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 Problem-Solving Instruction
Adults are problem-centered in their learning orientation. They are motivated to learn to the extent that learning will help them perform tasks or deal with real-life problems. Adult students usually know what they want to learn, and they like to see the program organized toward their personal goals (Knowles, 1989). Problem solving yields new learning as learners are able to combine prior knowledge of principles, procedures, declarative knowledge, and cognitive strategies. Learning strategies are generated by the learners (constructivism) and checked for their success by the instructor. The instructor may offer learning strategies such as analogies and mental imagery to assist instruction. Learners should be encouraged to solve problems of similar characteristics outside of the classroom to assure transfer of the problem-solving skill. Assessment should be the ability of the learners to demonstrate their skill in solving problems similar to those that were used in the classroom.
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.
Knowles, M. S. (1989). The making of an adult educator: An autobiographical journey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
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