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  Instruction > Instructional Design  > Four Architectures of Instruction

Instructional Design

" The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery."
  Mark Van Doren

Four Architectures of Instruction — Dr. Ruth Clark

Dr. Ruth Clark has described four distinct Architectures of Instruction that make an important contribution our understanding of both learning and instruction. This was presented in detail in the article "Four Architectures of Instruction," Performance Improvement, v.39 #10, pages 31-37, 2000. The model was subsequently published in Training Magazine (2002) and the International Society for Performance Improvement (2002), entitled: "The New ISD: Applying Cognitive Strategies to Instructional Design." The architectures are briefly summarized on the Adobe web site. Dr. Clark's corporate web site also provides a variety of important resources and whitepapers. We have listed a portion of Dr. Clark's bibliography in the section "Learning Theory and Theorists".

The four architectures are:

  • Receptive Learning: reflects an absorptive metaphor of learning.

    The primary goal is information acquisition
    — characterized by an emphasis on providing information with little opportunity for interaction, practice or feedback. Examples are traditional classroom lectures, reading assignments, and watching educational television.
  • Directive Learning: reflects a behavioral model of learning.
    The primary goal is response strengthening — characterized by a high degree of instructional support, feedback and reinforcement — with limited learner control. Emphasizes the acquisition of pre-determined knowledge and skill hierarchies. Examples include traditional coaching, skill based mentoring, programmed instruction, CBT and WBT courses.
  • Guided Discovery Learning: reflects a cognitive model of learning.
    The primary goal is knowledge construction
    — typically characterized by problem-solving and scaffolded guidance that supports learning from an inductive, case-based and example approach. Learners may work alone or in conjunction with others to internally generate unique knowledge structures. Examples include game and scenario learning, and "Cognitive Apprenticeship".
  • Exploratory Learning: reflects a cognitive model of learning with a constructivist emphasis.
    The primary goal is linking to real world tasks and resources
    — characterized by the highest degree of learner control, initiative, and self-direction. Learners must search out and access the information that is required. The Internet and intranet provide a robust exploratory environment unlike the limitations imposed by traditional classroom learning. Exploratory learning has a long and distinguished history of use, including: lab assignments, fieldwork, clinical study, home projects, library research, and Internet research assignments.

For added descriptions of her view of Learning and Instruction Architectures, see Ruth Clark: Building Expertise (2nd ed, 2003) pp. 4-12; and "The New ISD: Applying Cognitive Strategies to instructional Design," www.ispi.org, August 2002;


  ©2003 Cognitive Design Solutions, Inc.