Instructional Principles and Hypotheses

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Generalization Hierarchy of Principles

  • Refinement and Fluency
    • Optimized scheduling. Optimized scheduling yields better long-term retention than a practice schedule based on fixed intervals (whether massed or spaced) or intervals self-determined by students (e.g., in flash card use).
    • Feature focusing. Instruction leads to more robust learning when it guides the learner's attention ("focuses") toward relevant features of the material, as opposed to unfocused instruction or instruction that guides attention toward irrelevant features.
  • Sense making
    • Visual-verbal integration. Instruction that includes both visual and verbal information leads to more robust learning than instruction that includes verbal information alone, but only when the instruction supports learners as they coordinate information from both sources and the representations guide student attention to deep features.
    • Example-rule coordination principle. Instruction that combines or helps students' combine learning from examples and learning of or from rules tends to be more effective than instruction that includes the same examples and rules but does not help students combine them.
      • Worked example principle. In contrast to the traditional approach of giving a list homework (or seatwork) problems for students to solve, students learn more efficiently and more robustly when more frequent study of worked examples is interleaved with problem solving practice.
      • Prompted self-explanation principle. When students are given a worked example or text to study, prompting them to self-explain each step of the worked example or each line of the text causes higher learning gains than having them study the material without such prompting.
      • Analogical comparison principle. Analogical comparison can facilitate schema abstraction and transfer of that knowledge to new problem. By comparing the commonalities between two examples, students can focus on the causal structure and improve their learning about the concept.
  • Motivation
    • Personalization. Matching up the features of an instructional event with students' personal interests, experiences, or typical patterns of language use, may lead to more robust learning compared to when instruction is not personalized.

See also Category:Instructional Principle. Other possibilities for principles can be found further below and also at other web sites:

Creating Instructional Principle and Hypothesis Pages

Each instructional principle page is structured with the following headers:

  1. Brief statement of the principle
  2. Description of the principle
    1. Operational definition
    2. Examples
  3. Experimental support
    1. Laboratory experiment support
    2. In vivo experiment support
    3. Level of support (either low, medium, or high) (See the IES practice guide on "Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning" for definitions of levels of support.)
  4. Theoretical rationale (these entries should link to one or more learning processes)
  5. Conditions of application
    1. Failed replications (which suggest conditions of application are needed)
  6. Caveats, limitations, open issues, or dissenting views
  7. Variations (descendants)
  8. Generalizations (ascendants)
  9. References

If you have a study page, your hypothesis section should make reference to at least one of these instructional principle pages. You should edit your hypothesis section to be sure it points to an instructional principle page. Then you should edit that instructional principle page so that it at least (1) has the structure above (even if all sections aren't filled in -- a template you can copy is provided further below) and (2) points to your study with a brief summary of the results. You should also (3) read the entry carefully and fill in or edit sections so they are consistent with your findings and with relevant theory.

We want to keep the number of principles down, at least at the highest level of generalization, so try to reference the most general instructional principle that is appropriate. In addition to facilitating our goal of greater shared vocabulary and unification, doing so will also make it so you have less editing work to do! By pointing to more general instructional principles, others will be contributing to structuring and filling in that page in addition to you. You may also point to (from your hypothesis section) more specific instructional principle pages relevant to your study.

Be sure that the *Examples* and *Experimental Support* sections of the instructional principle page you point to also points back to your study page.

Please also add references to literature beyond your own work to the *Reference* section of instructional principles pages you edit. You might simply copy these from your study page's reference section and/or papers you have written. By doing so, you can help others (and others can help you) identify relevant research in the field.


You can copy the following into an instructional principle page you want to edit and then insert existing text into appropriate sections and add text in other sections.

==Brief statement of principle==
==Description of principle==
===Operational definition===
==Experimental support==
===Laboratory experiment support===
===In vivo experiment support===
===Level of support===
==Theoretical rationale== 
(These entries should link to one or more [[:Category:Learning Processes|learning processes]].)
==Conditions of application==
==Caveats, limitations, open issues, or dissenting views==
==Variations (descendants)==
==Generalizations (ascendants)==
[[Category:Instructional Principle]]

Editing instructional principle pages

An instructional principle is usually so closely related to an independent variable that it is hard to tell them apart. An instructional principle is a general hypothesis, usually about how one instructional method is better than some other baseline or control method. For example, Mayer's multimedia principle states that using diagrams in text (one instructional method) leads to better learning than text alone (another instructional method) under certain circumstances. When a study varies the instructional method, then the instruction method is a kind of independent variable, so in this wiki, they are usually described on independent variable wiki pages. However, an instructional principle is often so closely related to one of its independent variables/methods that the two wiki pages share considerable content. If so, then maybe it would be best to just have one page for both. Use your best judgment.

If you do choose to use separate pages for an instructional principle and a related independent variable, please put "principle" or "hypothesis" in the title of the instructional principle. For instance, the Worked example principle page is different from but related to the worked examples page. The Prompted self-explanation hypothesis page is different from the Prompted Self-explanation page.

Instructional principles are related to the *hypothesis* section of study pages. The hypothesis of a study may be more study- or domain-specific whereas the associated instructional principle will be study-neutral and likely more domain general. Therefore, the wiki page documenting a project or study should have:

  • an independent variables section that refers to the wiki pages of general independent variables. These are found in the column headers of the matrix that appears on your cluster's page.
  • a hypothesis section that refers to the wiki pages of general instructional principles. These instructional principles should reference the general independent variables mentioned above.

If some of the structure above does not exist, please create it.

Candidate Instructional Principles

The following instructional method or independent variable pages are candidates that you might convert to a structured principle page. See directions on structuring a instructional principle or hypothesis page further below.

Learning Processes

Here's a list of learning processes with entries in the glossary. These should be used in the "theoretical rationale" section of instructional principles pages. (We should also create a common page structure for them, as we have for instructional principles and studies.)

Co-training, Cognitive headroom, Integration, Refinement, Sense making, self-explanation

A list of learning processes can also be found at Category:Learning Processes. (This list should be the same.)