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Instructional Methods Information

Part 1

Dr. Bob Kizlik 

Instructional methods and teaching methods mean the same thing. Teaching strategies, for all practical purposes, means the same thing. Regardless of what we call such processes, they are primarily descriptions of the learning objective-oriented activities and flow of information between teachers and students. Although some may argue otherwise, to split hairs over whether such methods are meaningfully different adds nothing to the process of learning to be a teacher. Direct and indirect instruction are two main categories that many educators find useful for classifying teaching methods, but it is, as you will see, a bit more complicated than placing all instruction into two categories. Any instructional method a teacher uses has advantages, disadvantages, and requires some preliminary preparation.

Often times, a particular teaching method will naturally flow into another, all within the same lesson, and excellent teachers have developed the skills to make the process seamless to the students. Which instructional method is "right" for a particular lesson depends on many things, and among them are the age and developmental level of the students, what the students already know, and what they need to know to succeed with the lesson, the subject-matter content, the objective of the lesson, the available people, time, space and material resources, and the physical setting. Another, more difficult problem is to select an instructional method that best fits one's particular teaching style and the lesson-situation. There is no one "right" method for teaching a particular lesson, but there are some criteria that pertain to each that can help a teacher make the best decision possible. The following teaching or instructional methods relate to the instruction part of the ADPRIMA Instruction System. The methods are not listed in a preferred sequence, no hierarchy of putative superiority of method is intended, and obviously, not all are appropriate for all grades and subject matter content areas.

Perhaps I should also confess a bias about learning, regardless of the instructional method employed by the teacher. The bias is that I firmly believe that the most meaningful learning for any student is that which results from the learner constructing his own knowledge and meaning from the subject matter content.  This approach is commonly referred to a constructivism.  There is a wealth of information available on the Internet about constructivism. Just enter it into Bing or Google to see what I mean.

Cooperative Learning

Helps foster mutual responsibility
Supported by research as an effective technique
Students learn to be patient, less critical and more compassionate

Some students don't work well this way
Loners find it hard to share answers
Aggressive students try to take over
Bright students tend to act superior

Decide what skills or knowledge are to be learned
Requires some time to prepare students to learn how to work in groups


Listening Listening exercise that allows creative thinking for new ideas
Encourages full participation because all ideas are equally recorded
Draws on group's knowledge and experience
Spirit of cooperation is created
One idea can spark off other ideas

Can be unfocused
Needs to be limited to 5 - 7 minutes
Students may have difficulty getting away from known reality
If not managed well, criticism and negative evaluation may occur

Value to students depends in part on their maturity

Teacher selects issue
Teacher must be ready to intervene when the process is hopelessly bogged down

Direct Teaching

Very specific learning targets
Students are told reasons why content is important - helps to clarify lesson objective
Relatively easy to measure student gains
Good for teaching specific facts and basic skills
Is a widely accepted instructional method

Can stifle teacher creativity
Requires well-organized content preparation and good oral communication skills
Steps must be followed in prescribed order
May not be effective for higher-order thinking skills, depending on the knowledge base and skill of the teacher

Content must be organized in advance
Teacher should have information about student prerequisites for the lesson


Factual material is presented in a direct, logical manner
May provide experiences that inspire - useful for large groups
Most efficient way to convey teacher spoken information

Proficient oral skills are necessary
Audience is often passive
Learning is difficult to determine as the lecture progresses
Communication is one-way
Not appropriate for children below grade 4

There should be a clear introduction and summary
Effectiveness is related to time and scope of content
Is always audience specific; often includes examples, anecdotes

Lecture with Discussion

Involves students, at least after the lecture
Students can question, clarify and challenge

Lecture can be interspersed with discussion or breaks as the content and time permit

Time constraints may affect discussion opportunities
Effectiveness is connected to appropriate questions and discussion; often requires teacher to "shift gears" quickly

Teacher should be prepared to allow questions during lecture, as appropriate
Teacher should also anticipate difficult questions and prepare appropriate responses in advance

Multimedia (computer,  Internet, CD, DVD, film)

Entertaining way of introducing content and raising issues
Internet content easily updated
Usually keeps group's attention
Cost effective way to obtain and  disseminate content
May provide opportunities for independent student investigation in a wide range of topics

Can raise too many issues to have a focused discussion
Distractions happen all too easily
Students working independently can easily lose focus of lesson topic
Most effective when followed by discussion
Discussion may not have full participation

Teacher must formulate rules and communicate them to students
Need to obtain and set up equipment
Computing skills required for some applications
Most effective when teacher prepares for discussion after the presentation or activity

Role Playing

Introduces problem situation dramatically
Provides opportunity for students to assume roles of others and thus appreciate another point of view
Allows for exploration of solutions
Provides opportunity to practice skills

Some students may be too self-conscious
Not appropriate for large groups
Can be time consuming to set up and execute

Teacher has to define problem situation and roles clearly
Teacher must give very clear instructions
Teacher must have back up activities in case of problems


Students are usually interested in and challenged by games
Can provide opportunities for team member building skills
Feedback is usually easy to provide and is quick
When used in direct relationship to a lesson objective, can provide a stimulating experience for all

Can create in-group/out-group feelings
Can demotivate those who are not competitive by nature
Can create feelings of inadequacy in those not as skilled or forceful
Can discourage creativity if the format is very rigid and the focus is strongly on winning

Choose relevant games at an appropriate level that can be reasonably expected to achieve the learning objectives
Introduce the game and make the objectives clear
Give clear and thorough directions
Create a friendly versus cut-throat mentality; do not put down losers or allow others to do so
Do not take sides or show partiality
Keep a handle on things

Click here for Part 2 of Instructional Methods

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