The traditional teacher-centered instruction technique is called direct instruction. The teacher provides the students with much of the information they need, often through lectures, explanations, examples, and problem-solving. Most direct instruction techniques only allow for minimal student-teacher interaction, and need to be supplemented by review, practice, and group discussions.
The main strength of direct instruction is that it is efficient, especially in quickly providing information to the students. It is also an effective way to allow students to achieve mastery when learning fundamental facts, rules, formulas, or sequences.
However, direct instruction is not an effective way to teach higher-level thinking, analysis or evaluation. It cannot be used to teach material over a long period of time, or present additional details to students who have already mastered the basic concepts. When direct instruction repeats material that has already been covered, it becomes redundant and boring for the students. However, repetition helps students learn material thoroughly, so the review must become "creative redundancy". Content needs to be repeated in novel ways to keep the students interested.
A side effect of direct instruction is competition among the students for grades. This takes the focus off of the learning. Excessive competition leads students to stop caring about what they are learning, and care only about the competition.
The indirect approach to teaching presents students with instructional stimuli in the form of materials, objects, and events, and requires students to go beyond the basic information that they are given to make their own conclusions and generalizations. Indirect instruction allows teachers to engage their students in activities which require the students to learn independently.
Students take an active role in their learning by developing ideas, testing their own conclusions, and discussing their results. This allows students to independently discover patterns and relationships in their learning and knowledge. Students go beyond the basic problems presented to them, allowing them to develop advanced levels of thinking and analysis. Indirect instruction is most effective at teaching a process or method of learning, and allows for a dynamic teaching and learning environment.
Discussion involves free, interactive dialogue between teachers and students. It is more than just a question-answer period, and requires the teacher to give control of the classroom to the students. The students guide the discussion, meaning that it may not always progress in the direction the teacher anticipated.
A successful discussion requires that all student responses and ideas be accepted and considered, even those that are immature or have not been thought out. Teachers and students need to be open-minded and willing to consider perspectives different from their own.
Cooperative learning is a technique that encourages collaboration, competition, and independence. Teachers encourage independence among the students in terms of achieving their learning goals, and interdependence through interaction.
One strength of cooperative learning is its social nature. Students are encouraged to interact and share with one another, which helps reduce the students' desire to talk or gossip with one another about unrelated topics. With interaction constantly occurring, a cooperative learning classroom tends to be somewhat noisy, but classroom management is easier.
Cooperative learning helps students develop conceptual reasoning and problem-solving skills. It also helps creates a warmer relationship among students and a positive attitude towards the subject matter.
Students need to be encouraged to actively participate in their own learning process through self-directed instruction. Without taking a role in their own learning, students become too dependent on their teachers and fall behind in independent thought, reasoning, critical-thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
Metacognitive strategies - mental processes students use to understand and remember information - are often used in self-directed instruction. Students often model their strategies after those of a teacher who taught by explaining the reasoning involved and then focused the class on applying that reasoning to a variety problems.
Self-directed instruction teaches students to take learning into their own hands, apply their knowledge to real-world problems, monitor their own achievement, and go beyond the material that is presented to them. Predicting, questioning, summarizing, and clarifying are four important activities that shift the responsibility of the learning to the students.