6.2 Instructional Message Design

The concept of instructional message design arose from the intersection of these communication theories and learning theories, which shifted the focus from the actions of the sender to how the message is understood by the receiver (Bishop, 2014). According to Bishop (2014), feedback (reinforcement or punishment) was viewed as an important part of the instructional message in the behaviorist era, while under the cognitive perspective the emphasis shifted to facilitating information processing by the learner.

Watch the following TEDx talk about how to design effective PowerPoint slides.  While designers and researchers may argue over some of the details of this presentation (e.g., the speaker’s prescription to use dark slide backgrounds is quite controversial and definitely not applicable in all situations!), it provides an excellent example of how cognitive principles and design principles are combined to create guidelines for instructional message design:

https://youtu.be/Iwpi1Lm6dFo (20:31 minutes).


Bishop (2014) suggests that in light of the evolution of learning theory toward more constructivist paradigms (see chapter 3 of this book), instructional message design needs to be viewed more broadly than it has in the past. She suggests Brent Wilson’s Four Pillars of Practice as a starting point for this broader view. Wilson’s four pillars (as summarized in Bishop, 2014) are as follows:

  1. Individual cognition and behavior—understanding how learners think and learn
  2. Social and cultural learning—how the social and cultural context affects learning
  3. How values are communicated in design
  4. The aesthetic experience of learning


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Foundations of Educational Technology Copyright © 2017 by Penny Thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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