The Art Of Instructions

“निर्देश (क्लासरूम इंस्ट्रक्शंस) ​की कला।” – इस ब्लॉग को हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहाँ क्लिक करें

“ शिकवण्याची कला (इंस्ट्रक्शनयाची कला)।” – हा ब्लॉग मराठी मध्ये वाचण्यासाठी, येथे क्लिक करा

Facilitation is a powerful wand and in well-trained hands can achieve wonderful, healthy, positive outcomes.

– Sam Killermann and Meg Bolger*

When it comes to facilitation, for every facilitator,  participants are an integral part of the facilitation. While planning anything (activities, curriculum, games) for the participants, the facilitator’s prime focus is to make participants understand the content. To accomplish it, the facilitator plans things and tries to put them in simple words or phrases used in lesson plans, which are called “Instructions”.

Instructions support in guiding the facilitated space (classroom, activity, discussion, etc) and help participants know what and how the experience of this space is intended. It is best done in a language, form and tonality such that participants ( students, caregivers, educators, or anyone else) can fully understand and engage with the space/experience and work towards the intentions of the space/experience. 

“Instructions have always played an important role in my childhood. I remember as a child when I first started doing household chores, my mother used to instruct me a lot on how it should be done and what should be the outcome. While doing some tasks she used to guide me which helped me to understand the work better and at times she also asked me to practice tasks where learning was required. 

Clarity with instructions always supported me to do things more precisely. The Math teacher from my 12th grade used to write instructions to break down things, which helped me in passing my Math paper. It allowed me to connect and resolve things step by step. 

Taking my journey forward as an educator I started constructing instructions according to people/participants in my class. Instructions support individuals to engage, reconstruct and connect to their experiences,” shares Priyanka Tiwari.

So here we are talking about, “ The Art of Instructions”.

What is the Art of Instructions?

People are meaning-makers (Narrative Practices). Whenever we receive a set of instructions, we with all our knowledge, experience, and understanding interpret the instructions. The art of instruction is how we design a set of experiences through which the groups can work towards the intended goal.

Types of instructions 

There are different types of instructions, and ways of delivering them. It can be verbal, written, audio, or visual. It depends upon the diverse needs of the classroom and the participation

Some ways of planning for meaningful instruction

  • Be direct – Make statements rather than asking questions: In facilitation, it is always preferred to be direct and state what the expectation is like, “ everyone sits in a big circle.” During facilitation, we try to be very clear like “pair in a group of two”. At times, instructions can be visual as well. For example, if you see in the image below, the facilitator has drawn a circle and place for students to sit in. This provides clarity, especially in younger grades, for students to use their space and time.
  • Be close – To give the instructions, it is better to stand close to the students, instead of calling out and shouting from across the room, wherever possible. During facilitation, we try to be in a closed space where everyone can hear our instructions clearly, and during one-to-one conversations with students, we try to sit together and talk. While delivering the instructions the facilitator usually sits with the students, and it has proven to be beneficial for a better understanding of the instructions or the activity. 
  • Use clear, respectful and specific commands – Instead of “Go ahead,” say, “Please go start your reading assignment.” During facilitation instead of saying “start the activity”, we try to break down instructions like “sit in the group of 4 and decide who will be the speaker and note taker, each member will get 2 mins”.
  • Give age-appropriate instructions – As facilitation happens with students as young as grade 3 to the higher grade of 10, we do alter the instructions which we believe would best suit the understanding of the students in class. As it is important to break down the instructions for the younger grades, it is also important to consider that higher grades may understand the instructions differently.  For instance, grade 3 class instructions may look like: “First, everyone puts colors down. (then giving them time to do so). Now keep the drawing in the center ( giving them time to do that ) Now everyone sits in a big circle.” Whereas, for grade 7 the same instruction may look like: “keep drawing and colors in the center and make a big circle.” 
  • Give instructions one at a time – When facilitating in open spaces such as corridors, or near the staircase,, we may find capturing the students’ attention a bit challenging. So while explaining any activity or giving out instructions, especially for younger participants, we try to give one instruction at a time for the students to understand. 

Here’s a glimpse of instructions in classrooms.

  • Give students time to process – The facilitation space may look different than the subject’s/ regular classrooms, and the conversation held in facilitation may need a different pace of understanding of the concepts and topics with different students. Hence, giving students their own time to process the instructions/activity is always beneficial. If the facilitator is calm and patient, the student has a sense of security and can do the activity at ease, and can contribute better.
  • Inclusive Lens: In an inclusive classroom setting, where there are different ways to do an activity, different instructions are required to support the needs of all the students in the class. For example- If for a particular activity the instructions are to write about your “favorite dream” and if some students find it difficult to write it or express it in words then they may not be able to participate or contribute anything to the activity. They might experience a feeling of being left out or differentiated. But if my instructional planning involves that you can write, draw, make a poem or act on your ‘favorite dream’ then it gives an open platform to almost all the students to participate in the activity. They might have a sense of inclusion, belongingness, and involvement. We may not have the liberty to involve a lot of choices in all the activities or lesson plans, but we can always try, as the inclusive instructions do create a space.
  • Language for Oral/Verbal Instructions: For classroom instructions to be effective, we would mostly observe the facilitator repeating the core instructions in different languages which are known to the participants as the most preferred ones in the group. Dual language always helps to understand some words or the whole set better. Bilingualism always helps in understanding difficult/unknown words or the whole set of instructions in a better manner. Thus, it is recommended for a facilitator to keep instructions in different students’ languages, if possible.

Customization of the instructions and their delivery is very subjective to the group we are working with our instructions and the way we deliver them. There are no particular procedures through which someone can provide instructions, but there are ways through which instructions can be more effective than others. 

Instructions must be broken down into single and step-wise actions or behavior, like google maps, when the application directs us to turn left after 30 meters.  Stepwise instructions make the process easy for the recipients to be prepared for the next action and have the feeling of informed, and of certainty. It is always beneficial to reiterate the part of instructions that the facilitator feels is the core part or is a very critical part of the activity. It helps the participants to highlight the main part of the activity.

Possibilities/outcome of effective instructions in classrooms 

Effective Instructions in the classroom can be very powerful and as a result, there is much research that has shown that effective instructions provide a platform for participants to respond and make their learning impactful. It helps them build knowledge about any activity, work step by step and create a learning space for themselves and other participants in the classroom. It builds participants’ curiosity to learn the content, and be an independent learners in the long run.

It is important that instructions are aligned with the diversity of students and make room for inclusivity. 

Instructions at any space look like a guide directory best suited for your group, as in Priyanka’s story we read those stepwise instructions may work best for some people, but we also advocate for age-based instructions and diverse instructions. 

Authors: 

Hitanshi Sharma is a Program Coordinator at Apni Shala and facilitates SEL with students, caregivers, and educators. She has completed her Master’s in counseling Psychology and an advanced diploma in child care and child development. She loves traveling and exploring different cultures.

Priyanka Tiwari is a 2nd year Fellow at Apni Shala for the year 2022-2023. She has completed her Master’s Degree (M.sc) in Mathematics from Mumbai University. She facilitates sessions on Social and Emotional learning with students. She loves to knit, doodle and explore different games.

References:

  1. https://childmind.org/article/how-to-give-kids-effective-instructions/ 
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284832520_Reviewing_the_Outcomes_and_Principles_of_Effective_Instruction

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