Instructional Models: Types & Definitions

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we define and examine the five identified instructional models, including Direct, Indirect, Independent, Experiential, and Interactive Learning.

Instructional Models

As teachers, we change our instruction frequently to meet the needs of our students. There are five identified instructional models that teachers alternate between depending on the goals and audience of the lesson. Let's learn more about these five instructional models.


Which model of instruction is most common in the United States? Direct instruction is a teacher-centered model in which students learn from presentations or demonstrations by the teacher. Although teacher-centered approaches are not often the best way to improve critical thinking skills of students, they have been shown to improve basic skills, such as remembering content. When using direct instruction, monitoring student progress towards learning goals and providing clear feedback are necessary for continuous student growth. To get the most out of direct instruction, it needs to be paired with other models of instruction. The attention span of all students equals about one minute per year of age plus one from preschool through high school (Ex. 5 year olds have a 6 minute attention span), therefore students need to change activities often. Here are some examples of direct instruction.

  • Lectures are teacher-led presentations of material. Listening guides, power point presentations, and media guides may all be used to assist teachers during lectures.
  • Demonstrations are experiments and problems that are shown to the class by the teacher that are used to provide evidence of a learning concept.
  • Videos are a method of direct instruction because the students passively acquire information. Viewing guides may accompany videos.


If direct instruction does not promote critical thinking skills, what should you do when the goal is to improve reasoning? Indirect instruction is a student-centered model in which teachers act as facilitators while student construct their own knowledge. Each of the following are examples of activities that may be used with indirect instruction.

  • Case studies are stories that students read and evaluate to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, evaluate choices, create an action plan, and proactively anticipate what could go wrong. Case studies promote both inductive and deductive reasoning skills.
  • Cloze procedures encourage students to make connections to the text through the use of word omissions. Students must bring their prior knowledge to the text to decipher meaning.
  • Concept sorting activities help build schema by having students categorize information.
  • Concept mapping helps students see patterns and connections between various ideas through graphic representations. Concept maps begin with a big idea from which smaller details emerge.
  • Inquiry-based learning begins with a question, followed by learning activities that lead students toward discovering the answer.
  • Reflective study is the practice by which students maintain learning logs or journals in order to increase self-awareness of their own learning process.

While direct instruction allows students to gain content knowledge and foundational skills in an efficient manner, indirect instruction may take longer, but adds a greater depth of understanding.


What can you do to help students become self-motivated? Independent study promotes motivation and self-regulation by providing students with the opportunity to work at their own pace. Parameters are set collaboratively by the student and teacher, and are sometimes outlined in a learning contract. The following are examples of independent study:

  • essay writing
  • computer-based instruction
  • research projects
  • learning centers.

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