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How to Become an Excellent Tertiary-Level Teacher - page 9 / 16

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methods such as projects, case-studies and role-plays.

As can be seen in any basic text on the subject, many different types of teaching/learning methods are available to the modern university or college lecturer.  It is, however, possible to divide these into three broad groups, based on the extremely useful classification first suggested by Lewis Elton (Elton, 1978).

The first of these groups contains mass-instruction methods such as conventional lectures and other forms of taught lesson, film and video presentations, and educational broadcasts.  Here, the teacher operates in the traditional expository role, deciding what material will be covered, in what way, at what pace, in what depth, and so on.  The students, on the other hand, are largely passive, being virtually totally dependent on what they get from the teacher.  For this reason, Elton describes mass instruction as the dependent mode of teaching/learning.  As we have seen, mass-instruction methods are best suited to achieving student targets that fall in the lower part of Bloom’s cognitive domain, ie, covering the basic facts and principles of a subject.  When used by a skilled teacher, they can be extremely effective in achieving such outcomes.

The second of Elton’s three groups contains individualised-learning methods such as directed study of textbooks and similar printed materials, open-learning methods of all types, all the different forms of computer-based learning, multimedia and Web-based learning, and student exercises and activities such as assignments and projects.  When using such methods with their students, the teacher has to step back from the traditional expository role, acting instead as a producer/manager of learning resources and as a tutor and guide to the students, providing support and help as and when required.  The students themselves are largely responsible for their own learning, controlling their own pace of learning, depth of study, etc.  For this reason, Elton describes individualised learning as the independent mode of teaching/learning.  Individualised-learning methods can be used to achieve a much wider range of student learning outcomes than mass-instruction methods, covering the whole of the cognitive domain as well as many useful process skills.

The third of Elton’s three groups contains group-learning methods such as buzz sessions and similar small-group activities, class discussions, seminars and group tutorials, interactive exercises of the game/simulation/case-study type, and group projects.  When using such methods, the teacher has again to step back from the traditional expository role, acting simply as an organiser of the group activity and a facilitator of the student learning experience.  The students themselves are largely responsible for their own learning, but are also strongly dependent on one another for the quality and depth of the resulting learning experience.  For this reason, Elton describes group learning as the inter-dependent mode of teaching/learning.  Modern group-learning methods have their foundations in the humanistic psychology that was developed by people such as Carl Rogers during the 1960’s - a totally different type of psychology from the highly mechanistic behavioural psychology which formed the basis of the earlier programmed learning movement (Percival et al, 1993).  They are capable of achieving student learning outcomes of all types, being particularly well suited to developing higher-cognitive, affective, interpersonal and communication skills.

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