Instructional strategies, according to Alberta Learning, are “techniques teachers use to help students become independent, strategic learners. These strategies become learning strategies when students independently select the appropriate ones and use them effectively to accomplish tasks or meet goals.” The strength of instructional strategies is that they determine how teachers can go about realizing their own teaching objectives and improving their teaching practice.

Instructional strategies are derived from different educational theories. Here are some examples of 4 key instructional strategies as identified by Gayla S. Keesse :

1- Direct Instruction

This is what some refer to as the traditional method. Direct instruction is primarily teacher centred and consists of direct lecturing or vertical teaching. It is a form of explicit teaching  that consists of repetitive practice, didactic questioning, drill and demonstration. This strategy is particularly useful for ‘providing information, or developing step-by-step skills.’

2-Interactive Instruction

As its name indicates, this strategy consists of creating learning environments conducive to interactions and discussions. It posits that learning takes place through interactive communication of knowledge and this interaction can happen in different forms including: open or closed group discussions, collaborative project work, whole class discussions …etc

3- Experiential learning

One of the seminal works in experiential learning is Dewey’s “Experience and Education“. This strategy highlights the primacy of the process of learning over the product of learning. The purpose is to enhance students’ motivation and increase their retention rates by connecting classroom learning to their lifeworlds. This can happen through engaging students in reflexive thinking about their own experiences and how to leverage what they learned in the past in new contexts.

4-Independent Study

Gayla defines this strategy as “the range of instructional methods which are purposefully provided to foster the development of individual student initiative, self-reliance, and self-improvement. Independent study can also include learning in partnership with another individual or as part of a small group.”

Read Gayla’s post for more information on each of these strategies. 

In my view, the above strategies can be considered  macro strategies within which several other  micro or sub-strategies can be nested. Now that technology has become an essential component in the learning/teaching equation and after the sudden and transformative change in the way education is being delivered, a change triggered mainly by the current pandemic, the spectrum of instructional strategies has witnessed an exponential growth. 

 Blended learning, flipped learning, hybrid learning, self-directed learning, online learning, are all forms that are more or less in vogue in today’s education speak. But again, all of these forms can be considered sub-strategies to be included in the macro instructional categories discussed above. 

There is no right or wrong strategy. Every strategy emerges to address particular learning and teaching needs within a given context.  For those of you interested in digging deeper into the science of instructional strategies, I recommend the following books:

1- How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms , by Carol Ann Tomlinson  (Author)

“Written as a practical guide for teachers, this expanded 3rd edition of Carol Ann Tomlinson’s groundbreaking work covers the fundamentals of differentiation and provides additional guidelines and new strategies for how to go about it. You’ll learn
What differentiation is and why it’s essentialHow to set up the flexible and supportive learning environment that promotes successHow to manage a differentiated classroomHow to plan lessons differentiated by readiness, interest, and learning profileHow to differentiate content, process, and productsHow to prepare students, parents, and yourself for the challenge of differentiation.”

2- Effective Instructional Strategies: From Theory to Practice, by Kenneth D. Moore  (Author)

“The Third Edition of Effective Instructional Strategies: From Theory to Practice provides thorough coverage of the strategies and skills essential that every teacher needs to know. This text applies the latest research findings and practical classroom practices to the instructional process by presenting a Theory to Practice approach to instruction emphasizing the intelligent use of teaching theory and research to improve classroom instruction. Logically and precisely providing information about how to be an effective classroom teacher, this text has been carefully designed to maximize instructional flexibility and to model established principles of instruction. It was further designed to expand the pedagogical teaching knowledge of teachers and their instructional repertoires.”

3- The New Art and Science of Teaching (More Than Fifty New Instructional Strategies for Academic Success) (The New Art and Science of Teaching Book Series), by Robert J. Marzano  (Author)

“This title is a greatly expanded volume of the original Art and Science of Teaching, offering a competency-based education framework for substantive change based on Dr. Robert Marzano’s 50 years of education research. While the previous model focused on teacher outcomes, the new version places focus on student learning outcomes, with research-based instructional strategies teachers can use to help students grasp the information and skills transferred through their instruction. Throughout the book, Marzano details the elements of three overarching categories of teaching, which define what must happen to optimize student learning: students must receive feedback, get meaningful content instruction, and have their basic psychological needs met.”

4- Differentiated Instructional Strategies: One Size Doesn′t Fit All Third Edition, by Gayle H. Gregory (Author), Carolyn M. Chapman (Author)

“If you′re in need of a single resource to put differentiated instruction immediately into practice, then follow the lead of 100,000+ teachers and look to Gregory and Chapman′s ground-breaking text. With new strategies, updates throughout, a Common Core lesson-planning template, and a larger format, the third edition is an even richer resource with:
A deep research base coupled with immediately useable examplesA start-to-finish six-step process, beginning with establishing a classroom climate, then getting to know studentsAn emphasis on formative assessment before, during, and after learning70+ templates, tools, and questionnaires”.


Instructional approaches, by Gayla S. Keesee