Saturday, March 21, 2009

Teaching and Learning Models

The models of teaching have been grouped into four families that share orientations toward human beings and how they learn. These are the social family, the information-processing family, the personal family, and the behavioral systems family.


When asked to identify the purpose of teaching, many people will respond: "To impart the curriculum," "to pass on knowledge to a new generation," or "to teach stuff." Although all attempts to educate a student involve information processing, many methods and theories are designed specifically to help students acquire and operate on data.

The models presented here represent a distinct philosophy about how people think and about how teachers can impact the way students deal with the information they are receiving. These models are not constructed around mechanistic theories about the human mind. Some, in fact, have rather unstructured views of information handling. They also vary in the depth of their approach, from a narrow focus on memorization to specific types of inductive thinking.

Models focusing on information processing come from several sources:

1. Metacognition.
From the earliest gathering of Greeks in a bathhouse to the remote cogitations of a pioneer in an outhouse, philosophers have thought about thought, and about how inductive and deductive thinking function. The theories have led to our preoccupation with right brain/left brain thinking, Gardner's seven intelligences and curriculum adapted to the developmental readiness of the learner. Computer simulations of mental processes have been developed, and a wide range of PC's are available. I can now carry an external harddrive (a portable PC) to support my internal harddrive (the brain).

2. Learning theorists.
The belief that we use previous learned concepts to process incoming information is at the heart of these theories. Verbal learning and experiential learning models have evolved from the efforts of David Ausubel and Jerome Bruner and his associates. These strategies provide a set of concepts that alter an individual's thinking processes.

3. The academic disciplines.
Many models have been developed to teach either the major concepts or the systems of inquiry used by the disciplines. The underlying assumption is that, as students learn the processes and ideas of the discipline, they incorporate them into their own systems and behave differently as a result. Joseph Schwab and his associates of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study committee developed this model as one of the chief methods for a biology course for secondary schools.

4. Developmental studies of the human intellect. Investigators have also studied the development of intellectual processes. These studies provide a tentative map of intellectual development, but are useful in generating theories about how to increase intellectual development. Piaget and Ericson's work serves as a foundation for these models.

Information processing models emphasize strategies that adopt our own natural curiosity and desire to make sense of the world around us. These tools allow us to acquire and organize data, identify problems and generate solutions.

Information processing models include:

Concept Attainment
This model, built around the studies of thinking conducted by Jerome Bruner, is designed to help students learn concepts for organizing information and to help students become more effective at learning concepts. It includes an efficient method for presenting organized information from a wide range of areas of study to students of every stage of development.

Inductive Thinking
The ability to create concepts is generally regarded as one of the basic thinking skills. This model induces students to find and organize information, to create names for concepts, and to explore ways of becoming more skillful at discovering and organizing information and at creating and testing hypotheses describing relationships among sets of data. The model, evolved from the work of Hilda Taba, is used in wide variety of curriculum areas and with students of all ages.

Inquiry Training
Designed to teach students to engage in causal reasoning and to become more fluent and precise in asking questions, building concepts and hypotheses, and testing them, this model was first formulated by Richard Suchman. Although originally used with the natural sciences it has also been applied in the social sciences and in training programs with personal and social content.

Advance Organizers
During the last twenty years this model, formulated by David Ausubel has become one of the most researched in the information processing family. It is designed to provide students with a cognitive structure for comprehending material presented through lectures, readings, and other media. It has been employed with almost every conceivable content and with students of every age. It can be easily combined with other models- for example, when presentations are mixed with inductive activity.

Mnemonics are strategies for memorizing and assimilating information. Teachers can use mnemonics to guide their presentations of material (teaching in such a way that students can easily absorb the information), and they can teach devices that students can use to enhance their individual and cooperative study of information and concepts. This model has also been tested over many curriculum areas and with students of many ages and characteristics. As indicated previously, some of the applications of memorization strategies have had dramatic effect.

The Developing Intellect
Models based on studies of students' intellectual development (Piaget, Kohlberg, Sullivan, and Sigel) are used to help adjust instruction to match the stage of maturity of an individual student and to design ways of increasing the student's rate of development. The model is useful in various educational settings and with all content. The models are frequently used to accelerate growth in environmentally disadvantaged children. The applications for other students are just as important.

Scientific Inquiry
A number of models have been developed to teach academic content with the methods by which it was created. Such models teach the scientific method, the fundamental concepts of the disciplines and basic information.

The long-term goal of all information processing models is to teach students how to think effectively. Complex intellectual strategies allow students to absorb more concepts and information.

Focus on the Person

Each of us sees the world from a different perspective, a perspective that derives from our experiences, environment and relationships. We each carry around a different set of lenses through which we interpret events, translate language and transform information- giving it new meaning. Common understandings must occur if we are to work successfully together in our workplace and community. Our social context provides our language and the other artifacts of culture. Our environment shapes how we behave and affects how we feel and we, in turn, shape our environment. While our lives have much continuity we also possess great capacity to change.

The Personal Family models can be used in several ways. They can be used to moderate the entire learning environment. We can use these models to enhance the personal qualities and feelings of our students and to look for opportunities to make them partners with us and to communicate affirmatively with them. We use nondirective techniques when we are counseling the students, synectics to enhance creativity, classroom meetings to build the community of learners.

Personal models have been adopted as a nondirective core of schools like A.S. Neil's Summerhill, or as a major component of a school (Chamberlin and Chamberlin, 1943). Certain approaches to teaching academic subjects have been developed around personal models. The "experience" methods for teaching reading, for example, use student dictated stories as the initial reading materials and student-selected literature as the chief materials once initial competence has been established.

A major thesis of this family of models is that the better-developed, more affirmative, self actualizing learners have increased learning capabilities. Thus, personal models will increase academic achievement by tending to the learners. This thesis is supported by a number of studies (Roebuck, Buhler, and Aspy, 1976) that indicate that the students of teachers who incorporate personal models into their repertoires increase their achievement.

The personal family models begin with the perspective of the individual and allow teachers to impact self awareness so that learners become responsible of their own growth. Self actualization leads to lifelong learning skills that promote quality of life.

Nondirective Teaching
Developed from counseling theory the model brings student and teacher together in a cooperative effort to guide the student to autonomy as a learner. The teacher acts as a guide and facilitator providing coaching assistance where necessary. The model has several applications: students may work in a laissez faire program and decide what they will learn next and why. The model may be used in conjunction with other models to insure that the teacher maintains contact as a guide for the student. It is a useful tool when students are planning independent or cooperative learning. It is also valuable in advisory programs to help students understand what they are thinking and feeling.

A brainstorming tool that feeds creativity and allows students to escape the bounds of their thinking and gain new perspective and a new framework for thinking. The model encourages rapport and warmth among participants and creates excitement as students learn to use it independently and in cooperative efforts.

Awareness Training

Useful in helping students to understand themselves. The strategies lend to reflection about interpersonal relationships, self image, and presentation of self.

The Classroom Meeting

A counseling process designed to allow students to become responsible for their classroom environment in terms of academic tasks and respect for one another. It provides assistance with personal and social development and social skills.

Cooperative Learning Models

The social models combine a belief about learning and a belief about society. The belief about learning is that cooperative behavior is stimulating not only socially but also intellectually and, hence, that tasks requiring social interaction will stimulate learning. The belief about society is that a central role of education is to prepare citizens to perpetuate a democratic social order.

The combination of these two beliefs has resulted in the development of a large number of models that have great potential for our teaching repertoires. Also, many of the social theorists have not only built rationales for their models, but have raised serious questions about the adequacy of the current dominant patterns of schooling. In most schools the majority of learning tasks are structured by teachers for individuals. Most interaction between teachers and students is in the pattern of recitation-the teacher directs questions about what has been studied, calls on an individual who responds, and then affirms the response or corrects it (Sirotnik, 1983).

Many developers of the cooperative learning models believe that they have developed important additions to the storehouse of models and that teacher-dominated recitation is actually bad for society. The social models received much attention in the 1930s and 1940s, when a number of studies were conducted of the effects of the schools that used democratic-process models as their cores. Many of the studies were in response to serious questions raised by concerned citizens about whether such a degree of reliance on social purposes would retard the students' academic development. The studies generally indicated that social and academic goals are not at all incompatible. The students from those schools were not disadvantaged; in many respects they outperformed the others (Chamberlin and Chamberlin, 1943).

Recently, interest has been renewed in research on the cooperative learning models. Sophisticated research procedures used by three groups of researchers, Johnson and Johnson, (1974, 1981), Robert Slavin (1983) and Sharan of Israel (1980), have implications for the entire family of models. The Johnsons and Slavin have studied whether cooperative tasks and reward structures affect learning outcomes positively. Also, they have asked whether group cohesion, cooperative behavior, and intergroup relations are improved through cooperative learning procedures. In some of their investigations they have examined the effects of cooperative task and reward structures on "traditional" learning tasks, in which students are presented with material to master. The evidence is largely affirmative. Classrooms organized so that students work in pairs and larger groups, tutor each other, and share rewards are characterized by greater mastery of material than the common individual-study and recitation pattern. Also, the shared responsibility and interaction produce more positive feelings toward tasks and others, generate better intergroup relations, and result in better self-images for students with histories of poor achievement. In other words, the results generally affirm the assumptions that underlie these models.

Sharan's team has confirmed the results of the Johnson and Slavin teams, but it has also learned that the stronger the model implemented-the more that cooperative endeavor replaced directive recitation and individual study-the more positive the results. He has also demonstrated that cooperative learning is appropriate for a broad range of learning objectives: the "basic skills" as well as the more complex cognitive and social goals of schooling.

An exciting use of the social models is in combination with models from the other families, in an effort to combine the effects of several models. For example, Baveja, Showers, and Joyce (1985) conducted a study in which concept and inductive procedures were carried out in cooperative groups. The effects fulfilled the promise of the marriage of the information-processing and social models, and the treatment generated gains twice those of a comparison group that received intensive individual and group tutoring over the same material.

Group Investigation
Based on John Dewey's insistence that the principles of democracy be imparted in the everyday classroom experience, this model encourages cooperative inquiry into social and academic problems. Teachers facilitate students in group work that incorporates the scientific methodology for research. The strategy yields high academic and affective gains.

Role Playing

Students gain new insights into social problems and concerns as they act out conflicts, assume roles different from their own and feel the difference. Especially valuable in the social sciences and cultural studies it has found recent exciting use in science classes as well.

Jurisprudential Inquiry
Utilizes the case study method of law to explore social problems and policy. Students identify the problem, look at various options and come to understand policy formulation. Applicable in all subjects as most are impacted by policy.

Social Science Inquiry and Laboratory Training

Adapted from the world of work these strategies develop self awareness and responsibility to others in terms of mutual respect and commitment to the team effort.

Behavior Theory

Behavioral models of learning and instruction have their origins in the classical conditioning experiments of Pavlov (1927), the work of Thorndike on reward learning (1909, 1911, 1913), and the studies of Watson and his associates (Watson, 1916; Watson and Rayner, 1921), who applied Pavlovian principles to the psychological disorders of human beings. In the past twenty years behavior (learning) theory, systematically applied in school settings, has been greatly influenced by B. F. Skinner's Science and Human Behavior (1953) and J. Wolpe's Psychotherapy by Reciprocal Inhibition (1958).

In the late 1950s educators began to employ behavioral techniques, particularly forms of contingency management and programmed learning materials, in school settings. For some types of learners these have had great success. For example, some youngsters who previously had made no progress in language development and social learning are now trainable, and often able to mix with normal individuals. Milder forms of learning problems have responded to behavior models as well (Becker, 1977, 1980, 1981.)

During the past ten years there has been an impressive amount of research demonstrating the effectiveness of behavioral techniques with a wide range of problems, from phobias to social skill deficits, behavioral problems, and test anxiety. The research also indicates that these procedures can be used effectively in group settings and by laypeople. Behavior theory offers an array of procedures that are extremely useful to teachers and curriculum planners.

The educator who understands the impact of environmental variables and relationships can apply the findings directly to his or her work-changing student behavior. The leverage of external control can also be given to the individual. If the teacher can, by appropriate techniques, ascertain and control the external variables, so can the student. Thus, what appears at first to be a technique for controlling others increasing their capabilities for self-control. These tools have proven quite effective in the area of Exceptional Education, but are not limited in their effect to that realm.

Many people have assumed, quite erroneously, that many children have "blocks to learning" (internal states that cannot be changed). Yet in recent years, we have seen numerous examples of growth through the systematic application of learning principles. Other more typical, but frustrating, behavioral problems of normal children have been handled successfully with behavioral techniques.

The Contingency Management Model is widely used with students who have major learning and behavior problems. However, many school administrators now believe it is essential for all teachers to possess, the knowledge and skills of this model, which they regard as the heart of objective classroom management. Knowing how to conceptualize and describe behavior In discrete, observable terms, noticing when and under what conditions it usually occurs, identifying more appropriate behaviors and suitable reinforcers, and finally instituting a reinforcement program may soon be standard requirements for many teachers.

Programmed instruction, a variant of contingency management, has found its way into numerous basic skills curricula in reading and math. The approach is thought to be important to youngsters who need a high degree of success and immediate reinforcement or feedback about their progress. The training model relies on modeling through observation and practice as the means of obtaining new behaviors or eliminating old ones, although it also uses stimulus control and feedback.

Many educators, believe that one purpose of schooling is to increase students' self-esteem and life skills. These models offer one way of addressing preventive mental health as well as basic intellectual knowledge and skills. In many classrooms the primary instructional objective is to get the student to respond to a subject-matter stimulus. The learner connects appropriate responses to various stimuli. The football player fires off the line on the appropriate count. The child 'udders' the word 'cow' when a flashcard with the letters is displayed. Stimulus discrimination is particularly important in the learning situation. When we respond differently to different stimuli, we are distinguishing or discriminating between their properties. Most subject matter is brought to control behavior through discrimination training.

Mastery Learning

Material for learning is arranged from simple to complex. Material is presented to the learner as an individual through appropriate materials. Students maintain their own pace as they master or remediate the information.

Direct Instruction
Information is fed by the teacher or media and the learner responds in lockstep fashion. Repeating the information of responding to the stimuli with the appropriate response. Choral responses in language labs are an example.

Learning Self Control
Students are taught that how they feel is a product of their own effort and that they are responsible for their actions and the impact their actions have on others. Students learn to cope with fears, phobias, aversions and the maladaptive behaviors they have exhibited.

Training for Skill and Concept Development

Skills are acquired through modeling demonstrations, practice, feedback, and coaching until the skill is acquired. Simulations may also be used in which the skill may be practiced.

Assertive Training

Leads to honest and open communication in the classroom. Students learn how to reveal their feelings without harming or necessarily offending others. A productive classroom is the end result.