Instructional Methods

Suppose you were to take a course in transmission repair. Would you learn better from a computer-based slide presentation of the material? or from a "traditional" classroom lecture course? or by a combination of methods that includes the tearing down and rebuilding of a transmission with your own hands? Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies comparing the teaching and learning effectiveness of various media, only to conclude that it depends. And it doesn't depend on the medium of instruction. Most of us have experienced ineffective instruction in various media, including the classroom and hands-on training. That's because what makes good instruction isn't the medium; it's the instructional methods that guide the way the medium is used.

Methods are the instructional techniques that facilitate learning. Media are the means of implementing those methods (as well as conveying the material to be learned). For example, methods include demonstrations, animations, examples, practice, and feedback. Media include overhead slides, computers, video, workbooks, and instructors among others.

Any medium can be rendered ineffective by inappropriate methods. Take, for example, a lengthy classroom lecture where students are relentlessly bombarded with information but given no opportunity to work with it, or a learning program that allows for no interactions on the part of the student. Both overload learners with too much content while providing inadequate opportunities to build skills or practice the content being presented.

Cognitive Learning Processes

Dr. Ruth Clark’s work in the science of adult learning concluded that instruction can be designed based on four different assumptions of learning. She calls these four architectures: receptive, directive, exploratory, and guided discovery.

In a RECEPTIVE design, the instruction provides new information that the learner absorbs as they receive it. This architecture provides relatively little in the way of learner interaction. Briefings and lectures are typical examples of the receptive architecture. The goal is to provide an overview of the subject and generate enthusiasm for it.

In a DIRECTIVE design short lessons are used that include rules or definitions, examples, and practice exercises. Lessons are generally sequenced starting with easier or prerequisite skills, and build gradually to more complex skills. Frequent questions with feedback are provided to build patterns of correct associations. This architecture is based on behavioral principles of psychology and served as the predominant architecture of early instructional training. Learners are guided step by step to take the correct path. If they make a mistake, corrective feedback is given— followed by an opportunity to try again. 

The EXPLORATORY learner is free to access diverse repositories of information that can include demonstrations, examples, and practice exercises. The role of instruction is to provide a rich layered resource of information so learners can acquire the knowledge they need by self-navigation. The burden of motivation and dedication to learn is placed on the learner.

The GUIDED DISCOVERY is the most effective means of teaching Lean Principles because it immerses learners into typical production problem situations and provides support for their solutions. This instructional design is somewhat learner controlled and uses greater amounts of simulation, but the key is that it is directed toward how instructional methods interact with learner mental events and cognitive memory.

One type of guided discovery instruction is called the cognitive apprenticeship. Its main features include experiential learning in which learners are immersed in job-like problems and—with various support options including facilitators, reference, and best practice models—are encouraged to solve the problems. The LeanMan Lean Principles training simulation exercises encourage the use of experiment with the Learning to See the Waste 10-Second Test, the 15-Minute Observation and the Kaizen event. Learners are provided real flow patterns to study, they are situated at familiar work settings, they are given access to typical work tools and forms just as they would use in the shop, and they are given lean principles information and facilitator assistance. In this way the skills and knowledge gained in the simulation become part of their associative environment when they return to their normal work place.

Lean Principles Learning Process

Each of the four architectures is powerful for specific performance outcomes and learning audiences. In brief, there is one major Lean Principles training outcome you desire: to perform. Perform outcomes imply the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Perform outcomes in turn can be divided into two major categories: procedural and principle-based. Procedural outcomes are those that support learning of step-by step tasks that are completed in the same way each time.

Principle outcomes support tasks that require judgment in adapting guidelines to unique situations each time. For example, assembling a product in the shop or loading fixtures into a test chamber are procedural tasks; while inspecting a painted finish or balancing workload within a work cell are more principled in nature. The Lean Principles training goal is to create Lean Thinkers and to enable workers to make the daily good decisions necessary to maintain the principles of lean flow. Doing so requires learners to acquire both procedural and principle based knowledge. Below is a summary of the benefits of the guided discovery method that form the base for the LeanMan training products. 


  1. Guided discovery


  1. Problem-based
  2. Situates learning in job-like environment
  3. Uses simulation to compress experience
  4. Errors are encouraged
  5. Support is provided through coaching and expert models


  1. To build expert-like problem solving knowledge and skills
  2. To accelerate expertise in principle-based domains


  1. Acquiring skills in principle-based domains require analysis of situations and application of learned principles.
  2. Acquiring skills in procedural-based domains where lean principles of value, value stream, flow, pull, and perfection are applied in the daily hands-on activities of work.