Overview of Category: Teaching Methods
The range and nature of instructional methods used by teachers are central to student learning.
One key issue tied to teaching methods is how students are grouped. Some people argue that grouping students by ability puts slower students at a disadvantage by stigmatizing them and surrounding them with few academic role models. Advocates of mixed grouping say that students actually learn better when they are working with students of differing developmental levels, ages and abilities because it expands their perspective on concepts. Others argue that ability grouping allows the school to provide the most appropriate and effective instruction. A popular alternative is flexible grouping, which involves the frequent reassessment and regrouping of students based on constantly changing needs.
Another issue related to teaching methods is the extent to which teachers direct classroom instruction, as opposed to students directing their own learning. Hands-on learning encourages students to learn by actively doing, rather than simply listening; similarly, cooperative learning encourages students to learn by working together in a structured way to solve problems. Direct instruction refers to a teacher leading lessons and structuring them so that all students are doing the same thing at the same time. Self-directed instruction implies that students have a say in what they study and work on in class, and at what pace they complete their work.
Finally, several philosophies of teaching grow out of specific notions of how children learn best and how they develop mentally as they grow physically. Constructivism is built on the idea that a child's conception of the world is based on how he processes the interactions he has with the physical, logical and social worlds. Montessori and Waldorf schools offer specialized forms of constructivist teaching.
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