Rose Colored Glasses

Random Thoughts on Instructional Design

What Would Gagne and the Boys Have to Say

Revised: November 21, 2005

One of the things you’ve already learned from experience is that when you mix technology with teaching and learning it becomes a complex process that defies simple explanations. Your Instructional Technology textbooks are jammed with theories and models, but the take-home lesson is that no one view of what goes on in classrooms and heads is sufficient to capture it all.

Learning about each model and philosophy of learning gives you different windows through which to observe this interesting scene. In this exercise you’ll take on a little of the viewpoint and persona of four educational thinkers and try to picture what they would say about specific web-based lessons.

The Scenario

meeting of the minds castYears ago on public television there was a program hosted by Steve Allen called  “Meeting of Minds”. Each week, actors portraying a number of characters from history would sit around a table and discuss a topic from each of their point of view. On a given show, you might find Socrates, Mark Twain, Churchill and Madame Curie discussing curiosity or poverty. It was an interesting show, one that deserves to be replicated.

The Task

Between the start of the term and your team presentation date you’ll create a small-scale version of the same thing, with four of the following luminaries sitting around the table: B. F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, John Dewey, Seymour Papert, Lev Vygotsky, Robert Gagne, Edward Thorndike and Howard Gardner. The topic of discussion: a particular lesson that uses technology. The choice of which four theoreticians that you will channel will be up to your group.

The Process

First, you will divide up into groups of 4. Within that group, you’ll each bone up on one of the guest star theoreticians. To get up to speed you’ll do some reading from the Web and selected articles.

To assist you in selecting a theoretician a short biography has been noted next to to each of their pictures, and some general online resources have been provided.

bloomBenjamin Bloom,
an educational psychologist, focused his research on students’ cognitive learning
domain. Bloom and a group of psychologists sought to classify learning behaviors
to better understand how knowledge is absorbed. Bloom classified learning into
three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Bloom defined the cognitive
domain as a student’s intellectual level, in other words, what they know and
how they organize their ideas and thoughts. He defined the affective domain
as a student’s emotions, interests, attitude, attention, and awareness. Finally,
he categorized the psychomotor domain, which would include a student’s motor
skills and physical abilities. All of these domains can overlap in learning
activities and are integrated throughout learning experiences.

Jerome BrunerJerome Bruner proposed that learning is an active process in which the learner constructs
new ideas or concepts based on their current or past knowledge. Bruner believes
that Constructivist learners are active learners; they are actively engaged
in the learning process. Constructivism emphasizes an integrated curriculum
where students learn a subject in various ways or through many different activities.

John DeweyJohn Dewey has significantly influenced American education. He was an educational psychologist,
philosopher, and political activist who was an advocate for child-centered instruction.
He believed that learning should engage and expand the experiences of the learners.
He encourages educators to reflect on their strategies and create activities
that combine concrete and practical relevance to their lives.

Like Vygotsky,
Dewey beleived that education was a social process. He viewed school as a community
that represented a larger picture. In 1896, Dewey began the University Elementary
School or Laboratory School, many educators called this school the Dewey School.

  • The Center for Dewey Studies

Robert GagneRobert Gagne, a psychologist and educator, developed his learning theories based partially
from behaviorist’s points of view. He made an enormous contribution to learning
theory and instructional systems design. While in the Air Force, he began to
develop some of his ideas for his comprehensive learning theory. He incorporated
characteristics of both behavior modification theory as well as performance
education. Gagne developed three principles that he viewed as integral for successful
instruction: (1) providing instruction on the set of component tasks that build
toward a final task, (2) ensuring that each component task is mastered, and
(3) sequencing the component tasks to ensure optimal transfer to the final task.

Howard GardnerHoward Gardner,
a professor at Harvard University, has conducted years of research on normal
and gifted students and also studied adults with brain damage. In those who
had been injured, he wanted to correlate what part of the brain had been injured
and how their physical injury affected learning and other physical abilities.
Through his research, he concluded there were eight different intelligences
that individuals use to perceive and understand the world.

Jean PiagetJean Piaget,
profoundly influenced the Constructivist movement. Piaget was a psychologist
who developed the cognitive learning theory after many years of observing children.
He perceived that children think very differently from adults. Piaget believed
that children were constructing new knowledge as they moved through different
cognitive stages, building on what they already know.

B. F. Skinner B. F. Skinner,
made may contributions to the field of psychology, including the theory of behavioral
or operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is when learning is controlled
and results in shaping behavior through the reinforcement of stimulus response
patterns. Skinner believed that people shape their behavior based on the rewards
or positive reinforcement they receive.

Edward ThorndikeEdward Thorndike developed psychological connectionism. He believed that through experience neural bonds or connections were formed between perceived stimuli and emitted responses; therefore, intellect facilitated the formation of the neural bonds. People of higher intellect could form more bonds and form them more easily than people of lower ability.

Lev VygotskyLev Vygotsky,
developed what is know as social Constructivist theory. While his ideas overlapped
in may ways with the traditional constructivists’ point of view, Vygotsky believed
that learning was significantly influenced by social development. He theorized
that learning took place within the context of a child’s social development
and culture.

  • Dialogic Inquiry in Education: Building on the Legacy of Vygotsky
  • The Psi Cafe

Next Steps

Next, each team will examine one of the following technology-based units:

  • Baruch College Interactive Guide – This free interactive guide helps faculty determine the approprate copyright guidelines they must follow to use different types of copyright protected media in their courses.
  • An Adventure in Stereochemistry: Alice in Mirror Image Land – This case study is based on an article that considered the problems that would arise if a person were to cross over into a mirror-image environment.
  • To Test or Not to Test the Software: A Case Study on Ethics in Computing – Developed as part of the ethics module for a computer science course for non-majors, this case emphasizes good software development techniques including full compliance with the rules.
  • The Case of Eric, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and Stem Cell Research – Thirty-one-year-old Eric has begun to show signs of the debilitating and fatal neuromuscular disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Students follow Eric as he is examined by his physician and then a specialist, undergoes a series of tests, and eventually is given the devastating prognosis.
  • ePsych – On this site, students travel through four worlds. Each represents a different aspect of the human brain — its biological functions, its skills of perception and description, its propensity for learning, and its methods of deliberation. Students complete a series of interactive experiments and watch videos that demonstrate psychological phenomena like preconditioning and optical illusions.

Next, download the PowerPoint template for creating your Meeting of Minds. (You are not limited to using this template, all teams are encouraged to design their own.)

For each of the four theorists, ask yourself …

  • What would they say they liked about the lesson?
  • What would they question about it?
  • What suggestions might they have to improve it?
  • When would they interrupt one of the other guests to agree or disagree?

In making your simulated Meeting of Minds, you’ll duplicate each slide as many times as you need it to create a cartoon-ish representation of give and take.

Each team will also act as the discussion moderators for their assigned week. Please post your shows as early as possible, so that your peers have an opportunity to view the show and engage in a dialog with your team (remember to stay in character) .

Each team will facilitate their show segments by presenting their assessment to the group, posing questions, addressing peer comments, and providing a recap at the end of the session.


Your assessment will be based on:

  1. Understanding and utilization of the assigned theoretical framework
  2. Presentation of findings
  3. Depth of presentation
  4. References
  5. Ability to generate an interactive class discussion
  6. Ability to field audience questions in character


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This entry was posted on November 22, 2005 by in Learning Units.

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