The Five Teaching Architectures

Here is a brief description of each of the five different teaching architectures we have developed:

Simulation-Based Learning by Doing:

This architecture aims to have students learn every possible skill through learning by doing. Because the doing of the task is what prepares the student for real life, it is important that the student be able to actively engage in such tasks. Simulations of all kinds can be built. But the designer must understand the situation well enough that the simulations will be accurate portrayals. This can mean, in the case of simulations of people-to-people interactions, having to create complex models of human institutions and human planning and emotional behavior. The Simulation-Based Learning by Doing Architecture is critical when the subject matter to be learned is experiential at heart. Much of natural learning is the accumulation of experience.

Incidental Learning:

Obviously, not everything is fun to learn. In fact, some things are terribly boring to learn. But people do habitually learn a variety of information that is quite dull, without being completely bored by it. Often, they do this by picking up the information "in passing," without intending to learn the information at all. The Incidental Learning Architecture is based on the creation of tasks whose end results are inherently interesting, and which can be used to impart dull information. We have built programs that impart incidental information while engaging the user in a fun and interesting task.

Learning by Reflection:

Sometimes a student doesn't need to be told something, but rather needs to know how to ask about it. It could be that the student has a vague plan he wishes to mull over. Or perhaps the student has a problem and needs to figure out a way to approach it. Or maybe the student has finished a project and wishes to think back on how he could have done it better. In such cases, a teacher's job is to open the student's eyes to new ways of thinking about his situation, to help the student articulate the situation and generate ways of moving forward. The teacher's job is to muse with the student.

Case-Based Teaching:

This architecture depends upon these two ideas: experts are repositories of cases, and good teachers are good storytellers. The task of this architecture is to tell students exactly what they need to know when they need to know it. When students are learning by doing, they experience knowledge failures, times when they realize that they need new information in order to progress. Such are the times when Case-Based Teaching can provide the knowledge that students need. Because isolated facts are difficult for students to integrate into their memories, useful knowledge is typically best presented in the form of stories.

Learning by Exploring:

The previous architectures deal with the difficult problems of getting students involved in their own learning and letting them learn through performing tasks that they care about. As we've pointed out, when students get involved, they naturally generate questions. And they are ready to learn from those questions. An important method of teaching is to answer a student's questions at the time he generates them, and carry on a conversation with him, answering whatever follow up questions he generates. The Learning by Exploring architecture is intended to provide such answers in a conversational format.

Next Story Implementing the Teaching Architectures

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