Programmed Instruction Resources

Programmed Instruction Resources

Belinda Davis Lazarus (University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch248
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Abstract

Programmed Instruction (PI) has evolved from the rudimentary teaching machines of the 1920s to present- day computer programs and Internet activities that industry, military, and educational institutions use to teach everything from Hebrew to military law. Although PI was originally developed to teach basic academic skills, educators and trainers in business and industry have developed self-paced, independent PI modules that employees may use to learn a host of basic and advanced skills in fields as varied as medicine and military law. PI, one of the earliest teaching methods derived from behavior analysis, involves analyzing comprehensive concepts into small, sequential tasks that teach, test, and self-correct in units referred to as “frames”. A PI textbook often includes thousands of frames that require students to read a short statement, answer a question, and retrieve the correct answer before progressing to the next frame. Early PI lessons followed a linear sequence, however, the capabilities of the computer to “branch” based on correct and incorrect responses currently support non-linear PI. From the teaching machines of the 1920s to the modern information superhighway, PI has evolved while retaining its behavioral roots and approaches.
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Introduction

Programmed Instruction (PI) has evolved from the rudimentary teaching machines of the 1920s to present-day computer programs and Internet activities that industry, military, and educational institutions use to teach everything from Hebrew to military law. Although PI was originally developed to teach basic academic skills, educators and trainers in business and industry have developed self-paced, independent PI modules that employees may use to learn a host of basic and advanced skills in fields as varied as medicine and military law.

PI, one of the earliest teaching methods derived from behavior analysis, involves analyzing comprehensive concepts into small, sequential tasks that teach, test, and self-correct in units referred to as “frames”. A PI textbook often includes thousands of frames that require students to read a short statement, answer a question, and retrieve the correct answer before progressing to the next frame. Early PI lessons followed a linear sequence, however, the capabilities of the computer to “branch” based on correct and incorrect responses currently support non-linear PI. From the teaching machines of the 1920s to the modern information superhighway, PI has evolved while retaining its behavioral roots and approaches.

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Background: History Of Programmed Instruction

Behavioral psychology provided the basis for PI with the application of Skinner’s behavior analysis to learning. It grew from the teaching machines and auto-instruction developed by Sidney L. Pressey during the 1920s and the early 1930s. Pressey’s machine was a simple multiple-choice testing device. A question and answer sheet was inserted into a simple wooden box with two levers. The question would appear in a window with the four choices for answers and students would select the lever that corresponded to their answer. If the students answered correctly, the next question appeared in the window. If they answered incorrectly, the question remained in the window and an error mark was tallied in a separate window on the box. In this manner, an accurate count of incorrect guesses could be tracked. However, Pressey’s approach focused on assessment and feedback only, and did not include instruction, a key element of PI.

B. F. Skinner (1986) perfected the use of the teaching machine to deliver the instruction, assessment, and feedback that defines PI. He described his machine as a frame of incomplete textual or numeric problems that appear in a square window with sliders that are used to move the opening over each problem. When the student completed one problem, he or she checked the response by turning a crank to reveal the correct answer. The machine was able to sense the setting of the slider, and, if the student’s answer was correct, moved a new problem into the window. Skinner recognized that his early machine was a low-tech device (evidenced by his statement that “a keyboard would be an obvious improvement” p. 384), however, his rudimentary machine enabled him to demonstrate the efficacy and simplicity of PI.

Skinner argued that PI is more effective than traditional teaching methods because it is individualized, provides students with immediate corrective and reinforcing feedback, and enables students to follow a coherent sequence of instruction that is designed by experts in the field. And, although PI was a popular mode of instruction in the 1960s, its popularity faded almost as quickly as it emerged. Early PI packages were boring, isolated the learner, and were only useful for learning factual information. Unfortunately, the technology that early PI developers needed was a remote and expensive concept.

In the 1950s, IBM’s Teaching Machines Project developed an IBM 650, a high-speed digital computer and interfaced it with a typewriter to teach math. The “IBM 650 Inquiry Station” was capable of transmitting typed information to the computer and receiving information from the computer. The student sat at the Inquiry Station and the program of instruction in the computer presented the problem to the student by way of the typewriter. The student, in turn, typed his answers, which were transmitted to the computer for evaluation. IBM also developed a program called COURSEWRITER, the first computer language devoted to Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) programming. However, the Inquiry Station was an expensive and cumbersome system that lacked present-day, high-speed interfaces and portability.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Applied Behavior Analysis: Experimental analysis of behavior in which the three-term contingency, antecedent conditions, response, and consequent events are analyzed to explain behavior

Programmed Instruction: Instruction that involves the identification of precise behavioral objectives, the step by step sequencing of tasks in order to achieve these objectives, and evaluation and feedback at each step

Reinforcing Feedback: Visual, auditory, or tactile indications that the student stated the correct response. This type of feedback includes some form of praise for the correct response

Corrective Feedback: Visual, auditory, or tactile indications that the student stated the incorrect response. This type of feedback supplies the correct response, re-teaches skills, and re-tests student learning. It also includes some types of encouragement, such as “Try again!”

Successive Approximation: Correct performance of the sub-skills that lead to a specific target behavior.

Teaching Machines: Constructions, usually in the form of a box, that allow test items to be presented for students to answer and receive feedback regarding their performance

Task Analysis: The systematic analysis of a terminal behavior to identify and sequence the sub-skills needed to master the terminal behavior.

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