By Shirley J. Caruso, Ed.D.
According to Reiser and Dempsey (2012), a key criticism to the traditional approach to instructional design, such as the ADDIE model of instruction design, has been that these traditional approaches emphasize breaking complex skills down into their component parts, and designing instruction that initially focuses on teaching those component skills (p. 12). The whole task models of instructional design prescribe that throughout a sequence of instruction, learners should be presented with a series of progressively more difficult whole task problems of the type that the learners will be expected to solve by the end of that instructional sequence (Reiser & Dempsey, 2012).
Even though the whole task models of instructional design have been proposed in response to criticism of the traditional approaches, the whole-task approach is neither an improvement over traditional instructional design models, nor should traditional approaches reign over whole task models. The two approaches are merely different approaches and should be utilized according to the defined learning objectives of the program they will help to design. In some instances, increasing the difficulty or complexity of problems for learners to solve would frustrate learners if they are not ready, or haven’t mastered the knowledge and skill to be taught to the degree which would enable them to problem solve at a higher level.
Traditional instructional design models provide scaffolded learning to learners by emphasizing breaking complex skills down into their component parts, and designing instruction that initially focuses on teaching those component skills. Similar to the scaffolding used in construction to support workers as they work on a specific task, instructional scaffolds are provide learners with the temporary support they need to successfully accomplish new tasks and concepts they could not typically achieve on their own. Once students are able to complete or master the component parts of a task, the scaffolding is gently removed, and the responsibility of learning shifts from the instructor to the student. In other words, the student is left with the confidence he or she needs to perform the task without support of the instructor, and is ready to learn the next component part of the whole task. Without this intermittent support, the student may fail and lose confidence and ultimately, their motivation to learn. According to Keller (2006), there are four promoting and sustaining motivation in the learning process: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS). Failing to help students understand their likelihood for success by failing to support or scaffold their learning will decrease their motivation because they may feel they are unlikely able to meet the objectives. Learning must be rewarding or satisfying in some way (Keller, 2006). If it is not, learners are likely to become unmotivated.
One of the main benefits of scaffolded instruction is that it provides for a supportive learning environment (Larkin, 2002). In a scaffolded learning environment, students are free to ask questions, provide feedback and support their peers in learning new material. When you incorporate scaffolding in the classroom, you become more of a mentor and facilitator of knowledge rather than the dominant content expert (Larkin, 2002). This teaching style provides the motivation for students to take a more active role in their own learning (student-centered learning).
Keller, J. M. (2006). ARCS design process. Retrieved from http://arcsmodel.com/Mot%20dsgn%20A%20prcss.htm.
Larkin, M. (2002). Using scaffolded instruction to optimize learning. Retrieved from http://www.vtaide.com/png/ERIC/Scaffolding.htm.
Reiser, R. A. & Dempsey, J. V. (2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.