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Instructional Theory

Table of Contents

  • The Events of Instruction (Gagnè, 1985)
  • Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 1988)
  • Inquiry Teaching (Collins)
  • Component Display Theory (Merrill, 1994)
  • ARCS Model (Keller, 1988)
  • Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth, 1979)
  • First Principles of Instruction (Merrill, 2009)
  • Situated Principles Theory of Instructional Design (Reigeluth, 2009)


Instructional theories are theories which attempt to predict learning outcomes based on the application of a particular instructional method or methods.

Categories of Constructs about Instruction (Reigeluth, 2009, pp. 29-31)

  • Instructional Methods
    • There are many ways to classify instructional methods, in Reigeluth Vol. 1 these were used:
      • Organizational strategies (micro to macro)
      • Delivery Strategies (media selection and utilization)
      • Management strategies
    • In Reigeluth Vol. 2 these were used:
      • Type of learning promoted (memorize information, understand relationships, apply skills, apply generic skills, affective development, or so forth (see Reigeluth & Moore, 1999, table 3.2).
      • Who controls the learning (the learner, the teacher, or instructional designer).
      • The focus of the learning  (a topic or a problem a single domain or interdisciplinary).
      • The grouping of the learning (individuals, pairs, small groups, or large groups).
      • The interaction for the learning (with humans: student-teacher, student-student, or student-other, with non-humans: student-tool, student-information, student-environment/manipulatives, or student-other).
      • The support for learning (cognitive support or emotional support).
    • In Reigeluth Vol. 3 these are recommended:
      • Instructional Approaches
      • Instructional Components
      • Content Sequencing
  • Instructional Situations
    • CatCategories (contexts) of Instructional Situations:
      • Values -  are about learning goals, criteria, methods or who has power.i>
      • Conditions - are about the nature of the content, the learner, the learning environment, or the instructional development constraints

The Events of Instruction

Gagnè's Events of Instruction

(Gagnè, 1985, p. 76)

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT)

Sweller, 1999.

"CLT is a psychological theory because it attempts to explain psychological or behavioral phenomena resulting from instruction" (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010)