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Programmed Instruction Engineered Instruction Re Visited

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.463.1 - 3.463.4

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Wallace Venable

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230

Programmed Instruction - Engineered Instruction Re-Visited

Wallace Venable West Virginia University

Abstract Programmed Instruction (PI) was one of a number of technologies derived from Behaviorism during the 1960’s. This paper outlines the elements of PI and summarizes its effective use at West Virginia University.

Behaviorism as a Technology

As teachers, our job is to deliver skills and knowledge to our customers. No psychological concept provides more powerful tools to accomplish this task than Behaviorism, a product of the Twentieth Century.

It is the basis of two powerful and related methods, Programmed Instruction (PI) and Behavior Modification (Behavior Mod). At heart, both methods rely on four simple principals: 1. Know what you want to accomplish. 2. Place your subjects in an appropriate environment. 3. Keep your eye on your subjects' behavior. 4. Reward appropriate behavior. In reality, there was little new in the way of principles introduced. The contribution was in their rigorous and focused application. It can be said that they represent the application of the engineering design process to education and training.

As a general philosophy, strict Behaviorism has been subjected to severe criticism because some of its leading proponents insisted that all learning is controlled strictly by conditioning. This has serious religious and/or philosophical implications in arguments about concepts such as “thinking” and “free will.” This paper is concerned with it only as a foundation for a technology. It is presented here as a set of heuristics for the design of instruction.

Behavior Modification, also called operant conditioning, is still popular. It is particularly widely used in animal training. It is easily visualized as a method of correcting children, but it equally applicable to adults. One of the author's teachers, Julie Skinner Vargas, even required each of her students to conduct an experiment in using it to change their own behavior.

Fred Keller's invention, PSI, the “Proctorial System of Instruction” or “Personalized System of Instruction” was based on similar principles. It was, however, constructed as a practical solution


Venable, W. (1998, June), Programmed Instruction Engineered Instruction Re Visited Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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