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Table of Contents

What are Theories?

Contributing Theories to Instructional Design

  • Communication Theory
  • Design Theory
  • Instructional Theory
  • Learning Theory
  • Media Theory
  • Systems Theory

What Are Theories?

There are a lot of theories about what a theory is, here are just a few:

A theory provides a framework from which a coherent set of testable theoretical principles and constructs can be used to describe, explain, predict, or control phenomena (Bennett & Cross, 2013).

A theory is "is an integrated and internally coherent set of theoretical principles that provides a sufficient basis for empirical research in which these statements can be tested" (Elen, J., & Clarebout, G., 2007, p. 706)

"Theories are the source of principles" (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p.18)

"a theory is an organized set of statements that allow us to explain, predict, or control events" (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 23)

"Theoretical knowledge has for its end the attainment of truth and that alone" (Wallace, 1979, p. 263).

A theory according to Hoover & Donovan (1995) is "A set of related propositions that attempts to explain, and sometimes to predict, a set of events" (p. 69).

"The formation of theories is not just the discovery of hidden fact; the theory is a way of looking at the facts, or organizing and representing them" (Kaplan, 1964, p. 308).

Four major uses of theories in social science:

  1. Theory provides patterns for the interpretation of data.
  2. Theory links one study with another.
  3. Theories supply frameworks within which concepts and variables acquire special significance.
  4. Theory allows us to interpret the larger meaning of our findings for ourselves and others.

(Hoover & Donovan, 1995, p. 40)

Theories fall into one of two categories:

  1. Descriptive
  2. Prescriptive

(Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 23)

Contributing Theories to Instructional Design

This text is focused on instructional design, therefore it is important to understand the theories that contribute to create the whole of instructional design. The theories that contribute to the makeup of instructional design are: communication theory, design theory, instructional theory, learning theory, and systems theory. Below is a brief overview of each theory and its contribution to instructional design. For more detailed information on each theory click on the theory name.

Instructional design is derivative of many theories including the following:

  • Communication Theory
  • Instructional Theory:
    • Conditions of Learning (Gagné)
    • Elaboration Model (Reigeluth)
    • Inquiry Teaching (Collins)
    • ARCS Model of Motivation (Keller)
    • Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 1999)
    • Component Display Theory (Merrill, 1994)
    • Model of Mastery Learning (Bloom)
  • Learning Theory
    • Behaviorism
      • Pavlov
      • Thorndike
      • Skinner
    • Cognitive Learning Theories
      • Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer, R. E.)
      • Cognitive-Affective Theory of Learning with Media (Clark, R. C.)
    • Information-Processing Theory
    • Developmental Theories
      • Piaget
      • Vygotsky
      • Information-Processing Developmental Theories
  • Media Theory
  • Systems Theory

Communication Theory

Design Theory

Instructional Theory

Learning Theory

Media Theory

Systems Theory