Learning strategies are devices employed by learners to assist in the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Instruction should guide the learner in the choice of appropriate learning strategies for particular learning tasks. Facilitating the learning of declarative knowledge, concepts, procedures, principles, problem solving, cognitive, attitudes, and psychomotor skills begins with decisions on what content should be presented, how it should be presented, and in what sequence the instruction should follow (Smith and Ragan, 2005). Ideally, an instructional strategy should be as generative as possible while still offering motivational support for learners.
Micro-Level Instructional Strategies
Lesson (micro)-level instructional strategies should include an Introduction, Body, Conclusion, and Learning Assessment. Because adult learners need to know why they need to learn, strategies that deploy attention, arouse interest and motivation, establish instructional purpose, and provide a preview of the lesson should be included in the Introduction. Strategies that facilitate the recall of prior knowledge, process information, focus attention, facilitate learning, provide practice, and give feedback should be included in the Body. The Conclusion should include a summary and review, strategies to assure the transfer of knowledge, and exemplification of the usability of the new knowledge.
Exemplification is necessary to demonstrate to adult learners how this new knowledge can be applied in their workplace or daily lives. Assessment of performance, feedback and remediation should also be included.
Instructional Approaches for Principle Learning
Principles define the relationship among concepts. When designing a strategy for principle learning, the instructional designer chooses between an inquiry (constructivism) and an expository (cognitivism) approach. Learners’ attention is deployed in both approaches by demonstrations of the application of the principle.
When an inquiry strategy is used, the instructional purpose is established by presenting the purpose as an enigma to be resolved. Expository strategies state the purpose of the instruction more overtly. Preview of the instruction using an inquiry strategy directs learners how the enigma may be resolved, while an expository lesson may preview the lesson using an outline. Analogies may be used to recall relevant prior knowledge. Applications of the principle can be directly experienced by the learners or demonstrated to the learners to process information. While learners experience the principle, their attention should be focused on the key features in each application.
Learning strategies may include a mnemonic device created by the learner (declarative knowledge). Practice should include stating the principle, recognizing the applicability of the principle, application of the principle, and determination of whether a principle has been applied correctly. Feedback should include identification of correct statements, identification of whether the principle is applicable, the outcome of the application of the principle, and a clear indication of whether the principle was correctly applied. Transfer should be supported in the conclusion of how the principle may be combined with other principles, and learners should be remotivated by the applicability of the principle in their daily lives.
Instructional strategies certainly have their advantages in assisting learners in the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Instructional designers should carefully perform a task analysis, analyze learners, and the analyze the context when designing instruction to make a determination to facilitate the use of strategies with more direct prompting of learning strategies or more direct and complete instruction. If inhibitors to use of strategies are present (learners have low skill in strategy use, learners are not motivated, learners do not recognize the applicability of the strategy, learners lack awareness of their own cognitive capabilities, learners are unaware of the learning task, learners have no prior content knowledge, etc.) the instructional designer may need to develop a technique to improve them or choose strategies with more direct prompting or instruction that is more direct. A continuing goal of the instructional designer is to apply the different types of instructional strategies to best achieve the different types of learning.
Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design (3rd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Jossey-Bass Education
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development