design, and to clarify its role in the larger context of education and social change."
In short, as they titled the paper, it was time to "reclaim instructional design" from "a lot of people associated with instructional technology who don’t seem to know where they are going. Neophytes who are pursing instructional technology are lured this way and that by the varied philosophical voices crying lo here."
So, twelve years later, where are we? Have we "reclaimed" instructional design?
To sum up the article, Merrill and the ID2 research group (BTW, ID2 stands for second generation instructional design) do an excellent job outlining what science is, and how instructional design is, according to that definition, a science.
Do I agree with what they say? Yes, I do. It would be hard for me not to. Not only was Merrill my professor, but Leston, Mark, and Jean were all doctoral students with me in the program. But personal relationships aside, and I know I talk about them a lot, I agree with what they say. Again, not because I know them, but because I see the world the same was as they do.
Now, to be fair about this, I must also point you to an EXCELLENT alternative point of view on the topic. Brent Wilson, who was the person whose comments spurred Merrill to write Recaliming ID, wrote Foundations for Instructional Design: Reclaiming the Conversation, which was includeed in a fantastic book on instructional design, Innovations in Instructional Technology (link to the entire book via Google Books). In his essay, Brent doesn't argue point by point with Merrill, but rather looks at things from a very different lens.
In short, it looks as though one of the main differences between the two points of view comes down to the old beahviorist/constructivist point of view. Merrill, et.al. contend that learning is an individual process, and Wilson counters that there needs to be consensus. Now let me be clear: I AM OVERSIMPLIFYING THINGS HERE, AND I KNOW IT (so don't send me a million comments telling me so). But many of each sides' points stem from those lenses.
Wilson makes the point of the day in his conclusion. He writes:
"The practical problem is the mediocre quality of instruction. The response is instructional design. As Richey (1998) notes, agreeing on the details of formulating a problem requires some degree of shared ideology, but that is precisely where we agree—on the general nature and importance of these problems. Then and from that base, competing theories and perspectives enter the dialogue. As researchers and practitioners grapple with problems of practice, they are led to countering explanations and theories, leading to re-descriptions of problems and proposed solutions. As so many have argued, the interplay between theory and practice is a dialogue, which is the healthiest possible condition for a field, even in the face of proliferating perspectives. Cutting short that dialogue would be a mistake. Keeping our eye on the end goal, improving instruction, should be enough to hold us together as a community of professionals."
So, again to the question, twelve years later, where do we as a field stand on instructional design? Not really anywhere different. I do think that in the last twelve years the field's voice has definitely shifted from a more structured, behaviorist perspective to a more open, constructivist perspective. For me, well, it's not hard to see where I stand on that spectrum.
I think this conversation is one that needs to continue. Yes, I know it's more fun to talk about the new tools and toys that are coming out and see how we can implement them in instruction effectively, but I think this collective soul-searching is imperative to us as a field. No matter where we stand on the conversation of reclaiming instructional design, we all can agree on one thing: the problem, (as Wilson put it) mediocre instruction.
What do you all think? I know a number of practitioners read this blog, does this conversation have any relevance at all to you, or is this something that only the academics care about?