2.10. Methods of Instruction

Certified Facilitator of Adult Learning

Home Up Site Map Testing Center Guidelines Search

2.10. Methods of Instruction 

= 3 )) ||
((navigator.appName == “Microsoft Internet Explorer”) &&
(parseInt(navigator.appVersion) >= 4 )));
function MSFPpreload(img)
var a=new Image(); a.src=img; return a;
// –>Up
Module 2, test 3

   Module Two

2.10. Methods of Instruction

Methods of Instruction

The following methods are described for your use as a facilitator of adult learning. They provide a foundational basis for designing your learner’s experience.  Feel free to pick and choose and combine methods to meet your individual needs. Depending on the length of your program, you may find yourself using a variety of instructional methods, tailored to help the learners meet each objective.

Quick Links:
Lecture, Conference,
Discussion, Case Study,
Seminar, Panel,
Committee, Demonstration,
Practical Exercise,
Small Group Activity Method
Individualizes Instruction,


A lecture is a presentation developed almost entirely by the instructor.  Direct learner contribution is normally less than 10 minutes of the class hour.  When used properly, this method has points of strength. Examples of appropriate use of lecture are as follows: 

  1. to present information not otherwise available to the learner

  2. to stimulate interest

  3. to guide learner reading

  4. to explain difficult or new content

  5. to help learners to summarize discussion materials, or

  6. to present information to unusually large groups. 

Lectures should be used only if no more effective method of teaching is suitable for the topic, class size, and time available for the topic.  Many lectures are mere statements of material readily available in print to learners . A more effective method would be to require guided reading and follow it by discussion. 

The lecture is normally considered the least efficient method of teaching and the success of a lecture is directly related to the skill and knowledge of the lecturer.  Although a large number of points may be covered by the lecture method, it is false logic to assume that more actual learning is accomplished than would be by reducing the number of points and employing more efficient teaching through student participation.  Instructors will lecture only when no other means of presentation is suitable for a specific problem.


Nature of the Instructional Conference Method 

Teaching in which the instructor and the learners exchange information to attain specific teaching objectives is described as the conference method.  The outcome and conclusions reached are pre planned by the instructor and the conference is guided and controlled by him or her.  Normally, more than one-third of the class hour is devoted to planned active student participation.  This method helps students to clarify and adapt their thinking about new concepts;  it develops felt needs for further knowledge. 

Certain subjects, especially those intangible in nature, are best covered by the conference method.  More skill is required of the instructor than in the lecture method, to keep the discussion to the point and yet allow learners to participate freely in the exchange of ideas.  The instructor must be aware that sometimes the value of an idea is measured by its contribution to furthering the discussion, rather than by its absolute accuracy.  Learners must be guided from key point to key point and finally to a summary at the end of the session. 

The conference may not cover as much ground as a lecture but it makes learning more permanent and more meaningful to each class member.  Skill in teaching is reflected in the ability to use the resources of the group to promote the greatest possible interchange of learning.  Contributions made by learners can be most valuable, thereby enriching and illuminating the principles taught.  One very important stage of instruction is application; one method of securing application is by using the conference.   Following introduction of new units, most instructional situations are vehicles for the use of conference techniques.


Two phases make up a teaching conference:  the information phase and the discussion phase.  In the information phase an instructor presents facts he wishes the learners to learn and then provides ample time for them to ask questions to clear up points they do not understand.  It is used when an instructor is sure that the ideas presented will be accepted by the student as true.  In this part of the conference, care must be taken to avoid inconsequential yet time-consuming questions or irrelevant questions. 

The discussion phase requires that the learners develop the ideas which the instructor desires to teach.  He or she may begin by asking questions which are answered by the student applying reasoning, judgment, or experience.  This method, of course, presupposes that the student already has enough basic knowledge of the subject to be able to give reasonable responses to the questions asked by the instructor.  The method is particularly adaptable to presenting units of instruction in advanced subjects and is suitable for summarizing important points developed by previous instruction.  In preparing for an instructional conference, the instructor must anticipate group questions and must use great skill in keeping the conference within desired limits. In no other method is good questioning technique so important.



This method refers to a problem solving, committee, or seminar type of instruction during which conclusions are reached by the group.  Unlike the conference, the outcome of the discussion method is not specifically planned or directed by the instructor, who usually puts himself, or herself, on a level with the students and becomes a member of the group. This type of instruction may include case study or panel discussion.


The Case Study

Description.  The case study method of instruction is markedly different from the conventional classroom procedure.  Learners focus their attention toward one another, rather than toward the instructor.  Everyone is on an equal level and everyone is in competition.  A problem is presented for consideration,  discussion, and possible solution.  The case consists of a statement of those facts, opinions, and problems (real or hypothetical) that must be faced and solved.  Each case may contain one problem or several problems.

Objectives.  This method of instruction is used to assist the student to develop methods of thought and to provide a vehicle for enhancement of maturity and depth of viewpoint.  It seeks to instruct the student to recognize elements, rather than to explain what the elements are.  It develops perception by improving the power of discrimination; it teaches recognition and problem solving.  It is geared to stimulate and develop skill in thinking; in communication; in analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating ideas; in integrating divergent concepts; and in the general process of working with others.  Instead of providing a “best answer” or the “establishment solution” to a situation which may occur in the way presented in class, it develops the ability to solve a problem or meet a situation effectively when it does occur.  A student cannot be taught directly supervisory and managerial skills, but will learn or develop such capabilities if confronted with situations which require independent thought and use of principles and consideration of all questions, criticisms, and suggestions coming into play in the situation.

Use.  The case method should be considered for use in teaching portions of the following: general subjects, procedures, fundamentals, leadership, management, and preventive medicine problems.  It can be used in any situation in which basic common level knowledge has been established on a subject in a course and memory type skills are to be replaced by thinking, integrating, and analyzing skills.

Role of the Instructor.  The success of the case method depends upon the relation between instructor and learners .  The instructor should be on the same level (physically) as the students — not on a podium, and must put aside the authoritative role properly assumed in some other methods of instruction.  He, or she, must establish and maintain a permissive atmosphere which will allow students to express ideas freely and gain experience with the difficulties in reaching conclusions with others and communicating their ideas to others.  It is the instructor’s responsibility, however, to recognize and point out errors resulting from failure to discriminate between objective facts and personal evaluation of facts.  The instructor should have details of the case in mind in order to ask questions which relate to the case data and to check the accuracy, completeness, and relevance of a student’s contribution.  The teacher must formulate and occasionally summarize the student’s proposals in light of the particular set of objective facts, conflicting interests, and sentiments as posed by the case material.  Application of principles in solving problems should be stressed.

Procedure.  A conference type seating arrangement is preferred, with students able to face one another insofar as possible.  Groups should be limited to 20 or 25 in this type of instruction.  At the beginning of a lesson the instructor may elect to state a brief synopsis of the case, state a specific question, or merely raise a question such as, “ Who will volunteer to start the discussion?”  Calling for a volunteer to start the discussion is actually the beginning of the second phase of a case study and can be used only when a handout has been given to students sufficiently in advance for their consideration of the data.  As the discussion develops, the instructor may use questions to initiate an advance in group thinking; to reveal the relevance of previous discussion; to seek clarification of a contribution; or to emphasize the importance of a contribution.  At times, the instructor may restate students’ explanations, making certain not to change the original intent of the student.  He, or she, should also be able to perceive when summaries are needed and when they will contribute most effectively.

Evaluation.  The learner will find that apparently unrelated facts or statements begin to form a patterns that a solution satisfying the facts and conditions will result.  He or she will find that there are several possible solutions to each case.  The student’s progress will not be measured by the course of action he, or she, recommends for a solution and to demonstrate a grasp of the entire problem situation.  There should be no “school solution”.  The learner must regard the material as guiding, background information supplementing the case under discussion.  The participant should be taught that the case is a vehicle intended to develop learner potentialities and use of principles, and that this is best done if the discussant demonstrates and explains in detail ( but concisely) the nature, methods, and reasons concerning a proposed solution.  Emphasis should be upon specific, concise statements.



Definition.  A seminar is a problem solving educational development conference in which a group of supervised learners (in advanced individual study stage or performing research) may present their problems, findings, conclusions, or opinions in order to receive the benefit of constructive criticism or advice.  The purpose is to crystallize concepts concerning the subject at hand and to open avenues for further study and thought.  Seminars may vary in duration according to the scope of activity.  Some require individual group practice of a specific skill process.  Most seminars are devoted to activities of a problem solving nature in which former skills are called upon concurrently.  In these, learners confirm or clarify understandings through an exchange of ideas.

Procedure.  Small groups of learners may meet in assigned rooms to engage in a seminar.  The instructor serves as a moderator; all participants have equal voice.  The burden is placed upon seminar members to prepare for the session or series of sessions in which ideas, problems, and opinions are submitted for penetrating and comprehensive analysis.  Communication skills and especially, conference techniques are practiced extensively during seminar periods.  Learning previously acquired is reinforced and integrated.



Definition.  A panel is an orderly and logical presentation of material to the class by several people having some special knowledge of the subject.  The panel may be presented as a symposium, a debate, or an open panel.  A question and answer period is usually included.

Procedure.  While the procedure for a panel is flexible, the instructor must take certain actions to ensure its success;  must select the participants carefully and brief them in advance; will frequently have to introduce the topic and the panelists, ask key questions to start the discussion, guide the discussion, and summarize it.



The committee may also be considered a type of discussion.  Further information on the committee may be found below on the practical exercise method.



This method consists of displaying equipment or showing a correct procedure or process.  Demonstrations must be carefully planned, since they exemplify the demonstrator’s skill.  They may be portrayed by the instructor or assistants, by a special demonstration by outsiders, or by appropriate audiovisual resources.  This method may be used effectively in structuring basic, technical, tactical, and logistic subjects.  It may constitute a lesson in itself, but is frequently only a part of a lesson, used in conjunction with one or more of the other types of instruction.  One type of demonstration is a skit, a dramatic presentation by a group in which the participants portray the handling of a problem.  A skit is scripted and rehearsed;  it is usually an introductory device.  A tour is also considered a demonstration, as are some types of role playing.


Practical Exercise 

In this method the learner learns by doing instead of by listening or by watching others.  By performance of an action he, or she, completes understanding, and by repetition of it becomes proficient.  This is one of the easiest and most natural ways of learning.  To be effective, the practical exercise must be preceded by instruction in the form of lectures, demonstrations, assigned readings, or discussions.  A practical exercise may be performed independently or under supervision; by the group as a whole, by small groups, by paired students, or by individuals. 

The Controlled Group Method

            In this method the learner works under the direct control of the instructor and assistants. The keynote of the method is imitation.  The instructor explains and demonstrates a step; then the students imitate that step.  This method is particularly effective for instructing large numbers of students with relatively few instructors and is well adapted to instructing in performance and procedures new to the students.  Used too frequently or for long periods of time, the method tends to bore and fatigue the student.

The Supervised Individual Performance Method 

            In this method the instructor explains and demonstrates a procedure and then lets each learner work at his, or her, own pace.  This method develops the student’s initiative, self-reliance, and confidence.  It is limited in its use by the number of individuals whom one instructor can supervise properly.  It should always include critical appraisal guidance.

The Coach and Pupil Method 

            Following the instructor’s initial explanation and demonstration of the work, individuals are paired off as coach and pupil.  The pupil performs a given phase of the instruction while the coach supervises.  Then they reverse positions:  the coach becomes the pupil and the pupil the coach.  This method is excellent for instructing large groups with relatively few instructors.  It develops the student’s initiative and self-reliance as well as the ability to supervise and instruct.  It does have certain limitations in use among very inexperienced students who do not have even an elementary understanding of the new or very difficult material.


The Small Group Activity Method 

This method involves practical exercise for groups of students of less than a section (classroom) size.  Small group activity emphasizes discussion and interchange of ideas not only between students and instructors but also among students themselves.

Criteria.  The following criteria are essential to the several forms of small group activity method:  the small group will consist of from 2 to 16 students; the physical facilities and classroom atmosphere must permit a free interchange of ideas; the group must be specifically formed and the group purpose explicitly stated; and there must be a designated group leader to ensure controlled and profitable group activity.  The group should be as heterogeneous as possible to ensure a variety of experience, training, and viewpoints.


Developmental Discussion

This method is used in instruction which requires the student to apply fundamental information to a specific problem.  The problem is worked on collectively by the group through the medium of discussion.  The student group leader does not have a standard solution but does have other guidance materials.  The task for the group is to uncover all problem areas and their major aspects, with individuals of the group reaching their own individual conclusions or solutions.  It is essential that the goal of the discussion be recognized as an individual ( not group) solution to the problem.



In the committee method, a small group under a chairman is assigned the mission of collectively studying and corporately solving a broad problem.  The goal is a group solution but with full provisions for minority views.  Learner presentations, when called for, will be by committee (group) to include minority reports as appropriate.  The committee method develops teamwork and provides practice in conferences and committee techniques of persuasion and adjustment without compromising on fundamental issues.  Committee chairmen should not be given a specific solution, but should have adequate guidance to ensure profitable and meaningful discussion.  The committee method does not provide for individual decision-making.  It is suited to general subjects where individual decision-making is not a primary objective.

 Small Group Activity Leaders

            1.  When small group activity is used in presenting a subject, the instructor will develop guidance for learner leaders to ensure that the small group work is effective, profitable, and pertinent.  The guidance must consider the following variables:  form of small group activity (e.g., committee); level of learner knowledge; relationship to preceding and subsequent lessons; and time allocated for learner-led discussion.

            2.  Learner leaders will be provided in advance with written or oral guidance.  Discussion leaders and committee chairmen will be given: (1) a clear statement of the problem; (2) a breakdown into major topics (if applicable) with a suggested time allocation; (3) action that will be required upon completion of work group; (4) materials available for group work (5) appropriate background material.  Staff exercise learner leaders will be given (1) a clear portrayal of the situation; (2) a concise statement of the problem; (3) the time allocated; and (4) the requirements to be placed on the staff on completion of group work.

            3.  Group leaders will always be designated in advance when it is planned that small group activity will be used.  Although the members of the group have their obligations, the main burden of successful group activity remains on the leader.  His, or her, task is to introduce the requirement, guide the work of the group to the required goal, summarize frequently, and designate a member of the group to give the summary report.


Role Playing

A problem situation is created in which the student is placed for the purpose of applying new knowledge to the solution of the problem.  Unlike a skit, it is unrehearsed and does not follow a script.  It is especially useful to conclude a vital topic.


The Computer

1.       Multiple courses can be taught simultaneously by one computer.

2.    The learner’s performance can be recorded and the computer can be programmed to alter the instructional sequence based on individual responses or on groups of responses perhaps using some statistical technique for summarization before making the decision to alter the sequence.

3.     The program can be changed more readily than books, films, or TV

4.       Responses can be constructed by the learner in his, or her, own language and still be interpreted as right or wrong by the computer.

5.       The Internet and world wide web open up resources previously unavailable to adult learners.


Individualized Instruction

            A method of instruction that has received increasing attention and use in recent years is individualized instruction.  In the past, learners learning through independent study were usually limited to texts or correspondence courses.  Now that many new media have been placed within the reach of students, self-study has not only become more interesting but more effective.  “Self-study” does not refer to routine assignments to be prepared for a specific class ( e.g.. pages in a text to read in preparation for a conference type lesson, or to provide background information for a lecture).  It refers to “nonclass” hours during which a learner obtains information via a workbook, a programmed text, a regular text, an unsupervised laboratory experiment, research, a computer, or any other source of information.  It was formerly described as Independent Study.  Its scope may be a small part of a course or a sizable segment.  Individualized units are not ordinarily used for an entire course, but could be.  This technique is most frequently found integrated with other methods of instruction.  A computer gives limitless possibilities in using the individualized instruction method effectively.  Research studies have indicated that this method not only conserves teacher time for more valuable and personal help to students, but also produces as high a quality of learning as the instructor-controlled methods; in fact, the quality of learning and the retention of the subject matter has, in many cases, proved to be better.


The examination is a testing of knowledge in order to determine current level and quality of knowledge and to evaluate rate of progress.  It may be written, oral, or performance type.  It provides the student with an opportunity to organize knowledge or sharpen skills.  Some educators feel that minute for minute more actual learning can take place as a result of a student’s preparing for, taking, and reviewing a well constructed examination than by means of any other method of instruction. Though commonly thought of as a measure for evaluation purposes, it must also be classified as a method of instruction.

From: Faculty Training Institutes, America Society of Allied Health Professions, 1974-75


BONUS!  Here are some examples of different instruction methods, all based on making coffee!


10 minutes – Lecture/handout – how to make coffee
-get a coffee maker
-get a bag of coffee
-put coffee filter in coffee basket
-put 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for each 6 ounce cup in the coffee basket
-pour equivalent amount of water in back of coffee maker for number of cups desired
-plug in coffee pot
-turn on coffee pot
-when finished brewing, pour coffee into cups
-after coffee has been served, dispose of coffee grounds and wash coffee maker and cups
20 minutes – Each participant makes coffee using pot/coffee grounds/cups you provide (Facilitator is available for participant questions)
5 minutes – You drink the coffee and provide feedback
CRITERIA FOR FEEDBACK (on a scale from 1 – 5, 5 being best)
1. Aroma of coffee
2. Taste of coffee
3. Efficacy of the coffee making process
4. Satisfaction with final product
Before the committee meeting, each participant gathers a recipe for making coffee and brings it with them to the committee meeting.
10 minutes – participants share recipes for making coffee
5 minutes – participants develop criteria for feedback for coffee
10 minutes – participants make coffee based upon agreed upon best recipe
5 minutes – participants use the criteria they developed to "grade" the coffee that they just made.
10 minutes – Lecture/Discussion of how to make coffee and criteria for good coffee. (see content & criteria listed above)
15 minutes – Divide participants into small groups.  Each group will make coffee and present their coffee to all the other groups for feedback. Groups give each other feedback.
5 minutes – You will facilitate a discussion to elicit the "best" and "worse" ways to make coffee based upon the group experience.



 Go to  Module 2, Test 3.




Home ] [ Up ] [ Module 2, test 3 ]

Send mail to
questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright ? 2008 Mountain Valley Center
Last modified: 02/27/08
Facebook Comments