Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Well I am back yet again.

Have finished Uni for this year and I must admit I am enjoying the solace of writing for enjoyment and not for assessment!

Whilst I have been busy studying my little butt off I notice that my feed traffic is focussing on bells buzzers and whistles and I thought it was time to start bringing people back to the fundamentals!!!!!

It would seem that people are forgetting the fundamentals. So today I begin a series of what to concentrate on to improve the quality of your learning product.

Lets focus on Instructional Strategies and Tactics!

These are methods of instruction and are used essentially to enhance the learning process.

The difference between instructional strategies and tactics is that strategies have a broader scope than tactics because a variety of tactics can be utilised to present or implement a single strategy. Presenting an example is a tactic, whereas using an inductive approach by presenting examples followed by a generality which governs them, is a strategy.

It is generally accepted that the term instructional strategy is used to include:

· the choice of techniques and media for each instructional event; and

· the structure and timing of instructional events within a course.

Generally, there are three kinds of strategies:

Micro Strategy

Organising small chunks of content eg teaching a single concept or procedure.

Intermediate Strategy

Organising medium sized chunks of content such as whether to use a discovery approach or a hands on approach for several related ideas. eg media solution and utilisation.

Macro Strategy

Selection and sequencing large chunks of content and managing it by controlling the instructional process.

The five major components of an instructional strategy are:

1. Preinstructional activities

2. Information presentation

3. Student participation

4. Testing

5. Follow through activities

Preinstructional Activities

Entry Level Requirements

These represent a brief description of the knowledge and or experience a student must have before commencing the instruction.


This is a broad and complex issue because what motivates one person may not motivate another. However, there are various ways to grab the student’s attention.
For example, background or history of the subject, illustration or story, dynamic or animated graphics with an appropriate association to the content or use of a metaphor.

Appropriate interface design is an important consideration. Overall the student must be involved or engaged by the information presented at the outset. It must have direct relevance to the expected outcomes. This can be assisted by the presentation of a rationale as to why the material should be learned.

Students should be informed of what they will be able to do at the completion of the lesson and there is no reason why this should not be a modified version of the objective.

Information Presentation

The hierarchy of the course and the way in which the subject matter is to be grouped into activities influences presentation strategies.

Information presentation strategies can include the following:

· Easy to hard - from simple to complex tasks.

· Structural logic - similar to easy to hard.

· Learning dictated by the logical structure of the subject - identified basics first then built
upon or manipulated later in the course.
· Parallel themes - topics which could be studied in any order within the course.

· Chronological - happenings, events or discoveries over a period of time in the order in which
they occur.

· Causal sequence - chain of cause and effect. This applies where you are teaching cause and
effect relationships, especially if your objective is that the learners should be able to work out
and explain such a relationship.

· Problem centred sequence - you may sometimes be able to structure a course around the
exploration of a problem eg case studies and scenario based situations/simulations.

Student Participation

This part of an instructional strategy details the type(s) of interaction and/or practice to be made available to the student in order to consolidate instruction. Student participation also includes determining how feedback regarding performance will be relayed to the student. The content matter and proposed methods of testing also determine the form of practice.

For example, practice could include syndicate work, individual assignments, or activities with a theme which build upon each other as the course progresses. Feedback could be one to one or through group discussion.


Issues for consideration include:

· Will pretests be administered?

· How will embedded testing take place?

· The types of mastery tests to be administered, ie if the mastery test is on system or an observed performance test on the job.

Adequate test design is closely related to the quality of the instructional objectives. If you have a well written instructional objective, it will tell you exactly what conditions need to be present in the test item and what criteria is to be used to determine the correctness of student answers.

Follow Through Activities

Follow through activities refer to the strategies to be employed once the student has completed the course.

Follow through activities can be divided into:


Generally, this would only be required upon a “fail” at a “on-the-job performance test” type activity. Considerations are:

· The form of remediation that will be provided either at the course or activity level if mastery of the subject is not achieved.

· Whether or not remediation will be provided on the whole course/activity or solely on objectives not mastered.

· Whether or not remediation will be a modified version (perhaps lower reading level or more graphical presentation) of the original instruction.

The need for remediation in itself should raise an alarm bell! For example, is the on-job performance test realistic, is it really testing what it should?


Consider further activities for students who are successful throughout the course and how these activities will be structured and presented.

For example, possible provision of handouts or assigned readings or provision of references of further information relating to content matter.

Choosing the right Instructional Strategy

There is no “correct” instructional strategy for a particular situation. When choosing a strategy the content of the material to be taught and the target audience must be considered. The instructional designer’s personal preferences are also into taken account.

The following may be useful in regard to choosing instructional strategies “ . . . do so on the grounds of how you believe they will appeal to your learners and help them to learn.”

There is no real reason for necessarily following the traditional “logic of the subject” - what you should be looking for is not so much the best logical order as the most satisfying psychological order.

For another perspective on instructional strategies specifically in relation to teaching concepts, refer to David Merrill and his component display theory

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