Instructional theory is a discipline that focuses on how to structure material for promoting the education of human beings, particularly youth. Originating in the United States in the late 1970s, instructional theory is typically divided into two categories: the cognitive and behaviorist schools of thought. Instructional theory was spawned off the 1956 work of Benjamin Bloom, a University of Chicago professor, and the results of his Taxonomy of Education Objectives — one of the first modern codifications of the learning process. One of the first instructional theorists was Robert M. Gagne, who in 1965 published Conditions of Learning for the Florida State University's Department of Educational Research.
Renowned psychologist B. F. Skinner's theories of behavior were highly influential on instructional theorists because their hypotheses can be tested fairly easily with the scientific process. It is more difficult to demonstrate cognitive learning results. Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed had a broad influence over a generation of American educators with his critique of various "banking" models of education and analysis of the teacher-student relationship. http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/Macedo_intro_POTO.pdf
On the first page of Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed Freire explains: "Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into “containers,” into “receptacles” to be “filled” by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are." http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/Macedo_intro_POTO.pdf
In this way he expains that in this since the educator creates an act of depositing knowledge in a student. The student thus becomes a repository of knowledge. Freire explains that this system that lacks creativity and knowledge suffers. Knowledge according to Freire comes about only through the learner by inquiry and pursuing the subjects in the world and through interpersonal interaction.
Freire further states, "In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher’s existence — but, unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher. The raison d'etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students. " http://www.dsa-atlanta.org/pdf_docs/Macedo_intro_POTO.pdf
In the context of e-learning, a major discussion in instructional theory is the potential of learning objects to structure and deliver content. A stand-alone educational animation is an example of a learning object that can be re-used as the basis for different learning experiences. There are currently many groups trying to set standards for the development and implementation of learning objects. At the forefront of the standards groups is the Department of Defense's Advanced Distributed Learning initiative with its SCORM standards. SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model.
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