Medical Education Programmed Learning

What is Programmed Instruction?

Programmed Instruction was developed by B. F. Skinner. Even though he used this model in experimental settings throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it wasn't until the 1950s when him and J. G. Holland began implementing programmed instruction at Harvard. As an educational technique, it is characterized by self-paced, self-administered instruction, which is presented in a logical sequence and with multiple content repetitions. Skinner argues that learning can be accomplished if the content is divided into small, incremental steps, and if learners get immediate feedback, reinforcement and reward. As a method, it can be applied through “teaching machines”, and with computer-assisted-instruction.

The 2 models of Programmed Instruction Educational Model

The two basic and most widely known models of Programmed Instruction are the following:

  1. The first is linear and it’s how Skinner’s teaching machines presented material. According to this model, the content is divided into a sequence of small and unchanged steps, where learners respond at their own pace and are immediately provided with the results.
  2. The second model is branching and was introduced by Norman Crowder. Based on this problem-solving model, students have to address a situation or a problem through a set of alternative answers. If they answer correctly, they move on to the next set. If their answer is wrong, they are detoured to remedial study, depending on their mistake. This process is repeated for each step throughout the entire program.

The Skinner’s Programmed Instruction Educational Model Principles

B.F. Skinner at the Harvard Psychology Department, circa 1950
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Book (F.A. Davis Company)

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