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In my previous post, I provided an overview of Merrill’s Component Display Theory which is a micro level instructional design theory setting out instructional strategies for achieving any cognitive domain objective (Merrill, 1983). Information-about or acquisition of facts is the first component skill described by the theory.

Merrill states that the defining property of an acquisition of facts component skill is that “the information is associated with a specific single entity, activity or process and cannot be generalised”. The learner’s goal for this skill is to remember and identify facts associated with a specific entity, activity, or process. In most cases, an acquisition of facts learning event is a component skill for a more complex problem or task. It is often prerequisite for the other component skills; for a conceptual component skill, learners need to use factual information to identify instances from conceptual classes. For a procedural component skill, knowing facts may be necessary to execute a specific step. For a process component skill, knowing facts may be necessary to decide the adequacy of a condition in a specific process.

An acquisition of facts component skill requires two content elements:

  1. The name of the information.
  2. The facts associated with the name and any graphical information associated with the name.

Merrill’s example for this component skill in First Principles of Instruction (2012) included several detailed paragraphs about each item of information. However, research by Harp & Mayer (1997 ) termed this kind of additional information as ‘seductive text’ and they found a detrimental effect on learning. More recent research has produced similar findings; Park, Flowerday, & Brünken (2015 ) and Daley & Rawson, (2018 ). As this research is sitting behind a paywall, you may find Connie Malamed’s excellent summary on the research into seductive details useful.

Presentation for acquisition of facts

The name and associated facts provide information that learners are expected to remember about a given entity, activity, or process. The presentation should offer guidance which directs learners’ attention to key properties, differences and relationships. Multimedia should follow Richard Mayer’s principles. I have written more on multimedia in my Strategies for designing effective multimedia for learning post. Learners should be given control over which items to view and how often to view them.

Presentation attributes

Practice / Application for acquisition of facts

Learners should be given the opportunity to practice their recognition and recall of information. Practice interactions are most commonly achieved using multiple-choice, matching, or short-answer questions. Sequence cues should be avoided, learners should be given corrective feedback and as many opportunities to practice as they need to achieve fluent mastery of the information.

Practice attributes

Acquisition of facts example: Renowned physicists

The examples below were all developed using H5P. If you are interested in the reasoning behind this decision, then read my analysis of the different software tools for creating interactive digital content.

This example uses four instructional events:

  • A Presentation (Information-centred) teaching event which allows learners to examine the information about each person/item for as long as they wish to and to view the content as many times as they need to.
  • Three Practice / Application learning events using Questioning instructional interactions. In a more developed learning sequence these events would occur in random order throughout the unit of learning.

Presentation (Information-centred) teaching event

Tell learners:

  1. The name of the information (any specific entity, activity, or process).
  2. The facts associated with the name.
  3. Any graphical information associated with the name.

Three Practice / Application learning events

  1. Give learners the name then ask them to recognise the picture:

  1. Give learners the name then ask them to recognise or recall the description:
  1. Give learners facts, or a description, then ask them to recognise or recall the name associated with the information:

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Clark, D. (2018). Donald Clark Plan B: Why is online learning ‘all fur coat and no knickers’? Media rich is not mind rich. Retrieved 1 April 2019, from Plan B website: http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com/2018/03/why-is-online-learning-all-fur-coat-and.html

Daley, N., & Rawson, K. A. (2018 ). Elaborations in Expository Text Impose a Substantial Time Cost but Do Not Enhance Learning. Educational Psychology Review, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-018-9451-9

Harp, S. F., & Mayer, R. E. (1997 ). The role of interest in learning from scientific text and illustrations: On the distinction between emotional interest and cognitive interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 92–102. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.89.1.92

Malamed, C. (2017). Watch Out For Those Seductive Details. Retrieved 13 December 2018, from http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/seductive-details-and-learning/

Mayer, R. (2016). Principles of Multimedia Learning. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from Center for Teaching and Learning | Learning House Inc. website: https://ctl.learninghouse.com/principles-of-multimedia-learning/

Merrill, M.D. (1983). Component Display Theory. In C. Reigeluth (ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates. pp 279–333.

Merrill, M. D. (2012). First Principles of Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Park, B., Flowerday, T., & Brünken, R. (2015 ). Cognitive and affective effects of seductive details in multimedia learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 267–278. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.061

Posted by Thomas H

Learning technologist at the University of London. Interested in Instructional Design, Learning Design, Multimedia Learning, Educational Research, and Open Education. Follow @myBRAIN_isOPEN

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