Sunday, May 15, 2011
Last week, one of my co-bloggers discussed two studies on teaching methods. One study said that the lecture method was better; another said the problem method was better. He concluded that "Maybe a hybrid style is best; one that combines lectures that deliver background information with in-class problem solving exercises that engage students and reinforce the lecture material in a concrete way." Obviously, my co-blogger was right. Using more than one approach reinforces learning. Students learn better when they are told how to do something, then they apply it.
In my UCC classes in law school, we would usually start the class discussing a UCC section and cases that applied it. We would later go over problems that used this section. Using this combination lecture/problem solving method was a better method to learn for me than the straight socratic method that was used in most of my other classes.
I teach legal writing similarly. For example, when I teach point headings, I start by telling the class what is and what is not a good point heading. Next, we look at examples of point headings, and I have the students tell me what is good or bad about an example. Finally, I use exercises in which the students have to write point headings based on short scenarios.
In sum, I do not believe that any of the usual teaching methods are good or bad. They just need to be used in combination to reinforce each other. If you start out with a problem with no background, the student will be lost. On the other hand, if you just lecture or use the socratic method, the student will never get to apply what he or she has learned.