Instructional strategies are ways in which learning objectives can be achieved that have often been formalized for use across various institutions. For example, lectures are a type of instructional strategy, as are discussions. More specific instructional strategies might prescribe timed intervals for certain types of learning, or might even have preset course materials designed to teach a specific skill. In many cases, instructional strategies can be thought of as teaching techniques, but sometimes these strategies involve more input from students and are thus better thought of as assignments or projects.
Some of the most common instructional strategies are techniques that have been used in education for a very long time. Lectures, discussions, and other basic components of education can all be considered instructional strategies. In different countries, the basic forms education takes may be different, and might focus on individual tutoring or apprenticeship. Many schools value rote memorization as a learning technique, and this is also a valuable instructional strategy.
In current educational settings, instructional strategies are often tested scientifically and designed to improve the learning experience of the student. More formalized strategies may come with standard handouts, lesson plans, and other materials that can be used by the teacher to maximize learning scientifically. These strategies often have acronyms and their use may be mandated as part of the curriculum by regulatory agencies.
Certain instructional strategies are designed for specific subjects. Music, for example, is a subject often taught through very different techniques. Some people advocate learning by ear, while others demand a strong basis in music theory and reading music. Most of the time, the instructional technique used does not entirely determine the precise learning process undertaken by the student, as most students also practice outside of the teaching relationship. This means that the success of a certain strategy does not necessarily imply that one strategy is better than another, because improvement may also be a characteristic of the student community or activities taking place outside of school.
Strategies may also target learning groups, although this is sometimes a bad idea if the use of certain techniques could be seen as discriminatory. Some people advocate teaching in a group's native language or dialect, for example, in order to remove any language barrier from the classroom, while others believe that immersion in a dialect considered standard is itself a strategy for teaching success. There are special strategies used for teaching students with learning disabilities, as well as strategies for teaching students who are ahead of their classmates. In some schools, teaching techniques are tailored to the needs of each individual student, but this is not always a possibility.