Where do the Ten Steps lead?

Ten Steps to Complex Learning ends with a seven-page chapter, Closing Remarks. Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer and Paul A. Kirschner relate their model to instructional design and muse on future developments.

The Ten Steps “shares its focus on complex learning and its use of real-life tasks or problems as the basis for the design of learning tasks” with models like:

vM&K cite an article (PDF) by M. David Merrill, who lists five first principles of instruction.

  • Learners engage in real-life tasks or solve real-world problems.
  • Activities engage existing knowledge as a foundation for new knowledge.
  • The learner experiences demonstrations of new skills.
  • The learner applies new skills.
  • The learner integrates new skills into real-world activities.

(Here’s a related Merrill article, 5 Star Instruction)

Or as in "we're gonna stuff you with content."So what’s new?

vM&K see these models as involving new roles for designers and teachers. Changes for designers include:

  • A shift from traditional, separate, specific objectives to integrated objectives.
  • A shift from decomposition of “tasks for transmittal” to the analysis of learning opportunities and learning tasks.
  • A shift from tasks based on information presented to information based on learning tasks.

I see a lot of value–and a lot of work–in those last two points.  “Delivering content” may never have worked as well as people thought, but (as Bob Dole said about being vice-president) it’s inside work, and there’s no heavy lifting.

“Content” focuses on some mythical body of knowledge; complex skills focus on what people actually do on the job.

What about new roles for teachers (and instructors and facilitators)?  They’ll design learning tasks, sometimes with specialists in the field (exemplary practitioners, for instance) and sometimes in collaboration with learners.

With regard to supportive information, teachers will… [still explain] how a learning domain is organized, but they will also… [demonstrate] how to approach real-life tasks systematically and [explain] which rules-of-thumb may help overcome difficulties.

With regard to procedural information, teachers will sometimes act as an… assistant looking over your shoulder to present information on routineaspects of learning tasks… or [on] part-task practice.

And, more than ever before, teachers will serve as coaches, helping learners make informed choices.

From model to methods (I’ll wait here)

vM&K discuss “design languages and tools” to help in the design process.  I confess that I’ve seen other efforts at making instructional design more efficient, and have rarely found the trade-offs worthwhile.  (Does anybody remember Designer’s Edge?)

So you can investigate the IMS Learning Design specification; I’ll wait for the movie, IMS LD versus SCORM.  You can also read about ADAPT-it, a commercial tool that supports the Ten Steps.

ISD: dead, but getting better?

The chapter ends by recalling a 2000 article in Training magazine, “Is ISD R.I.P.?” Much of the criticism in the article dealt with ISD’s inability to deal with the complex, its indifference to sound learning theory, and its tendency toward predictable, plodding approaches (to say nothing of fads).

These are precisely the issues raised by the Ten Steps: a focus on complex learning, a strong basis in learning theory, and a highly flexible design approach.

It is our hope that the Ten Steps, as well as other models for whole-task design, will contribute to a revival of the field of instructional design… to cope with the educational requirements of a fast-changing knowledge society.

…So that’s that.  Well, not quite.  There’s more in the book:

  • An appendix with an overview of the Ten Steps (the link’s in Google Books; the appendix starts on page 252).
  • A simplified sample learning blueprint
  • Sixteen pages of references (vM&K are serious about research)
  • A fourteen-page glossary, in case you forget the difference between non-recurrent and recurrent constituent skills

…but I’m not going to recap those in this series. In other words, I’m done.

Sort of. I’ll probably have another post in a few days, thinking out loud about what value I found for myself.  I’m grateful to those who’ve commented on the series.  If you’ve read without commenting, that’s fine, too; I hope it was worth your time.

CC-licensed image adaptation: I added the cartoon balloon to the delivery van photo by dok1.

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