Jerome Bruner I: On Instructional Design

[In late 2002, as I considered entering the teaching profession, I was running an internet-based used and rare book business–also named Mark’s Text Terminal. It happened that I had several of Jerome Bruner’s books in stock, so I read them all. Encountering the quote below a second time, 16 years later, in my current rereading of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s Understanding by DesignI was reminded of how resonant it was in the context of the way I was educated, and how it appeared to summarize the act of instructional design and delivery. Here it is for your consideration.]

“The curriculum of a subject should be determined by the most fundamental understanding that can be achieved of the underlying principles that give structure to a subject…. Teaching specific topics or skills without making clear their context in the broader fundamental structure of a field of knowledge is uneconomical…. An understanding of fundamental principles and ideas appears to be the main road to adequate transfer of training. To understand something as a specific instances of a more general case–which is what understanding a more fundamental structure means–is to have learned not only a specific thing but also a model for understanding other things like it that one may encounter.”

Jerome Bruner

The Process of Education

Excerpted from: Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 1998.

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