Instructor vs. Learner Models of Teaching

In the book, Assessing the Online Learner, authors Palloff and Pratt mention two different educational models: transmission model and engaged critical model.

The Learning Pyramid.jpg

The transmission model is when “the instructor imparts information and the learner absorbs it.” This is the traditional model that I have experienced through most of my schooling in both undergrad and seminary. The authors go on to say that this is an instructor focused model, which very little focus is on the learner themselves. The learner is to passively absorb the information from the lecture, process it, and generally show their comptency on some type of an exam.

The engaged critical model is when “teaching and learning are seen as a creative dialogue.” The learner is the focus of this model. As you can see in the chart below this involves group discussions, practice, and teaching others. The authors state, “it becomes clear that what we call authentic assessment — that is, assessment that encourages learners to actually do something to demonstrate knowledge acquisition rather than taking a test or quiz — is not only a better indicator of knowledge acquisition but also more likely to align with outcomes and competencies, and it also contributes to the retention of knowledge gained.”

The goal for higher education should be to:

  1. Gain deep understanding of concepts
  2. Critique concepts
  3. Conduct that critique in front of others
  4. Perform independend inquiry
  5. Self-reflect
  6. Engage in open dialogue

The instructor focused model does not allow for these higher critical methods of thinking to take place.

I find this a very helpful approach when thinking about my future teaching career and my current situation of developing online courses. Passive learning is the least effective mode of learning.

Does this mean that it is time to throw out the lecture? I don’t think so. The lecture should still be seen as a productive and viable method of teaching, especially at the beginning stages of learning a concept. Plus, a lecture is not merely the act of reciting information but should pursuade and craft a certain way of thinking about an idea or concept. The lecture should not be seen as an end in itself but to function as a launching pad to have students engaged in these learner focused models of learning.

This information was derived from Assessing the Online Learner: Resources and Strategies for Faculty pp. 17–19

Helpful Resources

Thanks to my co-worker Kristen Ferguson for alerting me to this chart and book.