Instructional strategies determine the approach a teacher uses to educate students and help them achieve their learning objectives.
There are six main strategies used in modern teaching:
- Direct instruction
- Concept teaching
- Co-operative learning
- Problem-based instruction
Direct instruction is a method for developing skills and learning basic knowledge within a teacher-controlled environment. The teacher identifies clearly defined learning outcomes, conveys new information and offers guidance to their students. This method has been created as a tool to maximize academic learning time through a highly structured environment. It can be used effectively to promote acquisition of knowledge such as parts of speech, the English language, as well as multiplication tables. Although this method is widely used, it is not appropriate for teaching concepts, generalizations, inquiry, problem solving, group processes or independent learning.
Simulation involves students playing roles in pre-designed situations in order to learn skills and concepts, which are transferable to real life. Students are asked to make decisions in order to learn from their successes and failures. This enables the learning of complex concepts or can provide an opportunity to gain command of dangerous tasks in a simple and effective manner within safe and controlled environments.
Simulations can also be used to practice skills such as driving, to teach concepts such as how political, social and economic systems work, or to discern scientific principles through experiments. Other areas include decision-making, problem solving, co-operation or competition, cause-effect relationships and independent learning. This method is not effective in the teaching of large amounts of fact-based material.
Presentation is one of the most commonly used strategies for knowledge acquisition and retention. An effective presentation requires a highly structured environment in which the teacher is an active presenter and students are both thinkers and listeners. This method enables teachers to manage and communicate large amounts of information efficiently. It is an appropriate strategy for instructing students about the key ideas in a subject, for acquisition and retention of factual information linked to these ideas and for comparing similarities and differences among ideas.
Concept teaching helps students to develop higher levels of thinking as concepts serve as the foundation for knowledge, increase complex conceptual understanding and facilitate social communication. This type of teaching works best when applied to inductive reasoning, hypothesis formation, logical reasoning, concept building strategies and taking multiple perspectives in the case of a single subject. Although it is not designed to convey large amounts of information, students are consistently faced with the challenge of quickly processing information as they formulate new concepts.
Discussion is central to all aspects of teaching. Classroom discussion may serve as a sole strategy in itself or in some cases, as part of another strategy. Teachers and students talking about academic content and students displaying their ideas and thinking processes to the teacher and to each other characterize discussions. Research and practice have demonstrated that students experience greater information retention and an understanding of a subject if they are involved students in discussion.
This is an appropriate strategy for improving student thinking; promoting engagement in academic content; and learning communication and thinking skills in a social environment.
Co-operative learning allows students to work together in small groups on a common learning task. This method has three distinct goals: development of co-operative social skills, acceptance of diversity through interdependent work and academic achievement. Through this method, students are asked to co-ordinate their efforts in order to complete the assigned task and depend on each other for the outcome. Co-operative learning groups are characterized by student teams of approximately two to six people working to master academic goals and where applicable. Teams are comprised of learners of mixed ability, gender and ethnicity.
Problem-based instruction occurs when students are presented with authentic, meaningful problems as a basis for inquiry and investigation. This strategy is designed to promote problem solving and higher-level thinking skills. All problem-based instruction strategies include more or less the following features: a driving question or problem, interdisciplinary focus, authentic investigation, production of artifacts or exhibits, and collaboration.
This type of learning method is designed to involve students in the kinds of real-world thinking activities they will encounter outside of school from childhood through to adulthood. It is considered to be the most student-centric of the strategies as it allows students to work actively and independently on problems that interest them. The teacher's role is to pose problems, facilitate investigations, ask questions, create dialogue and provide learning support.