C. Reeves, Ph.D.
Professor of Instructional Technology
The University of Georgia
What is your highest degree?
Ph.D., Division of Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation,
School of Education, Syracuse University, May 1979. (The title of my
dissertation was "Evaluating the Implementation of an Instructional
Design Across Settings." Dr. Edward F. Kelly chaired my dissertation
committee which also included Phil Doughty, Don Ely, and Bob Hollway.)
Could you describe how you got into
the field of instructional technology?
My first experience with "instructional technology" came as
a junior seminarian at St. Mary's Seminary in Pennsylvania when I helped
my Latin teacher prepare a series of transparencies to illustrate his
lectures about Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. Later as a Chaplain's Assistant
in the U. S. Army (1969-71), I completed a one week audiovisual specialist
school at Ft. Hamilton, New York. (One of my primary military duties
was showing "character guidance" films to soldiers.) After graduating
from Georgia State University with a degree in elementary education
(thanks to the G. I. Bill), I taught social studies to 7th Graders near
Atlanta for one year. I tried to use a learning center approach in my
classroom, but I found myself increasingly frustrated by my feeble attempts
to keep the students motivated via magazine and newspaper clippings
and the mimeographed materials I created. One of my professors at Georgia
State University, Francis "Skip" Atkinson had graduated from Syracuse
University, and he recommended the program to me. I went to Syracuse
in the Fall of 1974, and ended up with two Masters degrees (one from
Syracuse and one from Georgia State) and a Ph.D. by April of 1979. I
spent 1979-80 as a Fulbright Lecturer in Peru and first came to The
University of Georgia in 1982. I was initially recruited to Georgia
by the Department of Early Childhood Education, but I joined the Department
of Instructional Technology when it was formed in 1985 under the leadership
of Kent Gustafson.
How would you describe your research
agenda? How did you decide to research that area?
I wish I could say I had an authentic research agenda in the sense that
Imre Lakatos means by a "scientific research program." Since my days
as a graduate student at Syracuse, I have been most interested in evaluation
methods, especially as applied to the products of instructional technology.
In recent years, largely led by the interests and talents of my former
and present students, I have been investigating:
What are two or three books or papers you have written
that you believe are especially well done or interesting?
- the development of electronic performance support
systems for teachers and training developers,
- the mental models that learners construct of user
interfaces and interactive multimedia, and
- applications of instructional technology in developing
I am most proud of some of the non-print "publications" to which I have
contributed such as Macintosh Fundamentals, an interactive videodisc course
for Apple Computer, Inc. I worked as part of a team led by Jim Laffey who
was with Apple but is now with the University of Missouri. In the first
year of implementation alone, more than 10,000 people used this Golden Cindy
award winning course. As my colleagues and students can attest, I often
question the assumptions underlying much of the published research in our
field. (Twelve years of Catholic school and five graduate courses with Professor
Richard E. Clark at Syracuse provided me with a skeptical attitude toward
research.) I believe that we have made and continue to make the wrong assumptions
about the nature of the phenomena we study and hence often ask the wrong
research questions. I have published several papers that argue this perspective
- Reeves, T. C. (1993). Pseudoscience in computer-based
instruction: The case of learner control research. Journal of Computer-Based
Instruction, 20(2), 39-46.
- Reeves, T. C. (1990). Redirecting evaluation of interactive
video: The case for complexity. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 16,
- Reeves, T. C. (1986). Research and evaluation models
for the study of interactive video. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction,
What are two or three books or papers by other people
that you found very provocative or informative?
A book I go back to again and again is: Pirsig, R. M. (1974). Zen and
the art of motorcycle maintenance: An inquiry in to values. New York:
Morrow. I have used this book (which is mainly about the meaning of quality)
in several courses. (Students either love it or hate it!) I now have the
Voyager Press hypertext version of Pirsig's classic which makes finding
my favorite quotes much easier. Another book which I find very insightful
with respect to research is: Pagels, H. R. (1988). The dreams of reason:
The computer and the rise of the sciences of complexity. New York: Simon
and Schuster. Closer to our own field, I find the work of Gabi Salomon
and David Perkins to be brilliant. I also value research conducted by
some of Seymour Papert's students such as: Harel, I. (Ed.). (1991). Children
designers: Interdisciplinary constructions for learning and knowing mathematics
in a computer-rich school. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing. Kafai, Y. B.
(1992, April). Learning through design and play: Computer game design
as a context for children's learning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the American Educational Research Association. San Francisco, CA. Finally,
I think Dave Jonassen's efforts to emphasize using the computer as a cognitive
tool are very useful, and I look forward to the publication of his new
book: Jonassen, D. H. (in press). Mind tools for schools. New York: Macmillan.
What practical work experience do you have in the
IT field? What has been the relationship between work experience and research?
I have been fortunate to have numerous opportunities to work in practical
settings including military training, business training, and schools.
For example, in 1984, I left The University of Georgia for fifteen months
to work at Meta Media Systems in Germantown, Maryland. Among my clients
at Meta Media were the Library of Congress, the U. S. Navy, and Dow Chemical.
I have completed shorter term consultancies with Apple Computer, AT&T,
Delta Airlines, IBM, and the U. S. Air Force Academy, among others. Instructional
technology is a design science, and as professors of instructional technology,
we can not afford to hide out in the ivory tower. The models and prototypes
we develop must be tested (researched) in real world contexts. Without
one foot in the schools and training centers of the world, our classroom
presentations and course assignments about research would quickly become
sterile. At Georgia, we stress internships and involving our students
in real projects. (In fact, our students often find their first professional
positions through these opportunities.) In my own teaching, I attempt
to engage students in authentic learning opportunities as much as possible,
For example, in our research seminar, I assign students to identify a
research leader, conduct a review of the researcher's work using ERIC
and other information resources, make personal contact with the researcher.
interview the researcher about his/her research agenda, and prepare a
multimedia presentation about the researcher.
Who are two or three people who have had the most
important impact on your career?
Don Ely, one of my professors at Syracuse University, has been a major
mentor in my life. When I went to Syracuse in the Fall of 1974, I didn't
think that I could afford to go there because the tuition was so high,
but Don convinced me to stay. My first semester there was challenging
because I had to substitute teach practically every day to make ends meet.
Then I was fortunate enough to win a University Fellowship, and hence
I was able to complete a Masters and Ph.D. in what I believe was and is
one the best instructional technology programs in the country. Don also
encouraged me to apply for the Fulbright Lectureship program and to continue
international work since then. Don is an excellent role model. Two other
people who have been major influences on me are Skip Atkinson, from Georgia
State University, and Kent Gustafson, my colleague here at UGA. Both of
them exemplify the highest professional ideals in our field by continuously
applying the theories and prototypes generated in academe to the real
needs of schools, businesses, and government. Finally, I must mention
the late Edward F. Kelly, my major professor at Syracuse, who died tragically
young at age 45. Education would be greatly enhanced if he had been given
more time to contribute to it.
What do you see as the future of IT?
The field of instructional technology must evolve rapidly if it
is to survive as a unique field. In my opinion, we have relied far too
long on an instructional systems design approach which is no longer economically
viable. Rapid prototyping of electronic performance support systems will
be a much larger part of our future than traditional ISD approaches to
developing large scale instructional systems. The good news is that the
knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed in the best instructional technology
programs are quite versatile. Instructional technology prepares people
for the rapidly changing world of learning and performance environments
about as well as any field can.
What do you like best about your job?
The opportunities for international experience in this field are very
rewarding. I spend a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in Peru, another part
of a year in Germany working on an interactive videodisc project, and
more recently five months in Australia as a Teaching Fellow at Edith Cowan
University. I have also been honored by opportunities to speak and/or
provide workshops in countries as diverse as Brazil, Bulgaria, Finland,
Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, and Taiwan. This summer, I'll be giving
an evaluation workshop with Mary Marlino from the U. S. Air Force Academy
at ED-MEDIA '95 in Graz, Austria, and collaborating with faculty and students
at the University of Twente in The Netherlands for three weeks. Although
the world seems to get smaller everyday though technologies such as the
Internet and WWW, I feel that I have only experienced a tiny part of it.
I look forward to many future international collaborations.
What advice do you have for IT researchers who are
just beginning in the field?
Seek out opportunities to study the philosophy of science that
underlies science in general and research in the social sciences in particular.
A good place to start would be: Phillips, D. C. (1992). The social scientist's
bestiary: A guide to fabled threats to, and defenses of, naturalistic
social science. New York: Pergamon Press. Enroll in a philosophy of science
course, preferably one outside a college or school of education. Expose
yourself to as many different forms of inquiry as possible. And most of
all, don't conduct pseudoscience! For the meaning of pseudoscience, see
my recent publication on
the Questions of Instructional Technology Research which is also available
at this Web site.