Objective and Subjective Teaching

In a balanced education environment both object and subject teaching and learning methodologies are needed. At the beginning of a course an extrinsic objective introduction is given as to the course requirements and content.  Once this understanding has been transmitted to the student the process of learning can organically evolve into intrinsic subjective learning experience where the instructor guides the manifestation of the student’s development of course knowledge including practical application and integration with the overall body of student knowledge.

In the early years of education the objective Essentialism philosophy is important to instill the information needed to build knowledge. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise (2004) see teaching goals as: Absorption in grades 1 through 4; Critical thought in grades 5 through 8; and Expression in grades 9 through 12 (p. xxvi). Once the “basics” are learned then the child’s education can become more subjectively pragmatic. The installation of the essentials can be seen as a macro or broad approach to education. This is not to say that there will not be any other philosophical elements incorporated in a young child’s education. It is critical that “life lessons” and “learning skill” are basic to the child’s educational advancement.

Innovationism’s micro approach can be found in the application of individual subject matter. The elements of Essentialism are to be applied during the introduction of the course. This is to orient the student to what is contained in the course and what element of the course the student will be required to know and how she/he will be required to authenticate that knowledge.  Once the student has acquired the course’s essential knowledge then the instruction can begin to mutate into the application of that knowledge and a more progressive, inquiry-based agenda can emerge. For example, first the student is taught the basics of chemistry and, once mastered, they can attempt to blow up the classroom. This analogy is obviously tongue-in-cheek but illustrates the point.


Integrated Inter-Disciplinary Learning

Also known as non-linier and holistic with integrated learning teachers will not be confined to focusing on one discrete discipline at a time but will introduce lessons that combine (integrate both intra-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary) several different subjects that arouse curiosity and push students towards higher order thinking and enhance knowledge construction. For example, in addition to reading textbooks, students will interact with nature, society and contemporary community activities. Students are encouraged to interact with one another and develop social skills such as collaboration and empathy for differing points of view. They will also be exposed to a curriculum that encourages democratic principles and recognizes accomplishments of all citizens regardless of race, cultural background or gender (see: Arts and Curriculum Integration).


Deductive and Inductive Instruction Models

Two very distinct and opposing instructional pedagogical methodologies are the objective deductive and subjective inductive. Inductive instruction is considered an innovative education teaching model which is gradually replacing the deductive instructional model. Both approaches can offer certain advantages, but the biggest difference is the role of the teacher.

In a deductive classroom, the teacher conducts lessons by introducing and explaining concepts to students, and then expecting students to complete tasks to practice the concepts; this approach is very teacher-centered. Conversely, inductive instruction is a much more student-centered approach and makes use of a strategy known as ‘noticing’. When used in balance individually and in tandem both approaches can offer certain advantages to facilitate student learning.

Engineering and science are traditionally objectively taught deductively. The instructor:

  • introduces a topic by lecturing on general principles, then
  • uses the principles to derive mathematical models,
  • shows illustrative applications of the models,
  • gives students practice in similar derivations and applications in homework, and finally
  • tests their ability to do the same sorts of things on exams

Little or no attention is initially paid to:

  • the question of why any of that is being done
  • what real-world phenomena can the models explain,
  • what practical problems can they be used to solve, and
  • why the students should care about any of it

The only motivation to learn that students get – if they get any at all – is suggestions that the material will be important later in the curriculum or in their careers. A well-established precept of educational psychology is that people are most strongly motivated to learn things they clearly perceive a need to know. Simply telling students that they will need certain knowledge and skills some day is not a particularly effective motivator.

The alternative is subjective inductive teaching and learning. Instead of beginning with general principles and eventually getting to applications, the instruction begins with specifics – a set of observations or experimental data to interpret, a case study to analyze, or a complex real-world problem to solve. As the students attempt to analyze the data or scenario or solve the problem, they generate a need for facts, rules, procedures, and guiding principles, at which point they are either presented with the needed information or helped to discover it for themselves.

Inductive teaching and learning is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of instructional methods, including inquiry learning, problem-based learning, project-based learning, case-based teaching, discovery learning, and just-in-time teaching. These methods have many features in common, besides the fact that they all qualify as inductive. They are all learner-centered (aka student-centered), meaning that they impose more responsibility on students for their own learning than the traditional lecture-based deductive approach does.

They are all supported by research findings that students learn by fitting new information into existing cognitive structures and are unlikely to learn if the information has few apparent connections to what they already know and believe. They can all be characterized as constructivist methods, building on the widely accepted principle that students construct their own versions of reality rather than simply absorbing versions presented by their teachers. These methods almost always involve students discussing questions and solving problems in class (active learning), with much of the work in and out of class being done by students working in groups (collaborative or cooperative learning). (Prince & Felder, 2006)