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

Unit 3: Steps toward the Learner-Centered Paradigm



As described in the chapters in Unit 1, student progress in the learner-centered paradigm should be based on learning rather than on time spent learning, should require the performance of authentic tasks, and should be personalized based on the learner’s goals, interests, preferences, and prior learning. This paradigm shift requires changed roles for instructors, learners, and technology; and it requires a changed curriculum that is expanded to encompass emotional and social development and is restructured around effective thinking, acting, relating, and accomplishing.

The four chapters in Unit 3 present some emerging instructional-design theories that reimagine where and how instruction and learning take place, focusing in particular on learning that happens outside the classroom and how it can be tied to in-class instruction. Because these approaches are all working in (or perhaps more precisely, trying to work around) the current paradigm of content-focused and time-bound instruction, we see these as steps toward the new paradigm, attempts to employ some of the learner-centered principles to disrupt the current system from within.

In Chapter 12, Designing Instruction for Flipped Classrooms, Strayer prescribes the use of out-of-class tasks in which learners examine reified information to initiate construction of knowledge and provide responses that the instructor then uses to guide in-class activities. Class time is spent on shared reflection and on tasks that address learners’ questions and misunderstandings and require learners to grapple with non-routine problems, communicate their thinking, and critique the reasoning of others. Flipped classroom instruction seeks to optimize the time that instructors and students spend with each other by making better use of the time they spend apart. As a result, students must take greater responsibility for their learning by preparing for class and participating fully in class activities. Strayer says that the universal principles of flipped classroom instruction are compatible with a variety of instructional approaches, and to demonstrate he provides situational principles for a direct instruction approach and a problem-based instruction approach. 

In Chapter 13, Gamification Designs for Instruction, Kapp describes an approach to reimagining the content and structure of instruction to create and maintain student engagement and motivation. As with Strayer’s flipped classroom instruction, Kapp emphasizes learning done outside the classroom, which is tracked and rewarded using computer-based technology. Content gamification is intended to generate intrinsic motivation and to foster feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Instructors can gamify content by incorporating game elements such as story, challenge, characters/avatars, mystery, and so forth. Gamification of course structure is intended to provide reinforcement and extrinsic motivation over longer periods of time. Instructors can gamify course structure by providing recognition for attainments in the form of points, badges, trophies, and so forth, and by maintaining a leaderboard. Gamification would seem to work well with personalization of instruction as one could imagine a course with multiple content paths that learners could navigate at their own pace.

In Chapter 14, Design Considerations for Mobile Learning, Cochrane and Narayan present principles for bridging formal and informal learning contexts by leveraging the affordances of mobile devices. Their instructional-design theory is founded on providing authentic learning experiences in which students must reconceptualize their role from passive reproducer of knowledge to active participant in learning communities. Projects are largely student-directed and require students to use tools on their mobile devices to communicate, collaborate on multimedia production, and share their creations with the public. Students and teachers together negotiate assessment activities, and teachers provide an ecology of resources to guide and support learning.


In Chapter 15, Designing Just-in-Time Instruction, Novak and Beatty describe an inductive approach to pedagogy that shares characteristics with the flipped classroom approach described in Chapter 12. Both approaches begin with out-of-class work designed to prepare learners for active learning in the classroom, and both prescribe adapting in-class activities based on learners’ pre-class responses. The just-in-time approach provides more guidance regarding the pre-class activities with universal principles related to the design of whole-authentic tasks that are sequenced in increasing complexity and provide sufficient variability to promote construction of general schemata. The situational principles cover variations in methods based on pedagogical strategies and discipline-dependent thought processes. 

As in Units 1 and 2, at the outset of each chapter, we provide a summary of the key elements of each instructional design, highlighting important contextual factors and listing instructional values, universal design principles, situational design principles (when included by authors) and implementation considerations

The four chapters in this unit present instructional-design theories intended to work within the current paradigm of instruction while employing some of the learner-centered design principles discussed in Unit 1. They all share an emphasis on making better use of the time learners spend outside the classroom. As you read these chapters, you might consider other ways in which instructional designers and teachers can use available technologies to take steps toward the learner-centered paradigm of instruction.

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