Share or read later
6 minute read

A part-whole relationships component skill is associated with any entity, activity, or process which can be divided into parts. Merrill states that the defining property of this component skill is that “the name, location, and description of the parts to be remembered are associated with a single specific entity, activity, or process and cannot be generalised”. The learner’s goal is to locate, name, or describe a part of some object, event, activity or process. Like an acquisition of facts component skill, a part-whole relationships component skill is usually not the primary goal of a course but most commonly plays a supporting role. It is often prerequisite for the other component skills. For a conceptual component skill knowing the parts may be an essential property of a specific entity, activity, or process. For a procedural component skill, knowing the parts may be necessary to execute a specific step. For a process component skill, knowing the parts may be necessary to identify the adequacy of a condition in a specific process.

Part-whole relationships component skills require four content elements:

  1. An illustration of the whole object or system.
  2. A location indicator for each part.
  3. A name for each part.
  4. Descriptive information associated with each part.

Presentation and demonstration for part-whole relationships

For each part, the presentation should tell learners the part name and information about the part. The demonstration should show the location of each part with respect to the whole, avoid location cues and use chunking. Multimedia should follow Richard Mayer’s principles for designing pedagogically effective multimedia. Learners should be given control over which items to view and how often to view them.

Presentation and demonstration for part-whole relationships

Merrill advises against a passive approach in which a part is highlighted for learners along with the associated information because this may result in learners not fully paying attention to the location. He recommends that learners are asked to select each part in the whole in any order they choose. Once they have selected a part, then the name of the part and the information associated with the part are shown. In this way, they actively associate the location of the part with the name of the part and the information about the part. Learners should be allowed to explore the parts and to select any part they wish as many times as they feel necessary to learn the location, the part name and the associated information.

Location cues

There is a risk that learners will associate the label with the location of the label rather than with the location of the part under consideration. In the example below, two views of the brain are shown. If learners are first presented with only the lateral view they may then associate the label ‘frontal lobe’ with the location to the left of this specific brain diagram, rather than with the frontal lobe part itself. If learners are subsequently shown a variation of the diagram (for example the superior view) where the parts are located in different places, then they may not be able to locate the parts:

Lateral and superior views of the brain

One way of preventing these location cues is to present all of the labels in the same location on the screen while highlighting the part under consideration:

Function of the parietal lobe

Chunking

If there are a large number of parts, then this can overload learners’ working memory, therefore Merrill recommends that chunks of parts are used where chunk contains seven or fewer parts. I assume here (as Merrill doesn’t cite a source) that this is a reference to the work of Miller (1956 ), who speculated that people can remember about seven chunks in working memory tasks. However, later work by Cowan (2001), based on actual research, found that the average human adult can only keep four items in working memory. Cowan’s work also found that these four chunks can only be familiar or simple information (as opposed to four new complex concepts). Merrill advocates that learners should be presented with a chunk of the parts and then allowed to practice. The next chunk of parts should then be presented and learners should be allowed to practice this second chunk but it should also include items from the first chunk as this spaced retrieval builds deeper long term knowledge.

Practice / Application for part-whole relationships

Learners should be given practice opportunities to locate, and name or describe each part:

  • Given the location of a part identify its name.
  • Given the name of a part identify its location with respect to the whole.
  • Given the location of a part, recognise some information about the part.
  • Given information about a part identify its location with respect to the whole.

Learners should be given corrective feedback for both correct and incorrect responses, the parts should be shown in random order (to help prevent learners from memorising a sequence), location cues should be avoided and learners should have multiple opportunities to identify each part.

Practice and application for part-whole relationships

Part-whole relationships example: Regions of the brain

This example uses five instructional events:

  • A Presentation (Information-centred / Demonstration) teaching event. (1)
  • Four Practice / Application learning events. (2) (3) (4) (5)
  1. Learn about the different regions of the brain and their functions.

Learn the names and functions of the different regions of the brain and what the consequences are if a region is damaged or injured:

Learning design and development notes

Development: H5P Image Hotspots

  1. Given the location of a part identify its name.

Identify each of the six highlighted regions:

Learning design and development notes

Development: Technology used: H5P Quiz (Question Set)

Learning design:

  • Questions manually sequenced to a random order.
  • Answer options randomised.
  • Hints enabled on earlier questions but then phased out as learners become more proficient.
  • A meta-analysis indicates that three answer options are optimal. (Rodriguez, 2005).
  • Blake Harvard has an excellent summary of the recent cognitive research on designing MCQs on his Effortful Educator blog (Harvard, 2018).
  1. Given the name of a part identify its location with respect to the whole.

Answer the following question:

Learning design and development notes

Development: Technology used: H5P Find the Hotspot

  1. Given the location of a part, recognise some information about the part.

What is the function of x region of the brain? If y region had suffered damage or injury which of these consequences might you expect to see? Answer the following four questions:

Learning design and development notes

Development: Technology used: H5P Quiz (Question Set)

  1. Given information about a part identify its location with respect to the whole.

Select the region which is responsible for x function. Answer the following question:

Select the region which may be damaged or injured if an individual has been diagnosed with x disease or y injury. Answer the following question:

Learning design and development notes

Development: Technology used: H5P Find the Hotspot

Next in this series: the Conceptual component skill

In the next post in this series, I will cover the Conceptual knowledge component skill.

References

Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(1), 87–114. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X01003922

Harvard, B. (2018, September 26). Writing A Better Multiple-Choice Question: What Does Research Indicate? – The Effortful Educator [Blog]. Retrieved 12 April 2019, from The Effortful Educator website: https://theeffortfuleducator.com/2018/09/26/wabmcq/

Mayer, R. (2016). Principles of Multimedia Learning. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from Center for Teaching and Learning | Learning House Inc. website: https://ctl.learninghouse.com/principles-of-multimedia-learning/

Merrill, M.D. (1983). Component Display Theory. In C. Reigeluth (ed.), Instructional Design Theories and Models. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates. pp 279–333.

Merrill, M. D. (2012). First Principles of Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Miller, G. A. (1956 ). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0043158

Rodriguez, M. C. (2005). Three Options Are Optimal for Multiple-Choice Items: A Meta-Analysis of 80 Years of Research. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 24(2), 3–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-3992.2005.00006.x

Smith, M. & Weinstein Y. (2016). Learn how to Study Using… Retrieval Practice. Retrieved 20 March 2019, from http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/6/23-1

Share or read later

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *