Programmed Learning or Programmed Instruction is a learning methodology or technique first proposed by the behaviorist B. F. Skinner in 1958. According to Skinner, the purpose of programmed learning is to "manage human learning under controlled conditions". Programmed learning has three elements: (1) it delivers information in small bites, (2) it is self-paced by the learner, and (3) it provides immediate feedback, both positive and negative, to the learner. It was popular in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, but pedagogical interest was lost in the early 1980s as it was difficult to implement and its limitations were not well understood by practitioners. It was revived in the 1990s in the computerized Integrated Learning System (ILS) approach, primarily in the business and managerial context. Programmed learning remains popular in self-teaching textbooks.
The methodology involves self-administered and self-paced learning, in which the student is presented with information in small steps often referred to as "frames". Each frame contains a small segment of the information to be learned, and a question which the student must answer. After each frame the student uncovers, or is directed to, additional information based on an incorrect answer, or positive feedback for a correct answer.
Programmed Instruction has been criticized for its inability to provide adequate feedback on incorrect answers and for its lack of student instigated conceptualization opportunities. It works best in basic courses which introduce the vocabulary of a discipline, heavily fact-based courses, and rule-based technical courses.
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