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.
Concept instruction may follow an inquiry or discovery approach (generative strategy) or expository or concept approach (supplantive strategy). If following an inquiry approach, instruction would be designed to incorporate the theory of constructivism, including activities that encourage learners to discover principles by themselves. A concept approach would include instruction based more on the cognitive learning theory, which focuses on an explanation of the development of cognitive structures and processes, and the intervention of these structures and processes between instruction and learning (Smith & Ragan, 2005).
Instructional Approaches for Concept Learning
Learning strategies for acquisition of concept learning include elaboration, concept mapping, analogies, mnemonics, and imagery. Practice and feedback are accomplished through examples and nonexamples. Learners should be asked to cite examples of the concept to demonstrate transfer of knowledge, and assessment may involve constructed answer items. Learners should receive an assessment of whether or not they have mastered the learning goal.
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