Instructional Strategies: Find the Best Approach to Encourage Independent Learning

Instructional StrategiesThere has been a lot of debate regarding our education system and how it needs to be revolutionized to benefit the students. With science and technology growing at breakneck speed, isn’t it time for educationists to adopt new teaching methods and tools? Today, schools, colleges and university boards are exploring various options that will encourage self-learning, enhance student curiosity and expand their knowledge. If you are a teacher, university professor or working in the education field, this article will help you understand the various teaching strategies that you can follow or choose from and the benefits they deliver to students. This course discusses in depth the challenges faced in re-inventing the current school model.

What are Instructional Strategies?

Instructional strategies are the techniques or methods that a teacher can adopt to meet the various learning objectives. These strategies help students to walk on the path of independent learning and become strategic learners. They equip teachers to make learning fun and help students to awaken their desire to learn. Instructional strategies focus on not only the educational content but also on the method and environment of the teaching process. Students’ development level, interests and experiences are considered while choosing a particular teaching strategy so that they can self-accomplish their goals. This course on classroom management strategies can help you identify which instructional strategies might be best for your environment.

Instructional strategies enable students to focus their attention, organize their learning material for better understanding and help teachers to provide a suitable platform for strategic learning. There are a number of teaching methods with their various pros and cons. Therefore, the selection of a strategy is critical and must be done with utmost care by teachers in coordination with their students. We shall discuss the different strategies and their main benefits and challenges in our following sections.

Why Instructional Strategies?

Traditional teaching methods usually revolved around the teacher explaining a particular topic and students taking down notes that would help them in their studies. It was centered on more of a passive learning experience with minimal interaction between students and teachers. While this kind of teaching may have been effective earlier, but today the students need different methodologies to help them become independent and strategic learners. Instructional Strategies are proven to benefit the students with their powerful features such as:

  • Involves step-by-step learning process with a number of innovative approaches
  • Supports students with guided and independent practice, modelling and handling real-life situations
  • Gives platform to students to display their skills, ideas and their existing knowledge on a particular subject
  • Encourages students to self-monitor and assess their learning
  • Effective strategies available for students across grade levels, different subjects etc.

There’s been a lot of research in this area and it has been found that students develop their own system of understanding. It’s not only important to decide on ‘what to teach’ but we must also give attention to ‘how to teach’. Instructional Strategies answer these very questions, exploring the best suited environments in which the students can enhance their self-learning abilities and become strategic learners.

Types of Teaching Strategies

  • Direct Instruction
  • Indirect Instruction
  • Experiential Learning
  • Independent Study
  • Interactive Instruction

Direct Instruction

The Direct Instruction teaching strategy mainly focuses on teacher-directed approaches and is the most commonly used teaching method. Here, the content needs to be prepared and organized in advance. Also, the faculty needs to be aware of student requirements for the lessons or sessions. This strategy is effective for imparting knowledge to students in a step-by-step structured way and involves active student participation.

Methods

It involves teaching methods like lecture, structured overview, explicit teaching, drill & practice, compare & contrast, demonstrations, didactic questioning, guided and shared teaching etc.

Advantages

  • Learning objectives/ targets are clear and specific
  • Students are made aware of content’s importance
  • Effective for teaching basic skills and facts
  • Helpful in knowledge construction
  • Commonly used and accepted method of teaching
  • Can also be used to introduce other teaching methods

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t explore the creativity of teachers and students
  • Needs good organization and communication skills from the teacher
  • Highly structured, thereby steps need to be followed correctly in order
  • Depends on knowledge and skills of teacher
  • Fails to address development of higher-level thinking in students

Indirect Instruction

Unlike the direct strategy, Indirect Instruction is more student-oriented and you can use it to complement the direct instruction methods. It encourages students to be more involved – by observing, questioning, problem solving, forming inferences etc., students can explore their desire to learn. Here, the teacher assumes the role of a facilitator or supporter rather than an instructor. In preparation for indirect strategy, teachers must clearly define the problem/ situation and teacher-student roles must be specified with clear instructions.  Technology can be a great aid in this method of instruction. Take this course to learn more on how to teach with technology.

Methods

This instructional strategy involves concepts like problem solving, case studies, inquiry, reflective discussion, concept formation, mapping and attainment, writing to inform, reading for meaning etc.

Advantages

  • Awakens students’ interest and curiosity
  • Encourages them to solve problems by themselves
  • Develops analytic and logical skills
  • Encourages student involvement and greater exploration of solutions
  • Allows students to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills

Disadvantages

  • Not very effective for elementary level students
  • Time constraints may cut down discussion opportunities
  • Teacher needs to be better prepared in handling questions and give proper instructions
  • Needs to be relevant to the students’ needs

Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning focuses more on activities and requires the students to apply their experience to other contexts. It’s more about the process of learning rather than focusing on the content. Students participate in the activities, reflect and share their experiences, analyse and infer the solutions and formulate plans to apply their learning in new situations. Teachers need to provide the environment for learning and encourage the students to be active. You also need to have back-up plans for activities in case of problems. This model is used in most pre-schools today, since the other models really do not work that well with younger kids. This course can show you how to make experiential learning more effective for young kids.

Methods

Experiential learning involves field trips, narratives, experiments & simulations, games, storytelling, role-playing, model building etc.

Advantages

  • Presents the problem situation in creative ways to generate interest
  • Improves team building skills and group interaction & coordination
  • Encourages self-investigation, acceptance of others’ point of view and exploring solutions
  • Provides platform for students to practice skills, face challenges etc.
  • Quickly grabs attention and keeps the students focused

Disadvantages

  • Shy or self-conscious students may not take an active role
  • Immediate negative feedback can lead to demotivation
  • Not effective for large groups
  • Could be time consuming and difficult to arrange
  • Distractions could lead to ineffectiveness and may lose focus on the subject
  • Efficiency depends on teacher’s ability to be impartial, creative and friendly

Independent Study

Independent study encompasses a range of teaching methods that develop student skills like initiative, self-belief, time management and self-improvement. Students are encouraged to undertake a planned activity under the supervision of a teacher or guide. It also involves group study or learning with an assigned partner etc. These methods are designed by the teachers carefully to address the specific requirements of a group. As a teacher you would need to plan the process of feedback collection, monitor performance and provide the appropriate resources for independent study. One major hurdle independent study students face is preparation for exams.  This course can help you groom them for exam excellence.

Methods

Independent study focuses on essays, journals & reports, homework, research projects, assignments etc.

Advantages

  • Since students find solutions to problems independently, the skills and knowledge acquired are retained easily
  • Enhances their rate of learning, adaptability and self-reliance
  • Gives opportunity for a disciplined approach to problem solving and improves their confidence

Disadvantages

  • Not effective for elementary level students and complex subjects that need detailed explanation
  • Requires self-motivation and group skills
  • Unavailability of resources can hamper progress
  • Needs efficient planning and monitoring from the teacher

Interactive Instruction

This highly interactive strategy involves discussion and sharing amongst students, explores their higher-thinking process and gives opportunity to develop social skills. Teachers need to have the expertise to facilitate discussions and manage the group dynamics.

Methods

Students take part in debates, brainstorming sessions, laboratory groups, interviewing, conferencing, jigsaw, cooperative learning and more.

Advantages

  • Encourages equal participation by students, creative & logical thinking
  • Improves concepts of responsibility and team cooperation
  • Activities lead to a stimulating and enriching experience for the students
  • Students learn to be patient, compassionate with others and understand different opinions
  • Sharing of knowledge and experiences leads to enhanced learning

Disadvantages

  • Some students may not be comfortable sharing their experiences and might feel less competent
  • Brighter or aggressive students might overshadow the efforts of the group
  • Needs to have a fixed time-frame, else might lose focus
  • Value of learning depends on students’ capabilities and skills

Regardless of the different names and types of instruction strategies, the main objective of all methods is to provide an objective-based learning platform to the students. Choosing the right methodology depends on the age, development level of the student, subject context and situation at hand. As a teacher, you must evaluate these criteria before you adopt a certain strategy that suits your teaching style as well as the requirements of your students!