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ZDM Mathematics Education

DOI 10.1007/s11858-017-0875-3

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

There ismore variation within thanacross domains: aninterview


withPaul A. Kirschner aboutapplying cognitive psychology-
based instructional design principles inmathematics teaching
andlearning
PaulA.Kirschner1,2 LievenVerschaffel3 JonStar4 WimVanDooren3

Accepted: 2 July 2017


FIZ Karlsruhe 2017

Abstract In this interview we asked Paul A. Kirschner 1Introduction


about his comments and reflections regarding the idea to
apply cognitive psychology-based instructional design This paper contains the comments and reflections of Prof.
principles to mathematics education and some related dr. Paul A. Kirschner, dr.h.c. regarding the idea to apply
issues. With a main focus on cognitive psychology, educa- cognitive psychology-based instructional design principles
tional psychology, educational technology and instructional to mathematics education and some related issues during
design, this internationally well-known scholar reflects an interview on June 6 2017. Paul A. Kirschner (b. 1951)
on the work conducted within the mathematics education is university professor of the Open University of the Neth-
community. This paper presents a summary of the com- erlands and visiting professor Education at the University
ments and reflections that he expressed during the inter- of Oulu, Finland. He is an internationally renowned expert
view. A first main theme relates to the general idea behind in his field, which encompasses lifelong learning, computer
the special issue, i.e. the feasibility of applying cognitive assisted collaborative learning, design of electronic and
theory-based instructional design principles in the field of other innovative learning environments, the use of media
mathematics education. Second, the interview related to the in education, development of teacher extensive (distance)
set of instructional design principles that were included in education materials, competencies and the use of educa-
the special issue and those that were omitted. Third, reflec- tional technologies in education. He co-authored the classic
tions are made on the differences between the application article Why minimal guidance during instruction does not
of instructional design principles in mathematics education work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery,
research and in instructional design research more gener- problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching
ally. One main idea running through this interview is that, (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006), and is co-author of the
according to Kirschner, mathematics education research is influential book Ten steps to complex learning: A system-
not necessarily a special field in its own, as the variation of atic approach to four-component instructional design (van
instructional goals and of research foci within mathematics Merrinboer & Kirschner, 2017).
education is at least as large as the variation across different From the perspectives of cognitive psychology, educa-
content domains. tional psychology, educational technology, and instruc-
tional design, Paul A. Kirschner comments on the applica-
bility of cognitive psychology-based instructional design
principles to mathematics education and some related
* Lieven Verschaffel issues.
Lieven.Verschaffel@ped.kuleuven.be
1
Open Universiteit, Heerlen, TheNetherlands
2
2The interview
University ofOulu, Oulu, Finland
3
University ofLeuven, Leuven, Belgium What do you think about the general idea behind
4
Harvard Graduate School ofEducation, Cambridge, USA this special issue, namely to look at the feasibility of

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P.A.Kirschner et al.

applying cognitive theory based instructional design Indeed. I am not a proponent of the ideas and assump-
principles in mathematics education? tions behind the concept of pedagogical content knowledge
For me it is always important to look at the explicit (PCK), because it puts too much emphasis on both the dif-
application of (cognitive) theory-based instructional ferences between and too little emphasis on the differences
design principles in all kinds of learning settings and within content domains. In all curriculum domainsbe it
areas, and, with this, its application in all types of mathematics, physics, economy or historythere is much
instruction and curricular domainsincluding in math- more variation within the domain than across the domains.
ematics education. As I see it, the ultimate goal is achiev- In that sense, PCK is an illusion. On the one hand, there is
ing effective, efficient and enjoyable learning through no evidence that mathematics as a domain is so different
effective, efficient, and enjoyable instruction. Thats my from these other disciplines that instructional design princi-
Holy Trinity of instructional design. Of course, it is not ples and techniques such as the ones addressed in this spe-
always possible to realize these three elements simulta- cial issue will work fundamentally differently there. And,
neously or equally in instruction and learning, but this is on the other hand, mathematics itself has many sides. There
what I am striving for as an instructional designer. And is pure mathematics, which, in my opinion, comes very
as a researcher, the goal of my research is always to try close to disciplines such as language and logic. But there
to design and study an intervention that will achieve an is also the applied side of mathematics, for instance, when
increase in at least one of the three, but never to the detri- mathematics is used as a (modelling) tool in fields such as
ment of either of the other two. Ideally an intervention science, technology and engineering. So, when thinking
would achieve all three. I do, though, have a problem about pure mathematics, PCK for teaching mathematics is
with the (implicit) assumption behind your first question, in many respects more similar to PCK for teaching logic or
namely that mathematics is something special in this language than it is to any of the other STEM subjects. On
respect. the other hand, when thinking about teaching and learning
Before addressing this important issue of specificity, applied mathematics, then the PCK that is needed is largely
could you explain what you mean by the terms effective, the same as for engineering or applied physics. And,
efficient and enjoyable? finally, when the mathematics curriculum addresses issues
Effectiveness means that you realize the maximal possi- such as mathematics as a historical, social, and cultural
ble learning outcomes with the given resources and within phenomenon, then what is needed in terms of PCK is not
the given amount of time, whereas efficiency means that very different from what is needed in disciplines like his-
you succeed in producing the intended or required learning tory, sociology, economics, or psychology. In sum, I do not
outcomes with as few resources and little time as needed. see the rationale for claiming the uniqueness and integrity
Making teaching and learning enjoyable is in my opinion of mathematics having its own specific and unique instruc-
also very important, particularly in view of the huge prob- tional design principles and techniques and its own PCK.
lems of demotivation and dropout in secondary and higher OK, your point is clear. In your view it may be the-
education among students and teachers. But please do not oretically unwise and practically unhelpful to think of
interpret enjoyable in a narrow or simplistic way. It abso- PCK for mathematics, but would you go as far as saying
lutely does not mean that learning at school should always that also for the teaching and learning of a specific cur-
and necessarily be pleasant and fun. Im not talking about ricular topiclets say teaching percentages or graphs
creating edutainment. Rather, it means that learning should, in mathematicsPCK is also an illusion?
in the end, be rewarding. Think of the process of becoming I have a second Holy Trinity. In that way you can
an expert. Usually the path to expertise is not very pleas- say that Im polytheistic. My second Holy Trinity deals
ant and funthink about the numerous hours of practice with what I call making a teacher into a teacher just like
or training an expert swimmer or cellist has to go through a three-star Michelin chef. A good chef must have (a)
before (s)he becomes an expertbut these efforts are, after tools, (b) techniques and (c) ingredients. OK? So, a good
all, rewarding. For instance, when the swimmer or cellist chef has a deep conceptual knowledge of his or her tools,
wins a prize or gets other kinds of recognition or apprecia- techniques and ingredients, and can make proper use of
tion for his or her expertise. these, in such a way that he or she is capable of creating
In your initial response to the first question, you said a meal thats healthy, delicious and looks good. A tool in
that you have a problem with the idea that mathematics that respect is an oven, or a pan or a knife. A technique is
is something special. What exactly do you mean by that? baking, steaming, frying, roasting and things like that. And
Do you mean that you do not expect substantially dif- you have also the ingredients, like vegetables, potatoes,
ferent results, conclusions or recommendations depend- fish, herbs, spices, etc. A chef will know that if you do spe-
ing on the subject-matter domain to which you want to cific things to a piece of meat it will make it taste like shoe
apply the instructional design principles or techniques? leather, for example, but if you do something else, it will

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There ismore variation within thanacross domains: aninterview withPaul A. Kirschner about

come out deliciously. Like the chef, the teacher also has its very important to learn it in integration with other top-
tools, techniques and ingredients, and makes use of them to ics. So its not a question of Lets teach them a and b, and
make learning effective, efficient and enjoyable. And that is hope that they can integrate it. If you look at our 4C/ID
nothing different for a math teacher or any other teacher. I model, we preach exactly the opposite. We preach to make
mean if youre a math teacher, you need to have a deep con- use of authentic whole tasks and to integrate the learning
ceptual knowledge of math, just like if youre an economics of theory, principles and things all while working on these
teacher, you have a deep conceptual knowledge of econom- authentic whole tasks. So we are not just hoping that at the
ics, and if youre a Dutch teacher you need deep concep- end of the road learners will be capable of doing the inte-
tual knowledge of the Dutch language in all of its aspects. gration themselves as is often the case in a curriculum. But
Thats the domain in which you have the conceptual knowl- that is something different than saying that there is a spe-
edge, but in your mathematics or language or whatever cific pedagogy for mathematics. And the way I read most
courses, depending upon what youre trying to teach at that of the articles in this special issue, they seem to suggest
moment, you are trying to get students to just learn effec- that there is such a special pedagogy for mathematics as a
tively, efficiently, and in an enjoyable way. Thats where the domain. However, when I look at what these researchers
knowledge and mastery of the general instructional design are doing, they are just presenting specific cases where a
principles and techniques comes in. In instructional design, domain and a general principle are brought together.
or teaching for that matter (as I feel that the teacher is an This is the impression I had when I was reading the
instructional designer), the tools that we use are things like articles of this special issue. And not only here, but also in
books, computers, white- and/or smart-boards, etcetera. other situations. For instance, it seems as though research-
The techniques are things like lectures, simulations, drill- ers and practitioners active in STEM have the idea that
and-practice, collaborative learning (either face-to-face there is something specific to STEM. Understanding a
or computer-supported), and so forth. And the ingredi- graph or a function in mathematics is not substantially dif-
ents are two-fold. On the one hand they are the pedagogi- ferent from understanding a graph or a function within eco-
cal ingredients that specify the techniques such as differ- nomics or psychology. I do think that proving a theory, or
ent types of questions, prompts, assignments, and the like. a theorem, in mathematics is fundamentally different from
On the other hand you have ingredients that come from the proving something in economics, but thats because that
content domain. In this way, the efficient, effective, and part of mathematics relates to mathematics as a pure sci-
enjoyable instruction that the teacher provides, all of this ence, while what you would want to prove within econom-
uniquely comes together in a highly specific constellation: ics would probably be some aspect of behavioral science.
a very specific mathematical topic needs to be taught, and It seems that we are now often considering the curricular
the teacher can consider a variety of instructional tools domains as consistent wholes and focus on differences
and techniques to address this topic; three-star Michelin between curricular domains, while there may be more
instruction! So, as you can see, in my conceptualization of variation within the domains than across domains, at the
what makes a good teacher or instructional designer in a expense of the similarities that are there across domains.
particular domain, I do not need a third component, PCK, What do you think about the set of instructional
besides the professionals deep knowledge of the domain design principles that we have selected for this special
and his or her expertise in designing instruction in general. issue? Is this the list that you would have expected?
If you would translate that into the design of a Would you have excluded some principles and/or
teacher training program, would you argue that the included others? Are there principles that you think
most efficient way to organise teacher education in a deserve more attention in the mathematics education
specific domain like mathematics is by just focusing community, or that are even completely overlooked so
on content knowledge (CK) and on general pedagogi- far?
cal or didactical knowledge (PK)to use Shulmans I think its a very good overview of instructional tech-
terminology? niques. By the way: I consider techniques to be a better
Yes, you need a good foundation of the two, and then term than principles. When I am thinking of Instructional
you have to integrate the two of them in all your courses. I Design (ID) principles, I am thinking, for instance, of R.
dont think it is interesting for a chemist or a lawyer to have Mayers multimedia principle (i.e., the principle stating
ethics as a specific course in the fourth year. Ethics has that people learn more deeply from words and pictures
to be integrated in everything that a chemist does, or that than from words alone) or his redundancy principle (i.e.,
a biologist, a lawyer or a doctor does. But I think a basic the principle stating that redundant material interferes with
knowledge of ethical standards and practices within law is rather than facilitates learning, for instance, that people
very important. It is sometimes more effective, efficient or learn better from graphics and narration than from graph-
enjoyable to learn that in isolation, but in other situations ics, narration and on-screen text), or things like that. Most

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P.A.Kirschner et al.

of the topics addressed in this special issue are instructional by my colleague Jeroen van Merrinboer, myself, and oth-
techniques that can be used in teaching in general and in ers. 4C means four components and ID means Instruc-
mathematics teaching in particular. tional Design. The 4C/ID instructional model is char-
For the vast majority of the papersdealing with acterized by four components: (1) Learning Tasks, (2)
themes such as using comparison, refutational text, worked Supportive Information, (3) Procedural Information and (4)
examples, etc.there is no doubt that they nicely fit into Part-Task Practice. The tasks are ordered in task-classes at
the list. However, after having read the papers, I was in the same level of task complexity and each task offers at
doubt whether what they address can be labelled an instruc- the beginning a lot of scaffolding which is reduced as the
tional principle or technique. This holds especially for the learner progresses until the final task(s) in the class is(are)
contribution about metacognition. Thats in my view a without any instructional support (i.e., are natural test-
topic that is situated at a different level than all these other ing moments). Also, as the learner progresses the task-
techniques. You first need knowledge (=first level) to think classes become more complex. 4C/ID can be considered
about knowledge (=second level). as a mainstream and practical Instructional Design model
Furthermore, there are some other well-known cognitive that addresses the issue of how to teach complex skills.
psychology-based instructional design principles that could The 4C/ID approach has been used in fields like medicine,
have been added, the most important ones being: economics, and engineering throughout the world, surely it
can be applied to learning mathematics and acquiring com-
Spaced or distributed practice: this technique, which plex mathematical skills. But of course, such a contribution
is one of the most widely studied cognitive principles would not have fit so well in the list, because our 4C/ID
today, states that spreading out learning opportunities model is situated at a different level than the distinct tech-
be it within a single lesson or across several lessons niques that now comprise the special issue. It is an inte-
leads to better retention of studied material than does grated model for instructional design that combines and
providing multiple learning opportunities one right after integrates many tools, techniques, and ingredients rather
the other. than being just another technique.
Retrieval practice (or practice testing, or test-enhanced Do you see remarkable/interesting differences in how
learning): this technique is based on the well-docu- the authors contributing to this special issue conceive
mented finding that long-term memory is increased or operationalize the application of their principle in
when some of the learning period is devoted to retriev- their mathematics educational research (programmes),
ing the to-be-remembered information through testing as compared to how those principles are typically con-
with proper feedback. So, the idea is that it is useful ceived in the general research on instructional design?
for learners to test their knowledge of the to-be-remem- No, not really. But for me, this is also not a surprise.
bered material during the studying process, instead of As I said, one could have written very similar articles and
merely reading and studying the material. This can be reported very similar empirical findings based on research
done, for instance, by using flashcards or quizzes, or any situated in other domains such as economics, history, psy-
other technique requiring retrieval of previously learned chology, or whatever. Of course, some of these reviews
content. Particularly for mathematics, which involves an and empirical studies might come up with somewhat dif-
important memorization and automatization component ferent results and conclusions, but I doubt if these differ-
(as is recognized in the article on deliberate practice) as ences would be substantial and I also doubt if these differ-
well as principles for their use, I guess this technique ences would have to do with differences in the nature of the
may be of great educational value. domains as such. So, my concern is not with what is being
Using epistemic questions or epistemic tasks: bringing described and reported in this special issue; it is with the
in epistemological elements in the learning environ- flavour of exceptionality and the uniqueness that it breeds
ment, which can be done already very early in the learn- with respect to the domain of mathematics. So, as I said, I
ing process. generally agree with the techniques that have been chosen,
and I also appreciate the studies being reported and gen-
But I understand of course that you could come up with erally support the conclusions being derived from them.
a longer list for this special issue. Otherwise you would My only query relates to the explicit or implicit claims of
have ended up with an encyclopedia instead of a special the exceptionality and the uniqueness that it breathes with
issue. So, I think in the end that it is a very nice overview. respect to mathematics. I do not see on what grounds these
Finally, it will not come as a surprise that I would have claims are based and where that need to make such claims
liked to see an additional article in this special issue about comes from.
the 4C/ID model, or, if you want to phrase it differently, the In the current special issue, various papers reflect
whole task approach to learning mathematics, developed on what can be learned from applying a (general)

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There ismore variation within thanacross domains: aninterview withPaul A. Kirschner about

instructional design principle or theory in a specific and self-determined learning, which we refer to as second-
domain, and what the principle can bring to the math- order skills, that is skills that a learner gradually develops
ematics education community. Do you see any lessons while learning the declarative and procedural knowledge
that the research community on (general) instructional the learning environment is primarily aiming at (i.e., the
design can learn from this work within the mathematics first order skills) and we describe and illustrate how you
education community? design learning environments so that while acquiring the
My answer is again: no, not really. I mean, everything first order skill learners also acquire the second order skill.
that has been proven to work in the instructional design A good illustration of what I mean is the good work
community, should also work for certain aspects of learn- being done on scripting by people like Frank Fischer and
ing mathematics. Notice that I say for certain aspects of his group in Mnchen. Much of the research shows that
because learning mathematics is, as I stated before, very the scripts are very effective for learning within that one
broad and highly multi-dimensional. As I also said, the var- situation, or series of problems, that is being taught but that
iability within the domains is much larger than the variabil- there is little to no transfer to how do I make use of that
ity across domains. So, I would expect that every instruc- same idea behind the script in different situations. Its kind
tional design principle can also be used for mathematics, of like what the difference between what Gabi Solomon
ormore preciselyfor a certain subdomain or aspect of called the effects of something and the effects with some-
mathematics. Otherwise it would not be a general princi- thing. The scripts used by the learners, in achieving first
ple. It would almost be a contradictio in terminis to say order learning, are the effects with; if they use the script,
that a general principle does not apply to mathematics edu- they will learn what they need to learn better. But the effect
cation. If so, it would not be a general ID principle. of a script is that in a similar situation, the learner can make
Does it make sense, to you, from a theoretical and/ use of that same script (i.e., the principles underlying the
or methodological principle, to reflect on the applicabil- script) for solving the problem or carrying out the task.
ity of a single instructional design principle as we did in I often give the example of if you make use of planning
this special issue? Or should one always involve several software for a project, the effects with the tool is that your
such principles and conceive/implement/test them in project is better, and gets done in time, but the effects of
combination? the planning software is, for example, that you have learned
As I said before, theres a difference between a specific things about critical paths. That means, if Im making
instructional design principle or technique and an instruc- a dinnerI used to be a cook and I still cook daily, so I
tional approach, method or model. I think it makes sense always use examples from the realm of cookingI know
to isolate, for theoretical or research purposes, certain ID there is a critical path with respect to sauce and meat. If
principHow do you see the relationshiples or techniques, I make the meat before I make the sauce, my meat either
but in actual teaching and learning, they always will come gets cold or overcooked. So I know theres a critical path,
in combined and integrated forms. I first have to make my sauce, and then I have to do my
In this respect, I refer again to the 4C/ID model that my meat. That is the effect of the planning programmethat
colleague Jeroen van Merrienboer developed and that we you really understand the underlying principle of a critical
further refined in our Ten Steps to Complex Learning (van path. So this aspect of learning which deals with metacog-
Merrinboer & Kirschner, 2017) and in which almost all nition has been added to the third edition of the Ten Steps
of the instructional techniques that are being addressed in which is coming out in the fall of 2017. In this edition we
this special issue nicely fit. Take, for instance, variation talk about first-order and second-order skill acquisition,
in our model we talk about variability of practice. Or take and how you design things so that while acquiring the first-
analogies, which is also one of the instructional tools we order skill (i.e., the effects with) you also acquire the sec-
explicitly apply in our model. The same holds for worked ond-order skill (i.e., the effects of). I also wrote an article
examples and for deliberate practice, which coincides with about that with Omid Noroozi, Harm Biemans, and Martin
part-task practice in our model, as well as for using self- Mulder recently, and multiple strategies for achieving this
explanation, multiple representations, refutational texts, (Noroozi, Kirschner, Biemans, & Mulder, 2017).
etc. And, yes, even though in earlier versions of the model Coming back to your question, possibly the only princi-
there was little attention to personalization, in the most ple or technique from your list that we have not (yet) cap-
recent version personalization of knowledge and learning tured explicitly or systematically into our book is embod-
has received increased attention. And, earlier in the inter- ied cognition.
view I questioned whether metacognition fits into the list In sum, referring back to my second Holy Trinity, all
of techniques. But in the latest version of the Ten Steps we the techniques being addressed in this special issue are
have an element that is somewhat related to that technique. for me tools that should be available in the tool box of an
We speak about the importance of self-directed learning instructional designer, who preferably makes use of a more

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P.A.Kirschner et al.

general heuristic framework when designing instruction, estimation skill in mathematics or in economics, psychol-
which could be our 4C/ID model. ogy, sociology, statistics or whatever. So what youre talk-
How do you see the relationship between instruc- ing about is absolutely true, namely that we have witnessed
tional design and cognitive psychology, instructional over the past decades a change in focus from domain gener-
psychology, and mathematics education? Is instruc- ality to domain specificityalthough I would like to point
tional design science? And do you consider yourself pri- out thatunfortunatelywith the emergence of the notion
marily as an instructional designer? of so-called twenty-first century skills it looks as if the
Instructional design is a design science, its like engi- notion of domain-general skills is back again. So, I agree
neering. Its the thoughtful and creative application of with you that weve come a long way and we understand
insights from other disciplines. Instructional design should within the cognitive sciences that you can only learn a skill
be the proper application of cognitive science (including within a domain, but that is something completely different
cognitive and educational psychology), just like engineer- than claiming that learning in mathematics is that much dif-
ing should be the proper application of the physical and ferent from learning in economics or whatever domain.
material sciences. And, just as, when you have to construct You said before a teacher needs a deep conceptual
a bridge, depending upon the shores, the distance between understanding of the topics (s)he will teachlets not
the shores, the flow of the water, the amount and type of say the domain of mathematics as a whole but just the
traffic that has to go across the bridge, and things like that, topics (s)he will teach. He or she will also need a deep
there are lots of different bridges that can be built and not a conceptual understanding of instructional tools and
clear and single best solution. The same holds for instruc- techniques. Can we offer you the following statement:
tional design. That is what you are doing, there is never one In order to do good studies on the effectiveness of some
clear way to do it. of the principles, a researcher in instructional design
I would call myself a master instructional designer needs a deep conceptual understanding, not only of
who makes use of evidence-informed cognitive theories. those principles but also of the specific topics that are
I would like to emphasize that in the field of instructional learned in his research. How would you react to this
designprobably more than in the related fields of cogni- statement?
tive psychology, educational psychology and mathematics Assume that I, as a cognitive-psychologically based
educationyou find many scholars who make use of false instructional designer, am designing a new learning envi-
and/or disproven educational myths, such as the myth ronment in a particular subdomain of mathematics, I dont
of the existence of learning styles, multiple intelligences, know if I need to have deep conceptual understanding of
learning pyramids, and so on. the topics to be taught. But of course I will need to have
Concerning the position of mathematics education as a someone working together with me who does have that
research field of its own, my answer is clear: Dont waste deep conceptual knowledge. And, of course, I will need
your time on accentuating possible subtle and minimal dif- some basic knowledge of the (sub)domain in order to make
ferences between mathematics and other disciplines and sure that the communication and cooperation with my part-
focus instead what is general to all kinds of learning. In my ner works well. So, to make it more concrete, a team that
view, this development whereby all these distinct didactic does an investigation, lets say on a certain instructional
fields have evolved and declared themselves as research design principle such as refutational text, and lets take a
fields on their own with their own theories of knowledge, very specific topic such as conditional probability, defini-
learning and instruction, emphasizing the uniqueness of tively needs someone in the team who has a deep con-
their own discipline and neglecting the similarities with ceptual understanding of that specific topic of conditional
others, has led, in my view, to a great waste of resources in probability. No doubt about that.
terms of manpower, time and money. At the end of our introduction, we argue that the
But is your strong plea against domain specificity in dozen principles that we have included in our special
theory and practice of learning and teaching not com- issue differ from each other in various ways, including
pletely at odds with the trend towards domain-specific- their field of application. A given principle may be more
ity that is, to the best of our knowledge, one of the great applicable for a certain type of mathematics learners,
accomplishments within the learning sciences since the for a certain type of mathematics tasks, for specific
1980s? mathematical concepts, and for a certain type of math-
Thats completely different for me. You cant teach peo- ematical learning contexts or settings. But does this
ple general skills; you can only teach people skills within a restriction not seriously jeopardize the value and use-
certain domain. Thats the domain-specificity issue. What fulness of instructional design?
I have been arguing all the time is that there is little or no My answer is: Yes and no. In my view, a few of the tech-
difference between teaching a person a graphing skill or niques, particularly those that are based on well-established

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There ismore variation within thanacross domains: aninterview withPaul A. Kirschner about

cognitive psychological and multimedia principles, have a has drawn the most attention from mathematics education
wide range of applicability that is hard to put into question. researchers and has elicited a lot of research in the field dur-
But this being said, I certainly agree that a given princi- ing the past decades.
ple or technique may be more applicable for a certain level While questioning the idea of PCK, Paul A. Kirschner at
of mathematics learners, for a certain type of mathematics the same time argued that, for instance in teacher education,
tasks, for specific mathematical concepts, and for a certain future teachers need to be taught in a highly integrated man-
type of mathematical learning contexts or settings. Actu- ner. Indeed, in the complex, authentic reality of mathemat-
ally, that is exactly what Ive been arguing all along: the ics teaching (and similarly that of a mathematics education
variability within a domain like mathematics is greater than researcher), the challenge is to elicit the learning of a specific
the variability across domains. That has been my overall topic to a specific group of learners using a range of instruc-
argument throughout this whole interview. Thats why I tional tools and techniques with a view to elicit effective,
have a problem with talking about a pedagogy or didactic efficient, and enjoyable learning. According to many col-
for mathematics. leagues active in the field of mathematics (teacher) education
Overlooking the whole field, do these different prin- who make intensive and productive use of the PCK concept,
ciples or techniques also differ in your opinion, in terms in such a complex and specific practice, general pedagogi-
of how well proven they are? Are some much more cal knowledge and deep understanding of the domain come
hypothetical than others in your opinion? together in a unique, situated way in PCK. While Paul A.
Yes, some are more hypothetical or speculative than Kirschner argues that in such a situation only the combination
others, I would say, as you have indicated in your introduc- and integration of available general pedagogical knowledge
tion to the special issue. For instance, a technique in the and domain knowledge is at stake, PCK researchers would
list that seems a bit more speculative to mealthough I say that this unique, situated combination of both kinds of
have to confess that I am not that familiar with that specific professional knowledge in an authentic and complex practice
literatureis personalization. I am not sure whether the is exactly what pedagogical content knowledge is about. So,
need to personalize instructional materials and interven- is there no such thing as pedagogical content knowledge? Or
tions, to make them personally relevant and authentic for is there only pedagogical content knowledge at stake in the
the learner, is of the same well-documented importance for teaching of mathematics? The interview with Paul A. Kirsch-
(mathematics) education as most of the other ones. ner illustrates that scholars working in the same or adjacent
fields may differ in their answers, just like a pessimist will say
the glass of beer is half empty whereas an optimist will say
3Conclusion it is half full. What both would probably agree on is the fact
that in the glass there is room for more beer
Looking back at this interview, we realized that Paul A. As such, we see this interview not as the end of the discus-
Kirschner was an excellent, but at the same time very chal- sion, but rather as the beginning. And referring back to the
lenging, discussant for a special issue of ZDM about applying title of the special issue, we look forward to the fruitful dis-
cognitive psychology-based instructional design principles cussions within and across the various research communities.
in mathematics teaching and learning. Based on his exper-
tise and given his position in the field, he played his role of a References
critical friend in an excellent way, posing serious questions
about major issues that may be often taken for granted within Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guid-
ance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of
the mathematics education research community. By provid- constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-
ing his perspective on these issues, Paul A. Kirschner has based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 46(2), 7586.
opened our mind and made us think. One of the more con- Noroozi, O., Kirschner, P. A., Biemans, H., & Mulder, M. (2017). Pro-
troversial issues that he raised is certainly his questioning of moting argumentation competence: Extending from first- to sec-
ond-order scaffolding through adaptive fading. Educational Psy-
the idea of pedagogical content knowledge, arguing that all chology Review (online).
that is needed in good instruction is a deep conceptual knowl- Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand, knowledge growth in
edge of the domain, and of general tools and techniques for teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 414.
instructional design. Such a stance goes back to the ideas that Van Merrinboer, J. J. G., & Kirschner, P. A. (2017). Ten steps to
complex learning (third edition). New York: Taylor & Francis.
were held before Shulman (1986) published his seminal work
on pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as one of the seven
categories of professional knowledge required for teaching,
besides content knowledge; general pedagogical knowledge,
curricular knowledge, knowledge of learners, knowledge of
educational contexts, and knowledge of educational aims,
goals and purposes. From this list it was specifically PCK that
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