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Instructional-Design Theories and Models: Volume IV, The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education

Edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, Brian J. Beatty & Rodney D. Myers       2017

Chapter 3

Principles for Task-Centered Instruction

Gregory M. Francom

Editors' Notes

Preconditions (when to use the theory)


  • The content entails application and transfer, not just memorization.


  • All students.

      Learning environments

  • Learner-centered rather than teacher-centered (learning is more important than “covering”


      Instructional development constraints

  • Minimal.


Values (opinions about what is important)

      About ends (learning goals)

  • Construction of specific knowledge and skills is highly valued.

  • Transfer of learning to a diversity of real-world situations is highly valued.

  • Development of higher-order thinking skills (critical thinking, problem solving, and so forth) is highly valued.

  • Self-regulation skills and group-process skills are highly valued.

      About priorities (criteria for successful instruction)

  • Effectiveness, efficiency, and intrinsic motivation of the instruction are all highly valued.

      About means (instructional methods)

  • Learning by doing (active learning) is highly valued.

  • Learning from peers through collaboration is highly valued.

      About power (to make decisions about the previous three)

  • Empowering learners to make decisions about ends, priorities and means is highly valued.


Universal Principles

     1. Learning tasks

  • Center all learning around whole, complex, ill-defined, real-world tasks.

  • Sequence those tasks from simple to complex to match the advancing level of the learners.

  • Provide additional scaffolding in the form of support and guidance, and gradually fade them over time.

     2. Activation of prior knowledge

  • Remind learners of their prior knowledge by having them share relevant previous experiences and thinking.

     3. Demonstration/modeling

  • Show learners how to perform parts of the complex learning task and provide procedural and supportive information, and gradually fade them over time.

     4. Application

  • Have learners practice the desired skills for parts of the learning task.

  • Provide coaching and feedback on the practice, and gradually fade them over time.

  • Encourage learners to self-monitor their performance.

     5. Integration/exploration

  • Provide opportunities for the learners to explore new ways to use what they have learned in everyday life.

  • Provide opportunities for the learners to reflect on or teach what they have learned and to critique what their peers have done.


Situational Principles

      Variations in learning tasks

  • Compromise on fidelity when there is a lack of authentic resources.

  • Adjust the complexity of tasks to match learner expertise.

  • Use part-task instruction when needed.

  • Adjust amount of support to student needs

      Variations in activation

  • Vary the methods of prior knowledge activation depending on the kind of learning: physical skill, intellectual skill, or attitude.

      Variations in demonstration/modeling

  • Attainments that take a long time to demonstrate should be broken into parts that are demonstrated separately.

  • For an intellectual skill, the demonstration should show the actual performance, not just the result.

  • Media format varies depending on several factors (described in the chapter).

  • Demonstrations in the affective domain should primarily be done through role-play, case study, and/or real-world observation.

  • The timing for presenting supporting information varies depending on several factors (described in the chapter). 

      Variations in application

  • Frequency of coaching and feedback vary with the needs of individual learners.

  • Speed of fading of coaching varies with the needs of individual learners. 

  • For complex new skills needed during task performance, part-task practice should be used with additional coaching and feedback, if needed by individual learners.

  • When the nature of faulty performance is not known, the student should think aloud during performance.

  • When a learner has encountered difficulties in task performance, reflection activities should be used.

      Variations in integration/exploration

  • Constraints such as time and resources might restrict the methods used to transfer learning to real-world situations.  Fewer resources typically require simpler methods, such as discussion, reflection, and case study.


Implementation issues

      Identification of learning tasks.  It is difficult to identify good learning tasks.

      Resources.  In the teacher-centered paradigm, there may not be sufficient instructional time, equipment and

           technologies for the number of students.

      Content coverage.  Since content is learned in a deeper and more transferable manner in TCI, it may be difficult for

           teachers to cover as much content as they are used to.

      Ensuring mastery.  In collaborative work on learning tasks, different students may play different roles and not learn all

           the desired competencies.

                                                                                                                                                                  –  C.M.R., B.J.B & R.D.M.

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