Four Instructional Architectures

Teachers are instructional architects for learning. Hence, understanding the learning process is crucial to building powerful learning experiences. In a web-enhanced classroom, understanding the learning process enhances the creation of learning environments that support personalized learning. Clark (2008) submitted that there are four architectures that illustrate the different models of learning. As instructional architects, teachers should be familiar with each of them. They are Receptive, Directive, Guided Discovery, and Exploratory.

The Receptive architecture is grounded in the absorption learning model. Through this lens, the learner is passive and his role is to simply receive the information. This particular architecture may be employed when the teacher chooses to use a video in the lesson for information transmission or a webinar.

The Directive architecture is grounded in the behavioral learning model. Through this lens, the learner builds knowledge by providing a response that is deemed correct based on a predetermined answer and frequent feedback. This architecture may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to use a web-based program for instruction that is designed to support the basic acquisition of functional skills.

The Guided Discovery architecture is grounded in the cognitive learning model. Through this lens, the learner constructs his or her knowledge and skills through project based learning (PBL) or authentic learning tasks. This architecture may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to integrate technology with PBL. This particular architecture also works well with the five learning environments identified by the TIM Matrix.

They are:

  • active learning – students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool rather than passively receiving the information from the technology.
  • collaborative learning – students use technology tools to collaborate with others rather than working individually at all times.
  • constructive learning – students use technology tools to connect new information to their prior knowledge rather than to passively receive information.
  • authentic learning – Students use technology tools to link learning activities to the world beyond the instructional setting rather than working on decontextualized assignments.
  • goal-directed learning – Students use technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.

The Exploratory architecture is grounded in the experiential learning model.  This type of learning is also known as open-ended learning. This architecture “offers the greatest amount of learner control of all the four architectures” (Clark, 2008, p.10). Through this lens, the learner takes responsibility for his or her learning, giving the learner more control.  This architecture is the ultimate form of personalized learning and it may be employed in a web-enhanced classroom when the teacher chooses to allow the students to choose their own focus for lesson extensions or to choose their own focus for lesson enrichment.

When planning for instruction, the instructional goals must be at the forefront. Depending upon the goals, teachers can choose to employ a mixture of architectures to support learning attainment or one specific architecture. “Each architecture has best applications, depending on the learners and the instructional goal” (Clark, 2008, p. 10). Clark also submits that teachers should keep these two questions in mind when designing lessons:

  • what is the background and prior knowledge of the learners?
  • what is the type of task or concept to be learned?

Architectures are usually defined during the instructional design process.

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As instructional architects, teachers can not build lessons without considering the background knowledge of their students. Directive architectures work well for students with little to no prior knowledge of the content. Guided Discovery architectures work well for students with some content knowledge while Receptive architectures work well for students with adequate prior knowledge of the content. Exploratory architectures work well when students have significant prior knowledge of the content in conjunction with good metacognitive skills (Clark, 2008).

In sum, to design effective lessons for web-enhanced classrooms, teachers must:

  1. consider the standard
  2. convert the standard into workable objectives
  3. consider student prior knowledge in relation to the standard and objectives
  4. consider the concept to be learned within the standard and objectives
  5. design a task that teaches the concept and also utilizes one of the five learning environments from the TIM Matrix
  6. determine how learners will get feedback from the teacher
  7. determine how learners will give feedback to the teacher

Knowing the four architectures of learning will further strengthen lesson design add value to a web-enhanced classroom.

Reference:

Clark, R. C. (2008). Building expertise: Cognitive methods for training and performance improvement.

Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The Technology Integration Matrix. Retrieved from https://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TIM_Summary_Descriptors.pdf

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