Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction Review
Solid design principles for all instructional design initiatives. “
What are the first principles?
The ‘First Principles of Instructions’ by M. David Merrill is a compilation of the common elements identified in a number of existing instructional design theories and models. It takes a problem centred view supported by four phases of instruction. First, the problem is focused on real-world tasks. Then, the four phases of instruction: activation, demonstration, application and integration are present to ensure effective instruction. The problem and four phases make up the five principles comprising Merrill’s model.
Merrill’s definitions for each principle are:
- Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.
- Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge.
- Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.
- Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner.
- Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world.
Why are these useful in learning design?
A problem or task-based approach is effective in the design of contextual learning activities
As opposed to the method of using a list of abstract topics at the start of a course (such as bullet point learning objectives), putting the learner in a situation that is relevant to them starts the process of effective instruction.
Another common issue with learning design was the high concentration of the demonstration principle (such as an instructor presenting content or an online course that’s content rather than action orientated). This over reliance on demonstration results in limited activation and practice opportunities for the learner. According to Merrill, success is impeded if one or more of the principles are omitted from your learning design.
Effective design therefore is achieved if it is centred around real-world problems and include all four phases of instruction.
How are the principles used in the real world?
Each principle has a number of methods for inclusion in design. For problem-centred, tasks can be shown as worked examples or real-world problem statements that have to be resolved. For activation, recalling a common experience can be used to relate to new knowledge provided during the demonstration phase. Application can be managed via scaffolding where support is gradually removed to present greater control to the learner until finally, integration techniques can include learners demonstrating, creating, reflecting or discussing their new knowledge and skills.
A task-based instructional design model providing solid foundations for your instructional design initiative. “
- Rating: 5/5
- Pros: Concise model for the creation of a learning product.
- Cons: Design only focus, does not describe how learners acquire knowledge
- Comments: A robust modern instructional design model
- People also read: Gagne, Bloom, Instructional Design
ETR&D, Vol. 50, No. 3, 2002, pp. 43–59 ISSN 1042–1629