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3.2.3 Basic principles and models of instruction technology

The roots of instrution technology27 are found in research performed by Burrhus Frideric Skinner, the noted behaviourist psychology professor at Harvard University in the 1950.28 In Hungary the discipline started to take root in the 1960s due to the efforts of didactics expert and educational researcher Árpád Kiss (1907-1979)29

The formation and development of the discipline is greatly determined by the emergence of the visual demonstration method, the learning-psychology assisted programmed learning schemes, the increasing use of audiovisual illustrations,30 the spread of mass media and computer assisted instruction. The pioneers of instruction technology at first used the achievements of behaviourism whose tenets had been elaborated in the first decades of the twentieth century. The cognitive revolution launched in the 1950 opened up new vistas. J. Bruner’s intensive research into instruction technology broke with the behaviorist school. His writings and views on perception, learning, and the process of cognition during childhood led to significant changes in educational philosophies and to the inception of pedagogical reforms while modernizing the theoretical and practical aspects of curriculum development efforts. R. M. Gagne31 is a psychologist, and one of the best-known educational researchers. He laid down the foundation of Instructional Design and has a comprehensive view of learning theories. 

?  The next definition incorporates both  ICT and e-Learning in its framework: ”Instruction technology entails the application of scientific principles for the design and implementation of educational systems prioritising exact and measurable objectives, the prevalence of learner–centredness over subject centredness, the recognition of educational theories’ capabilty of supporting practical implementation and wide spread use of audiovisual and electronic media in addition to traditional educational devices.” Research into and debates on the concept and interpretation of instructional technology are greatly impacted by Lumsdaine’s identification of the two types of the discipline,32 the hardware and software approach respectively (Lumsdaine, 1964.). Instruction technology entails the application of an engineering perspective and methodology, in other words the mechanization or machinization of education with the final objective of improving itts efficiency. This also means that special devices fully satisfying instructional demands have to be developed. The theoretical and practical aspects of this activity are summarised by the discipline of instruction technology.  The improvement of efficiency meant not only increased productivity, but reduction of costs as well. 


Instruction technology entails the conscious and deliberate use of scientific and other organized forms of information for the purpose of guaranteeing the effectiveness of the education process. The discipline places great emphasis on the elaboration of instructional objectives, the compatibilty of the course material to the learner’s preferences, and the frequency and objectivity of evaluation. The scientific foundation primarily includes the achevements of behavioural sciences.  Instead of the dual interpretation Davies33 recommended a third approach, one based upon systemization. Accordingly with the use of the two already existing approaches and the inclusion of new elements a novel instruction technology can be elaborated. This approach can be described as ”the application of optimal strategies including modern organisation theory complementing the given teaching and learning resources in order to achieve pedagogical objectives” (Davies, 1972.). Furthermore, inspired by Bruner34 Davies asserts that instruction technology will lead to a new instructional theory. This prescriptive and normative approach will facilitate:

  • the optimal management of a learning environment in which the fulfilment of previously determined objectives is guaranteed
  • the formation of course material sequence and structure facilitating problem free learning
  • the distinction between the efficiency of the given instructional strategies along with identifying and recommending educational media to be used on demand both by teachers and students.

We believe that instruction technology models and instructional design and development efforts share a crucial foundation, system-orientation. Consequently, the efffects and activities motivating learning are regarded as functionally connected specific components of a dynamic system serving identical pedagogical goals.  Consequently, we can avoid placing an excessive or insufficient emphasis on audiovisual electronic media, the role of ICT or the importance of the content or structure of the given educational materials as compared to other parts of the system. Most models constructed by educational researchers have shared characteristics.

Table Two:  Defining features of the instructional system model









Pre-existing knowledge




Motivation level

















The differentiated educational objective and criteria system means the elaboration of the system of operational goals in addition to the general objectives. Said goals will be presented in a taxonomical framework facilitating the selection of instructional strategies, methods, and media, process design, and the preparation of a performance evaluation system.

Formative evaluation or the application of cybernetic feedback in order to provide continuous learning support and process regulation assures the optimalization of system components and the improvement of the operation of the system.   

Learner and learning centredness. On the one hand this means the acceptance and adaptation of one of the pedagogical annd psychological theories pertaining to the learning process and its application to a given target population. The exploration of the age specific features, actually pre-existing knowledge, learning motivations and styles of learners is one of the foundations of the process design effort.  

Designing the teaching and learning process  This effort refers to the elaboration of the content, sequence, and management system of the activities of students and teachers (Until now, the Gagné-type approach including evoking attention-motivation-informing students on the specific expectations-reviewing the required preliminary knowledge-presenting new material-promoting student activity-feedback-promoting recording and transfer processes-performance evaluation was used most frequently).

Developed instructional strategies and media The extent of development or elaboration entails awareness of the usability indicators of the full range of strategies and of media along with making decisions relevant to the given objectives, course materials, or learner groups. In other words this is the media selection stage.

Criteria-based performance evaluation. This stage includes the assessment of student performance according to an objective and criteria system derived from needs analysis instead of responding to subjective and local norms. 

Presently information technology provides a tremendous boost to instruction technology especially by the Internet, the interactive multimedia, and the constructive learning paradigm. The next phase of instructional research utilizes the achievements of cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology became the leading approach in the 1960s after the decline of the behaviourist school. Its focus is on the processes of human cognition including such aspects as language, perception, sensory perception, thinking, decision making or problem solving.  The respective methodology retained the strictness of behavioural objectivism, but it provides room for explaining such directly unobservable concepts as mental representation.      

The starting premise of discussing the information and communication technology analysis of the teaching profession is a consensus fostered by previous educational innovations. Achievements of contemporary technology, the new information and communication technologies and the media, especially computerised network and mutlimedia based telecommunications systems are not primarily designed to satisfy pedagogical demands.

The determination of instruction oriented applications and the continuous identification of opportunities are tasks yet to be solved by instruction technology.35

All teaching, learning, and school-related activities should benefit the learner. Consequently, during the design and implementation of any instructional system component potentially including expectation, objective, course material, learning task, methods, educational device, media, control, evaluation or an intentional pedagogical effect the features of the given learner or learner group and the institutionalized learning process have to be taken into consideration. These are essential design parameters treated separately during the instruction and media development programs.

Learning in schools takes place in communities. During the learning support processes relating to community, or differentiated work or individual learning a variety of established, non media-dependent, technology, procedure, or method (feedback, group organisation, explanation, discussion) can be used along with educational device and resource-based activities including textbook reading, writing in exercise books, performing experiments, computerised simulation, audiovisual demonstration, and the use of multimedia programs. Instruction technology should not exclusively utilise new media based solutions in public education.

Instruction technology research has to contribute to the development of support systems and new information disseminating and skill development course materials for evaluating the efficiency of media and media combinations along with the determination of criteria for optimal learning.

The role of ICT competence is well illustrated in an instruction development and content providing system model functioning as a system oriented dynamic model for pedagogical practice. The components, operation, and connection of the model provide adequate support for instruction design, development, and learning management at curricular, course, topic, and competence development levels alike.  

National level instructional design and regulation: Such criteria including the requirements for high school graduation, the registers of textbooks and educational devices, school building, infrastructural standards apply not only to teachers and maintainers of schools, butparents and students as well. A prioritised task is teaching the use of digital knowledge centres.

Instructor skills and aptitudes required for pedagogical process design due to the increasing role of local programs and curricula have enjoyed increasing significance. Tthe collection and interinstitutional exchange of thematically arranged programs and multimedia resources available on the Internet anticipate interaction entailing not only retrievability but an uploading capability as well. In addition to the selection of educational material or media the didactical and specialised methodological design and digital compilation of information carriers requires new knowledge and skills.    

The management of daily, concrete teaching and learning processes can be supported by training session arrangement and methodological models, the recommendations for printed materials and books facilitating independent learning and differentiation, and the provision of on-line interactive audiovisual media materials.

     In addition to the classic, community-based methods, educational devices, and learning resources the management, organisation, and the maintenance of ICT based independent and cooperative learning efforts along with an informatics-based learning environment and continuous motivation for knowledge transfer requires new pedagogical skills and competences.  

Th instruction development system model

Figure 8   Instruction development system model
Figure 8 Instruction development system model

Instruction development and content provision system model, pedagogical research, instruction technology development, innovation, introduction, testing, management of the teaching-learning process, textbooks, educational materials knowledge centres, course material compilation, formative evaluation, multimedia, e-Learning, infrastructure standard, media selection, method selection, individual learning, community based learning, reading, general education, curriculum, program, lesson plan, task, instructional event, evaluation, community-based learning, ideal, object-content analysis, high school graduation requirements, organisational form, pre-existing knowledge, survey, evaluation, grading, general educational level, national level, design and control, efficiency test, feedback,  pedagogical process design skills


A frequent problem is identifying instructional technology with devices used within the educational process, most often the computer. We must also accept that the general acceptance and pedagogical benefits of ICT and the subsequent legitimacy of the approach is dependent upon theoretically and experimentally justified teaching knowledge and skills based on credible arguments, along with the development of an adequate school infrastructure. The most important components of the learning environment are educational devices, or as they have recently been called, learning resources.

27 Since its inception instruction technology has been considered innovative, modern, and progressive. Instruction technology professionals systematically searched for evidence and arguments against traditional instruction. Debates at the beginning of the 1970s emphasized that the ambiguous terminology frustrates communication even within the discipline. Consequently, responding to the call of the Association for Educational Communication and Technology the U.S. Office of Education and the  National Center for Education Statistics published a handbook with the aim of defining the crucial terms and creating a unified professional terminology. Said publication titled Handbook of Standard Terminology (1975.) defines over 1500 terms. Its main objective is making learning easier via the systematic disclosure, development, arrangement, application, and management of learning resources. Additional objectives include the elaboration and development of instructional systems, the identification of existing and available learning resources, and providing access for students to such resources, along with the management of the required procedures and human resources. While this is not an exhaustive list, the Dictionary of Education views instruction technology as ”the application of scientific principles for the design and implementation of instruction systems with special emphasis on exact and measurable objectives, the prevalence of learner centered education over subject centredness, the recognition of the capability of educational theories to augment practice along with the wide spread educational use of audiovisual media.”

28 Burrhus F. Skinner: A tanítás technológiája. A fordítás az eredetivel egybevetette és a jegyzeteket írta Kiss Árpád.  (The technology of teaching) Gondolat, 1973.

29 Kiss Árpád: A tanulás programozása. (The programming of learning) Tankönyvkiadó, Budapest, 1973. 367 l.

30 According to a definition by the Encyclopaedia on Pedagogy: Demonstration entails the practical implementation of the illustration principle. It is an educational procedure pertaining both to the teacher and learner facilitating sensory perception via the use of illustration equipment and the observation of real objects and phenomena. Demonstration or illustration requiring the active participation of students impacts sensory organs facilitating the formation of exact and clear images on objects and phenomena of the external world, the disclosure of correlation and the main tendencies between objects and phenomena, the maintenance of close connection between sensory cognition and abstract thinking, thereby promoting a deeper understanding and longer term retention of knowledge and information.      

     Vö. In: Tompa Klára (1995): A korszerű oktatástechnológia jellemzői.  (The main characteristics of modern instruction technology) In: Oktatáselméleti kérdések a szakképzésben (Szerk.: Benedek A.). Műszaki Könyvkiadó. Budapest, 1995. 63–86. p.

31 GAGNÉ, R. M., BRIGGS, L. J. (1974). Principles of Instructional Design. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 212-213 l

32 Lumsdaine, A. A., Glaser, R. (1960). Teaching Machines and Programmed Learning: A Source Book. Department of Audiovisual Instruction, National Education Association, Washington, D. C. cf.

     Lumsdaine, A. A., (1964). Educational technology, programmed learning and instructional science. In: HILGARD, E. R. (1964). Theores of Learning and Instruction, 63rd National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) Yearbook Part I., University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois

33 Davies, I. K. (1971). The Management of Learning. McGraw-Hill Book Company, London. 256 l. (1976). Objectives in Curriculum Design. McGraw-Hill Book, Maidenhead England. 77 l.

34 Bruner, J. R.: Toward a Theory of Instruction. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1966.