Read Chapter 8, Developing an Instructional Strategy, from Dick, Carey & Carey.


We are approaching the end of the instructional design process, however some of the most important work is yet to be done. With all of the broad planning and analysis steps finished, it is time to think about planning individual lessons. This is accomplished by creating an instructional strategy.

Dick, Carey & Carey use the term Instructional Strategy to describe the process of creating a structure for the sequencing and organizing content, the learning activities, and how to deliver the content and activities. An instructional strategy can perform several functions:

- It can be used as a prescription to develop instructional materials.
- It can be used as a set of criteria to evaluate existing materials.
- It can be used as a set of criteria and a prescription to revise existing materials.
- It can be used as a framework from which to plan class lecture notes, interactive group exercises, and homework assignments.

The planning of an instructional strategy is an important part of the overall instructional design process. Gagne calls the planning and analysis steps the "architecture" of the course, while the instructional strategies are the "bricks and mortar." This is where you deal with how to instruct the student.

A Strategy for Instruction

Instructional design is a system. As we discussed in an introductory lesson, the subsystems in a system are interconnected and interdependent. The instructional strategy brings together the information we collected and planned so that each part aligns and works together to facilitate learning.

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. Creating a strategy is not the same as actually developing your instructional materials. The purpose of creating the strategy before developing the materials 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. However, 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.

As we complete the steps for creating an instructional strategy, we will incorporate Gagne's Events of Instruction. At this point, we need to discuss his events so we know how to apply them in the strategy.

Gagne's Events of Instruction

Gagne's events of instruction are designed to help us structure instruction so that the 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 in 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.

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?".

2. Informing Learners of the Objectives
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. 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 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. If a student is attempting to learn new material, relevant prior information should be recalled. This can be done by asking prompting questions. For example, you could ask, "Do you remember when you learned about…?" This line of questioning helps the learner to recall previously learned information and see the relationship between what they have already learned and what they will be learning.

4. Presenting the Stimulus Material
This event involves presenting new information to the learner. Whatever the learners need to learn in order to perform the goal must be communicated in some form. An important point 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, while it important to present a variety of squares when teaching 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.

5. Providing Learning Guidance
Learning guidance usually takes the form of communication between teacher and student that help guide the learner to the attainment of an objective. The purpose of this communication is to aid in the process of learning and to help students assimilate (adds the new information to what is already known) or accommodate (create new knowledge that does not directly relate to what is already known) the new information. 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. 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.

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. 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 students are assessed to determine whether the instruction has met its design objectives. This helps the instructor determine whether each student has achieved the desired objectives. Sometimes, assessing the performance results in some sort of grade being assigned to each student. Other times, a checklist is used with which the learner can determine whether the performance met the criteria.

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 find ways to increase the chances that the skills you have taught will be used properly by learners outside of the learning context. Learners may be able to recall new knowledge and skills in the classroom, but may have a difficult time when they get into the real world.

Creating an Instructional Strategy

Step 1. Content sequence and cluster objectives.

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 will 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.

Step 2. Plan pre-instructional, assessment, and follow-through activities for the unit.

Pre-instructional activities
These activities involve the planning for motivating your students (Gagne's first event of instruction) and presenting them with the objective(s) for the lesson (Gagne's second event of instruction). It is at this point that Keller's ARCS model will be helpful. 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. 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. A = 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. R = 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 (Gagne's third event of instruction).
  3. C = 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. People with a lack of confidence 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. S = 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 is 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.

Tests are a primary means to assess learners and learning. Here are the most frequently used tests.

Entry Skills Test
An entry skills test is given to learners before instruction begins. They are designed to assess learners' mastery of prerequisite skills. These are the skills that appear below the dotted line you drew on your instructional analysis flowchart. If you have no entry skills then there would be no need to develop a pretest. However, if you have entry skills that you are unsure about you should test your learners to help determine if they are indeed entry skills after all.

A pretest is used to determine whether learners have already mastered some of the skills in your instructional analysis. If they have, then they do not need as much instruction for those skills. If it becomes obvious that they lack certain skills then your instruction can be developed with enough depth to help them attain those skills. However, if you already know that your learners have no clue about the topic you are teaching them, then they may not need a pretest (Gagne's third event of instruction).

Practice Tests
Practice tests solicit learner participation during the instruction (Gagne's sixth event of instruction) by providing them with a chance to rehearse the new skills they are being taught. They also allow instructors to provide corrective feedback (Gagne's seventh event of instruction) to keep learners on track.

Posttests are given following instruction (Gagne's eighth event of instruction) and help you determine if learners have achieved the objectives you set out for them in the beginning. Each item on a posttest should match one of your objectives and the test should assess all of the objectives, especially focusing on the terminal objective. If time is a factor, it may be necessary to create a shorter test that assesses only the terminal objective and any important related subskills.

Follow-Through Activities
Memory Aids can be as simple as a review of the material at the end of each cluster or at the end of the instruction. Reviews allow learners to practice retrieving new information and help to strengthen the network of relationships in the brain.

Because learning is generally situation-specific, the best way to aid in retention and transfer (Gagne's ninth event of instruction) 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.

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

The Content Presentation and Student Participation sections are just as the names indicate. In the Content Presentation section, we (a) identify the content that will be presented to the learner to address each objective, (b) provide an example of this content (Gagne's fourth and fifth events of instruction and possibly the third event), and (c) describe how the students will be grouped when presented with this content. In the Student Participation section, we (a) describe any practice items that will be presented to the learners that relate to the objective (Gagne's sixth event of instruction), (b) describe the elements of feedback that will be used in what we give our learners (Gagne's seventh event of instruction), and again (c) describe how the students will be grouped when participating in the practice items.

When grouping students, it is important to consider whether there are any requirements for social interaction explicit in 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.

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

In this step, the information outlined in the previous steps are assigned to individual lessons. In a large unit of instruction the first lesson generally contains pre-instructional 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 one-hour lesson then this step will be short.

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

In the process of creating the instructional strategy, you may have been considering the delivery system and media that would be best to address each objective. This may have been based on the domain of learning, the behaviors and conditions stated in the objectives, the learning and performance contexts, or all of these. In this final step, these media selections are noted to so that you can determine their alignment with the content as well as the learning environment.

The 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 content to address specific objectives. Media constitutes the physical elements in the learning environment with which learners interact in order to learn something. 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 used to deliver the instruction, as long as they are compatible with the original delivery system.


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.

Activity: Instructional Strategy

Even if you plan to use existing instructional materials, you should create an instructional strategy before you select, adapt, or develop instruction. We have created a template for you to use in developing your own strategy. It is a Word file containing pre-formatted charts that you can just fill in with your instructional strategy information. This should make it easier for you to keep up with the instructional strategy process.

Link to Instructional Strategy Template

Once you have the template downloaded, complete the following steps to create your instructional strategy:

Step 1. Sequence and Cluster

Use the first table in the instructional strategy template to indicate the clusters you will have along with the objectives (number and wording of the objective) you will cover within each cluster. Be sure to include all of your objectives. Also, indicate the time you have tentatively allotted to each cluster. If you need more room simply add rows to the table.

Step 2. Preinstructional, Assessment, Follow-though

In this section indicate what you will do for the preinstructional activities, assessment, and follow-through activities. Also include any decisions regarding student groupings and media selections for each of these activities. The second chart in the template has all of the necessary section headings.

1. Pre-instructional Activities

a. Motivation - Explain how you will gain learners' attention and maintain it throughout instruction. Explain how you will use each component of Keller's ARCS model to motivate your learners. (Gagne first event of instruction)
b. 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. (Gagne's second event of instruction)
c. 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

a. Pretest - Explain whether you will test for entry skills and what you will do if a learner does not have them. Explain also whether you will test for skills you will teach (Gagne's third event of instruction).
b. Practice Tests - Explain how you will use practice tests and rehearsal activities and where they will be located in the instruction. (Gagne's sixth event of instruction)
c. Posttest - Explain when and where the posttest will be administered. (Gagne's eighth event of instruction)
d. 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

a. Memory Aid - Describe any memory aids that will be developed to facilitate retention of information and skills. (Gagne's ninth event of instruction).
b. Transfer - Describe and special factors to be employed to facilitate performance transfer.(Gagne's ninth event of instruction).
c. 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).

Step 3: Content Presentation and Student Participation

In this section you will indicate the content to be presented for the objectives (Gagne's fourth and fifth events of instruction), along with the activities you will have your students participate in (Gagne's sixth event of instruction), and the feedback you will provide (Gagne's seventh event of instruction). For each objective, your students should be actively involved in doing things that will help them learn. You do not have to include content and activities for all of your objectives. Rather, include a sequential set of 10 of your objectives. There are ten charts for you to use in the template for your content and activities. If you want to include more than 10, copy and paste to duplicate one of the blank tables. Be sure to address how the students will be grouped when you address the objective as well as the media you plan to use.

Step 4: Assign Objectives to Lessons

Review the progress you've made up to this point. Considering all of the information you have, you should now decide how many lessons will be required, the instructional events and objectives you will cover in each lesson, and the time that will be allowed for each lesson. If you followed the initial suggestions in this course, you should have only a single one-hour instructional session within which you will cover all of the instructional events.

Step 5: Review of Strategy and Consolidation of Media Selections

Review the media selections you have made for each activity and objective. Make sure your media selections are compatible and realistic, and look for any commonalities. Also, review your delivery system. It is likely that your delivery system may already be set in stone. However, if you have some flexibility you may want to reconsider your options at this point based on your media selections. The chart in the template contains all of the necessary section headings. Once again, since you probably only have one instructional session this will be a short section, but it is still good for you to think about for when you begin to design larger instructional units.

Submitting your Assignment

This assignment should be produced using Microsoft Word. The title of this assignment is "Instructional Strategy". Beneath that, enter your name, email address, and the date. Save your assignment using the filename "strategy". After you have saved your file, go to the student interface and submit your assignment for grading. Click here if you need additional information regarding submission of your assignment.

Assignment: Assessment Items

Points: 30

Grading Criteria

- Objectives logically clustered and sequenced. (1)
- Preinstructional activities addressed, including motivational strategies, description of how learners will be informed of objectives (if at all), and student groupings and appropriate media selections. (3)
- Assessment activities addressed, including a decision on pretesting, description of the use of practice tests, a description of the posttest, and student groupings and appropriate media selections. (3)
- Follow-Through activities addressed, including a description of any memory aids that will be provided, strategies used to facilitate transfer, and student groupings and appropriate media selections. (3)
- Content Presentation described for at least 10 objectives. For each objective, should include a brief description of the content, examples that will be provided, and any student groupings and appropriate media selections. (8)
- Student Participation described for at least 10 objectives. For each objective, should include sample practice items, feedback that will be provided, and any student groupings and appropriate media selections. (8)
- Objectives and/or clusters assigned to individual lessons. Includes a brief summary of instructional events and objectives to be covered in each session. (2)
- Chart outlining objectives and types of learning covered in each session, along with a consolidation of media selections for each session. Based on this, final decisions are made regarding the delivery system. (2)