Martin Tessmer
Professor of Instructional Design
U
niversity of South Alabama

Where did you receive your highest degree?
Ph.D., Florida State University, 1982

Could you describe how you got into the field of instructional technology?  
I first found out about the field around 1975 or so, when I was teachingphilosophy as an adjunct faculty member at Southern Illinois University atEdwardsville. I was preparing to go to doctoral school in philosophy atPurdue, when it occurred to me that I would prefer a field that had more potential for gainful employment (I didn't want to be a Ph.D. selling shoes orforever teaching Philosophy 100 in West Okefenokee Junior College!). ITappealed to me because it combined, theory, technology and practice.

How would you describe your research agenda?
My research agenda is a bit eclectic, but all of it focuses upon the process(not product-hardware) end of instructional technology. I continue to work ondeveloping alternative instructional design techniques (environment alanalysis) and models (layers of necessity). In addition, my current interest has shifted to taxonomies of learning. Dave Jonassen and I have been working on a new one that emphasizes more structural learning and self-management outcomes. Rita Richey and I also are working at developing the idea of contextual analysis.

What are a few books or papers you have written that you believe are especially well done or interesting?
Me? My stuff? Oh, gosh, I don't know. I think the formative evaluation book is my most helpful book, I designed it so someone could learn how to plan and execute formative evaluations by reading through it. My environment alanalysis book was the most original, even thought a lot of people think they already did this kind of analysis, because it systematized the process and tools for analyzing instructional contexts. The Layers of Necessity model has gotten the most notoriety, in part because it legitimized (and clarified) what many designers have been doing for years!

What are some books by other people that you found very provocative or informative?
Gagne & Briggs' Principles of Instructional Design , 1979, was the work that most influenced my interest in instructional design. Roberta Klatzky's HumanMemory was very informative on human learning processes. John Zeisel'sInquiry by Design helped clarify my ideas on alternative design approaches,and Robert Sternberg's Wisdom is a refreshing perspective on an oft-overlooked concept. Also, Spinoza's On the Improvement of the Understanding reinforced my belief that it is better to teach a few ideasvery clearly than cover a lot of ideas in a more circumspect fashion.

What practical work experience do you have in the IT field? What has been the relationship between work experience and research?
Well, I worked at Caterpillar Tractor as a training manager for a short span of time, then spent five years as an instructional designcon sultant to other faculty at Richland Community College in Illinois. Then I worked as an independent design consultant while finishing my doctoral degree at Florida State. After that I spend six years at the University ofColorado at Denver as a design consultant to faculty and a graduate faculty member in IT. How has my work influenced my research? I figured I have worked on about 130-140 design projects in my time, both large and small. In doing those projects, it came to me that the major cause of failure on so many ofthe projects was that the instructional context had not been sufficiently considered in planning the project. Hence my work in environmentalanalysis. Also, because I had to work on a number projects at once, with limited time and resources, I had to adapt the amount and kind of ID Icould do on every one of them. Hence the Layers of Necessity model that John Wedman and I sketched out.

Who are two or three people who have had the most important impact on yourcareer?
Robert Gagne, who spent many hours with me in independent study courses ondesign theory and strategy. My friend Dave Jonassen, who is such an intellectual explorer. It has been rewarding to watch how they think andknow what they think.

Could you describe one research project that you found particularly interesting or worthwhile?
The surveys and interviews I have done on designers' practice has been the most interesting, there are so many ways that they do instructional design. I think the work I am currently doing on mental models will have the greatest payoff in recommendations on how to teach and test for this increasingly important learning outcome.

What do you see as the future of IT?
The process of instructional design will change. There will be moreconcurrent design (analysis, production and evaluation combined) with users as part of the design group, with design scenarios and alternate prototypes as the vehicles that facilitate group design. The development of groupware will change the design process as well, we are entering an age of "instructional design over space and time." Design groups will meet over the Internet and area network. The group will also input decisions about objectives, strategies, etc. at different times of the day. In short, the design communication and decision making process will change, because groupware/Internet changes will facilitate more of a "hyper-design" environment.

What advice do you have for IT researchers who are just beginning in the field?
Concentrate on the process of design and instruction, don't have your efforts seduced by hardware and software. Make sure you think first aboutthe intangibles (the strategy, outcome, or research hypothesis) and thenstart thinking about some media vehicle to teach it. I wonder if our research process isn't being dumbed down by choosing a media format (Iwanna do multimedia/distance ed) as a research questions, not a learning problem or design process.