Marcy P. Driscoll
Professor of Instructional Systems and
Program Leader for Instuctional Systems
The Florida State University
What is your highest degree?
Ph.D. in Psychology (Major area: Educational
Psychology; Minor areas: Cognitive Psychology and Linguistics), University
Could you describe how you got into the field of
From the time I was an undergraduate student
majoring in psychology, I wasinterested in how psychological principles
could be applied in a practicalway to improve instruction. My first effort
at "designing instruction" wasto write a programmed text designed to teach
psych students how toconstruct graphs of the data they collected in labs.
It amazed me thatthey didn't know how to do this, and I thought programmed
learning would bea good means to teach them (of course, I thought I could
write a much moreinteresting text than Holland and Skinner, which put
me to sleep in myfirst psychology course!). While
I was in graduate school, I really chaffed against the traditionalresearch
orientation of my program and sought experiences that would enableme to
help faculty improve their instructional skills. During the summers,I
taught faculty development seminars at Rochester Institute of Technologyin
Rochester, NY, during which time I began to consume the standard textsof
the field (e.g., Dick & Carey; Diamond, Gagne). I
had no real intentions of being a professor or of doing research. Iwanted
to do instructional design and "make a difference" in the world. Infact,
my position at Florida State was my fourth job after graduating withmy
doctoral degree. My first job was Instructional Designer with theEducational
Radio and Television of Iran. Then I became a Project Directorfor National
Evaluation Systems (a private test development and programevaluation company).
From there, I went to the Office of Mental Health inNY where I worked
as the Instructional Development Coordinator on a TitleXX Training Grant.
It is there, by the way, that I worked closely with TomReeves.
How would you describe your research agenda? How
did you decide toresearch that area?
My research agenda has always been broad.
I would describe myself as a "bigpicture" person trying to understand
phenomena from a variety of diverseperspectives. I am currently involved
in exploring implications of semiotictheory for instructional design and
performance technology, which allows meto bring together a number of separate
interests. Semiotics is somethingof a metatheory. It provides a synthesis
of qualitative and quantitativeresearch paradigms. It suggests methods
for facilitating learning andstructuring curricula to achieve particular
learning goals. It offers adifferent perspective on assessment.
What are two or three books or papers you have written
that you believe are especially well done or interesting?
I am probably most proud of three things.
First is the article I wrote on alternative paradigms for research in
instructional systems that wasinitially published in JID in 1984 and subsequently
revised and reprintedin Gary Anglin's ID: Past, Present, and Future (first
and secondeditions). I learned a lot writing this piece and I think it
has helped toestablish some new directions in the field with respect to
the researchmethods we use. Second is my book, Psychology
of Learning for Instruction. I think itprovides a balanced treatment of
learning and instruction that isn't to be found elsewhere. And the feedback
I get from users is that it provides apractical orientation that is lacking
from most learning theory texts. Finally, I have
a chapter on semiotics and ID that is coming out in a bookto be published
by Educational Technology. This is my first major effortto put down in
print my current thinking and understanding of semiotics,and I think it
has the potential of serving as a framework for a great dealof work to
What are two or three books or papers by other people
that you found veryprovocative or informative?
Two books I find myself recommending to others over and over are T.S.
Kuhn'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and George Lakoff
and MarkJohnson's Metaphors We Live By.
What practical work experience do you have in the
IT field? What has beenthe relationship between work experience and research?
I addressed this in some degree above in
my answer to how I got into the IT field. In addition to ID projects in
Iran and NY and evaluation projectsat NES, I have been involved in some
small instructional design effortswhile at FSU. I directed the design
and development of the MultipleOffenders DUI Curriculum under the auspices
of the Supreme Court ofFlorida. I was also part of a team effort to design
and develop acomputer-based instructional program on Subtance Abuse that
is used in theundergraduate biology curriculum here at FSU. Finally, I
am currently amember of the Exhibition Design Team for the Odyssey Science
Center, agrass roots effort here in Tallahassee to establish an interactive
sciencemuseum in the city.
Who are two or three people who have had the most
important impact on yourcareer?
First, without question, is the late Leslie J. Briggs, who was a facultymember
at FSU when I first arrived here in 1980. Les was someone whoreally knew
how to mentor younger faculty. He was a shy and gentle person,but he offered
early on to read papers for me and provide feedback on them. When he did
so, it was usually with a statement like, "Don't mind all thered ink;
I'm just an old schoolteacher at heart." His comments were alwayshelpful,
and his thinking was so futuristic that I gained a perspective I'mnot
sure I could have gotten from anyone else. Among
others who have had an important impact on my career are Bob Gagneand
Gary Shank. When Bob and I co-authored the second edition of hisEssentials
of Learning book, I learned a great deal about writing. Hisstyle is truly
elegant. Bob is also a curious person, and he would come outwith the most
astounding questions sometimes. Gary is the person who firstintroduced
me to semiotic theory, and for the last eight or ten years, hehas been
someone with whom I have especially enjoyed exchanging ideas.
What do you see as the future of IT?
I see the field broadening and becoming even more
interdisciplinary,drawing from research areas that perhaps to date have
not had much impacton the field. This will probably raise more questions
about who we are andwhat we are about, but I see these discussions as
What do you like best about your job?
This one is easy--mentoring students. One of the things I missed mostabout
working out in the field was working with students, and it was one ofthe
primary reasons I returned to academia. I learn so much from students,whether
they are in my classes or working with me on projects. I also believe
that I was mentored well throughout my graduate studies and onlyhope I
can do as well for my students.
What advice do you have for IT researchers who are
just beginning in the field?
A couple of things Les Briggs said have really stuck with me. Use yourresearch
results to inform and improve your teaching, and find yourresearch problems
in the questions that arise while you teach. There are always so many
things to compete for our time that combining tworesponsibilities into
a single task helps us to be more efficient. Becautious about the service
responsibilities you accept; it's easy forservice to consume huge amounts
of time without a great deal of payoff. Finally, ask for feedback from
someone you respect.