A Task-Centered Instructional Strategy

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  • This article was downloaded by: [141.214.17.222]On: 01 November 2014, At: 16:26Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UK

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    A Task-Centered InstructionalStrategyM. David Merrillaa Florida State University, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, and Utah State UniversityPublished online: 21 Feb 2014.

    To cite this article: M. David Merrill (2007) A Task-Centered InstructionalStrategy, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40:1, 5-22, DOI:10.1080/15391523.2007.10782493

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  • journal @-Research on Ethnology in Edzrcation, 2007, 40(1), 5-22

    A Task-Centered Instruction

    M. David Merrill Floeda State Universiq, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, a ~ d .Utah State University

    Abstract Based sn a review of instructional design models, previous papos identzJied f i s t principles of instmction. 7hese principles prescribe a cycle G f instruction corzsirting of activation, dem- onstratjon, application, and integration. 7hese instructionalphases are best implemented in the con e x t of real-world tasks. A Pebble-in-the-Pond aproach to instructional development prescribes a task-centered, content-first instructionaldc.signprocedare, which implements these f i s t prhciples in the resulting instructional produca. %is conc,optualpuper elaborates the component analysis and irzstructionalstrategy phases of this instrxctionul design model. %is paper &so integrates previous instructional stratzgy prescriptions fvom Component Display lheory with the content components of knowledge objects. 7he strategy for teaching within the con text of a whole task consists of applying strategy component.; to these uarious knowledge comporznts in a way that enables learners to see their interrelatiorrchzps and their relationship to the u /,ole. 7he resulting instructionalstrategy is aguided task-centered approach as contrasted with myre learnel-centeredproblem-based approdches to instructicnal design. 7he application of this C-omponent analysis and task-centered instructional strateD1 zs illustrated. (Keywords: Pebble-z q-the-Pond instructional design, jrst prz nciples of instrtictzon, Component Display lheory, inowledge objects, task-centered instruction, whole-task irzsti.uction, task progression, knowleqe and skill components, component analysis, instructiorzal strategies.)

    INTRODUCTION During the past few years there has been a flurry of activity exploring prob-

    lem-base3 instruction (Jonassen, 2000; Spector, 2004). ?here are many names and variations of these approaches including guided discovery learning, model- centered instruction, problem-based learning, situated learning, case-based learning, and exploratory learning. Each of these approaches has in common getting learners involved with whole tasks or problems as contrasted with the topic-by-topic approach that typifies more traditional curriculum approaches. ?he belief is that getting students involved with realistic whole situations will help therc form appropriate schema and mental models. These more complete internal representations are believed to facilitate their later application of their newly acquired knowledge and skill.

    Problem-based approaches vary widely in the amount of learner support that is provided. Learner support can take the form of scaffolding, learner guidance, or coaching. At one extreme are minimal guidance strategies that select students for a cohcsrt, give the group a complex ill-structured task to complete, and pro- vide resoJrces of various kinds from which the learners are expected to find and apply the information they need to complete the task. Students collaborate with one another, sharing information, seeking solutions, and exploring alternatives until they are able to complete the assignment. Some reviewers have cited data that indicates that approaches that provide minimum guidance are often inef- fective arid inefficient (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006; Mayer, 2004). At the other end of the continuum the strategies are more structured and provide the

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  • student with considerable learner pidance (van Merrienboer, 1997; van Mer- rienboer & Kirschner, 2007). For learners already familiar with a given content area unstructured exploratory learning approaches may be appropriate, however for learners who are novice in a content area, learner guidance is essential.

    The task-centered instructional strategy presented in this paper is a structured approach and represents a form of direct instruction in the context of real world problems. The emphasis is on demonstration (worked examples) rather than on discovery or exploration. While collaboration can certainly be employed, it is not a central or required part of this approach. Students can undertake a task-centered approach as an individual learner as well as in a group. This task- centered approach integrates component knowledge and skill acquisitior with the doing of complex tasks. Topic-centered approaches, typical of much currznt instruction, may be sufficient for acquiring foundational skills or to enhance the skills of advanced technical learners. However, for learners new to a content area, integrating component knowledge and skills into whole tasks results in higher motivation and a better ability to apply the newly acquired skill in new situations.

    Much of our earlier work was on strategies for teaching individual skills and acquiring different kinds of learning outcomes (Merrill, 1983, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1997; Merrill, Tennyson, & Posey, 1992). In collaboration with Robert CagnC, we began to think about a more integrated approach (GagnC & Merrill, 1990). While attempting to identify first principles of instruction we found th-at instruction in the context of complex, authentic, real-world tasks was a critical part of an engaging instructional strategy (Merrill, 2002a). While attempting to find ways to automate some of the instructional design process, we devel- oped ways to specify the content to be learned in terms of knowledge objects (Merrill, 1998, 2001~) . In this paper all of these separate strategies are brought together in an integrated, multi-strand strategy for teaching how to solve red- world problems or for how to complete complex real-world tasks.

    FIRST PRINCIPLES OF INSTRUCTION We have previously identified first principles of instruction (Merrill, 2002c,

    2002a, 2006, 2007, press-a). These principles describe a cycle of instructional phases consisting of activation, demonstration, application, and integration all in the context of real world problems or tasks. We have previously described knowledge objects consisting of an entity, its parts, properties, associated ac- tivities and processes (Merrill, 1998, 1999, 200 1 a, 200 1 b, 2002b). This paper brings these two ideas together to describe the knowledge components of a whole task and how these knowledge components can be sequenced for effi- cient, effective, and engaging instruction.

    Figure 1 states these first principles of instruction. This paper will bring t h s e principles together into a systematic task-centered instructional strategy.

    PEBBLE-IN-THE-POND APPROACH TO INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN Figure 2 (page 8) illustrates a Pebble-in-the-Pond approach to instructional

    design. Compared to other instructional development approaches this modd

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  • 5, lNTEGRATfON 2. ACTIVATION Learning is promoted when Learning is pr