Indiana University Teaching Handbook
Preparing to Teach
Selecting Instructional Strategies That Fit Objectives
Adapted with permission from Farris, 1985
The teaching strategies you select will depend directly on your course objectives. If you need to cover 50 years of research in ten weeks, and your primary goal is that students be able to recall the facts, you will probably use the lecture and test approach. If you want your students to be capable of applying course material, you will not only have to present factual material through readings and lectures, but also show them how to develop generalizations from the background knowledge (discussion, study problems, assignments). In addition, you will need to provide them with multiple opportunities to apply newly learned principles in novel situations (laboratory experiments, papers, case studies, small group projects, and examinations). For students to learn and remember a concept, they must see an example (and possibly even multiple examples), gain knowledge of the generalization, and apply the concept through an application activity that is as close to the real world as possible.
Matching instructional strategies to course objectives is an important part of the planning stage. To help you select teaching strategies compatible with your objectives, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- When should I tell students something and when should I let them discover for themselves?
- When should I lecture and when should I hold a discussion or other activity?
- When should I show students how to do something and when should I encourage them to try it themselves?
- When should I ask students to do something alone and when should I ask them to work together (collaborative learning)?
- When should I respond to students questions (give information) and when should I encourage other students to respond (give opportunity for students to practice skills)?
- If I see someone make a mistake in a lab, when should I correct the mistake and when should I let the student discover her/his own mistake?
- When should I review concepts orally and when should I use handouts?
- If I need to show students a lot of formulas or graphs, should I derive or draw them during class or prepare handouts/overhead transparencies before class?
- When should I rely on my own expertis and when should I seek outside sources (films, slide/tape programs, guest speakers, etc.)?
By considering such questions, you can begin to formulate strategies and techniques that match the objectives you set for the course (adapted with permission from Ronkowski, 1986).
In summary, the planning stage of instruction consists of four steps:
- select course objectives and determine the level of mastery you expect students to attain;
- decide how to assess student learning;
- choose an appropriate sequence in which to present your objectives; and
- select materials and instructional strategies that will help your students reach the level of mastery you set for them.