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Strategies to Enhance Learning

As you know, your students will come to section with a variety of academic, family, and cultural backgrounds as well as a variety of personal learning preferences, abilities, and needs. To meet the diverse needs of your students, you will want to vary your instructional methods and style. The following pages offer practical instructional strategies to do just that.

STUDENT LEARNING STYLES
One popular model of learning styles identifies two dimensions of student ability and preference: active vs. reflective learners and abstract vs. concrete learners. Briefly, the two learning dimensions can be defined as follows.(3)

Concrete/Abstract Dimension:
In the concrete experience mode there is an emphasis on personal involvement and reliance on feelings. The abstract mode involves logic and ideas, rather than feelings.

Active/Reflective Dimension:
In the active mode, there is active experimentation, use of very practical approaches and concern about what works and getting things done. In the reflective mode, learners rely on patience, objectivity and careful judgment. Rather than experiment, they rely on their own thoughts and feelings to form opinions and make generalizations.

These styles are, of course, preferences. The most flexible and able learners are adept in all styles and can use the style most appropriate to the learning situation. To promote this flexibility and to teach to both the strengths and weaknesses of all students, it is necessary to vary instructional methods. Lecture, papers, and projects appeal to the preferences and strengths of the abstract learners. Discussion works well for reflective learners. Consider the following diversity of instruction that is possible to meet the learning style preferences of these four learning styles.

Concrete Learners: readings, examples, fieldwork, laboratories, problem sets, simulations, games, primary texts.
Abstract Learners: lectures, papers, projects, analogies, model building.
Active Learners: projects, fieldwork, homework, case study, simulations.
Reflective Learners: logs, journals, discussion, brainstorming, thought questions, rhetorical questions.(4)

TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR A DIVERSE STUDENT BODY

In addition to learning style preferences, your students will have differences, in terms of gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, learning abilities and disabilities, and minority vs. majority social status. The following charts provide you with ideas on how to organize and plan instruction to address these differences.

TEACHING STRATEGIES: GENDER SOCIALIZATION

TEACHING STRATEGIES: STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES

TEACHING STRATEGIES: SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND RELIGION

GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR TEACHING "MINORITY STUDENTS" (8)

  • Give "minority" students equal attention in class, and equal access to advising outside class. Don't overlook capable but less experienced students.
  • Give "minority" students equal amounts of helpful and honest criticism. Don't prejudge students' capabilities.
  • Revise curricula if necessary to include different kinds of racial and cultural experiences, and to include them in more than just stereotypical ways.
  • Monitor classroom dynamics to ensure that "minority" students do not become isolated.
  • Vary the structure of the course to include more than just individual and abstract modes of learning.
  • Don't call on "minority" students as "spokespersons" for their group.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the history and emotions your students may bring to class.
  • Respond to non-academic experiences, such as racial incidents, that may affect classroom performance.

NOTE: The general principles and specific strategies listed here often echo those for gender. Such repetition permits you to read each handbook section separately. In addition, such similarity illustrates how the problems and solutions for each group mirror one another in fundamental ways. Thus various sections are finally not separate, but mesh together to form a general system of responsive teaching.

TEACHING STRATEGIES: STUDENTS WITH MINORITY STATUS

TEACHING STRATEGIES: ADDRESSING VALUE CONFLICTS IN THE CLASSROOM

TEACHING STRATEGIES: NON-NATIVE SPEAKERS OF ENGLISH (ESL)

 

EPILOGUE

This section has focused on the differences among students and ways to enhance their learning. It also seems appropriate to mention student similarities. In fact, students have more similarities than differences on important dimensions. All students have the need to be respected by their peers and their teachers, to meet their personal as well as academic goals, and to be acknowledged for their abilities, accomplishments, life experiences, and most of all, for who they are.

consultation contacts

George Michaelsexecutive director2130 Kerr Hall
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mindy colininstructional consultant1130 Kerr Hall
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Mary Lou Ramos database and ESCI administrator1130 Kerr Hall
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Aisha Wedlaw ESCI assistant1124 Kerr Hall
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