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Program Goal IV: Instructional Strategies — Education Department — CSB/SJU Page 1

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Program Goal IV: Instructional Strategies


An important aspect of our departmental philosophy is the fundamental belief that all students can learn.
We realize, however, that students learn in different ways and at different rates. Therefore, we agree
with Joyce , Weil and Calhoun (2004) that teachers must not only be knowledgeable about the content
they teach , but must also know and be committed to making decisions that involve the use of a variety
of instructional strategies and approaches appropriate to the diverse learning needs of students . This
document describes the models and techniques that we find most important.

Models of teaching : Drawing from the major philosophical and psychological beliefs regarding how humans
learn, Joyce , Weil, and Calhoun (2004) have described four families of instructional strategies : The
Informational- Processing Family, The Personal Family, The Social Family, and the Behavioral Systems
Family. These families of strategies are merged below with the more traditional terminology of
cognitivism, humanismand behaviorism.

Cognitive Approaches : Joyce Weil, and Calhoun's Information-Processing Family consists of techniques
that are clearly cognitive in nature. They emphasize ways of enhancing students ’ innate desire to make
sense of the world by acquiring and organizing information, solving problems, and developing concepts
and language for conveying them. Though constructivism is often considered separately from information
processing approaches, it is clearly a cognitive teaching technique and, therefore, will be described
within this category . Other techniques consistent with cognitivism are discovery learning, reception
learning, and reciprocal teaching . These techniques are also described below.

Discovery Learning : Often associated with the work of Jerome Bruner (1966) and Jean Piaget
(1960), discovery learning refers to the process of obtaining knowledge through one’s own
efforts . In the classroom, this form of learning often occurs though structured or directed
activities that require students to manipulate, investigate , and explore materials that may lead
them to discover important principles or relationships. (Schunk, 2000). Therefore, students are
not presented with concepts and ideas in their final form, but rather are required to formulate
them for themselves.

Constructivism : Though structured discovery learning has long been a part of the science
curriculum, the latest trend in discovery-based teaching , constructivism , has resulted in renewed
and multidisciplinary interest in discovery-based learning. Constructivism holds that meaningful
learning occurs when students construct and give their own meaning to knowledge based on
their prior experiences and background knowledge (Fosnot , 1996). It also recognizes that
challenging and helping students to correct their preconceptions /misconceptions is essential to
effective learning (Schunk, 2000). Ryan and Cooper (2004) noted that when effectively utilizing
constructivism, teachers actively involve students in real situations, activate students ’ prior
knowledge before presenting new information, question to provoke students ’ thoughts , and
structure experiences so that new information is available in readily accessible forms (p.288).

Reception Learning , often associated with the ideas of David Ausubel (1963), this form of
learning involves receiving and processing structured information that has been presented by the
instructor. As described by Lefrancois (2000), the associated technique of expository teaching
emphasizes that for the most effective learning, teacher presentations should be organized from
general to specific (subsumption) and include the use of advance organizers (introductory
information designed to help students prepare for learning and rememberingnew information),
expository organizers (descriptions of key concepts ), and comparative organizers (an emphasis
on similarities and differences between new and previously-learned material).

Reciprocal teaching , an approach designed to increase comprehension of expository material,


draws heavily from information processing theory. This approach teaches students the cognitive
techniques of questioning, summarizing, clarifying, and predicting in order to promote reading
comprehension (Lefrancois, 2000).

Humanism : Joyce . Weil, and Calhoun's (2004) personal and social families are consistent with humanism’s
emphases on holistic learning and the development of human potential. As these authors noted, "The
personal models of learning begin from the perspective of the selfhood of the individual. They attempt to
shape education so that we come to understand ourselves better , take responsibility for our education ,
and learn to reach beyond our current development to become stronger, more sensitive, and more
creative in our search for high quality teaching " (p. 8). In describing the social family, these authors
noted that working together often generates a collective energy called synergy. "The social models of

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Program Goal IV: Instructional Strategies — Education Department — CSB/SJU Page 2

teaching are constructed to take advantage of this phenomenon" (p. 9). Cooperative learning,
discussion-based learning, confluent education , and thematic teaching are specific teaching techniques
associated with humanismas well as the personal and social families. These approaches are summarized
below:

Cooperative Learning : Cooperative learning is an instructional method in which "students work


together in small groups so that each member of the group can participate in a clearly assigned,
collective task" (Lefrancois, 1999, p. 539). As noted by Putnam (1997), these tasks "engage
students in discussions with others, enable students to participate in authentic learning activities
relevant to real life, and encourage students to teach one another" (pp. 8 & 9). In order for
cooperative learning activities to be successful , they must contain five critical components:
positive interdependence, individual accountability , cooperative skills, face -to-face interaction ,
and group reflection and goal setting (Johnson & Johnson, 1991). The various approaches to
cooperative learning include Donald and Roger Johnson's Learning Together (Johnson & Johnson,
1994); Teams -Games -Tournaments , developed at John's Hopkins University (Slavin, 1995); and
the Jigsaw Classroom , developed by Elliot Aranson (2000). Research on cooperative learning has
consistently shown such benefits as improved self-esteem, acceptance of students with
academic disabilities, better attitudes toward school, and enhanced abilities to work
cooperatively (Slavin, 1995). Though cooperative learning is most consistent with the humanistic
model, it is employed by educators with other perspectives as well.

Discussion -Based Learning : According to Kindsvatter, Wilen, and Ishler (1996), teaching through
discussion, as opposed to recitation , involves the facilitation of student -to-student interaction
and conversation related to instructional outcomes. These authors described three types of
discussion: guided discussion (promoting student understanding through processing information),
reflective discussion (stimulating critical thinking about issues and problems), and small- group
discussion (in which students assume responsibility for their learning). Phases of discussion
include entry (identification of a problem, issue, or topic ), clarification (establishment of
procedures and definition of terms and concepts related to the topic ), investigation (questioning,
maintaining discussion, and requesting students to support their opinions), and closure
(summarizing, connecting discussion to the lesson, and applying discussion outcomes to other
situations) (Kindsvatter, Wilen, and Ishler, 1996). Research on the effective use of discussion
indicated that this technique is as effective as other teaching techniques and may be more
effective in achieving higher-level outcomes. (Kindsvatter, Wilen, and Ishler, 1996). While nearly
all cooperative learning activities involve discussion-based learning, only those activities that
require students to work toward the accomplishment of a mutual or collective task could be
classified as cooperative learning.

Confluent Education : Based on the work of educators such as George Brown (1971), confluent
education involves instruction that integrates the affective and cognitive domains within the
same lesson. Therefore, it focuses on students ’ feelings and values as they relate to the content
being taught and is an important means of promoting holistic learning and the development of
students ’ full potential (Lefrancois, 1999).

Thematic Teaching : This strategy for interdisciplinary teaching , which involves connecting
academic disciplines through a central theme or topic , is an important means of implementing
holistic development. A detailed description of thematic teaching is provided within Goal I:
Subject Matter .

Behaviorism : Drawing particularly on the work of B. F. Skinner, the behavioral systems family consists of
techniques designed to take advantage of human tendencies to modify behaviors based on experiences
and related positive and negative consequences . The Madeline Hunter (1980) model, Instructional
Theory into Practice (ITIP), draws heavily upon behaviorism, particularly the operant conditioning
paradigm. This model, which is often called direct instruction , involves the use of an anticipatory set to
focus student attention , behavioral objectives to specify outcomes, modeling or demonstrating, checking
for understanding, guided practice , independent practice , and closure (Kellough and Roberts, 1991).
According to Joyce , Weil, and Calhoun (2004), "Direct instruction plays a limited but important role in a
comprehensive education program" (p.313). Similarly, Ryan and Cooper (2004) contend that behavioral
psychology is not as evident in today 's classrooms as in decades past. Never the less, the behavioral
model remains useful in teaching basic skills as well as in special education and remedial settings .

As noted earlier in this document, no one instructional model or approach is best for all learners or all
situations. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be knowledgeable of techniques from all of Joyce ,
Weil, and Calhoun's families when making decisions about instruction. Furthermore, teachers need to
understand the principles behind a particular strategy in order to provide a rationale for its use. Only
after teachers have mastered several approaches will they will be able to combine them to benefit a

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diverse range of learning styles and provide learners with multiple entry points to understanding
(Gardner, 1999).

Differentiated Instruction : Not necessarily directly associated with any of the above models or "families,"
differentiated instruction is an important aspect of effective teaching . Though the term is fairly new,
educators have long recommended that teachers know and use a variety of techniques to adapt
instruction to the individual developmental levels and learning styles of their students . We concur with
Ryan and Cooper (2004) that differentiated instruction is a commitment on the part of the teacher to
find a match between the learner and instructional content . Carol Ann Tomlinson (1999) contends that
in order to effectively differentiate instruction, teachers must be committed to knowing their students ’
interests , readiness levels, and learning styles . With this knowledge, teachers can effectively
differentiate content , process , and product. Tomlinson maintains that while the core of the content
must remain the same, the manner that students are engaged in learning varies depending on learning
styles and the readiness of the student . The end product, how the student demonstrates what is
learned, may also be varied. Effective differentiated instruction often involves the use of scaffolding , a
process in which students are given various forms of support or assistance while learning new or difficult
tasks (Larkin, 2002). The amount and form of scaffolding must be varied depending on the students '
individual needs.

Instructional Technology : As school districts embrace the use of technology , particularly computer
technology , it is increasingly important that beginning teachers have sufficient knowledge and skills to
effectively use this teaching tool. That meaningful learning can occur when the use of instructional
technology is based on sound instructional decisions is not in dispute. Research emerging in recent years
is helping us map out the terrain of "best practices " to guide the novice teacher ’s use of computers and
related devices . Summariesof such research and practice describe the types of learning, the nature of
learners, and the instructional settings that may influence decisions about the use of instruction
mediated by computer technologies .

For example, Kimble (1999) examined a collection of research studies and concluded that teachers
trained to make optimal use of the software available to them can help their students experience greater
efficiency in "drill and practice " learning as well as greater effectiveness in developing critical thinking
skills. Reviewing some of the same studies as examined by Kimble, Schacter (1999) concluded that
thoughtful use of computer assisted or computer mediated instruction generally encourages student
learning at a rate greater than for those without access to such technology .

Not all who explore this area take such an optimistic view. Fleming and Raptis (2000) offered a
somewhat more pessimistic perspective in their review of educational technology research during the
past decade . Working from a topographic analysis of 307 articles describing possible effects of
educational technology on the learning of preschool through high school students , these authors found
that only one-fourth of these articles offered empirical support. Fewer still examined students ’ education
in school settings . In summarizingthe body of literature they reviewed, Fleming and Raptis concluded
that most of the literature written during the period from 1990 to 1999 consists of academic and
anecdotal discussion, global input-output program descriptions, and attitudinal surveys. Even the
majority of empirical studies consist mainly of methods comparisons, global measures of academic
achievement, and attitudinal changes rooted in a behavioral framework of analysis. These findings
compel Fleming and Raptis to conclude that without meaningful empirical explorations of how key
features or traits of educational technology influence learning, "no strong or coherent argument for
educational technology ’s use in schooling may be found in the literature of recent years (p. 6)."

Adding to a more cautious view are the questions Jane Healy poses in her article, “The Mad Dash to
Compute” (1999). She questions the effects of extended computer use on children’s developing bodies
and brains and asks at what age should this technology be introduced. Healy and other writers (Healy,
1999; Brabec, Fisher & Pitler, 2004) have also noted that educators must keep in mind that technology
is a only a tool and must be used both carefully and cautiously . It is not an end in itself.

While it may not be possible to completely document how or why technology might influence students ’
learning, personal computers networked to the Internet are increasingly evident in the classrooms where
the prospective educators we prepare will teach . Internet "sites" offer exciting connections between
students and ideas that could never have been provided without the growing classroom and home use of
interactive "telematics" that Thornburg (1999) believes will focus our efforts on three foundational skills:
how to find information, how to determine the relevance of that information to the task at hand, and
how to determine if the relevant information is accurate . Thornburg’s future for elementary and
secondary education suggests that empirical studies rooted in past notions of teaching and learning
might not reveal much about the influence of connected , interactive electronic learning. "Unless our
thinking about education is transformed along with our continuing expansion of telematic technology in
the classrooms, our technology investment will fail to live up to its investment" (p.1).

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Keeping Thornburg's ideas in mind, the Standards for Technological Literacy developed by the
International Technology Education Association (ITEA) and their related Technology for All Americans
Project (Dugger, 2001) are most helpful. Thousands of technology teachers , science and mathematics
teachers , and other experts collaborated on the development of these standards to guide the education
of all students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The twenty standards provide educators with a clear
vision of what students should know and understand about technology . Each of the standards has been
translated into a planned curriculum utilizing instructional activities centered on developmentally
appropriate practices , a tremendous boon to educators seeking ways to make effective classroom
decisions regarding the use of instructional technology (Dugger, 2001).

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Ausubel, D. (1963). The psychology of meaningful learning. New York: Grune and Stratton .

Biehler, R. and Snowman, J. (1997). Psychology applied to teaching (8th Ed). Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Brabec K., Fisher K., & Pitler, H. (2004). Building Better Instruction. Learning &

Brown, G. (Ed.) (1971). Human teachings for human learning: An introduction to confluent education .
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Dugger W. E. (2001). Standards for technological literacy. Phi Delta Kappan, 82, (7), 513-517.

Egan, K. (2003). Start with what the student knows or what the student can imagine. Phi Delta
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Kindsvatter, R., Wilen, W., and Ishler, M. (1996). Dynamics of effective teaching (3rd Ed.) White Plains,
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Saint John's University (P.O. Box 2000, Collegeville , Minnesota 56321; 320-363-2011). All rights reserved .
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