Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 43–59

First principles of instruction

  • M. David Merrill

DOI: 10.1007/BF02505024

Cite this article as:
Merrill, M.D. ETR&D (2002) 50: 43. doi:10.1007/BF02505024


For the past several years the author has been reviewing instructional design theories in an attempt to identify prescriptive principles that are common to the various theries. This paper is a preliminary report of the principles that have been identified by this search. Five first principles are elaborated: (a) Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems. (b) Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge. (c) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner. (d) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner. (e) Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner's world.

Representative instructional design theories are briefly examined to illustrate how they include these principles. These include: Star Legacy by the Vanderbilt Learning Technology Center, 4-Mat by McCarthy, instructional episodes by Andre, multiple approaches to understanding by Gardner, collaborative problem solving by Nelson, constructivist learning environments by Jonassen, and learning by doing by Schank.

It is concluded that, although they use a wide variety of terms, these theories and models do include fundamentally similar principles.

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. David Merrill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Instructional Technology at Utah State UniversityUtahUSA

Personalised recommendations