At the turn of the 20th century, the study of education as a science was just beginning. Edward Lee Thorndike of Columbia University believed that instruction should pursue socially useful goals and was an advocate of educational measurement. Thorndike's work was fundamental in establishing the study of education as a science.
In the 1920's, educational research emphasized the measurement and evaluation of instructional results and the connection between instruction and learning outcomes. In practice, this led to the development of individualized instruction plans for use in schools and emphasized mastery learning and the definition of clear learning objectives. The Winnetka and Dalton Plans represent early efforts to apply these concepts to practice in school settings.
Application of these concepts also occurred outside of schools. During World War I, Charles Allen applied these concepts to develop a 4-step delivery process, the “show, do, tell, check” method, for on-the-job-training (OJT) which incorporated a Job Instruction Card for trainers.
During the 1930's, development of instructional technology slowed due to The Great Depression and decreased funds for research and experimentation. At the same time, the Progressive Movement in education advocated student initiated activities, a practice contrary to the development of specified instructional outcomes. However, some research did occur during this time period, and in 1933 Ralph Tyler (Ohio State University) published "The Eight Year Study.” Findings from this study helped to refine procedures for writing instructional objectives in terms of student “behavioral objectives.” This study was the foundation for “formative evaluation” calling for the continuous evaluation, revision and refinement of curricula until students reached the desired level of achievement.
The advent of World War II in the 1940's required large numbers of military personnel to be trained rapidly on critical tasks. Meeting this instructional need involved the heavy employment of mediated instruction, the development of AV media and new delivery systems, and increased funding for experimentation and innovation. Through these efforts, the military became a leader in instructional systems research and development and established the importance of the instructional technologist as part of the insturctional design team. Building on Allen's work during the previous world war, Michael Kane further developed OJT into a 7-step process: show, explain, show again, do, help, observe, allow independent work. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) was founded in 1944 and in 1946, Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience” was developed to describe learning experiences in a continuum from concrete to abstract.
The 1950's marked a period of refinement and popularization of many earlier developments in instruction. Most notable may be the 1953 publicationn of B.F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior. Skinner's study of operant conditioning and animal learning suggested that human learning could be maximized by the control of reinforcement for desired behaviors. This research initiated the concept of Programmed Instruction, an instructional strategy that emphasizes:
Though the popularity of programmed instruction would fade in the next decade, it was a strong influence on Performance Technology pioneer, Thomas Gilbert.
The military continued its role in instructional technology, coining the term “task analysis” to describe procedures for anticipating job requirements of new equipment under development, an important step in determining training needs. Other mid-century developments include:
Based on Skinner's work in the previous decade, the National Society for Programmed Instruction (NSPI) was founded in 1962. Additional instructional technology developments in the 1960's include:
In 1970, the Commission on Instructional Technology defined IT as "a systematic way of designing, implementing and evaluating the total process of learning and teaching in terms of specific objectives, based on research in human learning and communication and employing a combination of human and non-human resources to bring about more effective instruction. "
This decade marked a shift in the educational paradigm from behaviorism to cognitivism, asserting that instruction should not only change behaviors but improve the interaction between instructional methods and mental processes, and a consolidation and proliferation of instructional design (ID) models. The ADDIE Model for needs assessment in instructional design evolved over time and had no single developer. It defines the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation phases of instructional design and is the basis for many other ID models. Walter Dick & Lou Carey (1978) presented a model for the systematic design of instruction that includes:
In the 1980's, microcomputers were introduced to instructional applications, hastening the field’s utilization of cognitive psychology and knowledge engineering strategies and providing broader theoretical and analytical bases for IT. There was growth of the utilization of ID by businesses and non-school agencies. John Keller developed the ARCS model of instructional design (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) based on expectancy-value theory or the idea that people will be motivated to participate in an activity when their needs are satisfied and they expect positive results. In 1987, Allison Rossett published her book, Training Needs Assessment, introducing a systematic needs assessment procedure in instructional design that is very similar to the ADDIE model, but substitutes “Use” for “Implementation”: