Using Content Structure in Course Design

Document Type


Publication Date



The purpose of this article is to suggest some strategies for analyzing and organizing concepts in a given content area, following the elaboration theory of instruction. Based on three main kinds of structure — taxonomies, procedures, and models — the following principles are presented: 1) teach content structure explicitly through diagram, figures, and text cues, 2) use content structure in the organization of lessons; that is, course structure should reflect content structure, and 3) sequence instruction in a general-to-detailed order, building upon central constructs in an elaborative cycle. Following these basic principles should enhance the meaningfulness of what is learned, resulting in improved quantity and quality of learning outcomes.