Suggested Readings

Chapter 8, Developing an Instructional Strategy, from Dick, Carey and Carey.

Background Information

If you've come this far in the design process you've 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, Carey and Carey model.

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 (Gagne, 1988). This will provide you with a clear plan for subsequent development. Dick, Carey 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

Let's 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. It's 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 you'll 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, Carey 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, Carey and Carey mention Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, which is a set of external teaching activities that support the internal processes of learning. In order for instruction to bring about effective learning, it must be made to influence the internal processes of learning. Gagne believes that instruction is "a deliberately arranged set of external events designed to support internal learning processes" (p. 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. They are designed to help learners get from where they are to where you want them to be. Here's 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, Carey and Carey rearrange Gagne's events to fit into five categories. However, since Gagne's 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 learner's 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 learner's 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:


= Attention
= Relevance
= Confidence
= Satisfaction

The ARCS Model is a method for improving the motivational appeal of instructional materials. This model is based on research related to motivation that indicates that people are motivated to engage in an activity if it is perceived to be linked to the satisfaction of personal needs, and if there is a positive expectancy for success. According to Keller (1988), these four conditions must be met in order for people to become and remain motivated.

  1. Attention - Having students' attention is a prerequisite for learning. You should be concerned with getting and maintaining attention. Getting attention is usually pretty easy, however, sustaining it can be difficult.

  2. Relevance - This involves making the instruction seem relevant to learners' present and future needs. It's not always enough to tell students, "You'll need this in the future". Many students, especially younger ones, live in the present and are not concerned with future needs, so you must seek ways to make your instruction seem relevant to their present needs.

  3. Confidence - Confidence can influence a student's persistence and accomplishment. Confident people tend to attribute their successes to their ability and effort instead of luck, and believe that they can accomplish their goals through their actions. Unconfident people have a greater fear of failure. Strategies must be employed that give students the impression that if they put forth effort they can succeed.

  4. Satisfaction - This involves making people feel good about their accomplishments. People will feel more confident if they are made aware of the task and the reward for success, and if an appropriate reinforcement schedule is used (sounds like Ed Psych stuff again, doesn't it?) It's also important to make students feel they have control over the behaviors that lead to the reward.

If these four conditions are met one can assume to have made a reasonable attempt at gaining and maintaining motivation in their learners. In order meet these four conditions a designer must be aware of the learners' needs and interests. A good way to do that is to revisit your learner analysis. Dick, Carey and Carey discuss each of the ARCS factors, and provide a nice diagram on page 191 that indicates how these factors relate to their five learning components.

2. Informing Learners of the Objectives

Gagne's second event asserts that the learner should be informed of the kind of performance that will be used to determine if they have learned what they are supposed to learn. In some cases it may not be necessary to specifically inform learners of the objectives because they already know (e.g., a tennis lesson). However, in many cases it is necessary in order to clarify to learners what they should be attempting to learn. For example, if students are studying the U.S. Constitution, should they be able to recite the Preamble, or should they be able to state the main ideas? If students know which one is expected then they can better attend to the accompanying instruction. It also helps them avoid undue stress resulting from them thinking that they have to know everything relating to a topic. In general it is best not to assume that learners know what it is they should be learning. Communicating objectives takes little time, and may even help the instructor stay on track.

3. Stimulating Recall of Prerequisite Learning

According to cognitive information processing theory, most new learning depends on connections made to prior learning. For example, certain concepts and rules must have been previously learned in order to learn new higher-order rules. When new learning is about to occur, relevant prior information should be made internally accessible so that it can be made part of the learning event. This accessibility is assured by having the old information recalled just prior to presenting the new information. This can be done by asking recognition or recall questions. For example, you might ask something like, "Do you remember when you learned about..." This line of questioning recalls previously learned information and leads to a new strand of learning. In this way learners see the relationship between what they have already learned and what they will be learning. This also lends relevance to the entire process.

4. Presenting the Stimulus Material

This event is when the new information is presented to the learner. For example, if learners must learn a series of facts then those facts must be communicated to them in some form. If they must learn a motor skill then the skill must be demonstrated. It is important at this point that the proper stimuli are presented as part of the instructional events. For example, if you want the learner to acquire the ability to answer questions delivered orally in French, you should not present them with questions in English or printed questions in French. If you do not use the proper stimuli then you may end up teaching the wrong skills.

Stimulus presentation often emphasizes features that encourage learners to select what you want then to attend to. This can be done using italics, bold print, underlining, or pictures with arrows or circles or highlighting. Stimulus presentation for the learning of concepts and rules requires the use of a variety of examples. For example, if you are teaching about squares you should present big squares, small squares, squares of different colors, squares made out of different materials, and squares in everyday life. Likewise, if students are learning how to apply the formula for finding the area of a square, they need to be given several examples to make sure that they understand and can use the relevant rule. The third component of Gagne's learning theory relates to his conditions of learning, which describes a set of strategies that can be used when presenting information in different learning domains. We will look closer at these strategies a little later in this lesson.

Another important element in presenting instruction is that you should present a variety of examples and non-examples. A non-example is deliberately chosen for its non-relevance to the concept that is being taught. For example, not only is it important to present a variety of squares, it is also important to present a variety of examples of what is not a square (circles, triangles, rectangles). This aids in the discrimination process and further supports the acquisition of the concept. It is also important not to present too much information at one time, especially if it is not related to the objectives.

5. Providing Learning Guidance

Learning guidance usually takes the form of communications between teacher and student that help guide the learner to the attainment of an objective. These communications stimulate a direction of thought and help keep the learner on track, leading to a more efficient learning situation. Their sole purpose is to aid in the process of learning, and to move students from one state of mind to another. This does not involve telling the learner the answer; rather, it involves suggesting a line of thought that will presumably lead to the desired outcome. Try to avoid thinking about it in terms of simply presenting information - what you are really trying to do it facilitate learning.

The amount of guidance given will depend on the type of learning desired. It will also vary according to the kinds of learners you have. Some require less guidance, and even shun such guidance, while others require a great deal and can become frustrated when it is not present. We have all encountered students who seem to need constant attention during an activity, while others prefer to keep to themselves and manage their own learning. In any event, it is important to be aware of the needs of your different students for varying levels of guidance.

6. Eliciting the Performance (Practice)

The next event allows the learner to communicate to the instructor whether or not they can perform the skill they are trying to learn. This is done by providing the learner with practice exercises. Usually, the initial practice is done using the same example with which the learners were shown the skill. This is followed by more examples that differ from the original. All practice items must match the performances and conditions indicated within your objectives.

Good practice items should include the following elements:

  • They should clearly specify the practice format and nature of the student response.
  • They should be relevant to the objective.
  • They should elicit the exact performance stated in the objective.
  • The exact conditions stated in the objective should be present.
  • Individuals versus groups should get practice.
  • They should be provided as frequently and immediately following instruction as possible.

To illustrate, suppose you had the following objective:

Students will construct a line graph and properly plot data presented in a given data table or chart.

Now, look at the following options for providing practice:

  1. You could have a blank graph drawn on the board along with a corresponding data chart. Each student would be asked to go up to the board and plot one of the data points.
  2. You could present a data chart to the class and discuss which elements should be included in a graph that could display the data.
  3. You could prepare a worksheet that contains a variety of graphs that each display data from a given table differently. The students must circle the graphs that properly display the data.
  4. You could give each student a data chart along with a blank piece of graph paper and instruct them to construct a line graph and plot data from the chart into the graph.

In this case the best practice over the skills stated in the objective would be number 4. It is the only choice that demands the exact performance of every student under the exact conditions stated in the objective.

Here are a couple more examples of practice exercises:

Objective: The students will write a descriptive essay of at least 300 words.

Bad: Have students read several examples of good examples.
Bad: Write a descriptive essay in class by having each student contribute a sentence.
Bad: Have each student orally describe an unknown object until the other students can guess what the object is.
Good: Have students choose a topic and write an essay describing it.

Objective: The student will balance a checkbook containing an initial balance and 10 unregistered check amounts.

Bad: Have students solve subtraction problems on a worksheet.
: Have students describe how to balance a checkbook.
: Give students a checkbook with an initial balance and 10 checks, and have them balance the checkbook.

7. Providing Feedback

Not only should learners be provided with practice exercises, they should be given feedback about their performance. Feedback can be verbal, written, computerized, or given in other forms. Regardless of the form you choose, the feedback should inform the learners about the degree of correctness in their performance so that they may improve on subsequent attempts. It should also be given as soon after the performance as possible. In many cases feedback is automatically provided. For example, if you touch a hot stove you get burned - you don't need anyone else to tell you that you just got burned, or to tell you not to do it again. However, in many cases the feedback is not automatic and must be provided by the instructor in some form. For example, if you are learning how to hit a golf ball, you can usually tell after you swing whether or not you hit it. However, an instructor would still be necessary to provide feedback as to why you missed it, and what corrections should be made to improve your performance. Feedback can also be used as positive reinforcement when learners perform correctly.

Good feedback should include the following elements:

  • It should provide comments about the student's performance.
  • It should be immediate and frequent.
  • It should have students correct their own mistakes if possible.
  • It should consider using a variety of feedback types: knowledge of results, knowledge of correct results, analytical (related to criteria), motivational (reinforcement).

8. Assessing Performance

In Gagne's eighth event you elicit a performance from the learners to determine if the desired learning has occurred. Students are assessed to determine whether the instruction has met its design objectives, and also to learn whether each student has achieved the desired objectives. Most of the time this results in some sort of grade being assigned to each student. In the last lesson we discussed the various types of assessments and assessment items. Now you should determine which of these assessments you will use and how you will administer them. Keep in mind that your assessments should match the stated objectives in order to provide an accurate judgment.

9. Enhancing Retention and Transfer

Many people feel that when the test is over so is the course. However, as a last step it is important to figure out ways to increase the chances that the skills you have taught will be used properly by learners when they use them outside of the learning context. Learners may be able to recall new knowledge and skills in the classroom, but what about when they get into the real world?

Because learning is generally situation-specific, the best way to aid in retention and transfer is to provide a meaningful context in which to present your instruction. If the skills to be learned represent skills used in the real world, try to establish a "classroom" learning environment that approximates this real world context as close as possible. Then the jump to the real world will be less of a change for learners. For example, consider the following goal:

Students will write a descriptive paragraph free of grammatical errors.

Since writing descriptive paragraphs is often part of communicating with other people via letters, an excellent overall context for this outcome would be establishing email correspondences between students and people they care about. This closely matches what they would be doing in the real world, and as such will make it easier for them to transfer the skills they learn to that real world.

It is also important to make sure that the most effective conditions for learning the specific type of performance are part of the learning environment (see the section below on learning conditions). Beyond that, another good way to enhance retention is through a review of the material at the end of the instruction. Reviews allow learners to practice retrieving new information, and also help to strengthen the network of relationships in the brain. For longer units it is often good to have reviews spaced periodically throughout the instruction.

Assisting learners with the transfer of new skills is aided greatly by presenting students with new varieties of tasks that are related to what they have already learned. These tasks should require the application of what has been learned in situations that differ substantially from those used for the learning itself. For example, if you are teaching a set of rules for making verbs agree with a pronoun subject, you may have assessed learners' performance by presenting examples in which you varied the verb and the pronoun. However, to aid in transfer you would want to vary the situation even more. This might be done by having learners write sentences where they supply the verb and pronoun themselves instead of having them supplied to them. Or, you might have them compose sentences using verbs and pronouns based on events depicted in pictures. The important thing is to created varied examples that will help learners use the skills at a later date.

This wraps up the discussion on the second element of an instructional strategy - the learning components. Now on to element three.

Element 3 - Student Groupings

The next element of an instructional strategy is a description of how students will be grouped during instruction. The main things to consider are whether there are any requirements for social interaction explicit in the statement of your objectives, in the performance environment, in the specific learning component being planned, or in your own personal views. Student groupings can hinder individual learning, but at the same time they can motivate students and keep them interested. Also, keep in mind that your delivery system can affect the amount of social interaction possible. As you all know, a distance-delivered course makes it hard to promote social interaction between students. Similarly, computer-based instruction can be hard to do with groups of students.

Element 4 - Selection of Media and Delivery Systems

This is the fourth and final element of an instructional strategy. Once decisions have been made about content sequencing and clustering, and the learning components have been planned, it's time to turn your attention to selecting a delivery system for your overall instructional system, along with the media you will use to present the information in your instruction. According to Gagne (1988), the selection of a delivery system indicates a general preference for emphasizing certain instruments to accomplish instructional events. Within this general preference, specific agents or media can be assigned, event-by-event, objective-by-objective to accomplish the intended goal.

The overall delivery system includes everything necessary to allow a particular instructional system to operate as it was intended and where it was intended. Some examples of delivery systems include:

  • Classroom delivery
  • Lecture
  • Correspondence
  • Videotape
  • Videoconference
  • Computer-based
  • Web-based

Once you have chosen a delivery system, various media can then be chosen to deliver the information and events of your instruction. Media constitutes the physical elements in the learning environment with which learners interact in order to learn something. The choice of media is done as part of the instructional strategy. For example, in a distance-delivered program such as this one, the decision was made at the beginning to use a web-based delivery system. Within this program, however, various media can be chosen to deliver the instruction, as long as they are compatible with the original delivery system.

The choice of a delivery system is generally made at the course or curriculum level. For most teachers, the delivery system is usually already chosen - you will likely deliver your instruction in a classroom. However, the ideal way would be to base the decision on your goal, learner characteristics, learner and performance contexts, objectives, and assessment requirements- basically, all the stuff you've done up until now. With this in mind, though, you should turn your attention to selecting media to deliver your instruction. In today's world, even if your delivery system is chosen beforehand, it's not a major setback because most media formats are available for use in most delivery systems.

Different instructional media have different capabilities for providing the various events of instruction. For example, teachers are great for providing learning guidance and feedback; however, videotape can be used effectively to present stimulus situations that would be hard for a teacher to present in any other way (for example, a tour of Alaska).

Dick, Carey and Carey discuss several issues to consider when selecting media:

Media Selection for Domains of Learning

Different types of media should be chosen based on the type of learning your objectives fall in to. Verbal information requires less elaborative feedback, so there is less need for interactive media. With intellectual skills elaborative feedback is more important, so some form of interactive media would be a better choice. Examples include direct instructor feedback, tutors, or interactive computer. Motor skills eventually require a performance of some sort from the learners, so the instruction should include the actual physical environment or the actual equipment that will be used for the assessment. When teaching attitudes it is usually desirable to have a model of some sort who chooses to exhibit the desired attitude. In this case visual media, such as television or video, can be used. Keep in mind that a single lesson or course may involve instruction in several domains, so you may end up selecting several different forms of media. Or, you may have to make a single form of media fit in with the various domains.

Other Considerations in Choosing Media

When deciding on media to use you should of course make sure that the media you select will be available in the learning environment. If you design your instruction to require a certain type of media then it's up to you to make sure that it will be available when the time comes. If you can't do this then you should limit your selections to those which can reasonably be expected to be available. Also, make sure that learners will be able to access the materials in the medium you select. Will the materials be needed at home? If so, can you give them out? Will students need to access a computer lab or learning center to get at the materials? If so, what hours will it be accessible?

Finally, if you select a particular medium to present your information, you should make sure that you are able to produce materials for that medium, or that you have access to people who can. For example, many designers would like to create instructional materials that feature Director movies because Director allows you to combine audio and visual elements in unique and exciting ways. However, the reality is that this can be a difficult and time-consuming process if you are not skilled in using Director. You will likely want to limit your selections of this type of media to those you can create materials for, or set aside time to learn the required products.

That is the last of the four elements in an instructional strategy. To review, here are the four elements of an instructional strategy as described by Dick, Carey and Carey:

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

Before we discuss how to create an instructional strategy, let's briefly look at another aspect of Gagne's theory of instruction: his Conditions of Learning.

Conditions of Learning

Gagne believes that the purpose of all instruction is to provide the events of instruction mentioned earlier. These events can be performed by teachers or by the materials themselves, as long as they are successfully performed. The nine events of instruction are applicable to all domains of learning outcomes. However, the details of how they are presented imply different sets of conditions  for learning. The conditions of learning are a set of factors that influence learning that must be taken into account during the design of instruction. Gagne distinguishes between two types of conditions, internal and external.

  • Internal conditions of learning refer to the learner's internal states and cognitive processes. These internal states consist of prior knowledge, motivation, attitudes, etc. Cognitive processes refer to the ways in which the learner interacts with their environment.
  • External conditions refer to the things taking place in the learning environment, and include the arrangement and timing of stimulus events. Gagne's theory proposes that learning takes place at all times, because learners are constantly engaged with their environments.

We obviously cannot directly control the internal conditions. However, Gagne's theory has led to a set of strategies for providing external support for learners as they attempt to achieve a goal. These strategies differ depending on the domain of learning. The following chart will help you decide on effective strategies for each domain as you create your instructional strategy (adapted from Essentials of Learning for Instruction by R.M. Gagne and M.P. Driscoll, 1988).

Verbal Information
  • Provide a meaningful context for effective encoding of information.
  • Draw attention to distinctive features by variations in print or speech.
  • Use terms or definitions in a sentence.
  • Present information so that it can be made into chunks.
  • Relate the information (term or definition) to preexisting knowledge.
  • Present all terms clearly using the fewest number of words to convey the meaning. If more than five terms or units of information are to be presented in one lesson, group related terms or units into five or fewer clearly defined categories.
  • Use a variety of concrete (observable) examples when possible, emphasizing the clear and well defined features that relate directly to the information.
  • Explain clearly how learners will be expected to recall the information while it is initially presented.
  • Make information readily accessible to learners, and provide opportunities for them to explore "nice-to-know" information associated with the knowledge.
  • Practice with immediate feedback!
  • Provide cues for effective recall and generalization of information.
Intellectual Skills
  • Encourage learners to recall previously learned information or examples that illustrate concepts or rules being presented.
  • Clearly communicate the definition of defined concepts, using the fewest number of words.
  • Call attention to distinctive features.
  • Stay within the limits of working memory.
  • Present verbal cues to the ordering or combination of component skills.
  • Break down the process of performing or applying rules into steps, and clearly communicate these steps to the students.
  • Demonstrate an application of the rule for the students.
  • Present varied examples or instances of concepts and rule applications, calling attention to the distinctive features of examples, definitions, and procedures.
  • Present nonexamples or non-instances of the concept if they will help to clarify the concept.
  • Schedule occasions for practice and spaced review.
  • Provide learners with opportunities to "play" with concepts and rules within simulated or "real" environments, identifying and selecting their own examples and nonexamples of concepts and rule applications if possible.
  • Present a variety of contexts or experiences that allow the students to practice applying the rules or identifying/describing concepts (transfer), providing guidance throughout early stages of practice.
Cognitive Strategies
  • Recall relevant rules and concepts.
  • Describe or demonstrate the strategy.
  • Provide a variety of occasions for practice using the strategy.
  • Provide information feedback as to the creativity or originality of the strategy or outcome.
  • Establish an expectancy of success associated with the desired attitude.
  • Assure student identification with an admired human model.
  • Make students aware of the personal benefits gained by making choices based on attitudes (preferably by someone the students admire).
  • Clearly identify examples of choices made by people who possess the desired attitude (credible and attractive-similarity, familiarity, appearance).
  • Clearly identify instances in the students' lives in which making choices are based on the attitude being presented.
  • Allow students the opportunity to practice making choices associated with the desired attitude (role-playing, group discussion, etc.) and give them feedback.
  • Arrange for communication or demonstration of choice of personal action.
  • Positive feedback for successful performance; or allow observation of feedback in the human model.
Motor Skills
  • Verbally guide learners through routine.
  • Visually present example of routine execution.
  • Encourage the use of mental practice.
  • Arrange repeated practice.
  • Furnish immediate feedback as to the accuracy of performance.

Creating the Strategy

Now that we've discussed the elements contained in an instructional strategy, it's time to take a look at the process of actually creating the strategy. Even if you plan to use existing instructional materials, you should create an instructional strategy before you select, adapt, or develop instruction. In creating a strategy you will utilize all of the materials you have generated up to this point, including your needs analysis, instructional analysis, learner and context analysis, objectives, and assessment items.

As discussed earlier, Dick, Carey and Carey describe four elements of an instructional strategy:

  1. Content Sequence and Clustering
  2. Learning Components (including Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction).
  3. Student Groupings
  4. Selection of Media and Delivery Systems

Within the previous discussion on Learning Components we also looked at Gagne's nine events of instruction.

  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

Gagne's events are sequenced according to how they would generally be addressed during instruction. However, Dick, Carey and Carey suggest following a different sequence when you are actually creating your instructional strategy. Their process has five phases:

  1. Sequence and cluster objectives.

  2. Plan preinstructional, assessment, and follow-though activities for the unit (Events 1, 2, 3, 8, & 9).

  3. Plan the content presentations and student participation sections for each objective or cluster of objectives (Events 4, 5, 6, & 7).

  4. Assign objectives to lessons and estimate the time required for each.

  5. Review the strategy to consolidate media selections and confirm or select a delivery system.

Notice that Gagne's nine events of instruction are addressed within steps 2 and 3, except they are arranged in a way that facilitates the creation of an instructional strategy. Let's now look closer at each step.

These first two steps relate to the overall unit of instruction, and not to individual objectives within the lesson.

1: Sequence and cluster objectives.

To begin with you should indicate the sequence of objectives and how you will cluster them for instruction. Consider both the sequence and the size of clusters that are appropriate for the attention span of students and the time available for each session. Dick, Carey and Carey suggest using a form similar to the one shown in Table 8.5 on page 215 of their book. Indicate the clusters and then the objectives you will teach within each cluster. If you are designing a short lesson you may only have one cluster. However, you may still have small groupings of objectives that you want to divide up with review and/or practice activities.

2: Plan preinstructional, assessment, and follow-through activities for the unit.

Once you have the sequence of objectives and have clustered them, you should indicate what you will do with regards to preinstructional activities, assessment, and follow-through activities. During this step you will also make decisions about student groupings and media selection. This step covers the following events in Gagne's nine events of instruction:

  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

Dick, Carey and Carey suggest that you address each of these considerations in narrative form using the following headings:

  1. Preinstructional Activities
    1. Motivation - Explain how you will gain learners' attention and maintain it throughout instruction. Keep in mind Keller's ARCS model.
    2. Objectives -Explain how you will inform the learners about what they will be able to do when they finish your lesson. Explain why this is important to the learners.
    3. Student Groupings and Media Selection - Explain how you will group students for the preinstructional activities (e.g., individualized, small subgroups, total group). Also, describe the media selection for this activity (e.g., live lecture, videotape, print, Web-based).

  2. Assessment
    1. Pretest -Explain whether you will test for entry behaviors and what you will do if a learner does not have them. Explain also whether you will test for skills you will teach.
    2. Posttest -Explain when and where the posttest will be administered.
    3. Student Groupings and Media Selection - Explain how you will group students for the assessment activities (e.g., individualized, small subgroups, total group). Also, describe the media selection for this activity (e.g., paper and pencil, product development, live performance, computer-administered).

  3. Follow-Through Activities
    1. Memory Aid - Describe any memory aids that will be developed to facilitate retention of information and skills.
    2. Transfer - describe and special factors to be employed to facilitate performance transfer.
    3. Student Groupings and Media Selection - Explain how you will group students for the follow-through activities (e.g., individualized, small subgroups, total group). Also, describe the media selection for this activity (e.g., live lecture, videotape, print, Web-based).

Note that the actual information you will present is not listed here, and the objectives and entry behaviors are not written out.

These next two steps relate to individual objectives or clusters of objectives within the unit of instruction.

3: Plan the content presentations and student participation sections for each objective or cluster of objectives.

Now it's time to indicate the content to be presented for each objective or cluster of objectives, as well as the learner participation activities. This step covers the following events in Gagne's nine events of instruction:

  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

Dick, Carey and Carey suggest using a form similar to the one shown in Table 8.4 on page 213 of their book. Start by listing the objective (and number) at the top of the form. Underneath that should be two main sections:

  1. Content Presentation
    1. Content - Describe the content you will present for each objective.
    2. Examples - Describe some examples (and non-examples) you will present for each objective. Make sure they are congruent with the objective.
    3. Student Groupings and Media Selection - Describe how you will group students for this activity, and your media selection for this activity.

  2. Student Participation
    1. Practice Items - Describe some sample practice exercises.
    2. Feedback - Describe the feedback you will provide for the practice exercises.
    3. Student Groupings and Media Selection - Describe how students will be grouped for this activity, and your media selection for this activity.

Don't forget to include a strategy for teaching your terminal objective when completing this step.

4: Assign objectives to lessons and estimate the time required for each.

In this step you review your sequence and clusters of objectives, along with the preinstructional activities, assessment, content presentation, student participation, and student groupings and media selections. Using all of this information, along with the timeframe for your overall instructional unit, you then assign objectives to individual lessons. In a large unit of instruction the first lesson generally contains preinstructional activities, while the last generally contains the assessment and/or follow-through activities. Make sure to include time for presentations, review, and participation activities. Of course, if you are only developing a single lesson then this step will be pretty short. However, this process can be performed for extended instructional units or for semester-long planning.

5: Review the strategy to consolidate media selections and confirm or select a delivery system.

As you have created your instructional strategy you have been considering what media to use in covering each objective. These decisions have been based on the domain of learning, the behaviors and conditions stated in the objectives, and the learning and performance contexts. In this final step you should review your strategy to consolidate your media selections and to make sure that they are compatible with your delivery system. Look over all of your selections to see if there are patterns or common media prescriptions across the objectives. Then see if these patterns fit with the chosen delivery system.

Keep in mind that you should not write your entire lesson within your instructional strategy. Your sections should be short and to the point. The purpose is to think through the entire lesson before you develop or select your instruction.


Once your strategy is complete you should have the prescriptions necessary to begin developing your instructional materials. We'll finish up this lesson with a quote from Gagne (1988):

The planning of an instructional strategy is an important part of the instructional design process. It is at this point that the designer must be able to combine knowledge of learning and design theory with his experience of learners and objectives. Needless to say, creativity in lesson design will enhance this other knowledge and experience. Perhaps it is this component of creativity that separates the art of instructional design from the science of instructional design. It is clear that the best lesson designs will demonstrate knowledge about the learners, the tasks reflected in the objectives, and the effectiveness of teaching strategies (pg. 28).