Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Component Display Theory

Instructional Design Models and Theories: The Component Display Theory
Summary: The Component Display Theory was introduced in 1983 by M. David Merrill to work alongside Reigeluth's Theory, with the first detailing the “micro elements” of an effective instructional design, though Reigeluth's theory the “macro elements”. The Component Display Theory soon gained popularity among instructional designers and in 1994 Merrill presented a new version of it, known as the Component Design Theory. In this article, I’ll go through its basic principles and how they can be applied to instructional design for eLearning.

The Quintessential Of The Component Display Theory

According to the Component Display Theory (CDT) of instructional design, there are two basic dimensions instructional designers should consider with respect to learning.

  1. Type of content.
    Content consists of the facts, processes, procedures, and principles that are present in the educational environment. This is the actual concept that is meant to be relayed to the learner. Facts are key pieces of information, such as numbers, names, and events. Concepts are symbols or objects that have similar characteristics or properties which share a name. Procedures are a series of steps that can be used to solve the problem, while principles explain why something occurs as it does.
  2. Performance.
    Performance can be perceived as using, remembering or finding a particular concept. In the case of “remembering”, learners are encouraged to remember a specific piece of data that they have committed to memory. With “using”, the learners are asked to apply the information they've collected from their memory to a particular scenario or problem. “Finding” involves that learners are actually using the information to arrive at a new concept, idea or principle.

The Component Display Theory maintains that these two dimensions can be visualized in a single matrix and that instructional designers should fill in each one of the cells of this matrix with the respective primary and secondary presentation forms depending on the eLearning content. The primary presentation forms are related to course components such as rules, examples, information recall and practice, and they can be presented by using either explanatory or inquisitory learning strategies, though the secondary presentation forms are related to prerequisites, objectives, help, feedback and mnemonics.

component-displayIn order for instructional designers to maximize the effectiveness of their instructional design, taking into account both the type of content they want to present and learners expected performance, they should employ all primary and secondary presentation forms for the particular matrix cell. The Component Display Theory suggests that this combination would yield the best possible results with respect to learning effectiveness.

Benefits Of The Component Display Theory For Instructional Design

There are a number of different applications of the Component Display Theory in an educational setting. It sets forth a set of presentation forms that are effective in instructing virtually any learning type. The matrix may serve as a blueprint that allows instructional designers to follow specific steps for maximizing the effectiveness of their eLearning courses.

In addition, another key aspect of the Component Display Theory is that it suggests that it is possible for instructional designers to provide learners with full control of their own instruction, by letting them adapt content, instructional strategy, as well as the number of practice items they will receive. In other words, an eLearning design based on the Component Display Theory could possibly allow instructional designers to create eLearning experiences that would enable learners to individualize their lesson and custom tailor the instructional design to meet their personal needs and preferences. This is a great step towards a really adaptive eLearning course.

Last but not least, I highly encourage you to view the following brief introduction to Dr. Merrill's thoughts about instructional design.

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