The Art of Implementing Instruction

Designing instruction and teaching are both an art and a science. The science part informs pedagogy and practice. But even when using best practices, instruction can fail miserably. Why? That’s where the art part comes in.

Implementing instruction, whether through teaching face-to-face or through some form of distance learning, requires more than just a checklist of ‘what should be included.’ It’s an art form that relies on creative thinking. And problem solving. And empathy. And experience.

So while the learning sciences serves as a great foundation for great teaching and learning, the art of  implementing instruction is much more difficult to achieve. That’s why it takes so long to become an instructional expert (some say 10,000 hours).

How do you know if you are implementing instruction successfully? Consider the following:

Your learners’ needs are being met.

  • What equipment will your learners need to meet the learning objectives?
  • Will the concepts be introduced at the appropriate learning level? Let’s say you are teaching freshmen to evaluate resources. Are you using content that is appropriate for their reading level(s)? For example, using scholarly articles written at a higher reading level than your students are capable of comprehending will not meet their learning needs.
  • Do any of your students have special needs that might impact your ability to provide instruction to them?

Instructional strategies match learning content.

  • Are you teaching thinking skills or procedural skills?
    • Thinking skills (generally, higher order learning) require instructional strategies that foster metacognitive awareness, such as modeling, reciprocal teaching, discussion, or think-pair-share.
    • Procedural skills require instructional strategies that allow students to practice and master those skills hands-on.

Students are engaged.

  • Student engagement should not be equated with entertainment. Being entertained is no guarantee of learning.
  • Engagement can mean:
    • piquing students’ curiosity
    • getting students to think outside the box
    • challenging students within their zone of proximal development
    • ensuring students recognize the relevancy of what they are learning
    • basing instruction around unique themes
    • using off-the-wall examples

Students show learning progress.

  • How do you know your students are learning?
  • Are you using formative assessment techniques?
    • clickers or polling
    • quizzes
    • discussion
    • informal observation
  • How are you measuring long-term learning? What summative assessment techniques are you using?
      • rubrics
      • research papers or projects
      • tests
      • portfolios

The purpose of these indicators is to get you reflecting on your own instructional practices. To become a master of the art of implementing instruction takes practice, time, creative thinking and most importantly, great mentorship!


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