An instructional theory is "a theory that offers explicit guidance on how to better help people learn and develop." Instructional theories focus on how to structure material for promoting the education of human beings.
Instructional theory vs Learning theory
Instructional theory differs from learning theory in that a learning theory describes how learning takes place and an instructional theory prescribes how to better help people learn. Learning theories often inform instructional theory. General theoretical stances for learning theories are: behaviorism (learning as response acquisition), cognitivism (learning as knowledge acquisition), humanism (interpersonal and intrapersonal learning), and constructivism (learning as knowledge construction).
Terms used in Instructional theory
Andragogy an•dra•go•gy [an-druh-goh-jee, -goj-ee] Originally used by Alexander Kapp (a German educator) in 1833, andragogy was developed into a theory of adult education by the American educator Malcolm Knowles. The word comes from the Greek ἀνδρο (andro-) or “man” [rather than ενήλικ which means "adult”] and άγω (ago) to "lead"; so it literally means, "to lead the man.” Learning strategies focus on mature learning with a mentor that encourages, enables the mature learner by providing access to appropriate resources, and refrains from obtrusive interference.
Diaskagogy di•as•ka•go•gy [dee-es-kuh-goh-jee, -goj-ee] A neologism developed for preschool education that focuses on schema building: Caregiver demonstrates factual knowledge. Caregiver observes, measures, and modifies behavioral change in specified direction. The teacher/child relationship in this scenario is one of entertainment. The word for entertainer in Greek is διασκεδάζων (the Latin translation is genius). When combined with the Greek άγω (ago) to "lead," the construed meaning is "to lead the entertainer” and the transliteration from the Greek leads to the word Diaskagogy di•as•ka•go•gy [dee-es-kuh-goh-jee, -goj-ee] which could be used to describe Preschool education.
Heutagogy heu•ta•go•gy [hyoo-tah-goh-jee, -goj-ee] The term, attributed to Stewart Hase [Southern Cross University] and Chris Kenyon of Australia, is the study of self-determined learning. The word appears to come from an irregular formation of the Greek words ευρετικός (heurista) meaning to “discover,” εφευρετικός (heuretikos) meaning "inventive," εύρημα (heuriskein) meaning to "find," and άγω (ago) to "lead"; so it is construed to mean "to lead to invention, discoveries, findings" and consists of learning strategies focused on mature learners where a facilitator enables quested learning to allow for modification of existing knowledge and creation of new knowledge.
Pedagogy [ped-ah-goh-jee, -goj-ee] The word comes from the Greek παιδαγωγέω (pedagogue); in which παιδί (ped) means "child” and άγω (ago) means "lead"; so it literally means "to lead the child" where a teacher develops conceptual knowledge and manages the content of learning activities. Other relevant roots from Greek include μικρό παιδί or toddler; αγόρι or boy child; κοριτσιών or girl child; μικρό παιδί or young child.
Socrates (circa 470–399 BC) introduces method of "elenchus," where a problem is broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually elicit the sought after answer. This approach is most strongly felt today in the use of the scientific method, where hypothesis is the first stage of problem solving.
Aristotle (circa 384-322 BC) postulates experience is the source of knowledge  and believed that knowledge was gained through experiencing the environment. He believed knowledge was associative, meaning one idea will trigger the recall of the other  which is a prelude to sequential learning and schema development.
Plato (428/427 BC– 348/347 BC) believed people learn about ideas through reasoning. Plato taught mental discipline. He believed if we exercised our mind, our mind would strengthen; therefore, he touted rigor and mental discipline.
John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704) believed that skills and knowledge are acquired through example and practice, not exhaustive drills that require children to memorize rules or principals; also, that desirable behaviors are learned by unconsciously imitating the manners of role models.
Étienne Bonnot de Condillac's (30 September 1715 – 3 August 1780) doctrine reigned in the schools of France for over fifty years. Condillac’s works include Essays on the origin of human knowledge (1746), Treatise on the system (1749), Treatise on the senses (1754), and an extensive course of study in 13 volumes, Cours d'études (1767-1773), that emphasize the importance of using the senses to increase learning. Condillac’s work is significant to the field of education because he is among the first to emphasize the importance of manipulating matter as well as ideas to construct behavioral learning advocating a sense luscious environment to provide a stimulus response-learning environment.
John Dewey (20 October 1859 – 1 June 1952) argues that in order for education to be most effective, content must be presented in a way that allows the student to relate the information to prior experiences, thus deepening the connection with this new knowledge.
Jean Piaget (9 August 1896 – 17 September 1980) explored changes in internal cognitive structure as well as recognizing the contribution of environment to learning. He identified four stages of mental growth (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational).
B. F. Skinner's (20 March 1904 – 18 August 18, 1990) theories of behavior were highly influential on many early instructional theorists because their hypotheses can be tested fairly easily with the scientific process.
Malcolm S. Knowles (24 August 1913 – 27 November 1997) joined the staff at Boston University in 1959, spending 14 years there, during which time his publications became foundational for adult education discourse in the United States, introducing the instructional theory called andragogy. In 1974 he joined the faculty of North Carolina State University where he developed courses using ‘the andragogical model’. He also published a new book on Self Directed Learning.
Jerome Bruner (born 1 October 1915) explored how mental processes could be linked to teaching (emphasizing, among other things, learning through discovery).
Robert M. Gagné (21 August 1916 – 28 April 2002) developed a model that highlighted eight different forms of learning and in 1965 published Conditions of Learning for the Florida State University's Department of Educational Research.
Paulo Freire's (19 September 1921 – 2 May 1997) work is significant because of his emphasis on respectful cooperative dialogue involving people working with each other; his concern with praxis, informed action that enhances community and leads us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing; his attention to developing consciousness for educating the oppressed; his insistence on situating educational activity in the lived experience of participants; and his ability to transcend the divide between teachers and learners.
- Educational technology
- Instructional design
- Instructional technology
- Learning theory
- Teaching method
- Training Within Industry was developed during WWII and is still in use around the world
- First Principles of Instruction instructional theory developed by M. David Merrill
- Behaviorism (learning theory)
- Cognitivism (learning theory)
- Humanism (learning theory)
- Constructivism (learning theory)
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- Durant W.(1961). The story of philosophy. New York, NY: Touchstone
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- Edgar, D. W. (2012) Learning Theories and Historical Events Affecting Instructional Design in Education: Recitation Literacy Toward Extraction Literacy Practices SAGE Open, October–December 2012; vol. 2, 4: 2158244012462707, first published on October 2, 2012.
- Cranston, M. (1969). John Locke rev. ed. Green and Co., Ltd. London: Longmans p. 16
- Lombardi, S.M. (2011). Internet Activities for a Preschool Technology Education Program Guided by Caregivers (Doctoral dissertation). North Carolina State University, 2011. Retrieved 29 December 2011 from http://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/ir/bitstream/1840.16/6826/1/etd.pdf.
- Knowles, M. S. (1989) The making of an adult educator: An autobiographical journey San Francisco: Jossey-Bass p. 21
- Knowles, M. S. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge
- Smith, M. K. (1997, 2002) ‘Paulo Freire and informal education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. http://infed.org/mobi/paulo-freire-dialogue-praxis-and-education/