Instructional Strategies - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies

After selecting the learning objectives and assessments for the course, we need to think about the various instructional activities we will use to engage students with the material and enable them to meet the objectives. Of course, the key is to align instructional strategies with the other two components. Many instructional strategies are flexible, and can be used in service of several learning objectives, but some of them are better suited for a particular set of objectives. In most cases, we will need to use a combination of instructional strategies. This table focuses on two of three components of course design.

Instructional Strategy

Suitable Objectives

Lectures

Transmit information which supplements or enhances reading; promote understanding via explanations; respond to student misconceptions or difficulties; create or engage interest in a new area; motivate reading or other assignments

Discussions

Practice thinking and communicating in the subject/discipline; evaluate positions, arguments, or designs; defend own position; identify problems, conflicts and inconsistencies; get feedback from/about students; draw on students’ expertise and prior knowledge

Case studies

Actively involve students in learning; apply disciplinary methods of analysis; practice problem solving; practice high-level cognitive skills (i.e., application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation); think critically; blend cognitive and affective dimensions (if the case has ethical or controversial dimensions); develop collaborative skills; relate knowledge to real world; formulate arguments and counterarguments

Writing

Develop systematic relationships among ideas; application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation; reflect on own thinking; record the evolution of own thinking; practice disciplinary conventions (e.g., APA style); practice responding to feedback and revising

Labs/Studios

Develop disciplinary and process skills; obtain immediate feedback and respond to it; develop metacognitive skills (e.g., awareness of own strategies); evaluate results or product of own work; approximate real life situations

Group Projects

Compare and contrast perspectives; practice high-level cognitive skills (i.e., application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation); develop meta-skills such as leadership, communication, conflict resolution; strategize and plan how to tackle complex problems and distribute work

Recitations

Practice problem solving; review material; check student understanding; identify and correct misconceptions; individualize instruction; answer questions

Public Reviews

Evaluation; practice giving constructive feedback; self-reflection; defend vision for own work

Service-Learning

Sometimes called community-based instruction, service-learning places equal emphasis on the service component of the experience and the learning outcomes for the student

Independent Student Projects

Explore areas of interest in depth; conceive of, plan, and execute a research or creative project from beginning to end; work independently; seek mentorship from an expert in the field.

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