EDU 6526: Using Inductive Teaching Across Disciplines

After exploring the topic of Inductive Teaching this week, I am struck with one major advantage of the technique: the ability to simultaneously teach across multiple disciplines. It seems that, as the entire basis of the approach is in asking questions, and encouraging students to do the same, it can be easily applied to a variety of subject areas, and often at the same time. As we know from current neurological learning research, the ability of students to transfer information between distinct learning environments aids significantly in their long-term retention of knowledge. Therefore, it appears that inductive teaching is a tool which should be greatly employed by any teacher of any subject.

The first example that led me to this thought was the lesson conducted in class this week. In what seemed to be a literacy-based lesson, we used an excerpt from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography (see Figure 1)

My Great Good Fortune excerpt

Figure 1

to explore concepts of immigration, genealogy and heritage. We began by a simple read-aloud of the text – a classic element of any literacy activity. However, through inductive techniques of generating questions from and about keywords or phrases, our instructor seamlessly shifted the focus of the lesson to our own interests in social studies concepts. I can imagine that through further examination of the text, a teacher could easily design entire units around immigration, students’ personal immigration stories and cultural heritage exploration – all the while using personal narrative texts like the original Jefferson piece to guide the study. This kind of cross-discipline unit offers a rich supply of interest-driven and personally relevant learning for any group of students.

Another example of an interdisciplinary invocation of inductive teaching comes from the text Models of Teaching. Chapter four describes how to use a scientific inquiry approach in teaching, focusing on the scientific method to examine not only facts, but the process used to arrive at said facts. Of course this technique easily fits with any science lesson, and indeed the authors use it to describe a social science lesson for elementary students. However, I am excited by the possibility of connecting this same social science lesson to a social-emotional, or character curriculum. The text describes using the scientific method to ask questions about human behavior and emotion, which appears to be a wonderfully effective method of teaching young students about the process of information-gathering and research. Imagine the possible expansion of learning if the research findings around motivations of human behavior are then connected to the lessons of empathy and respect found in social emotional curriculum like Second Step or The Character Institute. Suddenly young students would be able to connect their own feelings and strategies for managing emotions to the science-backed facts about the general human population’s ability to do the same. Talk about relevant content! The inductive teaching used in this social science model, as well as in the previously-discussed literacy lesson, seems to allow for endless and exciting learning opportunities across an array of essential content areas.

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