This week’s module on direction instruction and cultural literacy reinforced my belief that instructional strategies can only take a class so far – the engagement of students is often more a result of the teacher. As we moved along through the Survey of Instructional Strategies course, we studied many strategies that essentially opposed the traditional approach of direct instruction. Even members of the class posted comments regarding their bad experiences with direct instruction in history classes. Yet their concerns don’t really seem to be about direct instruction, as it is the engagement with material. My guess is that most students (at least college age or older) have experienced at least one professor or teacher who used direct instruction and kept the class enthralled in the topic. My point is that the strategy itself isn’t flawed – it is the combination of the wrong strategy at the wrong time with the wrong teacher.
I advocate for teachers at least trying to use as many instructional strategies as possible. This variety keeps the class’ attention and keeps a teacher thinking of new ways to introduce content. At the same time, most teachers should hone in on the strategies that work for them the best. With this said, teachers must have an idea for how the classroom should generally look like on a daily basis. I enjoy the approach of Mortimer Adler and the “Paideia” program. The emphasis on values and ideas that people face throughout history is a perfect approach for our Collegio curriculum at Seattle Prep. As an integrated course of English and History, we teach from the perspective of big ideas, themes, and essential questions. This makes more a curriculum that allows students to connect ideas from the 17th century with those from the 21st. History no longer becomes a classroom of facts, dates, and names. It becomes a room where ideas are discussed based on time periods and context.