Teaching Procedures?

StudyGuide Lines – Instructional Design Tips for Christian Teachers and Writers



So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” Matthew 5:23-24, ESV.

Checklist for Teaching Procedures:

» Did you clarify the context in which the procedure should be used?

Procedures are applied in a specific context. Learners must be able to recognize this context.

Time attribute: When you are offering your gift and remember that your brother has something against you.
Place attribute: At the altar.

Learners must answer the question:

What are the critical attributes of the context in which the procedure should be applied?
Use instructional strategies for concept knowledge for this objective.

» Did you help the learner connect the procedure to it’s associated principle(s)?

Principle 1: If you cause someone to be angry with you – if your action incites a motivation for murderous feelings in a person, then he or she will be judged and punished accordingly. “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire, Matthew 5:21-22, ESV.

Procedure:So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” Matthew 5:23-24, ESV.

Principle 2: The judge will not accept your gift as an appeasement for wrongdoing, but if you reach a settlement with someone who has a case against you prior to standing before the judge, then you will avoid judgment and punishment. Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny! Matthew 5:25-26, ESV.

» Does each step represent a single, clearly stated action?

  1. Leave your gift at the altar.
  2. Be reconciled to your brother.
  3. Return to the altar.
  4. Offer your gift.

» Did you begin each step with an action verb?

  • See italicized words above.

» Did you provide a way to help the learner remember the steps?

Memorization is declarative knowledge not procedural knowledge. Nevertheless, it is usually helpful to memorize the procedure.
  • Assist memorization of more complex procedures with instructor-generated or learner-generated graphics, charts, mnemonics, visualizations, lists, decision trees, etc., that emphasize each procedural step.

» Did you identify other types of knowledge that must be known in order to teach the procedure?

  • Do you need to add instructional strategies to teach key procedural concepts?
    • Example: “Reconcile vs. Non-Reconcile”
  • Is psychomotor or attitude instruction required?
    • If so, how could you integrate modeling or role-playing strategies?
  • Do you need to teach sub-procedures?
    • Reconciliation Process Sub-Procedure:
      1. Obtain forgiveness. (Do your learners understand how to obtain forgiveness? Do you need to include
      another sub-procedure here?)
      2. Restore relationship.

» Did you provide 2 or less options (paths) at each decision point?

Note that Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 5:23-34 is linear; it does not contain optional paths. The options below are added for demonstration purposes.

Context: You are at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you.

Procedural Steps:
1.  Leave your gift at the altar.

  • Decision Point: Will you disobey or obey?
    • Option 1: Disobey – offer your gift without reconciliation.
    • Option 2: Obey – leave your gift at the altar.

2. Go and be reconciled with your brother.

  • Decision Point: Will you disobey or obey?
    • Option 1: Disobey – refuse to be reconciled.
    • Option 2: Obey – be reconciled.

3. Go back to the altar.

  • Decision Point: Will you disobey or obey?
    • Option 1: Disobey – do not return to the altar.
    • Option 2: Obey – return to the altar.

4. Offer your gift.

  • Decision Point: Will you disobey or obey?
    • Option 1: Disobey – do not offer your gift.
    • Option 2: Obey – offer your gift.

» Did you simplify a complex procedure by using 1 of the 3 strategies below?

  1. Begin instruction with one “best” scenario in which the procedure should be applied. Then elaborate and provide practice with each addition of contextual complexity.
    • Example of added complexity: Perhaps, at the altar, you remember that you sinned against your brother because you were murderously angry about something your brother did against you. Perhaps when you went to reconcile with your brother, he refused your reconciliation attempt and called you a fool.
  2. Begin instruction with a simplified, linear (single option at each decision point) version of the entire procedure that results in the best outcome. Next, teach additional options/paths, and provide practice opportunities.
  3. Break the procedure down into smaller chunks at major decision points. Develop instruction and practice opportunities for each chunk before expecting learners to reproduce the entire procedural sequence.

» Did you provide a variety of practice opportunities? 

Procedural learning means that the learner can:

  • recognize the appropriate context(s) for the procedure and the appropriate context(s) for each decision path.
  • perform the procedural steps correctly and in order.
  • assess whether or not the procedure was correctly applied and carried out.

Instruction should include practice for each procedural objective.

» Did you help the learner understand what procedural outcomes to expect so that self-assessment can occur?

Consider: What are the possible outcomes of the procedure’s correct application?
Possible Outcomes:
1) Undesired – The brother will refuse to be reconciled; he will be judged and punished.
2) Desired – The brother’s anger will be abated, and he will not be in danger of judgment.
3) Desired – The brother will not bring the offender before the judge.

» Did you provide feedback:

  • for identifying the appropriate context(s) in which the procedure should be applied?
  • for completing the correct procedural sequence?
  • for completing procedural steps correctly or choosing decision paths appropriately?


A procedure is a sequence of clearly defined steps that, when followed, are meant to produce specific outcomes. Memorizing steps in a procedure is not procedural knowledge. Rather, procedural knowledge requires the learner to know how to correctly apply the procedure in the appropriate context and sequence. Procedures may be linear or complex. Complex procedures are interrupted by decision points that, when presented, require the learner to choose options or paths.

Application for Instruction

  • Begin with the simple and move to the complex.
  • Identify unknown sub-procedures or conceptual knowledge gaps and plan instruction appropriately.
  • Present procedural actions as simply as possible. Make sure the desired action is upfront and clear.
  • Create, or ask the learner to create, a graphic aid of procedural steps and decision paths to aid in memorization of the procedure.
  • Provide practice activities.
  • Provide feedback.
  • Present procedures in association with their underlying principles.

Further Reading

  • Marzano, Robert J., , “What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge?” Ch. 3, Art and Science of Teaching, available from ASCD.org.
  • Smith, Patricia L., and Tillman J. Ragan, Tillman J., Instructional Design, 3rd ed., (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005), 188-203.
  • Sun, Ron Merrill, Edward, Peterson, Todd, “From implicit skills to explicit knowledge: a bottom-up model of skill learning,” Cognitive Science 25 (2001) 203–244, access at onlinelibrary.wiley.com.

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