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IMPLEMENTING MERRILL'S FIRST PRINCIPLES OF INSTRUCTION: PRACTICE AND IDENTIFICATION

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First Principles of Instruction (FPI), a result of David Merrill's systematic review of existing instructional models in search for universal principles that can be applied to all teaching, have been reported to positively correlate with instruction quality. This study aims to develop an instrument to identify the application of FPI in use, which may assist instructors in applying the Principles in their teaching, or researchers and instructional designers in assessing the quality of existing courses. To achieve this aim, a coding scheme, consisting of indicators of each FPI in use, was therefore created and tested in a specific blended learning course. Findings confirmed the reliability of the instrument and revealed interesting relationships between how FPI are applied in course materials and in actual classes.
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May 2019, Volume: 9 Issue: 2 ISSN: 2146-7463
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IMPLEMENTING MERRILL’S FIRST PRINCIPLES OF INSTRUCTION: PRACTICE AND
IDENTIFICATION
Dr. My Thi Truong
Hanoi University- Vietnam
truongthimy@hanu.edu.vn
Prof. Dr. Jan Elen
Centre for Instructional Psychology and Technology
Faculty of Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences, KULeuven- Belgium
jan.elen@ppw.kuleuven.be
Prof. Dr. Geraldine Clarebout
Centre for Instructional Psychology and Technology
Faculty of Psychology and Pedagogical Sciences, KULeuven- Belgium
geraldine.clarebout@ppw.kuleuven.be
Abstract
First Principles of Instruction (FPI), a result of David Merrill’s systematic review of existing
instructional models in search for universal principles that can be applied to all teaching, have been
reported to positively correlate with instruction quality. This study aims to develop an instrument to
identify the application of FPI in use, which may assist instructors in applying the Principles in their
teaching, or researchers and instructional designers in assessing the quality of existing courses. To
achieve this aim, a coding scheme, consisting of indicators of each FPI in use, was therefore created
and tested in a specific blended learning course. Findings confirmed the reliability of the instrument
and revealed interesting relationships between how FPI are applied in course materials and in actual
classes.
Keywords: First Principles of Instruction, blended learning, instructional design.
INTRODUCTION
Considering ‘instruction’ as one essential condition for learning process of a human being to take
place, instructional design scientists have proposed numerous theories and models aiming to optimize
learning (Gagné, 1970; Reigeluth, 1983, 1999; Reigeluth, & Carr-Chellman, 2009). Systematically
reviewing the major existing instructional models and theories, Merrill (2002, 2007, 2009), instead of
focusing on which one is the most effective and preferable, seeks the core commonalities among this
diversity and synthesizes them into what he calls the First Principles of Instruction (FPI). Since the
inception of FPI, research has shown that instruction which incorporates these principles is more
efficient, effective and engaging than instruction that fails to do so (see for example Frick, Chadha,
Wang, Watson, & Green, 2009; Collis & Margaryan, 2005; Thomson, 2002). Cropper, Bently and
Schroder (2009) even hypothesized that Merrill’s FPI may represent high-quality instruction and
should be included in the criteria for determining course quality. This indicates the significance of
applying FPI in a learning environment and also the development of an instrument that allows for
identifying FPI in practice, which can then be used as one possible set of criteria for measuring
instruction quality. However, no research has been done so far in offering a comprehensive
framework that may assist such application and identification; and this study is an attempt to fill this
gap.
In the present study, we first constructed a coding scheme which includes all possible indicators of
FPI in use, which enable researchers to recognize the instances of application of FPI in both teaching
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materials and classroom instruction and to code them impartially. To test the reliability of the coding
scheme, we then utilized the scheme to analyse the instruction unit of a blended learning course.
Our study is believed to advance our insights into the general FPI and guide teachers of any
disciplines on how these principles should be implemented in practice. For course developers and
researchers, the study offers an instrument for evaluating the extent to which FPI are applied in a
course; or in other words, one possible framework to assess course quality.
‘Instruction’ is described by Gagné (1970,28) as an action of ‘arranging the conditions of learning that
are external to the learner’. The external conditions are any events outside and independent of
learners that may activate and support the internal process of learning, and can be as simple as an
opportunity for a language learner to repeat a new word that have just been presented to them by
the teacher. In terms of forms, instruction can be ‘pre-designed’, as in the case of the programmed
instruction of an online learning course, or simply a well-designed workbook or textbook; or more
flexible as in the case of immediate, unplanned communication made by a teacher to the learners
during class time (Gagné, 1970).
Summarising this description, Gagné and Briggs (1979) define ‘instruction’ as all the intended events
that can affect the learning of human beings. In this sense, the use of picture, a text, a combination
of objects, or any other means that may assist and bring about learning can be considered
‘instruction’.
Gage (2009) distinguishes instruction from ‘teaching’ by emphasizing that the former has larger
connotation than the later one. According to Gage (2009), because teaching is an instructional action
performed by a person (i.e. a teacher), it should be understood as only a particular form of
instruction. Instruction, on the other hand, can be available to learners even in the absence of a
teacher and should not be understood as being restricted to only face-to-face interaction between
learners and teacher.
While these explanations emphasize what the act of instruction may look like, Reigeluth’s and Carr-
Chellman’s (2009) focuses on what instruction does for learners, i.e. the function of instruction in the
process of learning. According to them, instruction is whatever is done to learners in order to help
them construct new skills and knowledge. In other words, instruction is to foster construction; and
any so-called ‘instruction’ that fails to do so cannot be considered as such. Therefore, they define
‘instruction as anything that is done purposely to facilitate learning’ (Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman,
2009).
In Reigeluth (1983), principles of instruction are one basic component of the body of knowledge that
the instructional science seeks to construct, exist naturally, showing the relationships between actions
or changes and can be discovered. Usually by describing the causes and effects, principles show how
one change or action is related to another change or action (Reigeluth, 1983).
Reigeluth (1983) also categorizes principles into two main groups. Correlation principles describe a
relationship of two actions without stating which action is the cause of the other (e.g. volume is
related to pressure), while causal principles take one step further: stating which action is the cause of
the other (a decrease in volume causes an increase in pressure). The relationship described in a
principle can be deterministic, i.e. the cause usually brings about the stated effect; or it can be
probabilistic, i.e. the cause often or sometimes brings about the stated effect. Therefore, examples of
principles range from a pure projection or hypothesis without empirical evidence for its validity, to a
well-established scientific law (Reigeluth, 1983).
In Merrill (2009), a principle of instruction is defined as ‘a relationship that is always true under
appropriate conditions regardless of the methods or models which implement this principle’ (p.43).
The ‘always true’ part implies the universality, whereas the ‘under appropriate conditions’ part implies
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situationality. Principles are not in and of themselves a model or method of instruction, but rather
relationships that may underlie any model or method of instruction. A principle of instruction can be
implemented in a variety of ways by different models and methods of instruction (Merrill, 2009).
Motivated by the argument that despite the diversity of existing instructional models and theories, the
underlying principles of all these are in fact fundamentally the same, David Merrill had systematically
reviewed various instructional design theories, models, research and in his final work in the series ‘the
First Principles of Instruction’ published in 2002, 2007, 2009, he prescribed the following ones:
The demonstration principle: Learning is promoted when learners observe a demonstration.
The application principle: Learning is promoted when learners apply the new knowledge.
The task-centered principle: Learning is promoted when learners engage in a task-centered
instructional strategy.
The activation principle: Learning is promoted when learners activate relevant prior knowledge
or experience.
The integration principle: Learning is promoted when learners integrate their new knowledge
into their everyday world (Merrill, 2009; 44).
For a ‘principle’ to be considered as such, it must satisfy the following criteria:
being included in most of the instructional design models and theories that the author had
reviewed.
promoting efficient, effective, or engaging learning from a given program.
being supported by empirical research.
being general and universal so that it can be applied to all learning and teaching regardless of
programs or practices.
being design oriented, i.e. the principles offer guidance on how the instruction should be designed
to promote learning rather than describing what learners do on their own while learning (Merrill,
2002a, 2007, 2009).
When referred to two categories of principles described by Reigeluth (1983) in the previous section,
this list belongs to the group of causal principles as it implies a better learning outcome (‘learning is
promoted’) as a result of incorporating a certain instructional strategy (e.g. ‘demonstration’ ).
This prescription is, nevertheless, not merely a collection of separate ‘blueprints’ that might be used in
designing effective instruction. Rather, the principles are interrelated and together form a four-phase
cycle of effective instruction needed for teaching any whole tasks as can be seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: The four-phase cycle of instruction (Merrill, 2009: 57)
In this cycle, Activation phase comes first when learners are not only directed to recall relevant prior
knowledge or experience, but also provided with an appropriate organizing structure which may then
facilitate their acquisition of new information. The next phase, Demonstration, guides the learner to
understand new knowledge through demonstrating new information to be learned rather than merely
telling it. This phase is well done when demonstrations are consistent with the type of information
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being taught (e.g. concepts should be demonstrated via examples while process is best demonstrated
when being visualized) and relevant media are used (e.g. words should be placed near corresponding
illustrating graphics). After Demonstration, instruction should direct learners to apply newly-acquire
knowledge and skills and further enhance the learners’ application by providing coaching and
feedback. The cycle is finally completed when the learners are asked to either publicly demonstrate
what they have just learn, to reflect, to discuss, to defend or to invent personal ways this new
knowledge can be used. Effective instruction requires the incorporation of all these four activities,
namely activation, demonstration, application and integration in teaching a whole learning task
(Merrill, 2002a, 2007, 2009).
Because of all the above features, the FPI are supposed to form the core basis for designing all
learning environments and to be a starting point on which future instructional design and models can
be built (Merrill, 2002a). In fact, many authors in the field have supported the relevance and validity
of those principles in the context of their research.
In a major study implemented by a large corporation, Merrill’s FPI was mentioned as the ‘corner stone
of the current learner-centric instructional design movement and an integration of the best
instructional models’ (Thompson, 2002;2). Following this, a blended learning model that adheres to
what Merrill recommended was constructed and implemented for a group of learners in the
corporation. The comparison between pre-test and post-test results of this group of learners with
those of another trained with the traditional instructional product indicated a higher efficiency and
effectiveness level of the new model (Thompson, 2002).
In another research on workplace oriented learning, Collis and Margaryan (2005) used Merrill’s FPI as
the foundation for designing and evaluating 68 learning courses. Results show that FPI is an effective
instrument in giving an overview of course quality and recommend it be utilised as an evaluation
framework for quality control. It can be inferred from this conclusion that the application of Merrill’s
FPI is linked to a certain extent to instruction quality.
In higher education, the FPI are also used to construct scales for course evaluation (Frick, Chadha,
Watson, Wang, & Green, 2008), to redesign a course (Francom, Wolfersberger, & Merrill, 2009;
Francom, et. al., 2009), or to develop a curriculum design model (Huang, Ma, & Zhang, 2008).
Noticeably, Cropper, Bently and Schroder (2009) implemented an empirical research on the
application of the FPI in seven high-quality courses to evaluate the validity of what they called the
‘five-star system’ (p.1). From the results, the authors hypothesized that the use of the principles is
connected to high-quality instruction, and that Merrill’s FPI should be counted into existing criteria for
determining course quality. The hypothesis was then partly confirmed in an empirical research
implemented by Frick, Chadha, Watson, Wang and Green (2009). Analyzing responses of 156
students to a survey about (1) how FPI are implemented in their courses; (2) how they would rate
their Academic learning time, (3) their satisfaction with courses and instructors (4) their learning
progress and overall course quality, Frick and colleagues (2009) found strong and positive
relationships between these four variables. Although such descriptive-correlational findings do not
warrant a direct causal inference that FPI results in student progress or course quality, they still
suggest that the implementation of these principles in their courses provides instructors one possible
way to promote student learning and course quality.
The literature has, in short, supported the two main features of the FPI; that is, they correlate
instruction quality, and they can be applied to all learning and teaching, regardless of it being a
workplace or a formal academic classroom. The potential of FPI being one set of criteria for
measuring instruction quality has therefore been firmly established. In other words, the question of
‘how useful’ Merrill’s FPI has been positively addressed.
An equally important question that remains unanswered is, however, a practical one of ‘how to’. How
can course designers apply these principles in designing the learning materials? How can teachers
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actually ‘perform’ these principles in their classroom practice? How can educational authorities and
researchers can use them as course quality measurement tool? The current study, which aims to
construct a framework or an instrument that allows for the identification of Merrill’s FPI in use, is
considered a timely and necessary response to this gap. Testing the instrument in a particular course,
namely English Discoveries Online (EDO) New Advanced 3 run at Hanoi University, Vietnam for its
first year students, we sought answers to two research questions:
(1) Which Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction were incorporated in a blended learning course in
Hanoi University, Vietnam?
(2) How are the First Principles being implemented in this blended learning course?
METHOD
Constructing an instrument to identify the application of Merrill’s FPI
In order to achieve the major aim of the research and answer the above questions, we first
constructed a coding scheme that consists of indicators that allows us to identify the application of
each and every Principle in practice. An indicator of a principle in use is agreed to be an instructional
event, which can be found in teacher’s communication and arrangements with students in classroom
or in learning materials, and which reveals the application of that principle. All possible indicators of a
principle should be specific and transparent enough to be ‘seen’ or observed in practice. They should,
at the same time, be general enough in order not to exclude any instances in practice that may reveal
the application of that principle. A coding scheme consisting of all such indicators will then be able to
allow a researcher to recognize the application of Merrill’s FPI and code them impartially.
The construction of the coding scheme was, however, not simple. Problems arose right at the process
of studying Merrill’s three major works on FPI because many general rules and guidelines instead of
indicators as such were found. For example, the Activation principle in Merrill (2009) includes two
general guidelines that learners should be directed to ‘recall, describe or demonstrate relevant prior
knowledge and experience’ and ‘recall or acquire a structure for organizing the new knowledge’
(p.56). As there are various ways these can be done in practice, such general guidelines cannot be
indicators of the Activation principle. It was decided that the researchers further review the literature
Merrill (2002a, 2007, 2009) had based on to devise each Principle. For example, in search for more
specific indicators of the Demonstration principle, the work of Gagné (1985), van Merriënboer (1997),
Andre (1997), Merrill (1994), Clark and Blake (1997), which were referred to in Merrill (2002a,b); of
Clark and Mayer (2003), which were quoted in Merrill (2007) were examined. In addition, extra
sources outside Merrill’s reference list but discussing Merrill’s FPI such as Frick et al. (2008) were also
considered.
However, what was found in such literature was no less problematic. Some works offer the very same
general rules and guidelines as in Merrill’s (2002a, 2007, 2009). Others give ‘indicators’ of the
Principles at different levels of abstraction, i.e. one indicator may be included in another one. For
example, Clark and Blake (1997) suggested instructors ‘introduce objectives at the beginning of a
lesson’ for Activation, which can actually be included in what Andre (1997) referred to as ‘presenting
adjunct aids prior to instruction of new information’. In addition, some instructional activities are
mentioned as important in one principle, but turn out to be unqualified to be an indicator for that
principle. For instance, Mayer (1992, 2001, 2003) and Clark and Mayer (2003) all emphasize the
significance of using appropriate multimedia in demonstration; yet the use of multimedia, although
rather easily observed in practice, does not necessarily mean some information is being
demonstrated, and thus cannot be an indicator for the Demonstration principle.
In light of these challenges, we finally decided to follow a bottom up approach to constructing the
most appropriate indicators of each principle. That is, a list of all instructional events and features
mentioned in the literature as related to the FPI was firstly compiled. An instructional event
subsequently selected from that list to be an ‘indicator’ of a principle must ensure that principle is
being applied. In other words, whenever a teacher performs an instructional activity or a piece of
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teaching materials contains a text identified and coded under an indicator of the Demonstration
principle for example, the teacher or the materials must be demonstrating something to students.
Similarly, ‘giving relevant tasks students to do’ is selected as an indicator for the Application principle
because it satisfies all the conditions for students’ application of the newly-acquired knowledge to
happen: students are provided with a relevant practice, and they have to ‘do’ it. By contrast, feedback
alone from a teacher is not an indicator for the Application principle because according to Merrill
(2009), it only enhances students’ application process. Feedback alone does not mean that students
will apply the knowledge or skill they have just learned. Indicators of other principles are formed on
the same bases. As a result of this, all instructional events that do not carry all conditions for the
implementation of a related principle (such as ‘using appropriate media’) were eliminated. Those with
the same function were grouped together and generalized into one indicator. For example, because
‘giving examples’ and ‘giving non-examples’ both aim at demonstrating a concept, they were grouped
into one indicator for the Demonstration principle. Those including one another were also grouped to
make an indicator named after the most general instructional event. For example, ‘presenting adjunct
aids prior to the instruction of new information’ and ‘introducing objectives at the beginning of a
lesson’ were grouped into one indicator named after the former because ‘objectives’ is one example of
‘adjunct aids’.
A comprehensive list of indicators was then put into a complete coding scheme as presented in table
1. As can be seen from the table, each indicator was given a ‘code’, for example, ‘Giving examples
and non-examples for concepts’ for the Demonstration principle was given the code ‘1a’. Following
each indicator in the coding scheme, an exemplary instructional event that can be coded under that
indicator is provided. When a new concept is introduced in the indicator (e.g. ‘non-example’ in the
Demonstration indicator 1a.’Giving examples and non-examples for concepts’), further clarification on
the new concept is found under ‘Note (where necessary)’ column. References of the original literature
in which the indicators or examples are found are presented in the last column.
Table 1: Indicators of Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction
Principles Indicators Note (where necessary) Examples Reference
1a. Giving
examples and
non-examples for
concepts
Non-examples of a concept are
cases where the concept does
not apply or learners may
mistakenly think it is applied
‘Gold fish’ is an example and
‘whale’ is a non-example of fish.
Clark & Blake,
1997; Merrill, 1994;
Clark, 2003; Andre,
1997
1b. Giving
counter-examples
Using an opposite concept to
explain the new concept
Using ‘deforestation’ to explain
‘forestation’ or vice versa.
Frick et al., 2008
1c. Modeling a
procedure
(or giving worked
examples)
showing a complete step-by-step
solution to a problem
Clark & Blake,
1997; Clark,
2003;van
Merriënboer, 1997;
Jonassen, 1999
1d. providing
visualization for a
process
Showing a picture illustrating the
major events in the evolution
process of human beings
Clark & Blake,
1997; Clark, 2003
Demonstration
principle
refers to a learning
phase when the
instruction
demonstrates what is
to be learned rather
than merely telling
information about
what is to be learned,
namely ‘show me
what to do’ rather
than ‘tell me what to
learn’ (Merrill, 2002a).
1e. describing
similar cases to
the new
information to be
learned
When teaching about
immigration in Europe, teachers
refer to that issue in the U.S.
Schank, Berman, &
Macperson, 1999
2a. Reviewing
relevant previous
learning
Teacher briefly mention the
content of the old lesson that is
needed to understand the new
lesson.
Rosenshine, 1997
2b. Presenting
prerequisite skills
and knowledge
before teaching
new information
Reminding students that they will
need background on statistics to
study ‘Education measurement’
course.
Rosenshine, 1997
Activation principle
refers to the provision
of opportunities for
students to activate
relevant cognitive
structures (Merrill,
2009)
2c. Associate the
new lesson with
In teaching how to pronounce
the sound /f/ in English, teacher
Andre, 1997
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ideas studied
earlier
compares it to the sound /v/
studied earlier.
2d. Introducing
motivational
themes
Before teaching a re ading
comprehension lesson with a text
on travelling, teacher asks
students to describe the place
they wish to visit the most the in
the world.
Andre, 1997
2e. Using
analogies
Using a familiar/known
concepts/process/procedures
to explain a new one.
In teaching how to pronounce
the sound /b/ in English to
Vietnamese students, teacher
refers to the Vietnamese sound
/b/ which is pronounced in the
same way as the English one.
Clark & Blake,
1997, Gardner,
1999
2f. Asking
students to be
engaged in an
activity related to
the information to
be learned
Role play before introducing the
new information
Andre, 1997
2g. Presenting
adjunct aids prior
to instruction of
new information.
Adjunct aids with the function
of activation include objectives,
overview, introduction, table of
content, outlines, pre-
questions, title, heading and
sub-title, diagrams, images,
pretest.
In student’s textbook, a picture
illustrating the theme of a unit is
placed at the beginning of the
unit.
Andre, 1997
Clark & Blake, 1997
3a. Providing
authentic tasks
Authentic tasks are real-world
tasks that require learners to
apply knowledge from more
than one subject areas.
Swimming, writing a research
proposal.
van Merriënboer
1997
3b. Giving a new
task that requires
students to apply
some of the same
knowledge and
skills used in the
previous one(s)
Teaching subtraction problems
with two-digit numbers after the
lesson on subtraction problems
with single digit numbers.
Francom et al.,
2009
Task-centered
principle
refers to instructional
events that engage
learners in a task-
centered instructional
strategy (Merrill,
2009)
3c. In the context
of teaching an
authentic task,
task components
are taught in small
steps with practice
after each step.
Practice provided for each task
component (e.g. practice
writing an introduction
paragraph) is not necessarily
authentic.
Teaching how to write an essay is
divided into smaller parts of
writing introduction par agraphs,
body and conclusion with practice
right after each part.
Merrill, 2002b;
Rosenshine, 1997.
4a. Giving relevant
tasks for students
to do
Tasks given should be
consistent with the objectives
of the lesson and different
from the one used for
demonstration
Asking learners to classify new
examples in teaching ‘kinds-of’
knowledge; carry out the
procedure in new situations in
teaching ‘how-to’ knowledge in
forms of exercises, tests,
homework, assignments, etc…
Gagné, 1965,
1985; Merrill, 1994,
1997;
Hilgenheger, 1993;
Andre, 1997
Application
principle
refers to the
instructional phase
that provi des
opportunities for
learners to apply the
newly-acquired
knowledge and skills
(Merrill, 2009)
Application does not
merely mean
remembering
information but also
being able to use to
complete a complete
a specific task.
(Merrill, 2007)
4b. Giving
appropriate
coaching and
feedback during
students’
performance of
relevant tasks
Coaching should be gradually
withdrawn for each subsequent
task. Feedback should be both
corrective and on the quality of
learners’ performance.
Teachers provide models of
appropriate response or
procedural prompts during initial
practice.
Burton & Brown,
1979, Collins,
Brown & Newman,
1989; Clark, 2003;
Andre, 1997 ;
Marzano, Pickering
& Pollock, 2001.
Integration
principle
Refers to the
instructional phase in
which students are
encouraged to
integrate (transfer)
the newly acquired
5.a. Requesting
students to
publicly
demonstrate their
newly acquired
knowledge or skill
Learners have the chance to
reflect on, discuss, defend, or
explain their thinking on their
new knowledge with others.
students are asked to compare
and discuss their solution to a
problem with each other
Merrill, 2002a,
2002b; Schwartz,
Lin, Brophy &
Bransford, 1999;
Gardner, 1999;
Nelson, 1999
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5.b. Inducing
student to use the
new knowledge or
skills in their
personal ways
Learners have the chance to
create, invent and explore new
ways of using the new
knowledge and skills that is
suitable to their own
experience.
After teaching studen ts how to
type, teachers ask them to
practice typing a document that
they have to or tend to create
most often in their daily life.
Mc Cathy, 1996 knowledge or skills
into everyday life.
(Merrill, 2009)
5c. Guiding
students to
identify learning
gains
Teachers ask students to tell how
they can apply the newly
acquired knowledge or skills in
their own life.
Nelson, 1999
Selecting a course to analyse
EDO New Advanced 3 is a blended learning course that Hanoi University (HANU), Vietnam has
incorporated into the intensive English language training program for its first - year students at the
Foundation Studies Department (FSD). The course was chosen as the context to test the coding
scheme because one of us was a HANU lecturer and therefore could easily obtain permission to
access the course materials and to observe running classes.
Throughout the course, students in group of 20-26 study 15 units covering a wide range of English
language knowledge and skills (Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking, Vocabulary, Grammar, and
Web literacy) over 10 study weeks with one 90-minute class meeting and about two hours of online
tutorial and self-study in each week. Although the syllabus outlines the content to be covered in each
week, the teachers have complete freedom to choose what to teach in each lesson based on the
particular group of students (FSD, 2012). Offered in blended learning format, which combines both
face-to-face and computer-mediated instruction, EDO- Advanced 3 aims to create a flexible learning
environment for English language learners (Edusoft, 2012) in general, and to significantly reduce class
time for first-year students at FSD in particular (FSD, 2012).
The course guidelines for teachers clearly indicate that the blended format, the course materials, or
course structure are supposed to effectively facilitate students’ English language learning in an
interactive and motivating learning environment (Edusoft, 2007a). As a result of this underlying
purpose, sample lesson plans, regardless of lesson content, consistently pronounce an essence of
students’ prior knowledge activation, demonstration, task-centred, application (Edusoft, 2007b). It is
unclear, however, whether and how these ‘First Principles of Instruction’ are actually incorporated in
the course materials and the teaching practice of EDO instructors to promote student learning as
valued in the course guidelines.
Data for the study
The first sample of data for analysis is the course materials consisting of 15 units, which can be
accessed online with a username and password (at http://edo.hanu.vn). The author also observed
five lessons taught by five different teachers during week three (from Monday, April 9 to Friday, April
13 2012) of a running course at FSD. The transcripts of these five lessons are the other sample of
data to be analyzed.
These samples were chosen because they represent the instructional unit of the course. While the
course materials comprise the pre-designed form of instruction, teachers’ performance in the five
observed lessons demonstrates the immediate or interactive type. To discover whether and how
Merrill’s FPI is implemented in the course, analysis done on its instructional unit is relevant.
Procedure of data analysis
A qualitative frequency analysis was performed on the data collected. Specifically, utilising the coding
scheme, the indicators of FPI application in every unit and lesson observed were identified, coded and
counted. Each individual instructional event that matches the description of an indicator in the coding
scheme was given a single code corresponding to that indicator.
Before the official coding of the whole data sample, testing of the reliability of the scheme was first
done by two researchers selecting a short chapter of a textbook to code separately. To avoid future
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problems in using the coding scheme, all possible confusion and disagreements were discussed and
noted during the initial coding of the sample materials. When a common guideline is settled, two
researchers performed a coding separately on the whole selected chapter. Trial coding results found
by two coders were then checked by a calculation of Cohen’s Kappa for inter-coders reliability to verify
the accuracy of the coding scheme. Since the Kappa value computed was 1.00 (p<.0001), which
shows a full match between the results of two separate coding of the same materials (Gwet, 2008),
the scheme was considered as reliable and used to code the whole sample of data collected.
Finally, a quantitative analysis of the full coding was done on SPSS program. The frequency of
occurrence of each indicator was calculated and recorded on each unit in the course materials and
each lesson observed. Tests of significance were done when necessary to explore the relationship and
the significance of difference between the application of FPI in the course materials and observed
lessons.
RESULTS
Occurrence of First Principle indicators in the course materials
The results of the data analysis performed on the course materials are presented in Table 2 in the
following page.
As can be seen from the table, 144 instances of application of Principles were found and coded after a
review of the 15 units of the course materials. The majority of those instances fell under the principle
of Application – which appeared up to 98 times (68%) – whereas those of Activation and
Demonstration only occurred 24 times (16,7%) and 22 times (15,3%) respectively. Surprisingly, no
instance of the remaining principles (task-centered, integration) was observed throughout the
materials. All indicators coded are distributed quite proportionately among the 15 units of the course
except for those of Demonstration which were concentrated within the Reading and Grammar units
with 12 and 10 out of 22 times of occurrence successively.
When comparing the frequency of occurrence of different indicators of one principle, it is noticeable
that all 22 indicators for Demonstration found are coded under 1a. The same pattern occurs with
Activation when all 24 instances of applying this principle are coded under only one single indicator,
2g. The implementation of Application is, however, different in that 98 instances of this principle
found in the materials are shared equally between two indicators, 4a. and 4b.
Table 2 also demonstrate that although the 15 units of the course materials vary in content, the
degree of applying FPI throughout these units are quite consistent. All units implement Application
and Activation Principle, and none of them reveals an application of Task-Centred and Integration.
Any Principle found is coded under the same indicator for a very close number of times throughout 15
units. For example, all of them show a practice of Activation principle via indicator 2g with the
frequencies of 1 or 2; Application principle is coded under both indicators 4a, 4b throughout 15 units
with the frequencies of 1, 3, 4, or 5. This can be partly explained by the identical format of all 15 units
in the course materials, which consists of three main parts: ‘Explore’ normally provides new
information with headings and images followed by the new information (Reading and Grammar units
add examples for some new concepts and skills to be learned); ‘Practice’ gives practice exercises for
the new information given in Explore part with an extra function of giving feedback to students’
performance; and finally, ‘Test’ assesses students’ achievement after they have ‘explored’ and
‘practiced’.
Table 2: Frequency of occurrence as regards FPI indicators in the course materials
Reading Listening Speaking Grammar
Principles
Code
Unit
1
Unit
2
Unit
3
Unit
4
Unit
1
Unit
2
Unit
3
Unit
4
Unit
5
Unit
1
Unit
2
Unit
3
Unit
4
Review
1
Review
2 Total
Demonstration 1a 3 3 3 3 - - - - - - - - - 7 3 22
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1b - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1c - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1d - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1e - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2a - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2b - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2c - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2d - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2e - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2f - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Activation 2g 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 24
3a - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0
3b - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0
Tasked-
centred 3c - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 0
4a 4 3 4 4 5 4 5 5 5 1 1 1 1 3 3 49
Application 4b 4 3 4 4 5 4 5 5 5 1 1 1 1 3 3 49
5a - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5b - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Integration 5c - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 12 10 12 12 12 10 12 12 12 4 4 4 4 14 10 144
Occurrence of First Principle indicators during class observations
The application of FPI in 5 observed lessons are presented in table 3.
Table 3: Frequency of occurrence as regards to FPI indicators in five observed lessons
Principle Code
lesson
1
lesson
2 lesson 3
lesson
4
lesson
5 Total
1a 14 32 12 - 5 63
1b - 1 - - - 1
1c 1 1 - - - 2
1d - - - - - -
Demonstration 1e 1 - - - - 1
67
2a - - 1 - - 1
2b - - - - - -
2c - - - - - -
2d 5 1 1 - - 7
2e 8 1 1 - - 10
2f - - - 1 - 1
Activation 2g 4 5 - 4 1 14
33
3a - 3 1 - - 4
3b - - - - - - Tasked-
cantered 3c - 1 - - - 1
5
4a 6 6 4 6 4 26
Application 4b 6 5 3 6 4 24
50
5a - - 3 1 1 5
5b - - - - - -
Integration 5c - - - - - -
5
Total
45 56 26 18 15 160
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The most noticeable pattern in the table is the application of all principles, which is in contrast to the
observation made on the course materials with only three Principles found. Among 160 total indicators
of all Principles recorded, those of Demonstration comprised the largest part (41,9%), then come
those of Application (31,3%) and Activation (20,6%). Indicators of Integration and Task-centered
appeared the least frequently with only 5 times of occurrence. As such, Demonstration and Application
were the most commonly used instructional strategies in all five lessons, which is, nevertheless,
similar to the findings about the course materials.
When making a quick comparison across five lessons, we can easily see that the frequency of FPI
occurrences varies considerably from lesson to lesson. Lesson 2 demonstrates the highest frequency
of applying FPI with 56 indicators recorded. However, although the use of Demonstration in this
lesson is the most prevalent (34 out of 67 times in total of all five lessons), the number of times
Integration occur there is the lowest: 0 (while 0; 1; 1; 3 is respectively observed in the other four).
Occurrence of FPI in observed classes and the course materials: A comparison
The general pattern of occurrence of FPI indicators in the observed lessons are overall quite similar to
that in the course materials. 1a, for example, is the most frequently observed indicator for
Demonstration in both cases. Two indicators for Application (4a, 4b) also appear nearly the same
number of times in total (26 and 24 respectively out of 50) as they do in the course materials (49 and
49 respectively). In addition, while 1a, 2g, 4a, 4b are the only indicators found in the course
materials, they are the most frequently observed ones in actual lessons.
Hypothesizing a relationship between the frequency of occurrence of FPI indicators in the materials
and that in the actual lessons, the author calculated Pearson correlation index for these two variables.
The results showed a significant, moderate positive association between them, r=0.660, p<.01 (1
tailed).
DISCUSSION
Generally speaking, the instruction unit of EDO – New Advanced 3 demonstrated a use of Merrill’s FPI
though with wide variations in the application degree of different Principles. While only three
Principles are found in the materials with the prevalence of Application, all five Principles were
incorporated in the instruction teachers gave in five actual classes.
On the one hand, this indicates the presence of some appropriate external conditions for the learning
of the course content to be promoted. On the other hand, the extent to which it can facilitate the
learning process should yet be questioned. If relating the results to the four-phase cycle of effective
instruction (Merrill, 2009) explained in the theoretical background, it can be easily seen that the
instruction given in the course materials has not yet fulfilled a complete cycle. The way teachers in the
course instructed students in class might be more efficient, effective and engaging.
Two further inferences can be made from such results. First, one may doubt the possibility at which
the course materials alone can effectively facilitate learning as valued by the whole EDO program,
especially in the absolute absence of the Task-centered and Integration principles. Secondly, the
course must have otherwise put more emphasis on the role of teachers in instructing students in the
study of the materials. The later inference seems to be better supported when referring to the four
sample lesson plans enclosed in teachers’ online recourse kit (Edusoft, 2007b). Though the content of
the sample lessons vary, the four plans all suggest teachers implement a complete cycle of Activation-
Demonstration-Application-Integration in teaching authentic tasks developed from the unit in each
lesson (Edusoft, 2007b). The five lessons observed and analysed in the previous part actually
demonstrated quite well this guideline.
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Another important implication that can be drawn from the results is that instruction given by a teacher
in class seems to be affected to a certain extent by the pre-designed instruction given in the materials
he/she is using. In fact, the comparative degree of application of different principles in the course is
quite the similar among different units in the learning materials, among five actual lessons as well as
between the learning materials and the observed lessons. The calculation of Pearson correlation as
mentioned in the previous part also positively supports this point.
Concerning the wide variance in the degree of applying FPI across five observed lessons, there may
be four possible reasons. First, the variance may reflect the difference in the students’ levels and
study majors in each class. In fact, five groups of students in five lessons observed are enrolled in five
different majors: accounting, international relation, tourism, banking and finance, and were admitted
to HANU with different English language proficiency requirements. As students’ levels and
backgrounds are different as such, teachers might have delivered their lessons in different ways
accordingly. Second, as five lessons were taught by five different teachers, the variety in preferred
individual teaching styles and methods may be another cause. Third, the course objectives might be
another culprit for such a wide variance in five teachers’ instruction. While clearly-defined instructional
objectives can be considered as importantly as a means for instructors to plan and select optimum
instructional methods (Rothwell & Kazanas, 1998; Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009), the objectives of
EDO-New Advanced 3, being for example ‘to develop self-study skills’ or ‘to take responsibility for their
own learning’ (Edusoft, 2010) are far from being well-determined. The inconsistence in five teachers’
performance across five observed lessons may be partly explained by those vaguely-defined learning
goals. Last but not least, as teachers have complete freedom to choose what content and skills to
focus on in each class meeting, and the five observed teaches were actually teaching different units,
there instruction were therefore inconsistent in the degree of applying FPI. All this suggests ‘learner’,
‘teachers’ values’, ‘learning goals’ and ‘content’ be considered as the situational variables that may
affect the application of the FPI in a specific learning environment.
A final point warrants discussion. The results show the reliability and usability of the coding scheme
we constructed. Despite some initial confusion as described in the methodology section, most
instructional events in both the materials and the transcript of the observed lessons can be easily
classified as indicators of the FPI, if appropriate, thanks to clear description and examples given in the
coding scheme. There is, however, one concern left with the use of indicator 4a. ‘Giving relevant tasks
for students to do’. At one side, to avoid overestimating the application value of the drill-and-practice
instructional strategy with its typical provision of many repetitive practice exercises, we have agreed
that that all tasks of the same type aiming at practicing one single skill or piece of information (e.g.
five gap-filling exercises to practice using English prepositions) are not coded independently but given
one single code for all. This way of coding, on the other side, completely fails to show a difference
between the code given to, for instance, 10 such exercises and the same code given to only 2 of
these.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Offering a comprehensive framework with well-defined instructional events that reflect application of
Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction in practice, this study is immediately relevant to instructors of
any subjects who are seeking practical guidelines to implement FPI in their teaching, and to
researchers and course designers who are planning to assess existing courses or develop instruction
under FPI perspective. Notably. the coding scheme can be applied to all forms of instruction, i.e. both
pre-designed instruction as in case of a printed student book, and immediate one as in a teacher’s
interaction with learners. In other words, it helps to decide ‘any event that can affect the learning of a
human being’ (Gagné & Briggs, 1979) as to reveal the application of any of the FPI or not. Including
description and exemplary example for each indicator of FPI, this instrument also allows researchers
to do such job without having to interpret the intention of an instructor or an instructional designer in
an analysed instructional event.
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It is, however, important to emphasize that much empirical research is needed to examine the
correlation between the extent to which FPI are implemented and course quality. The analytical
framework is intended for only identifying the application of Merrill’s First Principles in a learning
environment; and the results cannot directly indicate the quality of the analysed course. Furthermore,
items included in the coding scheme are limited to what is found in the literature reviewed. Because
of the extensiveness of the instructional science’s literature, this is surely another limitation of our
study, which invites larger-scale literature review as well as empirical research which may add more
FPI indicators to the existing coding scheme. In addition, the problematic indicator as described in the
previous section is also open to change. Finally, a separate study could be possibly done to further
investigate the influence of pre-designed instruction (e.g. textbook) on teacher’s performance in class
or verify teacher’s role in implementing a pre-designed instructional unit.
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... Based on the above, Merrill's instructional design would allow the student to understand and interpret basic statistical concepts, due to the demonstration shown in the learning of other areas (Gardner, 2011;Mendenhall, 2012;Truong, Elen, & Clarebout, 2019). This design has been the result of a review of several models, which have five principles that, under appropriate conditions and independently of the methods and models that a theory has, they show the property of being used in theories of different approaches (Merrill, 2002(Merrill, , 2007(Merrill, , 2009). ...
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Statistics is considered a basic instrument for information analysis. Therefore, it is teaching in Psychology is of the utmost importance. However, there are difficulties in the interpretation of statistical concepts by university students. Consequently, the present study seeks to use the Psychometrics Group Instrument to compare scores obtained by a group of Psychology students attending a teaching program based on the Merrill’s instructional design concerning what was found in three previous studies, and to analyse the effects produced by the teaching program for the improvement of the interpretation of statistical concepts. The participants were Psychology undergraduate students from a public university in Lima, Peru. The results indicated that the sample presents a low knowledge level in some statistical concepts, before the teaching program, similar to the three comparison investigations. On the other hand, the teaching program generated an improvement in the interpretation of statistical concepts presented in it. Based on the evidence found on Merrill's instructional design, it is recommended to proof each of its principles in the development of learning sessions on Statistics in social, health and behavioural sciences careers. All materials, code and data are publicly accessible via the Open Science Framework (OSF) at https://osf.io/pxbcs/.
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The study was designed to investigate the impact of First Principles of Instruction (FPI) with computer animation and chart, and their functional effect on gender to acquire expertise in science in Junior High School (JHS). The content for the treatments was selected from JHS integrated science syllabus. The contents of the instructional media were designed in line with the specifications of Principles of Multimedia Learning (PML). All the learning tasks for the two treatments were designed based on FPI. Eighty- seven second-year JHS students (male = 48, female = 39) with a mean age of 14.4 years were randomly assigned to the two treatments. Ateacher was trained to deliver the content. The main study consisted of three sessions, which were delivered in the regular classroom and computer laboratory. Paired-sample and independent t-tests and univariate analyses were used to analyze the data. The result showed that there was no statistically significant difference between the two treatments. In addition, the result revealed no significant interaction effect on gender and the two treatments for the acquisition of expertise in science at the basic school. The findings are novel and suggest that static/inexpensive instructional media (e.g.chart) carefully designed with specifications of PML integrated withFPI is equally effective as dynamic instructional media (e.g., computer animation) for the development of expertise in science in the context of traditional classrooms of basic schools irrespective of the gender of the students. © 2022 The Author(s). This open access article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) 4.0 license.
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After everything else has been done and provided-the money raised; the schools erected; the curricula developed; the administrators, supervisors, and teachers trained; the parents and other citizens consulted-we come to teaching, where all of it makes contact with students, and the teacher influences students' knowledge, understanding, appreciations, and attitudes in what we hope will be desirable ways. Teaching is well-nigh the point of the whole educational enterprise and establishment aimed at producing student learning. The literature of the behavioral and social sciences is full of theory and research on learning and memory. Teaching is comparatively a stepchild, neglected by those who have built a formidable body of theories of learning and memory. However, teaching is where learning and memory theory should pay off. A Conception of Teaching dedicates a chapter to each of the following important components: the need for a theory; the possibility of a theory; the evolution of a paradigm for the study of teaching; a conception of the process of teaching; a conception of the content of teaching; a conception of students' cognitive capabilities and motivations; a conception of classroom management; and the integration of these conceptions. Written in a highly accessible style and bringing together decades of research, Dr. Nathaniel L. Gage presents A Conception of Teaching with clarity and well situated within current educational debates. Until now, no theory of teaching has existed and "A Conception of Teaching" is a important and great step forward, offering an important and original contribution to the literature. This is a unique work from a pre-eminent figure in the field of education and is certain to stimulate debate. I would recommend this new book, written by the father of the field of research on teaching, to all those involved in the research of teaching and teacher education. © Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, 2009. All rights reserved.