Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Guidelines for Use of Instructional Aids

The use of any instructional aid must be planned, based on its ability to support a specific point in a lesson. A simple process can be used to determine if and where instructional aids are necessary.

  • Clearly establish the lesson objective. Be certain of what is to be communicated.
  • Gather the necessary data by researching for support material.
  • Organize the material into an outline or a lesson plan. The plan should include all key points that need to be covered. This may include important safety considerations.
  • Select the ideas to be supported with instructional aids. The aids should be concentrated on the key points. Aids are often appropriate when long segments of technical description are necessary, when a point is complex and difficult to put into words, when instructors find themselves forming visual images, or when students are puzzled by an explanation or description.

Aids should be simple and compatible with the learning outcomes to be achieved. Obviously, an explanation of elaborate equipment may require detailed schematics or mock-ups, but less complex equipment may lend itself to only basic shapes or figures. Since aids are normally used in conjunction with a verbal presentation, words on the aid should be kept to a minimum. In many cases, visual symbols and slogans can replace in-depth explanations. The instructor should avoid the temptation to use the aids as a crutch. The tendency toward unnecessarily distracting artwork also should be avoided.

Instructional aids should appeal to the student and be based on sound principles of instructional design. When practical, they should encourage student participation. They also should be meaningful to the student, lead to the desired behavioral or learning objectives, and provide appropriate reinforcement. Aids that involve learning a physical skill should guide

students toward mastery of the skill or task specified in the lesson objective.

Instructional aids have no value in the learning process if they cannot be heard or seen. Recordings of sounds and speeches should be tested for correct volume and quality in the actual environment in which they will be used. Visual aids must be visible to the entire class. All lettering and illustrations must be large enough to be seen easily by the students farthest from the aids. Colors, when used, should provide clear contrast and easily be visible.

The usefulness of aids can be improved by proper sequencing to build on previous learning. Frequently, good organization and natural patterns of logic dictate the sequence. However, use of standardized materials, including a syllabus, is recommended. Sequencing also can be enhanced simply by using overlays on transparencies, stripping techniques on charts and chalk or marker boards, and by imaginative use of magnetic boards. Sequencing can be emphasized and made clearer by the use of contrasting colors.

The effectiveness of aids and the ease of their preparation can be increased by initially planning them in rough draft form. Revisions and alterations are easier to make at that time than after their completion. The rough draft should be carefully checked for technical accuracy, proper terminology, grammar, spelling, basic balance, clarity, and simplicity. Instructional aids should also be reviewed to determine whether their use is feasible in the training environment and whether they are appropriate for the students. [Figure 4-17]

In practice, the choice of instructional aids depends on several factors. Availability, feasibility, or cost may impose realistic limitations. The number of students in a class and the existing facilities are other considerations. In some school situations, the designers of the curriculum determine the use of instructional aids. In this case, the instructor may have little control over their use. On the other hand, an independent instructor may have considerable latitude, but limited resources. Often, instructors must improvise and adapt to the existing circumstances in order to incorporate quality instructional aids.

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