The learning strategies and activities you choose to engage students should align with the course learning outcomes you have identified during the backward design process. (See Backward Course Design). Most teachers want their students to be capable of doing more than rote memorization of facts. Instead, they want students to be able to apply, synthesize, and evaluate course material. These more complex cognitive processes are commonly referred to as deep learning. Ironically, lecturing is the least effective way for students to accomplish this deep learning. Deep learning experiences require students to be more responsible for their learning and for being informed of the course content. This means that you will need to provide students with multiple opportunities to apply newly learned principles in novel situations. For students to fully engage with a concept, they must see examples of the type of thinking that experts do in their field, and be able to practice that conceptual thinking through an application activity that is as close to the real world as possible. Matching student learning strategies to course outcomes is one of the most important parts of the planning stage. To help you select learning strategies that align with the course outcomes, assessments and goals, ask yourself questions like these:
- Is lecturing the best and most efficient way for students to become introduced to the course content?
- What classroom activities can I use in order to hold students accountable for doing the homework readings?
- How can I have students connect new knowledge to what they already know?
- When should I tell students something and when should I let them discover for themselves?
- When should I lecture and when should I hold other activities?
- When should I show students how to do something and when should I encourage them to try it themselves?
- When should I ask students to do something alone and when should I ask them to work together (collaborative learning)?
- If I see someone make a mistake in a lab, when should I correct the mistake and when should I let the student discover her/his own mistake?
- When should I review concepts orally and when should I use handouts?
By considering such questions, you can begin to formulate strategies and techniques that match the outcomes you set for the course. Then you can choose from a myriad of student learning approaches, such as discussion sessions, active learning, problem-based learning, group projects, team-based learning and peer learning, to name just a few.