Principles of Effective Instruction-General Standards for Teachers and Instructional Designers

By Astleitner, Hermann | Journal of Instructional Psychology, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Principles of Effective Instruction-General Standards for Teachers and Instructional Designers


Astleitner, Hermann, Journal of Instructional Psychology


This paper offers a review on effective instructional methods from educational and psychological research. Thirteen instructional principles are presented which should help teachers and educators to improve the quality of their instruction. Principles 1 to 4 concern general conditions of successful instruction. Principles 5 to 8 consist of instructional methods to improve and optimize cognitive effects of learning. Principles 9 to 11 refer to motivational and emotional design. Principle 12 is dealing with the handling of ethic aspects. Finally, principle 13 concerns the design of instructional materials.

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Many experts in the field of education assume that people can only manage a complex personal and professional life when they are well educated. Such a credo builds the core of actual quality assurance activities in schools. These activities are based at the best on a model of good or effective instruction. The question of what makes instruction effective has been in the focus of educational and psychological research for decades. It is obvious and helpful for instructional practice that research results are reviewed from time to time. Such a review represents the goal of this paper and will focus on: a) results of research which are repeatedly confirmed and which meet criteria of social empirical research (e.g., Atkinson, Derry, Renkl, & Wortham, 2000; Dubs, 1995; Haenisch, 2002; Helmke & Weinert, 1997; Slavin, 2000); b) approaches which not only consider cognitive characteristics of students as relevant for learning, but also motivational and emotional aspects (e.g., Astleitner, 2005; Astleitner, 2000; Bergin, 1999); c) experiences which allow to establish a nation-wide quality assurance system for improving the effectiveness of instruction (e.g., Baumert, Artelt, Klieme, Neubrand, Prenzel, Schiefele, Schneider, Tillmann, & Weiss, 2003): and d) practical approaches which do not only consist of traditional methods of instruction, but also reflect new developments which assist in facing global educational competition (e.g., Mayer, 1999; Paris & Paris, 2001).

These results of research are summarized--within this paper--as "principles" of good instruction (e.g., Sternberg, 1998). "Principles" are general standards or guidelines for acting which were created by generalizations of research results and which educational practitioners should keep in mind when they want to design effective instructional methods and processes. Focusing on such principles only increases the success of instruction when instructional methods are continuously planned, implemented, evaluated, and adapted based on these principles. To adapt means that instructional methods are calibrated to given characteristics of students, teachers, and subject matters. Such a calibration cannot be delivered by this paper, because it is assumed that the connection between research and practice can only be realized at a general level. However, when integrating these principles during planning, implementing, and evaluating instructional methods--together with a diagnosis of problems concerning students and subject matters--, then it can be expected that general guidelines have a specific influence on the design of fine-graded instructional methods. Furthermore,--is important to mention that not all principles have to be implemented in order to produce effective instruction. However, it should be the aim of instructional designers to reflect these principles periodically as general instructional standards when planning and evaluating instructional activities. These principles are:

Principle 1: Instructing based on a design for reflexive learning

During instruction, the student should get the possibility to reflect on learning. Reflective learning represents an active process of construction in which memory contents are--mediated by thinking processes--changed, expanded, linked, structured, or created. …

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