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Lesson 8 - Instructional Strategy

Lesson 8 Readings
  • Read Chapter 8, Developing an Instructional Strategy, from Dick and Carey.

Background Information

Well, youпїЅve come a long way in the instructional design process. YouпїЅve defined a need that you want to address with instruction, decided on a goal, and broke that goal down into steps, substeps, and subskills. In addition, you should have a good idea of who your learners are, the context they will learn these new skills in, and the context they will use these new skills in. Finally you created a list of objectives indicating what you want them to be able to do at the end of your instruction, along with items that will help you determine whether they can do it or not. With all of these broad planning and analysis steps finished, it is time to think about planning individual lessons. This is accomplished by creating an instructional strategy. As you see this is the sixth step in the Dick and Carey model.

Dick and Carey use the term Instructional Strategy to describe the process of sequencing and organizing content, specifying learning activities, and deciding how to deliver the content and activities. An instructional strategy can perform several functions:

  • It can be used as a prescription to develop instructional materials.
  • It can be used as a set of criteria to evaluate existing materials.
  • It can be used as a set of criteria and a prescription to revise existing materials.
  • It can be used as a framework from which to plan class lecture notes, interactive group exercises, and homework assignments.

The planning of an instructional strategy is an important part of the overall instructional design process. Gagne calls the planning and analysis steps the "architecture" of the course, while the instructional strategies are the "bricks and mortar". This is where you deal with how to actually instruct the student. Previous steps in the instructional design process have deliberately left out any discussion of how the instruction would be done.

Elements of an Instructional Strategy

Creating an instructional strategy involves taking all of the information you have accumulated to this point and generating an effective plan for presenting your instruction to your learners. At this point you must be able to combine your knowledge of learning and design theory with your experience of learners and objectives. Creating a strategy is not the same as actually developing your instructional materials. The purpose of creating the strategy before developing the materials themselves is to outline how the instructional activities will relate to the accomplishment of the objectives (GagnпїЅ, 1988). This will provide you with a clear plan for subsequent development. Dick and Carey describe four elements of an instructional strategy:

  1. Content Sequence and Clustering
  2. Learning Components
  3. Student Groupings
  4. Selection of Media and Delivery Systems

LetпїЅs take a brief look at each one.

Element 1 - Content Sequencing and Clustering

Content Sequencing

The first step in developing an instructional strategy is deciding on a teaching sequence and groupings of content. Whether you are developing a lesson, a course, or an entire curriculum, decisions must be made regarding the sequencing of objectives. The best way to determine the sequence is to refer to your instructional analysis. You will generally begin with the lower level subordinate skills on the left and work your way up through the hierarchy until you reach the main goal step. ItпїЅs not a good idea to present information about a skill until you have presented information on all related subordinate skills. Work your way from bottom to top and left to right until you have covered all of the skills. Then youпїЅll want to provide instruction on integrating all of the steps in the instructional goal (attainment of the terminal objective).

Clustering Instruction

The next important consideration is how you will group your instructional activities. You may decide to present information one objective at a time, or cluster several related objectives. Dick and Carey recommend taking the following factors into consideration when determining how much or how little instruction to present at any given time:

  1. The age level of your learners
  2. The complexity of the material
  3. The type of learning taking place
  4. Whether the activity can be varied, thereby focusing attention on the task
  5. The amount of

    time required to include all the events in the instructional strategy for each cluster of content presented.

Element 2 - Learning Components

The next element in an instructional strategy is a description of the learning components for a set of instructional materials. Here Dick and Carey mention GagnпїЅs Nine Events of Instruction. which is a set of external teaching activities that support the internal processes of learning. Back in Lesson 2 we discussed GagnпїЅs theory of instruction, and introduced its three main components: learning categories (domains), learning conditions, and the nine events of instruction. We have already discussed the learning categories, and in this lesson we will look at the events of instruction, and his conditions of instruction.

In order for instruction to bring about effective learning, it must be made to influence the internal processes of learning. GagnпїЅ believes that instruction is "a deliberately arranged set of external events designed to support internal learning processes" (pg. 11), and is interested in what kinds of events can provide such support. Therefore, to tie his theory of instruction together, he formulated nine events of instruction that are needed for all learning processes and learning outcomes. When followed, these events are intended to promote the transfer of knowledge or information from perception through the various stages of memory. Gagne derived these events from an understanding of the cognitive processes that go on in the brain (you should remember learning about cognitive information processing in your Education Psychology course). In brief, the kinds of processing presumed to occur during any single act of learning are summarized by GagnпїЅ as follows:

  1. Attention. Determines the extent and nature of reception of incoming stimulation.
  2. Selective Perception (sometimes called pattern recognition ): Transforms this stimulation into the form of object-features, for storage in short-term memory.
  3. Rehearsal. Maintains and renews the items stored in short-term memory.
  4. Semantic Encoding. Prepares information for long-term storage.
  5. Retrieval. including search. Returns stored information to the working memory or to a response generator.
  6. Response Organization. Selects and organizes performance.
  7. Feedback. Provides the learner with information about performances and sets in motion the process of reinforcement .
  8. Executive Control Processes. Select and activate cognitive strategies; these modify any or all of the previously listed internal processes.

As stated earlier, these internal processes can be influenced by external events, which is what makes instruction possible. For example, Selective Perception may be influenced by particular arrangements of instructional materials. A simple technique for this would be to highlight or underline a block of text you wanted learners to focus on.

GagnпїЅs events of instruction are designed to help learners get from where they are to where you want them to be. HereпїЅs a list of the events, in the order they are typically employed:

  1. Gaining attention
  2. Informing learner of objectives
  3. Stimulating recall of prior learning
  4. Presenting the stimulus material
  5. Providing learning guidance
  6. Eliciting the performance
  7. Providing feedback about performance correctness
  8. Assessing the performance
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer

Keep in mind that each of these events may not be provided for every lesson. Sometimes, one or more of the events may already be obvious to the learner and may not be needed. Also, one or more of the events may be provided by the learners themselves, particularly experienced self-learners. Older, more experienced learners may provide many of the events on their own, while for young children the teacher would arrange for most of them.

Dick and Carey rearrange GagnпїЅs events to fit into five categories. However, since GagnпїЅs nine original events are so widely known we want to focus on those for now. Here's a closer look at each one:

1. Gaining Attention

Many different kinds of techniques are employed to gain learnerпїЅs attention. Often this is done using some sort of attention getting device, such as quick cutting in a video. However, the best way to gain attention is to appeal to the learnerпїЅs interests. This can be done using probing questions, such as, "What do you think makes a leaf fall from a tree?"

Gaining attention ties in directly with the concept of motivation. Teachers know all too well the difficulties involved in motivating student to take an interest in their instruction. John Keller has tried to deal with this by developing the ARCS Model of motivation. ARCS is an acronym for:

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