McShane’s Effective Elements of Instruction
Link, 101 Interactive Training Techniques
Explicit or Direct
Explicit instruction is one of the principles identified in
a research synthesis on effective teaching (Ellis,
Worthington, & Larkin, 1994). In explicit teaching, you
make clear the objectives and purpose of each
learning activity and explain how each activity relates
to broader learning goals. For example, you might
begin with an activity to access prior knowledge, build
background knowledge, and show how the skill or
content being addressed relates to the bigger picture.
Then, during the instructional process, you return
frequently to the big picture to maintain the learners’
awareness of the purpose and use of the skill. (“You
need this so you can . . .This is the first step in
learning to . . .”)
You address all aspects of the learning task: how to
think about it, how and when to perform the task or
use the information, and how to evaluate the task. You
show learners what good performance “looks like.”
Leaving nothing to chance, you check on the required
underlying skills and knowledge and then work
through each step (National ALLD Center, 1999). You
teach clearly and directly by explaining and modeling
the skill or concept, guiding learners as they practice,
and providing many opportunities for application of the
skill to ensure that they can generalize (transfer) their
learning to other contexts and situations (Mercer &
Lane, 1996; Mellard & Scanlon, 1998; Woolfolk,
Key Features
Make goals, lesson
objectives, activities, and
expectations clear.
Address background
knowledge and prerequisite
Explain and model all
aspects of the task.
Assume nothing and leave
nothing to chance.
Component / Technique
Strategy instruction is not designed to teach content;
instead it teaches learning tools. Strategy instruction
aims to teach learners how to learn effectively, by
applying principles, rules, or multi-step processes to
solve problems or accomplish learning tasks.
Examples of strategies include “rules of thumb” to
follow, ways to monitor, procedures for breaking the
task down, tips for use, and test-taking strategies.
In teaching strategies, you model your thought
processes, demonstrating when and how to use the
strategy and then prompting or cueing learners, as
needed, when it is appropriate for them to use a
strategy that has been taught (Ellis et al., 1994;
Swanson, 1999).
Scaffolded instruction is the process of supporting
learners in various ways as they learn and gradually
withdrawing supports as they become capable of
independent performance of a task or skill.
Supports include clues, clarifying questions,
reminders, encouragement, breaking the problem
down into steps, “or anything else that allows the
learner to grow in independence” (Woolfolk, 1998, p.
47). According to Swanson, in scaffolded instruction,
students are viewed as collaborators and the teacher
as “a guide, shaping the instruction and providing
support for the learning” (Swanson, 1999, p. 138).
This is an interactive process that bases instruction on
learners’ prior knowledge, provides needed support,
and gradually removes the support as it becomes less
necessary (Ellis et al., 1994).
Teach learning tools:
principles, rules, or multi-step
processes to accomplish
learning tasks.
Model and demonstrate;
prompt and cue learners to
use strategies.
Provide supports for learning
as needed: breaking into
steps, providing clues,
reminders, or
Withdraw support gradually
as it becomes less
The two elements of intensive instruction are active
learning and time. Intensive instruction involves active
learner engagement and plenty of time on task (Ellis
et al.,1994; National ALLD Center, 1999). Students
learn more when they are active, that is, not just
listening or watching, but applying “focused, sustained
effort on the content or task” (Mellard & Scanlon,
1998, p. 293).
For example, they might be using a strategy on an
unfamiliar problem, practicing through repetition,
participating in a discussion, working to solve a
familiar problem in a new way, or creating some form
of graphic organizer or using digital tools/media. As
might be expected, they learn more when they spend
more time engaged in such activities. Although it may
seem like “overlearning” for learners experienced in
the topic, novice learners usually require multiple and
frequent practice opportunities. Intensive instruction
has also been described as requiring a high degree of
learner attention and response and frequent
instructional sessions (National ALLD Center).
Structured instruction has been defined as the act of
“systematically teaching information that has been
chunked into manageable pieces” (National ALLD
Center, 1999). Complex skills or large bodies of
information are broken into parts, which are taught
systematically according to a planned sequence. An
approach that is described similarly has been termed
“segmentation” (Swanson, 1999).
You must analyze each task and break it into its
component parts, and then after teaching the parts
systematically, bring them back together so learners
are aware of the process or concept as a whole.
Keep learners focused,
active, and responding.
Provide plenty of “time on
Break information and skills
into manageable parts.
Teach parts systematically
and in sequence.
Bring the parts together to refocus on the whole.