Patterns for Classroom Education

By: D.L. Anthony
Published in: PLoPD2
Pages: 391-406
Category: Training

Summary: How to teach difficult technical topics.

Pattern: Iterative Course Development

Pages: 392-393

To develop a course that considers the needs of all kinds of students, develop courses iteratively. Create your best effort in isolation, then present it. As audiences change, the course will grow and improve.

Pattern: Chicken and Egg

Pages: 393-394

Two concepts are each a prerequisite of the other. The student who doesn't know A won't understand B, and the student who doesn't know B won't understand A. Give students the illusion of understanding by explaining A and B superficially. Iterate the explanations over and over, each time going into more detail. Maintain the illusion of understanding at each step.

Pattern: Mix New and Old

Pages: 394

Basic concepts must be reviewed over and over, but that gets boring. New concepts must be introduced, but few students can handle more than 10-15% new material at a time. Iterate over a concept several times. Each time, present the material in a different way to accommodate a different learning style and mix in new material with the old.

Pattern: Pitfall Diagnosis and Prevention

Pages: 394-395

Some concepts are pitfalls and are missed by many students. To keep students from falling into these traps, use an ounce of prevention. If something was a problem in one session, place extra emphasis on that topic when it comes up later.

Pattern: Module's Story

Pages: 395-396

To make a module feel like a coherent whole, create an example, exercise, or goal that uses all the topics in the module. Make the flow of the module into a story. Keeping the story in mind will help the module flow this way. You may not actually have to tell the story to the students for this to be effective.

Pattern: Seven Parts

Pages: 396-397

If you divide each module into about seven steps or subtopics, it will seem about right to most people.

Pattern: Visible Checklist

Pages: 397-398

To relate the preview and review of a module to each other and to the material presented in between, when previewing the modules, use a visual aid as a checklist. Keep the checklist visible throughout the module. When you go to a new topic, refer to the checklist. At the end, use the checklist for review.

Pattern: Acquaintance Examples

Pages: 398-399

The examples for a training class should be familiar to students but not in their area of expertise. For example, choose business examples that students patronize but don't operate, such as a hotel or a video store.

Pattern: Example Lasts One Week

Pages: 399-400

How long should you use an example in a training course? When should you introduce a new one? Continue to use an example throughout a week-long course. Over a weekend, details of an example are forgotten, so introduce a new one the next week.

Pattern: Reference Examples

Pages: 400

A course must fit into tight time constraints but still cover the required material. To provide examples even though you can't spend time on them, give references to examples that students can use after the session ends.

Pattern: Colorful Analogy

Pages: 400-401

Some important concepts involve boring details that aren't suitable for Simulation Games. A dry concept can still be illustrated with a colorful analogy.

Pattern: Simulation Games

Pages: 401-402

You'll need to explain tricky concepts and provide interaction. Playing a simulation of a complex activity often gives students a much better understanding than a straight explanation. These activities also provide an opportunity for interaction.

Pattern: Quiz Games

Pages: 402-403

Review is necessary but can be boring. Testing students' comprehension is useful but makes students nervous. When a section of the material is not suitable for Simulation Games, but you still want to provide interaction, use a quiz game, modeled on sports, board games, or TV game shows. These are entertaining as well as a familiar, safe format.

Pattern: Debrief After Activities

Pages: 403

You're using Simulation Games or you've just completed an exercise. Some students haven't grasped the concepts the activity was intended to convey. To ensure that students still get the maximum value out of the experience, after the activity, lead a discussion of what the students learned. Ask open-ended questions (without a yes/no answer) to draw out comments and insights from each student. Students will value one another's discoveries more than what is simply told to them by the instructor.