Instructional Strategies


Editor's Note

This is a condensed version of a chapter on Instructional Strategies from the book Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, by Joshua Hill and Linda Jordan. It is printed here under a similar license as the original.


A well designed course, whether it be face-to-face, blended, or online, must be well structured with careful attention to instructional strategies in the selection of instructional material, the planning of learning activities, and the selection of media. An instructional strategy describes the instructional materials and procedures that enable students to achieve the learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are what the student should know, or be able to accomplish at the end of the course or learning unit. Your instructional strategy should describe the instructional materials’ components and procedures used with the materials that are needed for students to achieve the learning outcomes. The strategy should be based on the learning outcomes and information from the other previous instructional design steps. You can even base your strategy on how you or others have solved similar problems. You can save time and money by not re-inventing the wheel. However, be careful; a lot of existing instructional material is designed poorly. Use the instructional strategy as a framework for further developing the instructional materials or evaluating whether existing materials are suitable or need revision. As a general rule, use the strategy to set up a framework for maximizing effective and efficient learning. This often requires using strategies that go beyond basic teaching methods. For example, discovery-learning techniques can be more powerful than simply presenting the facts.

This chapter reviews some basic information to help you choose appropriate instructional strategies for the learning outcomes you hope your learners will be able to accomplish. Rather than reviewing specific details about any of the hundreds of instructional strategies that have been developed, this chapter describes considerations that should go into the selection of any instructional strategy.

Goal Analysis

Goal analysis includes classifying the instructional goal into the domain, or kind of learning that will occur. The domains can be verbal information where learners state, list, describe, name, etc., intellectual skills such as learning how to discriminate, identify, classify, demonstrate, generate, originate, create, etc., psychomotor skills where learners make, draw, adjust, assemble, etc., and attitudes such as making choices or decisions. If you used a guide like Bloom's Taxonomy when generating your learning outcomes, you likely have a good handle on the type of learning you hope will occur. Establishing the domain is important in determining what instructional strategies to use in subsequent steps.

Learning Domain Strategies

Each learning domain classification (i.e., verbal information, intellectual skills and cognitive strategies, psychomotor skills, and attitudes) is best taught with different instructional strategies.

Verbal Information

Verbal information is material, such as names of objects, that students simply have to memorize and recall.

When teaching verbal information:

Intellectual Skills

Intellectual skills are those that require learners to think (rather than simply memorizing and recalling information).

When teaching intellectual skills:

Psychomotor Skills

Psychomotor skills are those that require learners to carry out muscular actions.

When teaching psychomotor skills:

Note that some skills involve other learning-domain classifications. For example, when learning how to operate a camcorder, many of the skills are psychomotor. However, deciding how to light an image is an intellectual skill. Also, note that the required proficiency level can affect the instructional strategy. There is a big difference between being able to imitate a skill and being able to automatically do a skill.


Attitudes involve how a student feels about the instruction, whether they will value or care about the material presented to them.

When teaching attitudes:

Note that it can be difficult to test whether the attitudes taught have transferred to real situations. Will learners behave naturally if they know that they are being observed? If learners have not voluntarily permitted observations, then you must consider whether it is ethical to make the observations.

Strategies to Sequence Learning Outcomes

Another aspect of your instructional strategy will be to determine the sequence of how the learning outcomes will be taught. In general, to best facilitate learning you should sequence the learning outcomes from:

Each of these methods of sequencing learning outcomes enables students to acquire the needed knowledge base for learning higher-level skills. Note that these guidelines are not black and white rules.

Strategies to Motivate Students - The ARCS Model

As described by Keller, motivation can be enhanced through addressing the four attributes of Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction (ARCS). Try to include all of the attributes since each alone may not maintain student motivation. Your learner analysis may have provided useful information for motivating students. You should build motivational strategies into the materials throughout the instructional design process. This is challenging since each learner is an individual with unique interests, experiences, and goals.


Gain attention and then sustain it. You can gain attention by using human-interest examples, arousing emotions such as by showing a peer being wheeled into an ambulance, presenting personal information, challenging the learner, providing an interesting problem to solve, arousing the learner’s curiosity, showing exciting video or animation sequences, stating conflicting information, using humor, asking questions, and presenting a stimulus change that can be as simple as an audio beep. One way to sustain attention is by making the learning highly interactive.


Relevance helps the student to want to learn the material by helping them understand how the material relates to their needs or how it can relate to improving their future. For example, when teaching adult students how to solve percent problems, having them calculate the gratuity on a restaurant bill may be more relevant than a problem that compares two person’s ages. You can provide relevance through testimonials, illustrative stories, simulations, practical applications, personal experience, and relating the material to present or future values or needs. Relevance is also useful in helping to sustain attention. For material to be perceived as being relevant, you must strive to match the learner’s expectations to the material you provide.


If students are confident that they can master the material, they will be much more willing to attempt the instruction. You will need to convince students with low confidence that they can be successful. You can do this through presenting the material in small incremental steps, or even by stating how other similar students have succeeded. Tasks should seem achievable rather than insurmountable. You should also convince students who are overconfident that there is material that they need to learn. You can do this by giving a challenging pre-test or presenting difficult questions.


Satisfaction provides value for learning the material. Satisfaction can be intrinsic from the pleasure or value of the activity itself, extrinsic from the value or importance of the activity’s result, for social reasons such as pleasing people who’s opinions are important to them, for achievement goals such as the motive to be successful or avoid failure, or a combination of these. Examples of intrinsic satisfaction include the joy or challenge of learning, increased confidence, positive outcomes, and increased feelings of self-worth. Examples of extrinsic satisfaction include monetary rewards, praise, a certificate, avoidance of discomfort or punishment for not doing it, and unexpected rewards. Some evidence suggests that extrinsic motivation, such as a certificate for completing a course, does not last over time. Nonetheless, it is better to assume that some students need extrinsic motivation. To be safe, try to provide your learners with both intrinsic, which should have more of the focus, and extrinsic rewards. If the intrinsic motivation is high for all learners, you will not need to plan as much for extrinsic motivation. Note that satisfaction can be provided by enabling learners to apply the skills they have gained in a meaningful way. Remember to let the students know that the material to be learned is important. Consider increasing extrinsic motivation through quizzes and tests.

Strategies for Sequencing Instructional Events

As Robert Gagné described, that instructional events (gaining attention, informing the learner of the learning outcome, stimulating recall of prerequisites, presenting the material, providing learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, and enhancing retention and transfer) represent what should be done to ensure that learning occurs. If you address each instructional event, you will have a solid foundation for creating effective instructional materials. You will need to determine what will be done for each instructional event for each learning outcome.

You can learn more about sequencing instructional events from another chapter in this textbook, Robert Gagné and the Systematic Design of Instruction.


The emphasis in this review of instructional strategies was on getting the fundamentals right. Regardless of what revolutionary tools or teaching approaches are being used, what we know of how people learn does not change a great deal over time, and we do know that learning is a process, and you ignore the factors that influence that process at your peril.

For learning leading to successful outcomes, it is important to remember that most students need:

There are many different ways these criteria can be met, with many different tools.

Remember these key takeaways when designing your instructional strategies:

Application Exercise

You have been tasked with designing a university orientation course for freshmen community college students. Everyone at the institution is aware that students feel an orientation course is not necessary and that it is a waste of their time. Explain what portion of the ARCS Motivational Model might be applied into the design of the course to help students understand why this course is important for their success.

Suggested Citation

& (2021). Instructional Strategies. In & (Eds.), Design for Learning: Principles, Processes, and Praxis. EdTech Books. https://edtechbooks.org/id/instructional_strate

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