FocusFormatting information for effective individual learning
- Knowledge is … information
- Knowing is … mastery
- Learner is … a progressor (individual)
- Learning is … stepped acquisition
- Teaching is … sequenced delivery
Originated1920s, but more fully developed in the 1960s
SynopsisProgrammed Learning is an approach to formatting information and activities for learners. Content is first parsed and arranged in a logical and tested sequence. It is then presented to the learner in small steps, and thresholds of demonstrated understanding must be met before proceeding. The learner is thus tested for comprehension regularly and provided immediate feedback. Programmed Learning was the format used for most distance learning prior to the emergence of more interactive online platforms. It is also employed in some versions of Self-Directed Learning, computer-assisted instruction, and young children’s television programs. Programmed Learning involves four core aspects:
- Small Steps – learners move in an orderly, step-by-step fashion, dealing with only a small amount of information at each step
- Overt Responding – at each step, an overt response is elicited from the learner
- Immediate Feedback – learners receive some manner of immediate response (e.g., reinforcement or correction)
- Self-Pacing (Self-Paced Instruction) – one is able to determine the pace at which one moves through the learning program
CommentaryThere is ample evidence that Programmed Learning is more effective than learning formats that move too quickly, require nothing of learners, and offer no formative feedback – which is to say, Programmed Learning has been demonstrated to be more effective than most traditional teaching practices. Research has tended to focus on “acquisition of content” rather than application or development of deep understanding, suggesting that the approach rides atop Folk Theories (and, sometimes Behaviorisms) and raising questions of whether it is well fitted to contemporary learning emphases and needs. This point is underscored by the interchangeability of the terms “programmed learning” and programmed training.”
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesSidney L. Pressey; B.F. Skinner
Status as a Theory of LearningProgrammed Instruction is not a theory of learning.
Status as a Theory of TeachingProgrammed Instruction is a theory of teaching – or, more descriptively, a guideline for structuring established knowledge in a manner that makes it accessible to a learner who is not in the presence of a teacher.
Status as a Scientific TheoryProgrammed Instruction has a substantial evidence base, in which information that is well parsed, appropriately sequenced, and regularly assessed can be learned more effectively than information presented in absence of one of those elements. However, proponents of the perspective are uncritical (and, it appears, generally unaware) of the metaphors used to characterize learning.
- Immediate Feedback
- Overt Responding
- Self-Pacing (Self-Paced Instruction)
- Small Steps
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Programmed Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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