Listen to Black Sabbath: A reflection on the nature of instruction

I was crossing the street during my lunch break the other day when a piece of graffiti written on a pole nearby caught my attention. The graffiti read Listen to Black Sabbath. This immediately made me think about two things.

  1. That I had to listen to one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time as quickly as possible.
  2. Figure out how was I going to do it.

The author’s direction for me to listen to Black Sabbath made me think about the importance of clear instruction when we ask a learner to complete a task. Sure, the author had described what they wanted me to do (listen to Black Sabbath), but they didn’t tell me how I supposed do it. I guess the author assumed that anyone who read their instruction would’ve had an understanding of how they were to carry out the instruction. This might be ok if the author was around to provide additional information about how to complete the task, but in this case they were nowhere to be seen.

When we ask a learner to complete a task we need to remember to give them enough instructional support to allow them to complete or at the very least attempt the task. It’s the what (you want the learner to do) and the how (they can do it) that needs to be made clear to the learner.

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