BOX 4-1
Summary of Principles of Learning for Instructional Design

Attention, Retention, and Transfer

•  Present material in a clear and organized format. To facilitate learning, remove irrelevant information, even if interesting, to minimize distraction, provide structure and organization (coherence principle), present related elements to be learned near each other in space and time (continuity principle), and present new material in units that do not overwhelm with information (segmentation principle).

•  Use multiple and varied examples. Knowledge, skills, and strategies acquired across multiple and varied contexts are better generalized and applied flexibly across a range of tasks and situations,

•  Present material in multiple modalities and formats. Information is encoded and remembered better when it is delivered in multiple modes (verbal and pictorial), sensory modalities (auditory and visual), or media (computers and lectures) than when delivered in only a single mode, modality, or medium.

•  Teach in the zone of proximal development. Select learning goals, materials, and tasks that are sensitive to what the student has mastered and that are appropriately challenging. Scaffold learning with instructional interactions and systematic selection and sequencing of content, materials, and tasks that are both at the appropriate level of difficulty and provide prompts and information needed to learn.

•  Space presentations of new material. Learning is facilitated by the temporally distributed presentation of materials and tests instead of concentrated learning experiences within a short time span. Reexposure to course material after an optimal amount of delay often markedly increases the amount of information that students remember.

•  Test on multiple occasions, preferably with spacing. Periodic testing helps learning and slows down forgetting. Regular testing, which can be quite brief and embedded in instructional materials, keeps students constantly engaged in the material and guides instructors or computers in making decisions about what to teach.

•  Ground concepts in perceptual-motor experiences. Learning of concepts is facilitated with instruction that employs or evokes concrete perceptions and actions. Stories, for example, which generate perceptual-motor memories similar to the memories of everyday experience, may be powerful tools for practicing and building comprehension skills and developing and reinforcing background knowledge. Consider using content presented in stories to scaffold learning from other genres.

Generation of Content and Reasoning

•  Encourage the generation of explanations, substantive questions, and the resolution of contradictions. These active learning processes impart coherence and meaning to the material to be learned, facilitates habitual generation of complex representations of information, and result in deeper understanding. Learner-generated content can lack detail and contain misconceptions that must be monitored and corrected.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement