Invariant Tasks: Example

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Back to Topic:Instructional Design > Cognitive behaviors > Invariant Tasks > Define > Learn > Teach > Tactics > Try It > Example

Source: Invariant Tasks by Charles M. Reigeluth. Used by Permission.


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Skill Builder Example: This section is offered to provide possible responses to the Skill Builder Exercise (prepared by the original authors of this lesson). Note that these responses are purposely placed on a separate screen to provide general guidance should you become stuck, but NOT to imply a single correct response to the case scenario. Scroll down the page to view possible responses or click on the desired question in the contents box below.


What to teach? How to teach it?[edit]

Imagine a friend of yours, Jennifer, has just been hired to tutor a sixth grader, Sam. She's all excited, because it's her first tutoring job. However, she's very worried, too, because she has never tutored before. She has come to you for advice. You had just read somewhere that the most important concerns in any instruction are "what to teach" and "how to teach it". Let's assume that Jennifer has already found out that Sam is supposed to learn the names of the first seven Presidents of the United States. So let's turn our attention to "how to teach it". Based on the need to create strong links within memory, what would you say are the most important instructional strategies you could suggest to your friend? Think about it, click "edit" for this section, and add your answer below:

  • Before your first session, obtain a list of all the Presidents.
   * George Washington
   * John Adams
   * Thomas Jefferson
   * James Madison
   * James Monroe
   * John Quincy Adams
   * Andrew Jackson
   * Martin Van Buren
   * William Henry Harrison
   * John Tyler
  • Repetition and mnemonics would be helpful instructional strategies. Study the list of names and see if you can come up with a mnemonic. Do the first letters of the last names make up anything that would be easy to remember? WAJMM? AJBHT? In this case, I don't think so. What about a saying. "Washing Adam and Jeff made Monroe happy." Maybe you could make a visual drawing that would help Sam to remember the scene. If that fails, perhaps you can come up with a rhyme or a song. Try to be creative!
  • Create handmade or computer generated flash cards to facilitate practice.
  • You might find other ways to simplify the task, such as teaching just the last names at first. Then only after they are mastered, teach the first names.
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

What are the recommended teacher actions?[edit]

What should Jennifer be doing while Sam is stating the names of the first seven Presidents of the United States? Should she just sit there or should she do something? What do you think she should do? Think about it, click "edit" for this section, and add your answer below:

  • The practice can be initiated by something like, "Okay, let's give it a try now! Don't look at the list. Who were the first five Presidents?"
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

What about when the learner get stuck?[edit]

Picture Jennifer asking Sam to name the Presidents. If he only knows who the first one is (George Washington), would you start by asking him to name all of them? That would be silly. So what other guideline should you give Jennifer? If this all seems obvious, it shows you have already picked up an intuitive understanding of some of the most basic principles of instruction from your observations or studies. Congratulations! But beware that we are quickly moving on to less obvious principles. Think about it, click "edit" for this section, and add your answer below:

  • If Sam gets stuck and can't remember who comes next, prompt him: "Jefferson." Whenever there is an error, correct it right away. When he says "Monroe" after Jefferson, you just say: "Not yet. Madison."
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

What about larger amounts of content?[edit]

Let's assume that Sam needs to learn the names of all the Presidents of the United States instead of just seven. Forty Presidents is a lot to learn. Would you present all 40 at once and then elicit practice on all 40 at once? Think of what you would recommend to make it easier for him to learn all those names, click "edit" for this section, and jot your answer below:

  • The key is to chunk the material. Since there are more than seven names, plan how to chunk them (how many in each chunk, and how many chunks). Since the names seem like they would be fairly hard for Sam to remember, eight chunks of five names would be a good starting point.
  • After Sam has mastered the second chunk, don't forget to review the first: "Great! Now tell me the names of all ten!"
  • Also, as noted above, you might find other ways to simplify the task, such as teaching just the last names at first. Then only after they are mastered, teach the first names.
  • Finally, use lots of repetition: "And again ...."
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)


How to prompt the learner?[edit]

Let's assume the names are difficult for Sam. What else can you recommend to help him remember the names in the first chunk? Keep in mind the need to strengthen those links, click "edit" for this section, and jot your answer below:

  • There is a good chance that by the time Jennifer has finished teaching the last chunk of names, Sam will have difficulty recalling all the previous names. Hence, periodic review is important to include in your instruction. Often it is wise to review items from the first chunk right after the second chunk is mastered, to review items from the first two chunks right after the third chunk is mastered, and so on.

What is often more powerful and efficient than repetition to facilitate memorization?[edit]

There is another feature which can be even more powerful and efficient than repetition to facilitate memorization. Try to think of what it is, click "edit", and write your answer below:

  • Games provide a powerful and efficient means of facilitating memorization. You could use a game as simple as "Hangman" or more complex like a Framegame to stimulate interest.
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)

What about motivation?[edit]

It is hard to remember all those names, and Sam is bound to have trouble at first. What can Jennifer do to keep him from getting discouraged—to keep his attitude positive and his concentration high? High motivation translates into high effort, and that means quicker and better learning. What would you recommend to Jennifer? Think about it, click "edit", and add your answer below:

  • Encourage him when he falters: "That's closer!" Give praise when he is correct: "All right! You got it this time! You're smart!"
  • ADD YOUR ANSWER ABOVE THIS BULLET POINT. SIGN IT WITH YOUR NAME USING THE SIGNATURE WIKICODE Phonebein 17:56, 18 December 2011 (UTC)


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