Six Forms of Instructional Interaction

When thinking about modern learning environments, especially those focused on Constructivism and Connectivism, it is important for us to consider the six forms of instructional interaction. Examining all six independently and in tandem is critical to the success of the modern learner.

Let’s take a look at the six forms of instructional interaction, and why they are important in today’s traditional and non-traditional classrooms.


Student-Student Interaction

Evolving research in Constructivism and Connectivism depicts the importance of learning communities in the context of distance education. Collaborative interactions within a community of learners can increase gains in cognitive learning, increase completion rates, and enhance the oft-ignored development of social skills (Kirby & Boak, 1987). Student-student interaction is also learner-centered as it lends to a very flexible learning environment. When students are able to bounce ideas off one another and explore the thought processes of their peers, it could open up a new world of understanding for students with differing personalities and learning styles.


Student-Content Interaction

Student-content interactions are surely the first types of envisioned interactions in traditional and non-traditional education. One glance at the textbook market proves the importance placed on content by both instructors and students. In online education, however, there is an opportunity to enhance content through the use of virtual labs, simulations, and other hands-on activities, making it more interactive and customizable to individual learning styles. Thus, the content becomes more learner-centered. The Internet also allows for these interactions to mine an abundance of evolving knowledge, all of which is at each learner’s fingertips. Most importantly, interactive content creates more opportunities for self-assessment, resulting in greater reflection, and potentially higher cognitive gains.


Student-Teacher Interaction

In many ways, the role of the teacher is modified in modern educational environments. Using a community-centered learning environment focused on Constructivist learning theory, peer-to-peer learning and teaching becomes an integral asset to the overall environment. Students can hold each other accountable for their own learning, allowing the instructor to take on the role of mediator. This community-centered approach not only cuts down on the potentially uncontrollable volume of student-teacher communication, but also allows students to more openly explore the knowledge and content of the topic at hand. However, it is important to note that many students want and/or expect the instructor to contribute something unique to the course (Ko & Rossen, 2010, pg. 318), and not just be a simple mediator.


Teacher-Content Interaction

As instructor roles evolve to become more mediator-centric in Contructivism-focused education, their interaction with content, in some ways, becomes more critical. Instead of developing lecture plans, instructors must develop the scaffolding necessary to guide students on their learning journeys. They must plan activities that stimulate learners to openly explore content, and plan formative assessment opportunities so students can begin turning that information into knowledge. Finally, teachers must create incentives for students to engage in these activities and, more importantly, participate in learning communities to facilitate student-student interactions.


Teacher-Teacher Interaction

Being community-centered does not only apply to students. Teachers can also take on the role of learner both inside and outside the classroom, sharing their experiences with other educators and supporting each other through personal and professional development. This is also a prime opportunity to foster an organizational climate of trust and collaboration that can promote technological risk-taking (Borthwick & Risberg, 2008, pg. 39) that is essential in the evolving field of Internet-enhanced education. Teacher-teacher interaction is also learner-centered as these professional development opportunities are often built around planning curriculum to meet the needs of learners, the needs of the institution, and the needs of the community.


Content-Content Interaction

One of the great benefits of the Internet is the potential for real-time, automated updates to a body of knowledge. Through the use of tools like RSS feeds and social bookmarking, students can consume up-to-date information about the topic at hand, and easily find related information that will help them build a cognitive understanding of the topic. Additionally, once the learner begins interacting with this evolving content, learner-(content-content) interaction if you will, the personalization attributes of student-content interactions discussed previously can be taken to a whole new level.



Have you ever focused on the different forms of instructional interaction when planning your curriculum? Tell us about your success stories in the comments below!



Borthwick, A., & Risberg, C. (2008). Establishing an organizational climate for successful professional development. In A. Borthwick & M. Pierson (Eds.), Transforming classroom practice: Professional development strategies in educational technology (pp. 35-50). Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Kirby, D., & Boak, C. (1987). Developing a system for audio-teleconferencing analysis. Journal of Distance Education, 2(2), 31-42.

Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010). Teaching online; A practical guide. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Kegan Remington, an Instructional Designer from NAU, specializes in Active Learning Pedagogy and the development of dynamic, collaborative, technology-enhanced learning environments. With a decade of experience in education, Kegan’s career is focused on developing high-fidelity learning materials, integrative learning environments, and promoting effective instructional techniques for the 21st century learner.

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