A 50+ year search for effective, efficient and engaging instruction

M. David Merrill


In this paper I will chronicle my 50+ year career, from my interest in making education more effective, to an epiphany about theories, and some of my published work that, for a time, gained the attention of others in the field of instructional technology.  My extensive experience with computer-assisted learning covers early efforts to teach concepts to attempts to design automated authoring systems. My most recent work attempts to identify underlying principles common to most theories of instruction.

The professional press publishes reports of theory, research, data, prescriptions, and opinions, but seldom do we get the back story. Where did these ideas originate?  What events led to a particular theoretical or research approach?  What were the challenges—personal and interpersonal—that affected a given approach, theory or research study?  In this paper, in addition to identifying a few of the most notable contributions to this literature, I will provide some of the back story that contributed to my career and inspired or significantly influenced my work. I will also highlight some of the lessons learned along the way.

Download the PDF and

Full Text:

Cover Image


Merrill, M. D. (1994). Instructional Design Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Merrill, M.D. (2013). First Principles of Instruction: Identifying and Designing Effective, Efficient, and Engaging Instruction. John Wiley & Sons.

Merrill, M. D., & Li, Z. (1989). An instructional design expert system. Journal of Computer-based Instruction, 16(3), 95-101.

Merrill, M. D., Li, Z., & Jones, M. K. (1990b). Second generation instructional design (ID2). Educational Technology, 30(2), 7-14.

Merrill, M. D., Li, Z., & Jones, M. K. (1991). Instructional transaction theory: An introduction. Educational Technology, 31(6), 7-12.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/er.v24.2220

Copyright (c) 2017 M. David Merrill

Education Review

A multilingual journal of book reviews

ISSN: 1094-5296