Tag Archives: teaching methods

Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.

Homogeneous vs. Heterogeneous

Grouping different students together for learning has been a teaching method used for years. Here we will discuss the difference between homogeneous grouping and heterogeneous grouping in the learning environment.

What is a homogeneous classroom? This would be a classroom where students are all at the same or similar ability level. For example, if you had a whole classroom of gifted students this would be a homogeneous classroom.
What is a heterogeneous classroom? This is the opposite of homogeneous groupings. Heterogeneous classrooms consists of students of the same grade or age but the students are distributed in a way that allows variety.
While it has been argued that there may be issues of division in the homogeneous groupings because it takes one group away from others it has to be pointed out that students should be able to learn more when they are ready for it. Only a teacher who is with the student for hours each week can assess whether or not a student could benefit from these groupings. It should also be pointed out that some students who are on grade level feel more comfortable in classes where their peers are at a somewhat equal level. This enables the student to feel like they can risk answering a question wrong when asked for their answer in a classroom setting, etc.

Direct Instruction

Direct Instruction is teacher led and is a very successful way to present information to students. It follows a definite pattern with steps to help students get to the desired outcome. Teachers are able to efficiently feed a lot of information to students and the greatest bonus is that because this teaching method is teacher led it can be tailored to the student’s specific developmental stages.

How it works is broken down into categories:

Introduction: The first issue is to gain the focus or attention of the students. Students are informed as to what they will be learning and what the goal is. If necessary the instructor can give a review of past information if the new information is a building block on the older information.

Development: In this step the teacher demonstrates the goal of the instruction. The instructor needs to be sure that there are clear expectations and that each student understands the goal. This can be done by asking key questions that will let the teacher hone in on any problems or misunderstanding that student’s may have. It is a good idea for teachers to use visual aids, or other methods of reinforcing the concept.

Guided practice: After the development phase is over the teacher can then present tasks and activities for the student’s to accomplish. The teacher needs to closely monitor these activities and make sure that the student’s are focused on the overall goal while completing the tasks. This is where teachers may give extra time and attention to students that appear to not grasp the overall concept or the end goal.

Closure: The instructor gives closure to a lesson or goal by recapping the information that was presented and discussing what was learned throughout the activities and tasks.

Independent Practice: This may be in the form of class time activities or homework. The student is given activities and tasks to reinforce what was learned in the guided practice portion of the lesson. The teacher needs to make sure that they only go to this step after it is clear that the student’s clearly grasp the concept in the guided practice. This is why the teacher needs to be so aware of the individuals in the class.

Evaluation: This may come in the form of review, tests, exams, essay questions or class discussion. The evaluation phase helps a teacher assess the needs of each individual student and to cater to their needs.

Teaching Methods

There are so many teaching methods and they all have their pros and cons. Whether you are a parent, a teacher you need to be familiar with the different methods. You may come across a student that some of the more well known teaching methods just don’t help. Being familiar with as many teaching methods as possible will enable you to better help your student or child.

Here is just a short list of some teaching methods, their strengths and weaknesses and the preparation needed for each. Please remember that this list is not comprehensive.

Lecturing -

  • Strengths: Present information in a logical and straight forward method, can include stories or experiences that motivate and inspire, gets people thinking and brain storming, and is great for large groups of appropriate age levels.
  • Short comings: Just because someone knows a lot on a subject does not mean they are good at presenting it, audiences can be passive and this teaching method lends itself to the audience just sitting and staring, hard for the teacher to know what the group is assimilating, one way communication.
  • To prepare: Any lecturer needs to make sure that the give a good introduction to get the group involved and excited about the information, the need to be mindful of content as well as time allotted, be prepared with examples, stories and visual aids.

* Note that lecturing can either be completely one way or you can open it up for discussion with the group at different times. It does not just have to be standing and talking at people the whole time.

Brainstorming –

  • Strengths: Creative ideas can flow as people talk and feed off of one anther’s thoughts, encourages group participation and cooperation, draws off of individual experiences and not just facts, gives a group something in common and brings unity in the group. Is a great form of collaborative learning.
  • Short comings: Hard to stay focused and can become easily scattered, need to be controlled and have limits like a time limit, hard to get people to think outside of their own circumstances, classroom management is required to avoid confrontation, contention and criticism among group members.
  • Select appropriate issue for discussion and have ideas prepared in advance that may help a group start brain storming or to help them out of drawing a mental blank.


  • Strengths: Can be entertaining, visually stimulating and help bring new ideas, keeps people’s attention, if chosen correctly can look professional, brings on discussion after it is over. Great for visual learning styles.
  • Short comings: Can become unfocused, some members of group may lose interest and not participate, the video is really only as good as what the discussion after brings out of the group.
  • Preparation: Be sure to have all equipment you need and know how to run the equipment. Have questions prepared beforehand so that you keep direction in the class.

Role Playing –

  • Strengths: Provides drama, allows participants to empathize with whatever role they are playing, hands on problem solving and use of practical skills, can be very fun. Can teach proper social skills by example.
  • Short comings: Many people are too inhibited for role playing or will resist, does not work well in large groups, people may feel embarrassed.
  • Preparation: You have to be very organized for this with clear guidelines and give clear instructions.

No matter what you are teaching there are multiple ways to present most material. Depending on the issue you are teaching or what your subject matter may be you can choose the appropriate teaching method for your situation.