What follows is not just a simple trip down the history of instructional design, its models and theories. Each of the following 33 instructional design milestones has been chosen not only for its importance in the field of learning, but also for its impact for future generations, research and various related disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, demography, and even biology and physiology.

The Instructional Design History Journey

Our journey starts from the beginning of the 20th century, and includes, inter alia, the famous Pavlovian Conditioning and Skinner’s Operant Conditional Theory, continues through the mid 50s and the first time computers were used in learning environments, the influential Problem-Based Learning inspired by Howard Barrows in the 60s, David Merrill’s Component Display Theory, the Cognitive Flexibility Theory in the late 1980s that aims to develop the learner’s ability to comprehend multidimensional situations, the introduction of multimedia and CD-ROMs in educational environments in the 90s, to the development of WebQuest in 1995, and the launch of the Authentic Learning Model in the late 2000s by Marilyn Lombardi.

Join us at the Instructional Design History Journey - A New Instructional Design Model Will Be Added Every Week!

Each instructional design model and theory presented in this chronology will be analyzed thoroughly, yet concisely, and accompanied by the necessary real world examples. Each week a new instructional design model will be added in the Instructional Design Models and Theories article, after being carefully researched and evaluated for its value and influence in the instructional design field. Enjoy this Instructional design journey in the history of instructional design, learn about the intriguing aspects of various instructional design theories, read about the dominant personalities that profoundly changed our sector and feel free to contribute your own thoughts and assessments about any of the subjects discussed in this section. After all, as Horace Mann put it: “Every addition to true knowledge is an addition to human power”.

Instructional Design Models and Theories History*

  1. 1903 – Ivan Pavlov discovers Classical Conditioning Theory, while conducting research on the digestive system of dogs
  2. 1910 – Thorndike introduces its Laws and Connectionism Theory, which are based on the Active Learning Principles
  3. 1922 – Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka and Wolfgang Köhler introduce Gestalt Psychology
  4. 1932 - Psychologist Frederic Bartlett proposes the Schema Theory
  5. 1937 - B.F. Skinner introduces the Operant Conditioning Theory
  6. 1937 - May and Doob publish Competition and Cooperation, where the Cooperative and Collaborative Learning Theory is launched, discussed and analyzed
  7. 1950s - The Information Processing Theory emerges
  8. 1950s - Computer-based Instruction is used in educational and training environments
  9. 1954 - Skinner introduces the Programmed Instruction Educational Model
  10. 1960s - The Inquiry-based Learning Model is developed, based on constructivist learning theories
  11. 1961 - Jerome Bruner introduces the Discovery Learning Model
  12. 1960s - Howard Barrows introduces Problem-based Learning (PBL) in the medical education program at McMaster University in Canada
  13. 1963 – David Ausubel publishes his findings on the Subsumption Theory
  14. 1962 - The Keller Plan revolves around the Individualized Instruction Model and is used in educational environments throughout the United States
  15. 1971 - Allan Paivio hypothesized about the Dual Coding Theory; a theory of cognition
  16. 1974 – Merlin Wittrock publishes the Generative Learning Theory
  17. 1978 – Lev Vygotsky releases information about his Social-Cultural Learning Theory
  18. 1979 – Charles Reigeluth introduces the Elaboration Theory
  19. 1980 - Reginald Revans introduces the Action Learning Model
  20. 1983 - David Merrill introduces the Component Display Theory and Instructional Model
  21. 1983 - J. M. Keller's ARCS Model of Motivation Model is published
  22. 1983 – The first Computer-supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILEs) prototype is used in a university setting
  23. 1988 - Spiro, Feltovich, and Coulson introduce their Cognitive Flexibility Theory
  24. 1989 - Brown, Collins, Duguid and Newman introduce their Situated Cognition Theory and the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model
  25. 1990 - The Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt University develops the Anchored Instruction Educational Model
  26. 1990s - Multimedia and CD-ROMs are introduced in educational environments
  27. 1991 - Lave and Wenger introduce the Communities of Practice Model and the Situated Learning Theory in "Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation"
  28. 1991 - Hudspeth and Knirk publish the case-based Learning Model in Performance Improvement Quarterly
  29. 1992 - Roger C. Schank releases a technical report, introducing the Goal-based Scenario Model
  30. 1995 - Saltzberg and Polyson publish Distributed Learning on the World Wide Web, which outlines the Distributed Learning Model
  31. 1995 - Dodge and March develop WebQuest
  32. 1996 - Professor Joseph R. Codde publishes a report that outlines Contract Learning
  33. 2007 - M. Lombardi publishes a report, outlining the Authentic Learning Model

*You are more than welcome to let us know if you would like us to cover an instructional design model and theory that is not included at the above list! Simply leave a comment!