Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Curriculum Development/Instructional Methods

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What constitutes an effective instructional method?
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[edit]

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. [1]

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. [2]

Use Technology[edit]

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. [3]

Study Tech: Common Sense or Scientologist Mumbo Jumbo
"In July 1997, the Los Angeles Unified School District considered an application by public school teacher Linda Smith to establish a new charter school. When questioned, Smith admitted that she and her two partners were Scientologists, and that the plans for their school included some unusual educational materials called "Study Technology."" Upon first glance, these materials seem fairly harmless. "Study Tech" as members of the religious organization The Church of Scientology call them, consists of a series of books based on the teachings of science fiction writer turned religion founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The books, Basic Study Manual, Study Skills for Life, and Learning How to Learn cover the same material, but for different grade levels. There are three main principles in Study Tech. These principals are "Mass", "Gradients" and "Misunderstoods". In laymans terms, "Mass" refers to the idea that to learn something, you must be able to physically be in contact with it. If you want to learn about an apple, go take a look at an apple tree. "Gradients" refers to the idea that you must learn things by breaking them down into small manageable steps. Scientologists often use the idea of "Gradients" to defend against critics who say that their teachings are unreasonable. The advanced Scientologist would simply say that the critic was "off-Gradient" and would need to become familiar with the less advanced teachings of Scientology before the stuff about attacking aliens and volcanos filled with explosives will make sense. Finally, "Misunderstoods" refers to the technique of learning any unknown words while studying. This one seems to be the most common-sense, but when you realize that Scientologists believe that "Misunderstoods" are truly the only reason that people stop studying or get confused, it seems a little overdrawn.
So is "Study Tech" a reliable source of education materials? On the surface it seems like a harmless renaming of old standbys, but when you look closer, you can see the religious overtones are hard to ignore. For more information, visit [4].

Place Students In Small Groups[edit]

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. [5]

Creating a Conducive Learning Environment[edit]

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[edit]

A teacher's purpose is not to create students in his own image, but to develop students who can create their own image.

—Author Unknown

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[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

Good visual display can improve recall and attention up to...
A. 30%
B. 40%
C. 80%
D. 65%

C. 80%

What "increases motivation, prepares students for the future, helps with complex tasks, and allows collaboration amongst peers"?
A. Technology
B. Classrooms
C. Community centers
D. Playgrounds

A. Technology

This type of learner focuses on the teacher, rarely speaks in class, pays close attention to details, or has problems with oral directions.
A. Visual
B. Kinesthetic
C. Auditory
D. All of the above

A. Visual

This type of learner has difficulty remaining stationary, may have ADD/ADHD, or likes to touch things.
A. Visual
B. Auditory
C. Kinesthetic
D. All of the above

C. Kinesthetic

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.
A. Collaborative learning
B. Cooperative learning
C. Independent learning
D. None of the above

B. Cooperative learning

Which is NOT as result of mismatching of student learning styles to teaching styles?
A. Students will get discouraged and not pay attention.
B. Teachers will start to doubt themselves.
C. It becomes hopeless for students to ever catch up and learn.
D. Other kids who might like the particular learning style will get distracted by those students who do not.

C. It becomes hopeless for students to ever catch up and learn.

Which type of learner is most likely to strive in excellence when it comes to working in big groups projects?
A. Extroverted
B. Introverted
C. Extrotelikentic

A. Extroverted

It is only important and beneficial to the students when the teacher chooses to use teaching methods that fit his/her classroom?
A. True
B. False

B. False

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal sample responses.

Based on the provided information on the various learning styles, which fits you best and why?

Based on the information provided in the article on the various learning styles; I believe that visual learning best describes my learning style. I feel that visual learning allows me to “mentally picture” the information that is being presented as well as physically view the facts. In the past I have attempted to use all three types of learning styles to determine the one that suited me best. The auditory style failed for me because listening to a lot of information at once decreases my focus, and in return I fail to retain the information. Only the kinesthetic style of learning proved to be the most effective approach other than visual. I believe that the most effective way to reach students of different learning styles is for instructors to incorporate strategies for each of the three types of learning styles in every lesson. For visual learners, teachers should use diagrams and images that will help the student retain the lesson being presented. Auditory learners should have listening exercises that reinforce the information that has been presented. Lastly, kinesthetic learners should have a “hands-on” activity that will help them remember what is taught. When all of these channels are covered then teachers will have a more effective classroom learning experience for all of the students. —Christle Fallen


I recommend that our public school systems today implement programs that motivate students to want to read. I think that a major problem with reading is that children don’t find it interesting because they are not exposed to books on subjects that they find interesting. I think that public schools should allow students to go the library, school or community, and pick out books with the help of librarians that they find interesting. Teachers should try and work with the students to develop their interest in reading. Teachers could send a letter home to parents asking them to help their child read the books that they bring home. I also think that students could get help with the teacher one on one before or after school working on their specific problems. I think teachers should implement a rewards system for students who do read to encourage students with positive motivation. In order for students to get more practice with reading, teachers could also set up an in classroom library for students to pick out books if they finish their work early, or even allow students to take them home if their family is underprivileged and can’t afford books. Public schools themselves could have a reading specialist to help students who are falling behind work on their reading skills right away, not when they are in fourth or fifth grade. All of these programs would help students learn to read and want to learn to read at a younger age. These programs encourage reading with positive reinforcement and help students who are struggling with reading get extra help. —Meredith Lee

References[edit]