Building the Repertoire: The Importance of Instructional Strategies
by Chase Young
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Learning is not accidental, nor is good instruction. Although some individuals are more adept at teaching, or drawn to the field of education, instructional strategies still need to be acquired and refined. Teaching is an evolutionary field, and as always, times are changing. There are many ways to instruct students, and effective strategies can each relate to the four learning styles: mastery, understanding, interpersonal, and self-expressive. The first two will be discussed specifically.

Teaching for mastery is very different than teaching for understanding.  Each model carries different thinking goals, environment, motivation, principles, and outcomes. The mastery teaching position requires students to know it all, or to remember content presented. The environment of these lessons holds the teacher as a presenter of information. Students are required to process, rehearse, drill, practice, and all of which requires immediate feedback. The major motivation is to succeed. Students then exercise the four principles by connecting information, organize the information, develop images, and elaborate on the information. Outcomes of mastery learning manifest in skill demonstrations, correct responses, and the ability to remember and organize information (Silver, Hanson, Strong, & Swartz, 2003). 

This information has quickly found its place in the classroom. Several previous instructional practices have been analyzed, and corrected. The lecture style of mastery teaching is greatly effective in the New American Lecture. Talking to students is not nearly enough for them to retain information. It was always difficult taking concrete content and burning it into the brains of the students. Now, with a step by step process leading to the desired outcomes, students in the classroom benefit from the delivery of lessons aimed to retrieve correct responses and desired skills through proper organization of the information in their memories.

Teaching for understanding greatly differs from the mastery style; however students are required to call on previous knowledge to learn through understanding. This style is based on reasoning as a thinking skill. The environment does not promote the teacher as a lecturer, but an ignorant party desperately seeking to understand a concept or question with the guidance of his or her students. The motivation is clear; it is pure curiosity. The principles stem from this curiosity and seek to create relationships from a hypothesis and data thus leading to evidence to support one’s findings. The outcomes for this style are concept attainment and the ability to explain and prove hypotheses (Canter & Winberry, 2001).

This strategy was practiced by utilizing the concept attainment strategy (Silver et al, 2003) to understand the concept of main idea, and how it differs from isolated events in a story. The lesson worked perfectly. It took some time, in fact four of each “yes” and “no” examples were used before students began to catch on. They did a fabulous job of defining the concept before it was named. In the end, the students were able to generate their own examples of main idea and events while correctly identifying them as “yeses” or “no’s.” Upon reflection, the students absolutely loved the strategy; its worth in the classroom is priceless. The preparations are meager, but the outcomes are immense. The possibilities are endless for this strategy as it can take students through history and as personal as their own ability to comprehend text (Boulware & Crow, 2008).

Both the mastery and the understanding teaching positions are assets to an effective learning environment. The ability to analyze an instructional delivery based on desired outcomes is a monumental jump in classroom instruction. The learning becomes transparent, and strategies are easily chosen for their validity in differing instruction. Knowing that the lecture has been made new and Americanized makes presenting seem less taboo. Also, becoming simply a person in the classroom that delivers puzzling questions, and teasing data is a dream come true. Sitting back, and watching students discover on their own is an extremely rewarding mode of teaching (Canter & Winberry, 2001).


References

Boulware, B. & Crow, C. (2008). Using the Concept Attainment Strategy to Enhance Reading Comprehension. Reading Teacher. Vol. 61 Issue 6, p491-495, 5p

Canter, L., & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2001). Program 3: The New American Lecture [Motion picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), Instructional Models and Strategies. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.

Canter, L., & Winberry, K. (Directors). (2001). Program 6: Concept Attainment Strategy [Motion picture]. In C. Arnold (Producer), Instructional Models and Strategies. Los Angeles: Laureate Education, Inc.

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







© 2011 Chase J. Young. All rights reserved.