TIME⁩ Magazine’s “The Science of Learning” Special Edition…. One Instructional Designer’s Perspective

While reading ⁦TIME⁩ Magazine’s “The Science of Learning” Special Edition (1) I found many thoughtful insights into learning.

Plenty of the contributing authors in this edition explore both the psychological theories and scientific understandings that DESCRIBE our learning. While the target audience of this edition was broad, I cannot help but review it from my lens as an educator. Some of the authors began to discuss Instructional Design (ID) Theories (although not always in name) and I believe it is worth diving deeper into these. ID, which bridges the gap between Learning Theory and Educational Practice, is a practical approach that PRESCRIBES learning and is built on the work of psychological-learning theories and scientific understanding. ID is best employed to help us effectively & efficiently build the bridge between Learner and Content.

One of the special edition contributing authors, Markham Heid, began to address this in his article “Harnessing a Universe of Knowledge” where he explored “Learning: The Necessary Ingredients.” Here he developed important ID understandings like attentiveness to learner motivation as foundational in learning. But we should go further…. There are many more powerful ID theories and principles that can prescribe effective learning practices for educators. Among them are the work of Dr. M. David Merrill in First Principles of Instruction(2). Merrill describes 5 principles of instruction:

#1 Learning is promoted when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.

#2 Learning is promoted when existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge.

#3 Learning is promoted when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.

#4 Learning is promoted when new knowledge is applied by the learner.

#5 Learning is promoted when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world

I am grateful that Time chose to focus this special edition around Learning. I hope both these contributions and current events illicit more dialogue and ACTION to support positive change in education.


1. Time Magazine. “TIME The Science of Learning.” Google Books. n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2020. <https://books.google.com/books/about/TIME_The_Science_of_Learning.html?id=4hr8DwAAQBAJ>

2. M. David Merrill. “First principles of instruction.” Educational Technology Research and Development. 1 Sept. 2002. Web. 28 Oct. 2020. <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02505024>

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