A method of designing lessons which takes into account and utilizes the different learning styles of learners.
In order to be an effective teacher, one must study the science of pedagogy and instructional design. Learning how to managing activities and instruction in the classroom can empower educators to facilitate courses that optimize the learning potential of every student. Professionals who desire to work with students of all ages usually must complete a course in pedagogy and in the practice of instructional design before entering the classroom. Many state teacher examines also evaluate an educator's understanding of pedagogical and instructional theory in the core subject areas.
The Science of Pedagogy
Pedagogy is the science and art of education, specifically instructional theory. An instructor develops conceptual knowledge and manages the content of learning activities in pedagogical settings. Modern pedagogy has been strongly influenced by the theories of three major heavy-weights in the science of human development: Jean Piaget's cognitive theory of development and Lev Vygotsky and Jerome Bruner's social interaction and cultural theory. Piaget argued that children construct an understanding of the world around them, and then experience discrepancies between what they already know and what they discover in their environment. Vygotsky and Bruner's theory complimented Piaget's discovery. The social-interactionist theory stated that pedagogy should be designed around the fact that learners construct the new language through socially mediated interaction.
Although Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner conducted their research during the mid-to-late 1900s, they continue to influence pedagogy today. These theorists have laid a foundation for pedagogy where sequential development of individual mental processes—such as recognizing, recalling, analyzing, reflecting, applying, creating, understanding, and evaluating—are scaffolded. Students learn as they internalize the procedures, organization, and structures encountered in social contexts as their own schemata. The learner requires assistance to integrate prior knowledge with new knowledge. Children must also develop metacognition, or the ability to learn how to learn. Learning how to integrate prior knowledge and learning how to learn should be a part of the classroom experience and should be facilitated by the teacher.
Simply put, pedagogy is defined as many different types and variations of teaching. As such, there are many different ways in which students learn and teachers teach. Some of these ways are inclusive of discovery learning, group learning, hands on learning, distance learning, and independent study.
The Practice of Instructional Design
In the profession of teaching, instructional design is just as important as pedagogy. In fact one influences and shapes the other. Instructional Design (also called Instructional Systems Design (ISD)) is the practice of creating "instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing. " The process consists broadly of determining the current state and needs of the learner, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some "intervention" to assist in the transition. Ideally the process is informed by pedagogically (process of teaching) tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led or community-based settings. The outcome of this instruction may be directly observable and scientifically measured or completely hidden and assumed. There are many instructional design models but many are based on the ADDIE model with the five phases: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. As a field, instructional design is historically and traditionally rooted in cognitive and behavioral psychology, though recently Constructivism (learning theory) has influenced thinking in the field.
Gagné's Theory of Instruction
While Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky shaped the science of pedagogy, Robert Gagné is often seen as the driving force behind the development of instructional design. Gagné developed some of the earliest instructional design models and ideas. Each of these models are based on a core set of learning phases that include (1) activation of prior experience, (2) demonstration of skills, (3) application of skills, and (4) integration or these skills into real world activities.
Gagné's main focus for instructional design was how instruction and learning could be systematically connected to the design of instruction. He emphasized the design principles and procedures that need to take place for effective teaching and learning. Prior to Gagné, learning was often thought of as a single, uniform process. There was little to no distinction between "learning to load a rifle and learning to solve a complex mathematical problem". Gagné offered an alternative view which developed the ideas of different learners required different learning strategies. Understanding and designing instruction based on a learning style defined by the individual brought about new theories and approaches to teaching. Gagné 's understanding and theories of human learning added significantly to understanding the stages in cognitive processing and instructions. For example, Gagné argued instructional designers must understand the characteristics and functions of short term and long-term memory to facilitate meaningful learning. This idea encouraged instructional designers to include cognitive needs a top-down instructional approach.
Gagné's work continues to influence American education, military and industrial training today. Gagné was one of the early developers of the concept of instructional systems design which suggests the components of a lesson can be analyzed and should be designed to operate together as an integrated plan for instruction. Gagné defined instruction as "the set of planned external events which influence the process of learning and thus promote learning. " According to Gagné, learning occurs in a series of learning events. Each learning event must be accomplished before the next in order for learning to take place. Similarly, instructional events should mirror the following learning events: gaining attention, informing learners of objectives, stimulating recall of prior learning, presenting the stimulus, providing learning guidance, eliciting performance, providing feedback, assessing performance, and enhancing retention and transfer.
Some educators believe that Gagné's taxonomy of learning outcomes and events of instruction oversimplify the learning process by over-prescribing. However, using them as part of a complete instructional package can assist many educators in becoming more organized and staying focused on the instructional goals.
Universal Design for learning is a method of instructional design and lesson planning which takes into account the different learning styles of learners. Educators who utilize this model can become more efficient and effective teachers by creating lessons and classroom activities which allow learners from these different learning style groups to be taught simultaneously reducing the need for remedial or developmental work later to "catch up" learners whose style was not addressed in the planned lesson.
There are five different learning styles, which can be remembered by the acronym VARK: Visual, or learners who learn by seeing or having something demonstrated; Aural, or learners who learn by hearing; Read/Write, or learners who learn simply by reading material and/or writing about material; Kinesthetic, or learners who learn by physically doing something.
A teacher who creates a lesson plan in which she plans to give a history lecture followed by a test over the material will likely find that aural learners will do well on the test while learners in the other three learning style areas may struggle with the content.
Lesson planning which attempts to cater to all four of the learning styles is most effective as a larger population of learners will benefit from the content and teaching methods.