Instructional Strategies

When creating a course, the ultimate goal is that the learner will be to apply what they have learned in the real world. To accomplish this, an instructional designer needs to understand how to align the instructional objectives to appropriate instructional strategies. For example, if you want learners to leave the course able to process a certain form, then practice needs to be incorporated somewhere in the lesson. A learner will not retain information by being told how to do something or by watching someone else do it. They need to be immersed in the actual experience.

This article will explain how instructional designers can align a learning objective with an appropriate instructional strategy. This article is based on the 21st century version of Bloom’s taxonomy, which is the founding document for developing strong learning objectives.  The levels of learning are listed in order of increasing difficulty (from the bottom of the pyramid to the pinnacle).

  1. Remembering is based on recalling anything from definitions to the steps in a process or list. If the goal is memorization, then the instructional strategies used should include repetition and memory triggers. Recitations, writing, drill and practice, mnemonic devices, and chunking of information all enhance memorization and recall. Example: An organization regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) needs employees to know all the protective clothing they need to wear. This is a memorization skill that can be taught by having learners choose the correct equipment from a list that scrambles itself after every attempt (drill and practice).
  2. Understanding requires the learner to explain a concept or idea. Learners should be able to describe, classify, or discuss the concept or idea. This is probably the most commonly used objective, but understanding is not really measurable unless you align it to the right instructional strategy. Instructional strategies to measure understanding will require that the instructional designer or facilitator develop some kind of rubric to assess the learner. For example, there may be several safety issues with moving a lift truck before lowering the forks. Learners can express their understanding of this concept by writing or verbalizing a summary of the reasons why the procedure should be followed or reporting on the dangers of not following the procedure. The rubric will be used to assess whether the given explanation met expectation. Will the learned need to mention every applicable safety issue or if they name just one or two, will that show understanding? These are decisions that the instructional designer or facilitator need to make. A rubric will also ensure that all learners are assessed against the same standards.
  1. Applying assesses whether a student can use the learned information in a new way. Application requires the learner to perform an action. Can the learner demonstrate how to properly load and unload a lift truck from beginning to end? Alternatively, the learner may illustrate how to use the lift truck using diagrams, pictures, or models.
  1. Analyzing requires the learners to compare and contrast to distinguish between parts or concepts. Lift truck operators should be able to compare situations where operation of a fork lift could be hazardous, such as wet surfaces versus dry surfaces, tight corners, or areas with high pedestrian traffic. Learners can identify hazardous situations in photographs. They could also be presented with written case studies that ask them to identify potentially hazardous situations.
  1. Evaluating is based on whether a learner is able to justify his or her decisions based on the learned material. This can take the above mentioned analysis of hazardous situations a step further by asking learners not only to identify the hazardous situation, but also to explain why it is a hazard. Learners should be expected to back up their statements with resources from within the course or other sources of truth.
  1. Creating something gives learners the opportunity to fully utilize everything they have learned. Lift truck operators could create a document that outlines some corrective measures that need to be taken in the organization where they work. For example, if the learner realizes that the organization does not provide the proper safety equipment or that there are too many potentially hazardous situations looming, then he or she can write a document that proposes changes supported by documentation from the course.

Instructional strategies that are well-aligned to the learning objectives will result in learning and retention. The strategies provided in this article can easily be implemented in a hybrid or online course. For more instructional strategies, check out our webinar Guidelines for Creating Great Online Training hosted by Rebecca Lyles business consultant and previous training manager at IBM and AT&T.