Instructional-Learning Approaches

    The following are the effective contemporary approaches to institutional (pre-college, college/university) education. Because of architectural limitations of most classrooms, numbers of students, and time available to teach some complementary and prerequisite courses, most are still delivered in an ineffective traditional lecture format. But, when class sizes can be limited to 15-20 students, the following approaches are much more ideal for learning.

Harkness Approach 

The significant distinction of this “flipped classroom” style of instructing and learning is that during class, students sit around an oval-shaped table.This style of classroom learning may be applied as early as middle school. It encourages full group anticipatory preparation, active in-class participation including subset-based self-instruction, and helps bridge the often differing styles of communication of the instructor/expert and learners. The primary responsibility of the expert is to assure fluidity of course progression, the full representation of important concepts, as well as occurrence of relevant contextual conversions and integration of content applications with the demonstration of group comprehension.

Performance of content applications in small groups is done with the instructor/expert acting as a readily available for assistance. The instructors must deliver quality service, with adequate guidance and assistance, or the value of the purported expert is lost. Otherwise, the instructor could be effectively replaced by an agenda, a video presentation, and independent study. The primary distinction of this “flipped classroom” style of instructing and learning is that during class, students sit around an oval-shaped table.

Thayer Approach 

In 1817, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer became the superintendent of the US Military Academy, West Point. He upgraded academic standards among other objectives, including the creation of a teaching method known today as the Thayer Method. It emphasizes self-study, daily homework, and small class size. This method, still used today, is augmented with limited lectures at the discretion of the instructors, as well as in-class group work as applicable (e.g., mathematics-based courses). It encourages full group anticipatory preparation, active in-class participation and helps bridge the often differing styles of communication of the instructor/expert and learners. The primary responsibility of the expert is to assure the full representation of important concepts and integration of content applications with the demonstration of group comprehension.

Performance of content applications in small groups is done with the instructor/expert acting as a readily available for assistance. The instructors must deliver quality service, with adequate guidance and assistance, or the value of the purported expert is lost. Otherwise, the instructor could be effectively replaced by an agenda, a video presentation, and independent study. The primary weakness of this method is that the students may not always find and grasp the important facts and relevant conceptual relationships in a timely manner. So, this self-guided information curation can be inefficient.

The Flipped Classroom Approach 

It is much like the Thayer Approach, but along with a more contemporary moniker comes the tendency of instructors to attempt to integrate a host of newer technologies into the learning activities. The obvious limitations are limited access of all students to similar devices and the requirement for the instructors to focus excessively on the technology versus the content. Classroom arrangement and size are not factors most considered.

Project-based Learning (PBL) 

It is a student-centered approach that involves a dynamic classroom, meaning that most of the learning occurs in association with engaging projects based on activities and locations outside of the classroom. The instructor should demonstrate how the relevant facts and skills are applied in real-world settings. The primary challenge is that of finding new, comprehensive projects and assuring that all students have comparable, safe access to the project materials, settings, tools, and related resources. Labs, industrial arts, and performing arts classes are the more common similar experiences in most urban and suburban schools.

Bloom’s Technology (revised, rBT) 

This is more an adjunct than a separate instruction/learning strategy. The concept is based on the fact that most formal learning for short-term application is produced by rote memorization of information. Whereas the most comprehensive learning, for long-term memory, occurs when students engage in creative problem-solving and task performance. The rBT approach is applied as a multilayered strategy with the expectation that most students will at least complete the more easily accomplished, readily accessible, and less performance or project-inclusive elements. In an ideal educational system, resources and instructional experts are available to all students. However, all students are not required to be equally comprehensive in their depth and breadth of learning.

Textbooks

Students should not be fettered with thick, expensive, texts full of excess content to justify prices. Consider that as of 2012 there were more than 3,000 accredited 4-year colleges/universities in the United States. If a meager 2/3 of them offered an introductory inorganic chemistry course, that would mean approximately two-thousand 4-year colleges offering introductory chemistry. Each of these colleges has the audacity to sell its own chemistry textbook as if there are 2,000 best ways to teach chemistry. They also require students to purchase their own institution’s textbooks and charge exorbitant fees for them. Can colleges not agree on the fundamentals of inorganic chemistry and provide a single, acceptable, low-priced solution sufficient for many thousands of students across the country?

Summary

If earnest about the teaching versus learning question, there is too much information available around the world for anyone to efficiently curate it. Additionally, common internet search providers and data repositories, if not commercially oriented, still have biased search algorithms, often yield different search outcomes, and do not make full articles, research studies and other meaningfully formatted data readily and freely available to everyone.

Additionally, earning diplomas, certificates, and degrees are compliance tasks. Awarding educational institutions and agencies assure that students have memorized and learned to apply certain types of information in relevant scenarios, with at least a minimal level of acumen. As such, it is tacitly wasteful of student time to make them hunt for the factual data, the concepts, the formulas plus voluminous, relevant samples of formula applications, and ideological perceptions that schools believe are the bases of “quality education”.

Instructors should provide students with base lecture content that is sufficient. It should be concise but of meaningful depth and breadth. And, it should be as precisely defined as would be required if it were to be applied to machine learning to meet baseline targets. Those with more robust and comprehensive personal goals could buy the $259 local text if so inclined. The most capable high achievers would have the time, capabilities and interests in meeting robust education goals; the price of resource materials is another issue. Independent learners may engage their learning targets as comprehensively as they are so inclined to do.

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