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Instructional and Learning Theories in SuccessMaker Enterprise: Math Concepts and Skills 2

Laura Hembree Knighton AIL 605 The University of Alabama March 28, 2011

Introduction Math Concepts and Skills 2 is an interactive multimedia software program available as a component of SuccessMaker Enterprise, which is produced by Pearson Digital Learning. This program aligns with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards. Math Concepts and Skills 2 is designed for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8. The Reference Manual (Pearson Digital Learning, 2005) asserts that students should utilize the program for fifteen minutes each day in order to maximize the instructional benefits (p. viii). Learning Theories in the Program Behaviorism One of the primary characteristics of Behaviorism present in Math Concepts and Skills 2 is the use of reinforcement for correct and incorrect answers. If a student selects the correct answer on the first try, the character on the screen becomes animated and offers praise. Meanwhile, if the student misses the answer on the first try, the student is given a cue to try again. If the student correctly answers the question on the second try, the answer turns green, which is viewed as positive. However, if the student inaccurately answers the question on the second try, the correct answer is provided. Frequent incorrect answers may cause a tutorial to initiate. Branching, another characteristic of Behaviorism, is also present in the program. Students begin the program with a process called Initial Placement Motion (IPM). The teacher selects an estimated grade level ability for the students being placed in IPM. If a student does well during IPM, the students level is moved forward accordingly. However, if a student struggles, the program reduces the difficulty level based on performance. This allows for more individualized learning. The design of the program makes the learner an active part of the learning process rather than a passive recipient (Driscoll, 2005).

Cognitive Information Processing Multiple elements of the Cognitive Information Processing theory can be seen in Math Concepts and Skills 2. The activities, especially the tutorials, allow for interaction with the sensory memory and ample opportunity to interact with the content so that the material can be coded for short term storage. The built in reviews and extensive practice opportunities allow for long-term storage and retention. Meanwhile, the component of the program called Speed Games helps students built automaticity, which is a key concept in the Cognitive Information Processing theory (Driscoll, 2005). Interactional Theories of Cognitive Development The IPM feature allows students to work within Vygotskys notion of the Zone of Proximal Development, which is associated with Interactional Theories of Cognitive Development. Students receive instruction in a range where they can work most efficiently based on their individual abilities. Scaffolding is offered through tutorials. These tutorials can be selected by the students themselves; however, tutorials are also automatically initiated when a students performance is indicative of difficulty with a concept. This ensures that the learner receives additional support (Driscoll, 2005). Instructional Design Principles Gagnes Nine Events of Instruction Most of Gagnes Nine Events of Instruction are evident in Math Concepts and Skills 2. The program captures the attention of the learner immediately upon log-in with brightly colored animations and sounds. Gagnes second event of instruction appears to be missing, as learners are not informed of the objective. The program maintains an ongoing review, which serves as a recall for prior learning. Additionally, tutorials build from students foundational level. Content

is presented through tutorials. These tutorials, as well as individualized skill lessons selected by the teacher serve as learning guidance. Guidance is also frequently provided through feedback, either praise and character animation for a correct answer or the opportunity of a second chance to solve a problem. Performance is constantly assessed throughout a learners engagement with the program. Assessment is not provided with merely a percentage. However, learning is illustrated by tracking the sequence of incorrect and correct answers. This assessment tracking method shows if the number of correct answers is increasing with tutorials, speed drills, and practice. Retention is enhanced through an ongoing review of skills provided by the program, speed drills, etc. Thus, eight of the nine events are easily identifiable in Math Concepts and Skills 2 (Driscoll, 2005). Other Instructional Design Considerations Designing Effective Instruction (Morrison, Ross, Kalman, & Kemp, 2011) proposes the following components as a nonlinear process to instructional design: instructional problems; learner characteristics; task analysis; instructional objectives; content sequencing; instruction strategies; designing the message; development of instruction; and evaluation instruments. Many of these components are present in Math Concepts and Skills 2. The program does offer opportunities for ascertaining instructional problems. weaknesses and concepts that were not mastered. While perhaps not blatantly obvious to the user, learner characteristics are likely factored into the program as it is geared toward students who are in Kindergarten through Grade 8. The interactive multimedia elements provide appropriate appeal to these age groups. A task analysis is not readily available for teacher perusal; however, instructional objectives for the program are available in the Reference Manual (Pearson Digital Learning, 2005). The sequencing of the Reports pinpoint students areas of

content is based on student performance in IPM and mastery or non- mastery of objectives. The classroom teacher may also play a role in this process by selecting individualized lessons based on the performance reports. A variety of instructional strategies are included within the program, including tutorials, speed games, visual support and auditory support, the opportunity to use Math tools, and problem solving opportunities. Morrison, Ross, Kalman, and Kemp (2011) define instructional message design as the process of creating an effective message by manipulating words, pictures and symbols (p. 475). Math Concepts and Skills 2 appears to have a well-designed message that does use a combination of words, pictures, and symbols through both visual and auditory applications. Evaluation is built in to the program. Students receive feedback; however, only the teacher can view scored reports. Mastery is assessed based on a pattern of correct answers and not simply a percentage. This pattern can be viewed by the teacher in order to more

appropriately establish if the instruction is effective and learning is taking place. The reports identify the skills that have not been mastered. Then, the teacher can select individualized lessons on specific topics to assist students with the mastery of those skills. Conclusion Math Concepts and Skills 2 is a research based interactive multimedia software program. The software contains primary components of several predominant learning theories. Additionally, most of the components required for effective instructional design can be easily identified in the program. Therefore, one may conclude that Math Concepts and Skills 2 can be utilized as an effective tool for teaching and learning.

References Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Morrison, G.R., Ross, S.M., Kalman, H.K., & Kemp, J.E. (2011). Designing effective instruction. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Pearson Digital Learning (2005). Reference manual for math concepts and skills 2.