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 What is Instruction?


Instruction refers to the arrangement of an environment (media-presented information) in an effort to maximize the probability that learners interacting with this environment will learn what the instruction intends.

At the very least, effective instruction includes the following basic components:

Dick & Carey (1996)
Sullivan & Higgins (1983)
Gagné (1988)
Hunter (1982)
Preinstructional Activity
-Entry Behaviors
Introduce Activity
-Address prerequisites
Gain Attention
Inform learners of objectives
Stimulate recall of prior learning
State Objectives
Anticipatory set
Information Presentation Information/Activity Presentation

Present the stimulus

Provide learning guidance

Input & Modeling
Student Participation

Elicit performance
Provide feedback

Checking for understanding & guided practice

Independent practice

Assess performance
-Summarize key ideas
-Restate objectives
-New context
Enhance retention and transfer Review, Closure

Constructivist Instruction

Constructivist researchers and theorists have identified and described some common characteristics of meaningful learning environments. Jonassen, Peck and Wilson (1999) include the following five categories representing necessary components of meaningful learning environments. The descriptions of each category have been elaborated upon using other constructivist models of design (for example, Cunningham, Duffy and Knuth, 1993; Herrington & Oliver, 1997).

Opportunities for Authentic Learning: Instructional contexts are defined that reflect the manner in which the outcomes to be learned are practiced in the real world. This often includes ill-structured, real-world problems. In addition, the instruction (teachers, other students, and/or educational media) facilitates the learner’s evaluation of alternate strategies and methods for solving problems.

Opportunities for Active Learning: The instructional context enables the learners to explore and manipulate the components and parameters of their environment, and observe the results of their activities.

Opportunities for Intentional Learning: The instruction provides the learners with an opportunity to determine and set their own goals and manage/regulate their own activities. Learners select the methods they feel will help them succeed within the learning environment. The instruction provides coaching, modeling, and other forms of support to facilitate the application of effective methods and strategies for succeeding within the learning environment.

Opportunities for Constructive Learning: Instructional strategies are facilitated that encourage learners to articulate what they have been learning and reflect upon the importance and meaning of the outcomes in larger social and intellectual contexts. Efforts should be made to enable learners to communicate their ideas using any appropriate media: oral, written, graphic, video, etc.

Opportunities for Cooperative Learning: Instructional strategies are implemented that enable learners to collaborate and socially negotiate their meanings of the events and information presented within the learning experience between themselves and other learners, outside experts, and the teacher. Access to expert performances may also play an important role within the cooperative learning environment.


Cunningham, D.J., Duffy, T.M. & Knuth, R.A. (1991). The Textbook of the Future. In McKnight, C. (Ed.), Hypertext: A Psychological Perspective. London: Horwood Publishing

Dick, W. & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of instruction (4th edition). New York: HarperCollins.

Gagné, R. & Driscoll, M. (1988). Essentials of learning for instruction. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice Hall.

Hunter, M. (1982). Mastery teaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Corwin Press.

Herrington, J. & Oliver, R. (1997). Multimedia, magic and the way students respond to a situated learning environment. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 13(2), 127-143.

Jonassen, D., Peck, K. and Wilson, B. (1999). Learning With Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Merrill Publishing

Sullivan, H. & Higgins, N. (1983). Teaching for competence. New York: Teachers College Press.


copyright © 2002 Greg Sherman