Instructional Practices

The experiences that cause students to learn.

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Instructional practices are the means by which students achieve learning outcomes. When designing a course or lesson begin by determining the learning outcomes (the changes you want to see in your students) and then ask, “What experiences will cause these changes in my students?”

The importance of alignment

If you do not choose instructional practices that align with learning outcomes, you will create the wrong type of learning. For example, imagine you have a course with the learning outcome “Students will think critically about world geography.” What experience would help students practice thinking critically? If you choose only to lecture, students will not have the opportunity to practice thinking critically and improve through feedback. While they may learn to remember geographical features, this misalignment means they will not learn to think critically, your stated goal for the course.

The importance of alignment

Bllom's Taxonomic Pyramid showing orders of cognition from remembering (bottom), understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating (top).

First, determine what cognitive processes are present in your learning outcome using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Knowledge (see Using Blooms to Create Variety).

Next, use the chart below that aligns Bloom’s Taxonomy with instructional practices and offers examples of specific activities. These examples are by no means exhaustive but offer ideas on how to apply the practices in your own course and discipline.

Once you have chosen instructional practices that align with your learning outcomes, refer to the following:

Learning Outcome Instructional Practice Examples
Remember Retrieve, recognize and recall relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
  • Lecture
  • Slideshow
  • Self-test (drills, practice)
  • Readings
  • Games
  • Quizzes
  • Worksheets
Understand Retrieve, recognize and recall relevant knowledge from long-term memory.
  • Discussion
  • Group assignment
  • Wikis
  • Paraphrasing, summarizing activities
  • Reflection journals
  • Create mind/concept maps
  • Role playing
Apply Carry out or use a procedure by executing or implementing.
  • Case study roleplay
  • Simulations
  • Lab work
  • Written/oral/mixed media projects
  • Problem-solving opportunities (case study analysis)
  • Discussions
  • Debates
  • Reflection journals
Analyze Break material into constituent parts, determine how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing and attributing.
  • Peer review
  • Discussion
  • Group work
  • Case study analysis
  • Problem-based learning
  • Games
  • Fill-in-the blank, concept-matching activities
  • Debates
  • Independent research
  • Create mind/concept maps
Evaluate Make judgements based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.
  • Instructor/peer modeling
  • Independent research
  • Written/oral/mixed-media projects
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Field Work
  • Peer review
  • Interviews
  • Debates
  • Reflection papers/journals
  • Review and critique research studies
  • Activities involving application of metaphors and analogies
  • Case study analysis
Create Put elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning or producing.
  • Student and team presentations
  • Written/oral/mixed-media projects
  • Clinicals
  • Portfolios
  • Service-learning
  • Study abroad
  • Internships

Literature

  • Nilson, L. B. (2016). Teaching at its best: a research-based resource for college instructors (4th ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass