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A System for Instruction - ADPRIMA

Dr. Bob Kizlik

Updated February 2, 2015

I'm frequently asked to explain the origins of the name of my website. When I first put the site up in 1997, I wrestled with a name for it. I wanted something different and yet meaningful, to me at least. Then like a flash of insight, the name hit me. It made sense. This page is designed to explain what ADPRIMA is and how the name came about.

The letters that comprise ADPRIMA signify tasks that are related to, and performed before, during, and after instruction. It was when I was working on my doctorate at the University of Virginia that I developed the main idea. I used and tested it in two courses I developed and taught there in the early 1970s. In Latin, adprima can be translated as meaning "to the best" or "toward the best." In keeping with the theme of this web site, I believe it is important to present ideas that may cause us to think differently about what we do as educators. Accordingly, the following explanation of the ADPRIMA system is provided.

First, ADPRIMA is a system and a cognitive model. This means that each of the parts has a relationship the other parts singularly and to the whole collectively. Further, the system is a process designed to produce an output. Analogies will be made to other processes for the purpose of clarification, but as in all analogies, there are obvious shortcomings.

Second, the ADPRIMA system is designed to work with a curriculum that specifies intended learning outcomes. As used here, the term curriculum follows the definition provided by Maritz Johnson, Jr., which is, "curriculum is a structured series of intended learning outcomes." Click here for the Mauritz Johnson Curriculum Schema

Assessment: Whether formal or informal, all planning of instruction should begin with an assessment of what students know that is related to what is intended they know at the end of the lesson. What is intended students know at the end of the lesson is often referred to as a learning or behavioral objective. The purpose of the assessment is to get information about where the students are relative to the lesson objective. This assumes that the lesson objective is clear, specific, and related to the appropriate subject-matter content. For information about writing behavioral objectives, click here. The output of assessment is information specific to some objective.

Diagnosis: Once you have assessed students to get information about what they know that is related to the lesson objective, you must analyze this information. The process of analysis results in a diagnosis. Just what does this mean in terms of planning instruction? A diagnosis is information that results from an analysis of test results. Just as when you go to a medical doctor for some problem, the doctor usually performs some tests that relate to the reported illness. Once test results are in, the doctor analyzes them to determine what the problem might be. He uses his medical experience and knowledge in this process. In a similar way a teacher takes the information from the assessment, analyzes it, and makes a diagnosis. The information from the diagnosis describes the characteristics of the students relative to the objective, and further, provides a basis for the next step in the ADPRIMA instruction system.

Prescription: Prescription is the part of the ADPRIMA system that involves planning instruction. An instructional plan is also called a lesson plan. In this process, the teacher is devising a means to move students from where they are to the achievement of an objective. For example, when one has visited a physician, there are usually tests of some sort (assessment), and based on information from the tests, a diagnosis is made. The diagnosis is the identification of the problem. The prescription is a way to solve to problem, which could include taking certain medications over a period of time, a dietary regimen, surgery, exercise, and so on. The point to remember is that the prescription represents a means to solve the problem. In a similar way, a teacher, in creating a lesson plan, prescribes a series of activities that will help students attain a particular objective. To create this plan, the teacher needs information. That information is derived from the assessment and the subsequent analysis of the information that results in the diagnosis. In the plan, the teacher takes into account the relevant developmental and learning characteristics of the students, the specific subject-matter content, the available resources, including time, space and materials, and the instructional methods such as direct teaching, discussion, cooperative learning, etc., that will work best in the defined situation. As a minimum, the lesson plan should include the objective, a list of any required resources and materials, the instructional activities, and a description of how the learning of the objective will be measured. The teacher in this phase of the ADPRIMA system is both thinking and planning.

Reticulation: This is an uncommon word borrowed from botany. Reticulation means to network. In the ADPRIMA system, the reticulation function refers to the process of networking as it applies to planning. It means, for example, that a teacher should, as part of the planning process, determine what, where, and how resources needed to implement the lesson will be obtained. It is having information about how the education system works. It is having sufficient information to describe backup processes and activities in the event "Plan A" doesn't work. If a plan is totally linear, but requires other people who are not under the control of the teacher to do certain things at a particular time, it is quite obvious that the lesson can fail if someone doesn't perform as expected. A teacher, in planning a lesson, should always have backup processes in place, a "Plan B" as it were. The same idea applies to materials needed for the lesson, but which the teacher must obtain from other sources. If a video, software, hardware, or print materials are needed, but don't arrive on time, the teacher must have an alternative planned that will still lead students to the objective of the lesson. Reticulation is a process that helps ensure that the planned lesson can be implemented as scheduled. Reticulation is about thinking and logistics.

Instruction: Instruction is one of the most frequently used terms in all of education. Defined concisely, it is what the teacher actually does in presenting the lesson. Instruction and teaching are virtually the same thing. Instruction is a special form of communication that, in most classrooms, is dependent on feedback to be effective. Effective instruction is much more than the imparting of information; it is the doing, active part of the lesson that uses both teacher and student time. Instruction encompasses a range of teacher-student communication that goes from the lecture method, in which the teacher is the imparter of information and the students are the recipients, to complex student-teacher interactions, such as discussion, cooperative learning, simulations, games and demonstrations. There is no shortage of information on what constitutes a particular instructional method. What is far more important is the professional knowledge base that provides criteria for when a particular method is appropriate for given content with students at a defined level of development and who have acquired the prerequisites necessary to learn the content. Click here for a table of instructional methods - advantages, disadvantages, and preparation.

Motivation: The reason why people (and students) do or don't do something, motivation is necessary to implement effective instruction. Teachers become motivators when they know how to create conditions that encourage students to attain the objectives of their units and lessons. It is impossible to describe all the motivational permutations and combinations that exist in any instructional setting. It is, however, important to recognize a few important principles that relate to motivation. First, all behavior has some motivational antecedent. People do or don't do things for different reasons, and those reasons are their motives. Here are a few categories of motivators:

1. Vanity: Like it or not, people, including students, are motivated by vanity. Vanity is a broad concept, but here it means that people do or don't do something (such as learn) out of a desire to increase the amount of envy others have for them. Pride is a form of vanity. It can be a powerful motivator for a teacher.

2. Fear: This is probably the worst of all motivators. If people do or don't do something because they fear a consequence, their actual behavior is unpredictable, because it may lead to other undesirable, destructive or anti-social behavior. Teachers should never threaten students as a way of motivating them to learn something.

3. Power: Power is a strong motivator, but has little application in most classrooms. If a person is motivated by power, it means that the person is engaging in some behavior because he wants to cause others to have to choose among alternatives that he sets. Teachers have power. They can cause students to have to choose from among alternatives that they set. There is a difference, however, between having power, and using it effectively. When a person is using power as a motivator, the application is often phrased in an "if-then" scenario. "If you do something I want, then this will happen." Conversely, power is phrased in a negative context, such as "If you do something I don't want, then this will happen." The key in using power is to set conditions so that the desired alternative is chosen. There is a difference between using power effectively and using it ineffectively. For example, if a parent were to say to his child, "If you don't clean up your room, you will not get to go to the movies this weekend," and the child does not clean the room, then power was used ineffectively, because the desired outcome (cleaning the room) did not occur.

4. Desire to please: Sometimes people engage in some behavior simply to please others. Students often do this, not out of a sense of vanity, but simply because they want to please the teacher. Very successful teachers will often say that their students are motivated to do their best by a desire to make the teacher proud of their work. It really doesn't get any better than that.

5. Self-satisfaction: As in a situation in which an individual engages in some behavior out of a desire to please someone else, some people do things simply out of the need to feel a sense of self-satisfaction. Doing what is expected, or even exceeding it is done because the student gets personal pleasure and self-satisfaction from it, is perhaps the best of all motivators, because it is not directly connected to the behavior of others. It is what is often referred to as intrinsic motivation.

Are there combinations of the above? Of course. Several different motivators can be operating at the same time with any individual student. The main thing is that the teacher be aware of a fundamental principle, and that is, to understand any particular behavior, one should first look at the consequences that follow the behavior, not at what precedes it. Motivating students can be one of the most difficult tasks a teacher performs, and lack of motivation is often connected to other problems in the classroom, such as discipline, lack of attention, insubordination, disrespect, and so on. To become an effective motivator, the teacher must understand the "why" of behavior, and also understand how that information applies to a particular classroom situation.

Assessment: The assessment at the conclusion of a lesson is meant to generate information for both the teacher and the students. The assessment must be directly related to the lesson objective. If it is not, it is impossible to tell whether the lesson achieved the purpose for which it was developed. For example, if the lesson objective specifies that the student will name a certain number of items that have been identified for him, the lesson assessment must also require the student to name, not identify. These two behavioral verbs are often used interchangeably, but they are really quite different. To measure one and say you achieved the other is incorrect.

Information from the final assessment of the lesson is valuable because it is also feedback to the teacher. If the teacher has a system for using this feedback, improvements can be made in planning and implementing other lessons.

So there you have it. The ADPRIMA instruction system is meant as a guideline. It does not purport to solve all the problems inherent in planning and implementing lessons. However, the ADPRIMA instruction system helps the teacher think about the generic parts of lesson planning and the delivery of instruction. To that end, I hope it can be useful to you.

"Anything not understood in more than one way is not understood at all."

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