Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Two Stages of Instruction: Definition & Application

This is not a good way to start a blog, but give me credit for being honest. I do not yet consider myself an expect in teaching, but I believe that I have a framework to organize instruction into. This is something that I realized yesterday. Also, it's possible that I am about to say something that someone else has said before. But hopefully, this information will still be of some use to you. I would organize instruction into two stages: Definition and application. If your instruction successfully addresses both of those components, then I expect that your instructional component will be complete.

Notice that I don't say that your lesson will be successful. It would only be successful if in that lesson, you had every or most students undivided focus 100% of the time. Whereas, if your instruction lacked either "definition" or "application, but you had their undivided focus 100% of the time, your lesson would be both incomplete and for that reason, definitely unsuccessful. Right now, the "definition" and "application" on their own don't really mean anything. So, I need to elaborate on what I mean by each term. I'll illustrate what I mean by giving you a lesson that I taught recently.

A couple days ago, I taught a math lesson. It was about units of measurement (i.e. inches, feet, yards, and miles). The rest of the class and I had a ruler. I asked a student where an inch was on their ruler. Then, I pointed that out on my ruler under the docucam. If I were to have gone further (which I should have), I would have had everyone hold up their ruler, put their thumb on the beginning of the ruler, and their index finger on the first inch number. I asked a student what a foot is. He answers 12 inches. I have everyone hold up their ruler and make explicit, that a foot is as long as that ruler. For yard, I get three rulers and put them next to each other in my hands because 36 inches is equivalent to a yard. Mr. Agajan chimes in and shows them a yard stick (... yea... that makes more sense than what I did). Finally, I explain that 1760 yards is equivalent to 1 mile. That basically concludes the definition part of the lesson.

The reason why I call the previous paragraph the definition component of the lesson is because each of the units of measurement were concretely introduced. Every student has been told and physically shown what an individual unit of each type refers to. So, now they need to apply what has been defined. If they know what the terms mean, then they ought to be able to apply them in different scenarios. Otherwise, I would be dubious that they really fully know what the terms mean.

There are 6 groups of 3 or 4 students each. For this lesson, they work in groups by measuring the same object individually and coming to a consensus. For inches, every member of every group measures the exact same book. For feet, every member of every group measures their desk (each desk is the same length). For yards, Mr. Agajan selects 5 students. Those students each help measure the whiteboard with yard sticks. And, that's how they apply the terms that they learned about. Those students who were able to apply what they learned have shown that they truly do have a sufficient understanding of what the terms mean. And, that is what I call an example of a lesson which is complete as far as instruction is concerned.

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