Instructional Design Principles
The Pre-Training Principle encourages instructors to introduce key terms and concepts before asking learners to engage with the actual lesson material to reduce cognitive load. This process helps learners progress to more advanced thinking as a lesson or course proceeds. Evidence suggests pretraining can help improve knowledge transfer and retention. Instructional designers often implement the Pre-Training Principle in conjunction with the Segmenting Principle, which promotes the compartmentalization of lesson content into separate but related components.
Guidelines for Use
Identity important terminology and learning concepts during lesson preparation
What do learners need to know to accomplish the planned learning activities? Does their learning environment contain new elements? Plan to introduce these ideas and vocabulary first – perhaps with a practice or review exercise, so students understand the lesson context before moving to higher-order thinking tasks such as problem-solving.
Incorporate the terms and ideas from the pretraining activity into the subsequent activities
Leverage the content introduced into the core learning events of the lesson or course so students can use them to inform their practice.
Consider learner’s knowledge level
While research on the pre-training principle is not yet robust, studies done to date suggest stronger effects for students at an introductory level in a particular subject.
Good Examples of Use
Example 1 – LinkedIn Learning
A large suite of business and technology self-directed tutorials, LinkedIn Learning starts most courses with short video chapters explaining the topic’s practical value, core principles, and key terminology.
Example 2 – Code.org
The non-profit organization Code.org provides free online lessons to promote computer science learning. Many lessons start with an introductory video and notes that define key terms and offer screenshots to orient users to their learning environment by indicating the various areas of the screen, the available features and where users can find them.
A simple guide to implementing Mayer’s principles, including the Pre-Training Principle with effective illustrations.
This guide incorporates the Pre-Training Principle in its recommendations for creating effective learning technology solutions specifically for learners with disabilities.
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Mayer, R., Mathias, A., & Wetzell, K. (2002). Fostering Understanding of Multimedia Messages Through Pre-training: Evidence for a Two-Stage Theory of Mental Model Construction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8(3), 147–154. https://doi.org/10.1037/1076-898X.8.3.147
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