Before 1920 
  The Future

The 1950s:
Programmed Instruction and Task Analysis

Influences on this period:

  • Baby boom after World War II
  • the Trumpet Plan that recognized small group, large group independent study

The Soviet launch of Sputnik (1954) initiated federal funds to education.

This period is characterized by the birth and development of Programmed Instruction.

While Pressey had invented and demonstrated a testing machine as early as 1925, it was B.F. Skinner's elaboration of the theory of reinforcement and its application to learning that established the Programmed Instruction Movement.

Skinner's research into operant conditioning and animal learning led him to suggest that human learning could be maximized by the careful control of reinforcement for desired behaviors.

During this period, Behaviorism florished.

Task analysis was first used by the Air Force personnel to refer to procedures for anticipating the job requirements of new equipment under development.

In 1956 Benjamin Bloom and co-authors, M. Englehart, E. Furst, W. Hill, and D Krathwohl, published their Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive Domain. Initiated as a support for cognitive assessment, the Taxonomy was to prove extremely valuable in the specification and analysis of instructional outcomes and the design of instruction to attain them.

Also during this period the IBM Teaching Machines Project was developed.

More information:


Skinner, B. F. (1935). Two types of conditioned reflex and a pseudo type. Journal of General Psychology, 12, 66-77.

Skinner, B. F. (1937). Two types of conditioned reflex: A reply to Konorski and Miller. Journal of General Psychology, 16, 272-279.

Skinner, B. F. (1948). 'Superstition' in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 168-172.

Skinner, B.F. (1989)The Origins of Cognitive Thought