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Instructional Models Comparison Report

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Updated: Jul 29th, 2020

Strengths Weaknesses
Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Provides a clear order in which the learners should be supplied with materials and learning activities
  • Allows for examining the currently existing curricula and creating new ones
  • Facilitates the process of designing learning activities and explains which tasks should be used in these
  • There exists an overlap between different categories. For instance, the phrase “knowledge” often overlaps with “comprehension,” for it is difficult to memorize materials without understanding them at all; successful synthesis of materials involves their previous evaluation; and so on (Brown & Green, 2016)
  • The processes are assumed to be ordered only on one dimension, namely, simplicity vs. complexity
  • Some steps are better to be inverted or used in a different order in some cases; for instance, as was noted, comprehension is often required for successful memorization
Merrill’s Pebble-in-the-Pond
  • The objectives of learning are created not at the beginning of the development of the instructional process, but in during it, which allows for better aligning these objectives with the actual instruction that is to be provided for the learners, and also permits for avoiding the revision of objectives
  • This allows for creating concrete objectives of the learning, rather than using vague and abstract objectives created in the beginning (Merrill, 2013)
  • Permits for learning which starts with simple, basic problems and progresses towards more complex ones
  • No specifically designed phases for the creation of the learning materials themselves
  • This necessitates the use of other instructional design models for developing concrete learning tasks and materials

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a pedagogical tool that can be utilized to understand better the process of attaining knowledge, its integration with previously existing knowledge, retention, and further utilization and application (Ramirez, 2017). As a scheme that describes the learning process, Bloom’s Taxonomy can also be employed as an instructional design model, providing educators with a useful instrument for the creation of learning activities (Romiszowski, 2016). According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the learner experiences six different stages while attaining new information and processing it further:

  1. knowledge (the student learns to recall, recognize, and identify the new material);
  2. comprehension (this stage involves the ability to understand and explain the material);
  3. application (the learner can use the new knowledge in new situations, but in those which are similar to previously experienced ones);
  4. analysis (involves the ability to explore the material further, deconstruct it into elements, etc.);
  5. synthesis (here, the student can use the new materials to design and formulate new knowledge);
  6. evaluation (the learner can critically assess the learned materials, and make informed judgments about it) (Ramirez, 2017).

Therefore, instruction using Bloom’s Taxonomy should provide materials and activities in the order which would correspond to this 6-step model and gradually permit the learner to gain an understanding of the new materials at different stages, starting from the first and finishing with the fifth and sixth ones.

It should be stressed that the Bloom’s Taxonomy possesses several considerable advantages; for example, it identifies the order in which the instructor should create the learning tasks and activities and identifies the content of these tasks and activities by explaining for which purposes they are created (Romiszowski, 2016). However, there exist several significant weaknesses, as well. For instance, the phases of the taxonomy rather often overlap, or creating such an overlap is highly useful. Indeed, the learners will better memorize the material at the phase of knowledge if they also possess at least some understanding of it. In contrast, instruction aimed at making learners rote the materials will be ineffectual. Nevertheless, Bloom’s Taxonomy has been successfully utilized for an educational design for several decades (Romiszowski, 2016).

Another method for instructional design, Merrill’s Pebble-in-the-Pond model, was developed according to David Merrill’s First Principles of Instruction scheme, according to which the most effectual learning takes place if it involves the activation of previously gained experience, the demonstration of the new knowledge and skill, the application of the newly gained skills, and their integration into the activities taking place in the real world; the learning should also be centered around problems or tasks (Merrill, 2015). The Pebble-in-the-Pond model involves six steps of creating learning activities:

  1. designing a problem which is to be discussed;
  2. creating a progression of problems for consideration;
  3. inventing methods for teaching learners the components of the skills that they are to develop;
  4. create improvements for the instructional strategy;
  5. finalize the instruction that is to be provided;
  6. assess and evaluate the attained curriculum (Brown & Green, 2016; Merrill, 2013).

One of the main strengths of Merrill’s Pebble-in-the-Pond model, in comparison to other models, is that according to it, the instructional design process begins not from formulating the learning objectives of the instruction, but from the identification of the problems that are to be studied; the learning objectives are formulated in the process of instruction creation. This allows for formulating clear and concrete objectives that naturally flow from the instruction, rather than starting with vague, unclear ones (Merrill, 2013). As for weaknesses, Merrill’s Pebble-in-the-Pond model lacks a definite procedure for designing the learning materials themselves, which means that other instructional design models are needed to properly create a curriculum (Brown & Green, 2016).


Brown, A. H., & Green, T. D. (2016). The essentials of instructional design: Connecting fundamental principles with process and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Merrill, M. D. (2013). First principles of instruction: Identifying and designing effective, efficient, and engaging instruction. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Merrill, M. D. (2015). A Pebble‐in‐the‐Pond Model for instructional design. Performance Improvement, 54(1), 42-48. Web.

Ramirez, T. V. (2017). On pedagogy of personality assessment: Application of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Journal of Personality Assessment, 99(2), 146-152.

Romiszowski, A. J. (2016). Designing instructional systems: Decision making in course planning and curriculum design. New York, NY: Routledge.

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