summarize them all here but rather will conclude with one key point he makes.

“What is most important is not whether the instruction takes place in a classroom or on a computer screen, but whether empirically-tested strategies for multimedia instruction are employed that facilitate knowledge construction by the learner.”

This won’t be of much help with our current project which focuses more on identifying a platform which will best fit the needs of our client but it seems of value in future considerations as we move further through this course on instructional design.

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6 Responses to Applying Theories to Practice: Challenges for Instructional Designers

  1. Katherine says:

    Interesting post, Susan! I too have found resources from previous classes that apply to my current studies. I have found at work, that often technology drives the curriculum instead of vice versa, which seems like a prime opportunity for technology to actually impede learning. Thanks for keeping the education at the forefront!

    • This article was a good reminder that focusing too much on technology can, as you say, actually “impede” learning. Clearly, we should maintain our priorities in educating adults as we continue to consider design options.

  2. Your comments and article are especially relevant. Your key point is our mantra.

  3. Joanne Even says:

    This is a theme I’ve come across in our text for this class, too. One of the instance I highlighted from chapter 3 puts it in a good perspective — “Educational technology does not possess inherent instructional value…”

  4. rhettwilcox says:

    Great article and summary points in your post Wally. I found similar arguments that heeded instructors and designers to carefully examine the benefits of adding gaming just for the sake of “doing the next big thing.” I love quote that emphasizes “empirically-tested strategies” that “facilitate construction by the learner.” Although gaming and simulations have been a paramount part of Army training, I have often found their education effects limited. Maybe in future years there will be more studies into gaming as a effective method, but it seems to still be in the infancy stage with an audience eager to implement, acting like a 15-year-old eager to drive a car when barely enrolled in driver’s ed.

  5. As you said, there is need to consider and even develop more “empirically-tested strategies” which facilitate knowledge acquisition. In one sense, it is good to know there is a growing need for skills which can be appropriate applied in adult learning. Hopefully, that means job opportunities for those who have put work into program such as this one!

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