How we learn:

Learning Concept Map
Learning Concept Map

For more concepts on learning, click on the above concept map.

Linguistic Learning Mode in Instructional Design

Of the three learning modes, the linguistic mode is perhaps the one that receives the most attention from a learning perspective. This is because content is often presented linguistically and in turn, learners are often expected to respond linguistically. However, learning is often negative impacted because we rely on it too much by failing to account for the nonlinguistic and affective learning modes.

Nine Strategies for Improving Learning

Ceri Dean, Elizabeth Hubbell, and Howard Pitler (2012) identified a framework for instructional design that includes nine instructional strategies:

Framework for Instructional Design

Since their research was targeted for the educational environment, I adapted a couple of the strategies to better reflect the needs of adult learners in organizations:

The Nine Strategies shown in the above chart are:

1. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback - Provide learning objectives that improves performance, which in turn, has a positive impact upon the organization. In addition, provide timely feedback and assessments that correlates with the learning objectives and corrects non-performance..

2. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition - Reinforce the learners’ efforts to show appreciation for their newly learned skills in order to build self-esteem. This will help to give them the belief that effort pays off.

3. Collaborative Learning - This is quite similar to cooperative learning in that the learners work together in small teams to increase their chance of deeper learning. However, collaborative learning is a more radical departure from cooperative learning in that there is not necessarily a known answer, which better reflects the needs of the organization. For example, the question “how effective is elearning?” provokes a wide range of possible answers, depending upon the learners' perspectives. Because the collaboration sometimes results from less purposeful and focused activities, some of the learning will be unintentional or serendipitous. Beside cooperative and collaborative learning, you can use other group activities, such as fishbowls, case studies, action learning, etc. that provide similar benefits.

4. Questions, Cues, and Advance Organizers - Questions give the learners a chance to retrieve their newly learned knowledge, which provides reinforcement of their newly acquired skills and knowledge.

Cues can be thought of as a brief preview of a skill, action, or information that will later be presented in the learning process. For example, it can be as simple as saying, “I wonder what will happen if I push this button?” This simple statement can raise the learners' curiosity levels so that the importance of pushing that button remains in their memory. Marzano (1998, p.89) reported that achievement can be raised by 37 percentile points when cueing is used.

Images can be used as cues, such as a graphic or picture that reinforces the instructor's message:

layering or scaffolding the instruction
Effective instructors recognize the concept of presenting information in layers as a miniature scaffold (building upon a framework)

An advance organizer is information that is presented prior to learning a new concept or idea that allows the learners to organize and interpret new incoming information (Mayer, 2007). Learning is more difficult when we have to learn completely new concepts that have no relationship to our previous knowledge. Examples are flow charts that illustrate processes, outlines or bullets to show how content is organized, and mind maps that show how concepts are related. An advanced organizer is part of scaffolding.

5. Non-Linguistic Representations - The use of visuals, such as graphs, demonstrations, charts, pictures, and models help to reinforce the understanding of concepts.

Models (as in people, drawings, or three-dimensional) help to reinforce both the declarative and procedural network by giving them a visual cue. Marzano (1998, p.91) reported an effect size of 1.48 (which indicates that achievement can be raised by 43 percentile points) when graphic representations are used to support linguistic learning modes.


The combined use of drawings, flowcharts, mappings, instructions, etc. can be combined to produce knowledge maps, rather than linear readings.

6. Summarizing and Note Taking - Note taking has a positive impact since it involves the learners in the subject matter that is transpiring in class, it cause us to reflect on the subject and then record our thoughts, it helps us in interpreting the subject matter, and it provides an additional linguistic reinforcer. You can help them with note taking by providing rough outlines and fill-in-the-blanks. But do not just rely on one method. Vary the methods to fit the subject — e.g. give them a rough draft, then a fill-in-the-blank, then a mapping outline.

Pascarella and Terenzini (1991, p.98) reported that the greater the learner's involvement or engagement (which includes note-taking) in the learning process, the greater the knowledge acquisition. Marzano (1998) reported that note taking techniques have an overall effect size of .99, indicating a percentile gain of 34 points. These techniques require students to generate personal linguistic representations of the information being presented.

7. Providing Practice and Experience - Activities (manipulatives — hands-on learning) engage learners. While we can learn the basics of such activities as football, chess, PowerPoint, or leading by observing or hearing about it, we do not really understand it until we actually do it.

Pascarella & Terenzini (1991, p.98) reported that the greater the learner's involvement or engagement is in the learning process, the greater the knowledge acquisition.

Marzano 1998, p.91) reported an effect size of 0.89 (which indicates that achievement can be raised by 31 percentile points) when manipulatives (engaging the learners) are used. In addition, he reported (p.93) an effect size of 1.14 (which indicates that achievement can be raised by 37 percentile points) when experimental learning is used and an effect size of .54 (a percentile gain of 21 points) by using problem solving processes.

Providing experience helps to ensure the learners can use their newly acquired skills and knowledge to improve their performance on the job. Of all of the strategies discussed here, this is the only one that actually shows that the learning processes actually pays off with real performance, while the other ones help you to create better learning processes.

8. Identifying Similarities and Differences - This helps the learners to gain insight, draw inferences, make generalizations, and develop schemas. There are four process for accomplishing this:

An activity similar to Comparing and Contrasting is matching example/non-example pairs.

When presenting information to the learners it is helpful to use different approaches. See, Approaches to Presenting Information and Examples.

Note: Schemata (Schema): A mental model of a person, object or situation. Schema include cognitive maps (mental representations of familiar parts of one's world), images, concept schema (categories of objects, events, or ideas with common properties), event scripts (schema about familiar sequences of events or activities) and mental models (clusters of relationships between objects or processes).

9. Generating and Testing Hypothesis - Encouraging prediction and explanation around these predictions forces learners to think about the content in terms of outcomes.

See Active Learning for more information and references


Next Steps

Next chapter: Nonlinguistic Learning Mode

Return to the introduction: Introduction: The Three Representational Modes


Marzano, Robert J. (1998). A Theory-Based Meta-Analysis of Research on Instruction. Mid-continent Aurora, Colorado: Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved from

Dean C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement, 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Mayer, R. (2007). Learning and Instruction. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pascarella, Ernest T. & Terenzini, Patrick T. (1991). How College Affects Students. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.