The Proper Study of Instructional Design

So, as it always seems, here I am as a young assistant professor still trying to figure out my place in this world. You know, who am I, what is my line of research, and does it really matter? So I was reading in the new edition of Issues and Trends in Instructional Design and Technology today, specifically in Chapter 32: The Future of Instructional Design, which is a point/counterpoint between David Merrill and Brent Wilson. As it always seems, I think like Merrill. (Could it be that it was because he was my teacher? Hmm . . . )

First Merrill breaks down the terminology of the proper study of instructional design as such:

  • science: the pursuit of understanding

  • technology: the creation of artifacts

  • theory: describing phenomena and predicting (hypothesis) consequences from given conditions

  • research: applying appropriate methodology to test these predictions

  • instructional design theory: understanding what conditions are necessary for a learner to acquire specific instructional goals, specific knowledge and skill, or specific learning outcomes

He then continues to break down the technology of what we do.

  • technology of instructional design: using empirically verified instructional design theory to develop instructional products designed to enable students to efficiently and effectively acquire desired instructional outcomes

  • technology of instruction: breaks down into three activities . . .

  1. the principles of effective and efficient instruction (instructional design theory) be captured in tools that provide intellectual leverage to designers who may not know the required instructional design theory

  2. demonstrate the use of these tools in designing and/or developing an instructional product

  3. predict the performance of this product and then test this performance in a trial with students from the target population

So then an instructional scientist attempts to discover and test principles for instruction, and the instructional technologist uses the principles discovered by the scientist to develop and test conceptual tools and technology-based tools that can be used by instructional designers for the production of instructional products.

So back to the question: what am I? Am I an instructional scientist or an instructional technologist? Well, that's the problem. I want to be both.

Is that feasable?

Is that OK?

I hope I work this all out someday.

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