Balanced Learning

With the rise of diversity and inclusion in higher education, the needs of students have drastically changed. The same methods that have been used for decades may not carry the same efficacy as it did before. A push for more aberrant methods may be exactly what higher education needs, to an extent. Although I fully support more creative and unique methods of teaching, I do feel swinging too far to the other side of the “teaching spectrum” so-to-speak could be harmful.

The most impactful higher educational experience I’ve had came from a course called Infectious Disease Epidemiology. Aside from the collectively taught curriculum, the thing that stood out to me the most was the consistent balanced structure of the course. In each unit of the course, professors would combine traditional lectures with some case-based learning project at the end. As someone who thrives in a traditional lecture setting, it made me uneasy yet confident in the work I was doing. Although I struggle with the critical thinking and ingenuity typically required of case-based learning projects, I was allowed to think about topics pertinent to the case objectively and gain an arsenal of knowledgeable tools beforehand.

In this course in particular, I was allowed to learn how others had used important strategies and protocol before personally applying them to a similar case or situation. Students were lectured on important topics before given their case to work on. Contrarily, I am sure working through a case together from start to finish develops a more natural understanding of a particular problem or topic. However, I feel this combination of traditional and contemporary methods can provide a better education for a wider range of students. Seeing as not every student has had their critical thinking nurtured appropriately by their academic settings, this combination of methods could prove optimal.

Overall, I feel that case based learning can be an incredible thing to include in the structure of a class. However, its implementation should be done with caution as to not exclude or create any difficult boundaries for students that may not have developed the necessary critical thinking skills to hit the ground running in a case based learning scenario. That is, a healthy balance between traditional lectures and case based learning projects could enrich learning for all students.


Math Pun of the day:  Any shape is a circle if you treat the radius as a variable!

7 thoughts on “Balanced Learning

  1. Jenna Davis says:

    Hi! Good job on this post. I completely agree that I think there needs to be a balance of teaching styles so that students who learn differently do not feel left out or behind. It’s important to have multiple methods so that everyone is getting the most out of the material.

  2. mjessie1 says:

    I completely agree! I think a balance of new and traditional teaching methods really helps to create a well balanced learning experience. In my blog I wrote about how much I enjoyed being assigned a good old fashioned research paper, and how it gave me a chance to dig into a topic I might not have a chance to explore as a professional. So I’m glad to hear that someone else likes a mix of some of the more traditional elements as well.

  3. cmfernan says:

    Thanks for sharing! I think you’re right, it is a balancing act. Inclusive education and student centered learning techniques are a bridge to allow both, not just one form of learning, to happen simultaneously in the class room. The goal is to foster creative minds and academic growth, and everyone learns differently. Catering to students individual needs also reduces stereotype threat, which we all know, we could use less of in higher education practices. So again, I agree, balance is key. Higher education needs to take some yoga classes 🙂

  4. readyornothereweblog says:

    I’m a little confused on how you advise on gradually implementing case based learning on the premise that some people haven’t had their critical thinking skills fostered, and that lecturing before implementing case based learning will somehow increase critical thinking ability. To me, case based learning and real world application of concepts taught in a class to solve relevant problems is the best way to increase critical thinking skills. At its core, lecturing should provide the information and background knowledge necessary to function proficiently in a particular field, and from there students should take that base knowledge and implement it into their field of study. Basically, lecturing should provide “book learning” and case based learning should provide “common sense” or “street learning.” If a student is less experienced at thinking critically then more book learning won’t help, they need real world experience i.e. a case based style of instruction that will provide tangible connections to the material with similar scenarios that the student would be confronted with after completing their education.

    • gabrils says:

      Thank you for the comment! Perhaps I was not entirely clear on the implementation. I do not mean that case based learning should be gradually implemented; instead, I propose that it be incorporated alongside traditional lectures. For students that are unfamiliar with a particular topic and do not have strong critical thinking skills, it may be difficult to determine where and how to start tackling a real world problem. For instance, take the “swim or sink” scenario. If you throw a person into a pool without them having any prior knowledge of swimming or its mechanics, there will likely be a 50-50 chance the person figures out how to swim. However, if you explain to them calmly kicking, moving their arms in a horizontal manner, and constant breathing is important to staying afloat, those chances of the person figuring out how to swim will increase while still giving them the opportunity figure out a stroke style that fits them best.

      I use this scenario because it describes me as a person. When I was younger I LOVED swimming, despite knowing nothing about swimming. That is, I tended to jump in and sink into a pool before my parents could give me a life vest. I could see that others in the pool were moving their arms and legs to swim, but since I was so focused on trying to move around in the water I couldn’t quite focus on exactly *how* they were moving to stay afloat. This changed when I watched Olympic swimming on TV and started getting an understanding of the mechanics. After seeing an example of proper swimming and dedicating some time to understanding how swimming works, I was able to figure out on my own how to do what is called a “frog style” (something entirely different than what I watched on TV). There are people, like me, that require some sort of example of how a problem can be addressed before developing their own way of addressing the same problem. And in having this example, we are able to dedicate time to understanding the fundamentals of solving a particular type of problem before expanding upon it.

      This is all to say, that supplementing “street learning” with a little “book learning” beforehand will improve the “street learning” for more people. Let’s face it, some people have more common sense than others and some have more book smarts than others. I believe that learning can be optimal if the two instructional styles are balanced.

  5. I completely agree! There is a time and place for lectures and a healthy balance of lecture-based and case-based teaching is necessary. Sometimes students need to be provided a base set of knowledge. Going back to Bloom’s Taxonomy, without knowledge, reaching higher levels of comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation are impossible. Depending on the class, students may enter the class with different levels of knowledge and background experience. I believe that a well-prepared lecture can successfully get students up to speed on the class material before diving into higher level case-based learning.

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