Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Curriculum Development/Instructional Methods
|“||The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.||”|
—William Arthur Ward
How do you feel when you are being taught material that you don't understand or should have knowledge of? You might feel unprepared, stupid, confused, scared, or anxious. Every student has felt this way at one moment. How can teachers help their students avoid these feelings? In order to ensure a child's success, teachers must construct an effective instructional method. Discovering students’ learning styles, using technology, placing students in small groups, creating a conducive learning environment, and establishing a positive teacher/student bond are examples of various ways that constitute an effective instructional method.
Discover Your Students' Learning Styles
It is essential for teachers to instruct according to their students’ learning styles. It is difficult to discover what works for different students. When the professor or teacher of a classroom choose a particular teaching style and it mismatches with the way the students learn it can cause serious downfalls. The first and most obvious downfall is that the student will lose interest quickly and become bored and inattentive. When a student is bored then they do not pay attention which is most likely to result in poor test grades. When students receive bad test grades it discourages them from even trying. When a student feels bad about him/herself then they might become disruptive in class. This will hurt the teacher and the students around. Other students will become distracted, and the teachers might get upset and feel hopeless if test scores decline. Teachers might even feel so discouraged that they will wonder if they are making a difference and if they chose the right profession to be in. The simple point here is students need to be taught in a mannor that they are comfortable with. Just like anyone else when you are comfortable you tend to loosen up and be more willing to participate and retain information. When it comes to students it can be broken down into 2 categories. The first is the extraverted group. This group learns simply by explaining to other people. These students test their knowledge by explaining it to others. If they can explain it and teach it to someone else then they know for sure that they have the material strongly planted in their head. These students enjoy working in groups. Some recommendations are the thinking out loud paired problem solving method and the nominal group method. The other category is those students who are introverted. These students are what you know as students who see the “big picture.” They like to create frameworks in their minds and connect all the chunks of knowledge and relate it to each other. Recommendations for these students would be to do flow charts, compare and contrast tables, and concept maps. 
To determine a visual learner, observe if they focus on you, rarely speak in class, pay close attention to details, or have problems with oral directions. Auditory learners are very talkative, good at memorizing, and could possibly be the class clown. To establish your kinesthetic learners, see if they have difficulty remaining stationary, may have ADD/ADHD, or like to touch things.
The best and most effective teaching method is to use all three styles. Charts, diagrams, worksheets, video clips, and illustrations should be used for visual learners. Auditory learners will need to explain what they heard, encourage them to read their material aloud, and allow group sessions so they can discuss the material with fellow students. Create an interactive moment for the kinesthetic learners. For instance, have some of your students work out problems on the board or create an environmental activity that requires hands-on application. 
Some teachers do not use technology as fluently as they should. They express that it takes up too much of their time or that they don’t know how to effectively use it. Whatever the reason, technology MUST be used in the classroom. Technology “increases motivation, prepares students for the future, helps with complex tasks, and allows collaboration amongst peers.” Allow your students to create powerpoint presentations, use kidspiration, and show them video clips from unitedstreaming. Get your students out of the ‘traditional’ classroom. Let them interact and enjoy learning. An elementary teacher said, “I see more confidence in the kids here. . . I think it's not just computers, it's a multitude of things, but they can do things on the computers that most of their parents can't and that's very empowering and exciting for them. It's 'I can sit down and make this machine pretty much do what I want to,' and there's something about that that gives them an extra little boost of, 'Wow, I'm a pretty special person'.”
Of course there are challenges with integrating technology into classrooms- not enough computers, insufficient technical assistance, inadequate computers. Do not let those challenges inhibit your usage. Do as much as possible to ensure that students are being exposed to technology. 
Study Tech: Common Sense or Scientologist Mumbo Jumbo
Place Students In Small Groups
Every classroom has introverts and extroverts. Some students like to socialize, while others prefer to keep to themselves. There are cliques and usually friends want to pair together. This can be a problem and they will not be focused in getting the work done. Most of the conversation will be unrelated matter. The teacher must make the groups; don’t allow students to make them. Assign students with people they don’t know and wouldn’t normally pair with. You may either switch group members or have the same group members the entire school year.
Place emphasis on working as a group. Often, students will be in groups, but it will be an individual activity. One student will be writing their own answers, another quiet and reserved, and the other dominating and doing all the work. This is not group work. To resolve this issue use cooperative learning, a type of learning that requires group members to work as a team. Each member is held accountable and must help each other to understand the material. The members must think about the issues, discuss and then work them out together. Below are some examples of cooperative learning activities. 
Creating a Conducive Learning Environment
|“||We think too much about effective methods of teaching and not enough about effective methods of learning.||”|
—John Carolus S. J.
When you go in a classroom, you normally see 5-7 straight columns of desks, a couple of posters, borders along the chalkboard, and the teacher’s desk. This is the dreary, conventional classroom. Get your students out of that setting and in to something fun and remarkable. One way to start is by changing the desk arrangements. Depending on the room size, create a semi-circle or arrange the desks diagonally. Another idea is to create 4 small rows on each side of the room, create a walkway in the middle, and have the children face each other from the other side of the rooms. Try it! If you are concerned that there will be too much chaos, warn them of the consequences, but don’t be afraid to give it a try.
Allow your students to get involved. It is their learning environment as well. Let them give you ideas. Use bright colors, plants (fake/real), and a classroom pet(s). According to one website, “Good visual display can improve recall and attention by up to 80%” and “music can be used to improve recall as well as create the chosen learning environment.” Of course too many things can be a distraction, so know the limit. Attempt different ideas to see how it works, and if it doesn’t try another way.
Forming a Positive Teacher/Student Bond
|“||A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.||”|
It can be complicated when forming a bond with students- where to draw the line with leniency, amiability, and physical contact. Our youth need teachers that are patient, passionate about their profession, and willing to assist the student. Let your students know these things by showing with actions. If you notice that a student isn’t doing that well in the subject material, take the initiative to help. Some students are shy and afraid to get help. Suppose, you observe a student that is having a hard time outside of school, offer your assistance and advice. Show your students that you care about their education and their lives.
There will always be moments when teachers must discipline students. Do not chastise and berate your students. Discipline them gently, yet firmly. Also, try to access the problem after class and not during. It can cause a disruption to your class, but also embarrass your student. No one likes to be embarrassed. Treat your students how you wanted to be treated when you were a student.
Multiple Choice Questions
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Click to reveal sample responses.
- Scientology v. Education. http://www.studytech.org/home.php
- The Kinesthetic Learner. http://www.educ.uvic.ca/epls/faculty/rowles/301.htm
- Technology In Classrooms. http://www.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html
- Cooperative Learning. http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/cooperativelearning.htm
- Instructional Methods. http://www.saskschools.ca/~psychportal/Psych20/instructional_strategies.htm
- Effective Instructional Strategies http://www.cpt.fsu.edu/ESE/in/strmain.html
- Learning styles. http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Learning_Styles.html