Instructional Models and Strategies: Integrating Learning Styles
by Chase Young
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The comfort zone of an educator is best viewed from the outside. Taking risks, modifying instruction, and building a repertoire of instructional strategies is the pathology of an effective teacher.  Successfully balancing mastery, understanding, self-expressive, and interpersonal teaching models requires careful research. Matching strategies to the needs of learners is a strong foundation for productive classrooms and attainment of learning goals (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003). 

The mastery teaching position is an effective means of building students content schemata. Mastery teaching helps make the content learning memorable through presentations requiring students to recall and connect information. Students are motivated by success and the immediate feedback from the teacher. Principles of the mastery teaching position help students connect, organize, develop images, and elaborate on the information (Canter & Winberry, 2001).

The New American Lecture (NAL) is an attempt to forget the early centuries’ lecturing methods, and is highly effective instructional strategy within the mastery neighborhood. Effective movement through the phases places the information into the working memory stored for long-term use. The NAL can be used across the curriculum. It certainly has place in all grade levels and all content areas. Its versatility in design makes it an extremely elastic, but regimented framework for many instructional occasions. However, the strategy has its limitations within the bounds of mostly content area where the goal is simply to demonstrate knowledge of the subject, and the ability to manage the information for future recall (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003).

Differing from the mastery position, the understanding model for teaching fosters reasoning and self-discovery. Environmentally speaking, questions linger in the air, students portray puzzled faces, and the teacher teases the students with just enough data. Evidence is a valuable commodity in this position, and students must analyze and makes sense of the data presented. High levels of metacognition are exemplified when conducting an understanding lesson. It creates better problem solvers, and promotes higher order thinking with an extreme emphasis on understanding the material (Canter & Winberry, 2001).

The mystery strategy is an amazing representation of the understanding model for teaching. The outcomes of this model require students to explain and prove their arguments. Mystery is used to hook the students, and it can be used in any subject area. Students can be given clues about any subject, and within cooperative learning groups, use the data provided to form their own learning. The liabilities of this strategy include the implementation for non-readers. Of course, the strategy can be modified for the exceptional learners; it would require much more teacher support (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003).

Also possessing the understanding attributes, the concept attainment strategy helps students build a mental construct of an objective before it is labeled. This can also be used across the curriculum, and has been successful in teaching major comprehension strategies. Students analyze the critical attributes of an unknown topic, and create their own understanding as the lesson progresses. After the examples help students to attain the concept, the label is then given. This strategy would be difficult to use when content is expected to be learned in a mastery style. However, it most cases concept attainment would be an excellent choice (Canter & Winberry, 2001).

The self-expressive neighborhood promotes imagination and creativity. It calls for challenges and choices. Students are motivated by originality resulting in divergent thinking and be able communicate their learning creatively (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003). All students have a capacity to be creative, and it can be instilled in the mind as a habit (Costa & Kallick, 2000). The inductive learning strategy (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003) challenges students to make assumptions, develop competency, make connections, and ultimately draw conclusions. It is highly effective and expressive strategy helps students interpret their own data and end with some sort of product. It’s often challenging to determine what form of data should be used in the lesson, but careful reflection can alleviate some of the difficulty in the decision.

The metaphoric strategy is also a great way to venture into the self-expressive neighborhood. Essentially, for whatever subject, the teacher chooses a concept, creates an analogy, encourages “crazy connections”, and finally compares/contrasts analogy with the subject (Canter & Winberry, 2001). Determining the type of analogy, whether it be personal, direct, or compressed conflict, depends on the type content chosen to teach, and may be difficult to discern the optimum choice.

Interpersonal teaching and learning requires specific cooperative learning groups. These groups can be advantageous if the principles are in place. Peer practice is a great strategy for promoting reciprocal learning where students are moved through specific phases as a learner and a coach. The teacher must model extensively the roles of each, but the results certainly outweigh the time spent, and students also benefit from the social skills learned as well as the content (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003).

The last strategy explored in the interpersonal model was jigsaw. One of the biggest insights was gained from this strategy. Many teachers will put learning clubs together, send them out to conduct individual research, and subsequently have students report their findings. A crucial step is missed. Students need time to meet with the other experts, determine importance, clarify questions, and plan their presentation for the group. As always, all strategies will then end with a synthesis activity to demonstrate their learning and apply it in a different context (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003).

The aforementioned strategies create a wide, yet rigid, framework for instruction within the learning styles. Each has power and its place in the classroom. Throughout the Reading and Literacy Program, many insights have been obtained, and powerful frameworks have been built. One must never forget however, despite a student’s preferred learning style, style dependence must be avoided. Students should spend time in each style, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to vary the styles and deliver the tools necessary to be successful in each neighborhood (Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2000).

Balancing the styles is an intentional instructional practice. It is also necessary to vary assessment. Each framework allows for authentic assessment after the strategy is complete. It should be viewed as a style specific assessment. If teachers can successfully balance the learning models, and authentically assess learning, there will be no end to the amazing thinking and accomplishments displayed by the students within the classroom (Canter & Winberry, 2001).


References

Canter, L., & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2001). Programs 1-13 [Motion picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), Instructional Models and Strategies. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.

Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (Eds.). (2000). Activating & engaging habits of mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Silver, H. F., Hanson, J. R., Strong, R. W., & Schwartz, P. B. (2003). Teaching styles & strategies. Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ: The Thoughtful Education Press.

Silver, H. F., Strong, R. W., & Perini, M. J. (2000). So each may learn: Integrating learning styles and multiple intelligences. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

© 2011 Chase J. Young. All rights reserved.