What is Self-instructional materials or SIM?

The concept of “Teaching through self-instruction” was coined by Derek Rowntree in 1986. It is the title of his book. He also wrote other books about teaching strategy (i.e. material-based learning), classroom instructions and others. What I want to focus in this post is on self-instructional materials. So, don’t expect that this post will give more information about his other works (I am still finding out more about his work. I will try to get a copy of his book so I can know more about his work).

Self-instructional materials are teaching materials that specifically meant to enable students to self-learn (or independently learn on their own) about a topic/issue etc. Rowntree also referred this materials as “tutorial-in-print”. The word in print does resonate with the time when he proposed this idea back in the 80s.

There are six characteristics of self-instructional teaching in which the materials used must comply to these six (6) characteristics too:

  • 1) Self-learning

Students learn independently without direct instruction from the instructor/teacher. It means that students use whatever materials given to them by the instructor/teacher and follow the guideline (instruction) that is given with the material. Having a checklist is helpful to make sure students understand the expectations that they need to comply. Some of the things that needed to be included in the checklist are:

i) Lesson outline or objective(s): This should be based and aligned with course information (weekly topics etc.)

ii) Specific instruction and description of tasks that need to be completed: We can use H5P (on Elearning) or we can subscribe any SIM application or platform (you have to pay – so better use the Free Version)

iii) Formative assessment: It is suggested that the assessment to be ungraded because students would feel less stressful to assess themselves as it does not involve any graded marks. Marks can be given that serves as an indicator of performance or understanding. For example: 10 marks might indicate that students have understood certain concepts well as compared to 1 mark.

  • 2) Self-motivational

Students are expected to be internally motivated in their learning. Even though as instructor, we can guide, scaffold and motivate students, yet as learners, nothing can sustain their motivation except themselves. In their book “Why we do what we do”, Edward L. Deci and Richard Flaste they propose that rather than giving students the carrot stick hanging in front of them, as instructors, we should encourage students to be self-motivated. In this sense, rather than doing something for the sake of grade, rewards etc., students should learn to enjoy the process of learning or doing things without expecting any reward. Of course, it is not easy to motivate others as research has shown that internal motivation is prevalent in sustaining the effort that ones put in completing a task. In short, it depends on student individual motivation. Indeed.

  • 3) Self-explanatory

The instruction and description given to students must be clear to describe what students need to do based on the materials given (the instruction must be clear to guide students without you explaining to them on the instruction physically or virtually. One of the tips that was shared yesterday is: The instruction and description must be Clear, Not ambiguous, Direct. In short, students do not need the instructor to understand what is needed to be done.

  • 4) Self-directed

The self-instructional materials must be interesting, interactive, reflective and able to capture students interest to engage in any task assigned with the given materials. So, we should diversify materials used such as videos, short articles, case study etc. The materials do not necessarily our own but it is advisable that at least one material is created by us. In short, the materials given to students need to be stand-alone (it does not require you as the instructor/lecturer to be there to explain the materials and tasks)

For example:

The topic of discussion: Global Citizenship Education (GCED)

Materials: a YouTube video that we create on our own (10 minutes) on GCED, a short article (4 pages) from UNESCO guideline, a case study that we craft based on a scenario and a short webinar video (20 minutes) from the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding (APCEIU). The materials given here must be understandable and sufficient to provide information to students to understand GCED.

Instruction: You are given four (4) materials that guide your learning. Please do the following tasks:

i) watch the videos (YouTube and APCEIU) for 30 minutes,

To guide you while watching the videos, please pay extra attention to these key concepts:

*definition of Global Citizenship Education (GCED)

*characteristics of GCED

*teaching strategies relevant for GCED

ii) download and read a short article about GCED (suggested time: 30 minutes)

To guide you in your reading of the article, think about these following questions:

*What are the objectives of UNESCO in promoting GCED?

*What are the relevant issues related to the urgency and importance of implementing GCED?

*……………….. (you may add more questions to guide their reading)


iii) read the case study given (Elearning).

To guide you in your understanding of the case, think about these following questions:

*What are the issues that you could identify from the case?

*If you are Adam, what would do to …….

*……………….. (you may add more questions to guide their reading)

Note: The instruction should be clear to prompt students to be focused.

  • 5) Self-contained

The materials provided should be sufficient in itself to be used for learning and completing any task or assessment. In this case, the instructor/lecturer/teacher must ensure that materials given to students are relevant and appropriate to be used. Students do not need to spend time finding relevant materials on their own unless they wish to know more about the topic that is being discussed. In short, students are not instructed to find materials on their own (but it is highly suggested to instruct students to find other materials that could be used to enhance their understanding and share with their peers).

  • 6) Self-evaluating

To assess students’ understanding and any misconception that might happen, assessment is needed. One of the tips that was shared yesterday (16 May 2022) is we can give formative assessment (ungraded to lessen students anxiety) in which it helps students to evaluate their understanding of the topic based on self-learned materials given to them. I think, personally, using Quizziz or ELearning with pre-set feedback is useful. In this case, students do not need us to explain why the wrong response or answer. The feedback can be set together with the question and answer.

In what way SIM is related to ODL?

ODL involves a wide range of learning devices. It is relatively low proportion of text as compared to learning devices. The space that is often provided for learning and it is generous layout overall (need spaces for instruction, student to answer and your feedback).


  1. The materials from the facilitators can be accessed HERE (make sure you have a valid UTM email)
  2. The recording can be accessed through the following links:

Streaming recording link:https://utm.webex.com/utm/ldr.php?RCID=97684dfe686236261a2854381c6e368d

Download recording link:https://utm.webex.com/utm/lsr.php?RCID=52d7d75a522453737299539e8785b9f0

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