The Four-Component Instruction Design Model: Multimedia Principles in Environments for Complex Learning

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Chapter 5: The Four-Component Instructional Design Model

Summary by, Kimberly Gooze

  • The Four-Component Instructional Design Model states that well designed environments for complex learning contain four components. The components are 1) authentic learning tasks, 2) supportive information, 3) procedural information, and 4) part-task practice (Mayer 71).
  • An authentic learning task is an activity that is based on a real life task. The learner is asked to meaningful problem solving and reasoning skills to complete the learning task. A sequence of learning tasks is the basis of a course’s curriculum. “Equivalent” learning tasks belong to the same task class. Learning tasks within the same task class are equivalent to one another in that they can be executed with the same body of knowledge. Learning tasks within the same task class differ in the context in which the task is preformed and also in the way that the task is presented (Merrienboer and Kester 73).
  • Supportive information builds a bridge between what learners already know and what they need to know in order to complete learning tasks (Merrienboer and Kester 72). For the first learning task in a class, students receive a lot of help and support for their instructor. For subsequent learning tasks, support smoothly decreases as students acquire more expertise and knowledge (Merrienboer and Kester 73).
  • There are two types of supportive information. The first is called product oriented. Product oriented support is related to the amount of support that a student receives on a particular learning task. Worked out examples provide the maximum amount of support because they present the student with both a problem and an acceptable solution. Completion tasks provide the student with a medium amount of support because they provide the student with a problem and a partial solution). Students receive no support when they are tested or receive conventional problems (Merrienboer and Kester 73).
  • The other type of support is called process oriented. This type of support leads the student through the problem solving process. Examples of process oriented support include process worksheets and guidelines (Merrienboer and Kester 73).
  • Supportive information is the same for each task within a particular class. For each subsequent task class, “the supportive information is an addition or embellishment of the previously presented information” (Merrienboer and Kester 74). Supportive information consists of the “the theory” that is being applied. The theory answers the following questions about a phenomenon: “What is this?” “How is it organized?” “How does it work?” Supportive information also describes Approaches to Problem Solving. These approaches include rules or guidelines that a learner needs to know in order to complete each phase in the problem solving process (Merrienboer and Kester 74). Lastly, supportive information can take the form of feedback as to the quality of the student’s performance (Merrienboer and Kester 74).
  • Procedural information tells learners how to perform each step of the learning task. Procedural information is similar to “how to” instructions for the task. Demonstrations and corrective feedback are other forms of procedural information.
  • Part-task practice includes any additional exercises or practice needed. Part-task practice is only needed if learning tasks do not provide enough repetition to master a particular skill (Merrienboer and Kester 73).
  • The Four component model assumes that all human knowledge is stored in cognitive schemata. The model states that human expertise develops through two complimentary processes, schema construction and schema automation (Merrienboer and Kester 75). Schema construction is the formation of increasing numbers of ever more complex schemata. These schemata “organize and store knowledge, but also heavily reduce working memory load because even highly complex schemata can be dealt with as one element in working memory” (Merrienboer and Kester 76).
  • Schema automation “occurs if a task performer repeatedly and successfully applies a particular cognitive schema” (Merrienboer and Kester 76). Automation can “free working memory capacity for other activities because automated schema directly steers to routine aspects of behavior without needing to be processed in working memory” (Merrienboer and Kester 76).
  • In the 4 component model, students perform learning tasks and study supportive information to aid them in constructing cognitive schemata. Students consult procedural information and partake in part-task practice in order to automate cognitive schemata. Thus, meaningful learning is a result of both schema construction and schema automation (Merrienboer and Kester 76).
  • There are 14 multimedia principles. Each principle is related to one of the four components of the Four Component Instructional Design Model. The first 6 principles are the sequencing principle, fidelity principle, variability principle, individualization principle, training-wheels principle and the completion-strategy principle. These principles are all related to learning tasks and learning in simulated task environments.
  • The Sequencing principle states that it is often better to sequence learning tasks or complex pieces of information from simple to complex rather than present them in all of their complexity at once (Merrienboer and Kester 77). In other words, it is best to first present isolated elements. Next, the instructor can present the connections between all elements simultaneously (Merrienboer and Kester 79). In the 4 Component Instructional Design Model, task classes and corresponding supportive information range from simple to complex (Merrienboer and Kester 79).
  • The Fidelity principle states that learning environments are defined as high fidelity if they are very close to “real life” task environments. The fidelity principle indicates that for novice learners, a high fidelity task environment often contains irrelevant details that may decrease learning (Merrienboer and Kester 79). In addition, unessential details such as background music and video clips may deteriorate learning (Merrienboer and Kester 79).
  • The Variability principle indicates that learning tasks must be sufficiently different from one another to allow for the construction of “general abstract schemata”. Ideally learning tasks should differ on all dimensions that also vary in the real world. Such dimensions include the conditions in which the task is performed and the way the task is presented (Merrienboer and Kester 80).
  • The Individualization principle states that lessons need to be tailored to fit the needs of the learner. Recent studies show that adaptive training systems that select learning tasks based on the characteristics of the individual learner are more successful than training systems that present the same sequence of tasks for all learners. The selection of the next learning task should be based on a student’s performance on the pervious task and also on the amount of mental effort they put forth (Merrienboer and Kester 80).
  • The Training wheels principle states that one way to support novice learners on a learning task is to “constrain” their performance. That is, to make sure that they are blocked from performing unnecessarily actions that will not help them reach their performance goals. Students’ performance is sometimes constrained in a way in which they have to mimic an expert’s approach to problem solving (Mayer 81). As the learner gains more abilities, their constraints are slowly loosened and then completely eliminated (Merrienboer and Kester 89).
  • The Completion strategy principle has to do with the sequence of learning tasks and how much support is provided to the learner. In the beginning of a task class, a high level of support is provided with worked out examples. For subsequent learning tasks, lesser and lesser amounts of supports are provided. Students receive completion tasks in which they have to generate parts of the solution on their own (medium amount of support). Finally, conventional learning tasks provide the student with no support at all (Merrienboer and Kester 81-82).
  • There are three principles that are related to supportive information and learning from hypermedia. The three principles are the Redundancy principle, Self explanation principle, and the Self-pacing principle.
  • The Redundancy principle states that the presentation of redundant information has a negative effect on learning. Learners have to discover that the information that is being repeated in various forms is in fact redundant. This is a cognitive demanding process which does not contribute to learning. (Merrienboer and Kester 82).
  • The Self explanation principle states that “the degree to which learners explain the solution steps in worked examples to themselves is a good predictor of learning outcomes” (Merrienboer and Kester 83). Learners should be able to explain the underlying principles demonstrated by the example (Merrienboer and Kester 83).
  • The Self-pacing principle indicates that giving learners control over the pace of instruction may facilitate a deeper understanding of the information. Segmentation effect is also described as part of this principle. The segmentation effect states that students reach higher levels of performance if information is presented in learner controlled segments (Merrienboer and Kester 83).
  • There are four principles related to procedural information and electronic performance support systems. They include the Temporal split attention principle, Spatial split attention principle, Signaling principle, and the Modality principle.
  • The Temporal split attention principle states that mutually referring pictures and text should be presented simultaneously rather than consecutively. This principle is especially important for the presentation of procedural information. Procedural information or how to instructions should be presented precisely when the learner is ready to perform a task (Merrienboer and Kester 84).
  • The Spatial split attention principle refers to the finding that higher performance is reached when mutually referring information sources are physically integrated with each other in space. Procedural information should be presented in such as way that it is integrated with learning tasks in the task environment. For example, if you are learning a computer application, it is effective to have the procedural information on the screen (in your task environment) rather than in a handbook (Merrienboer and Kester 84-85).
  • The Signaling principle indicates that learning is enhanced if the learner’s attention is directed upon critical aspects of the presented information. The teacher should highlight, color code, point a finger at or use other signaling hand movements to call attention to critical parts of the material (Merrienboer and Kester 85).
  • The Modality principle indicates that presentation techniques that use narration to explain visuals have better learning outcomes than presentations that only use visual information. Dual mode presentations expand working memory capacity because they incorporate both the auditory and visual subsystems.
  • There is one multimedia principle related to part-task practice and drill and practice computer based training. It is called the Component fluency principle. This principle indicates that one’s practice on an aspect of a task can have positive effects on one’s ability perform the whole task. However, the principle mentions that part-task practice should only take place after learner has been introduced to the whole task (Merrienboer and Kester 86).
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