Instructional Strategy

Developing an Instructional Strategy

At this point in the instructional design process, the training specialist makes important choices about the course's structure and its methods. Overall, these choices combine to form a comprehensive instructional strategy to help people achieve the course's learning objectives.

When instructional designers create instructional strategies for courses, they draw upon theoretical knowledge and practical experience. There are many different ways to sequence and present content to learners. It's the instructional designer's responsibility to choose the correct instructional strategies for the course and the learners.

On this page, we'll take a look at three issues that instructional designers consider when they devise an instructional strategy:

  • How will course material be grouped and sequenced?
  • What instructional methods and tactics will be used to present material?
  • How will assessments measure a learner's success?

These three issues often overlap with each other; a choice in one area may affect the other areas.

Grouping and Sequencing Content

The training specialists must decide if any of the course's learning objectives should be grouped together. You can't teach everything at once, but sometimes it makes sense to put related topics together for the learners. These related topics can form the basis for a course module.

Once topics have been grouped together, the training specialist has to organize the content into a course structure. The content inside of each group needs to be sequenced and then the groups themselves need to be sequenced together to form the course structure. Here are just a few of the many possible sequencing options:

  • Step-by-step
  • Part-to-whole
  • Whole-to-part
  • Known-to-unknown
  • General-to-specific

As you can see, there are many different ways to organize and present course material. The instructional designer chooses the structure that makes the most sense for the learners and the course content.

Choosing Methods and Tactics

In the instructional design phase, the training specialist has to decide how the course material will be presented to the learners. Specifically, we're looking at the types of activities and exercises that will be in the course. Here are just a few examples of different types of learning activities:

  • Group discussions
  • Modeling
  • Scenarios
  • Mnemonics
  • Drills
  • Applied practice

If you want to teach someone how to type on a keyboard, you might recommend rote drills and applied practice. However, if you want learners to develop interpersonal skills, rote drills offer limited value. Role play scenarios and group discussions would probably be more effective learning activities. Generally, the course's activities and exercises must fit with the type of learning people will be asked to do.

Designing Assessments

At the end of the needs analysis phase, the training specialist created learning objectives that defined measurable tasks and criteria for success. Now, in the instructional design phase, the training specialist creates assessment tools that will measure the learners progress.

If you have a driver's license, you probably completed two types of tests before you received your license. You completed a written test that measured your understanding of street signs, laws, and procedures. You probably also performed an on-the-road test where someone observed your driving skills. The two tests measure different capabilities.

You could be very knowledgeable about traffic laws and procedures but a poor driver behind the wheel. Similarly, you might be good at driving the car but poor at recognizing street signs and safety procedures. You have to pass both tests before you can obtain a driver's license.

The course's assessments should measure a learner's progress towards each of the learning objectives. The types of assessment must fit the learning objective.