Sunday, March 4, 2007


Strategic integration is the design principle that allows for the cake-like form of cumulative review, where learning is integrated into big ideas. Strategic integration also establishes connections between new knowledge and what a learner already knows and understands. However, integrating too much information too fast can easily lead to confusion. The integration must be strategic.
Designing instruction in overlapping strands (topics) facilitates the naturalness of integrated review. In the Earth Science videodisk program , the strands that teach the concepts of density, heat, and pressure overlap until they are integrated in the model of the basic convection cell. The concept of density is taught first, then the scaffolding is removed and unscaffolded practice using the concept of density is provided in the context of teaching about the effects of heat on density. Similarly, in initial instruction about pressure, unscaffolded practice with density and heat are provided in the context of learning the interaction of heat, density, and static and dynamic pressure. All of these concepts are further reviewed when they are integrated in the basic convection strategy.
This basic convection strategy is then applied to explain global convection in the atmosphere, mantle, and ocean. Each of the applications provide review of the convection cell and its related concepts. In this way, students gain a holistic, rather than fragmented understanding of complex content.
All six of the above features of effective instructional design should be integrated in such a way that their incorporation seems natural in the development of understanding. Topics within content areas should be organized for instruction into overlapping strands so that the connections of the subject are more easily communicated, the big ideas are augmented, and scaffolding can build new learning on top of a foundation of prior learning that no longer requires scaffolding. Topics are sequenced so that component concepts are taught first and subsequent material builds on earlier learning. This provides the additional instruction to link the old learning with the new learning for deeper understanding.


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