What Methods of Teaching are Used in College Programs?

teachColleges are increasingly under pressure to provide instruction that properly prepares students for the rigors of their careers. The importance of real student understanding and learning now permeates the college classroom with beneficial results. The raw presentation of large amounts of information is no longer seen as the most effective method in most cases. This has given way to a variety of instructional methods that are employed in college classrooms. Each method has various pros and cons, and most professors employ a variety of methods.

The Classic Lecture

The lecture was, and still is, one of the most common methods of college-level instruction. While its use has been decreasing, college students will invariably encounter lecturing in many of their classrooms. The lecture has the advantage of providing large amounts of information to a large amount of students efficiently, but it suffers from a lack of student engagement and feedback, and it will fail miserably if students do not have the background knowledge necessary for understanding. Lecture is more likely to be used exclusively in classes that are considered general education and presented to large numbers of students.

The Case Method

The case method involves deeply researching and analyzing a particular event, subject or person in a sort of case-study approach. This is most often encountered in classes that examine critical current issues or subjects of debate. It lends well to student interaction and collaborative learning. It also develops student’s critical thinking skills. The case method’s disadvantages are that it is time-consuming and necessarily narrow in the subject matter explored.


This is a common style that works well in conjunction with lecture and gives students a chance to work cooperatively and provide feedback on lecture topics. Student’s often learn from one another in a discussion and have a chance to clarify understanding. A professor will commonly give a lecture and then provide an opportunity for student discussions on the subject. Discussions are most effective if they are properly guided. While they can be very beneficial to students, they can also be less efficient if students get off topic or are unengaged in the discussion. This method can be used in a variety of settings and will be encountered often.

Active Learning

Active learning is currently seen as one of the most effective learning methods. It gives students the most direct access and control of their learning. Often, teachers will pose questions, problems or topics and provide resources for discovery. The students will then conduct their own research, experimentation or group work to address the provided topic. Students must also apply what they are learning to projects, experiments or in a group activity. This method pushes students because they must become active participants. It also pushes teachers, requiring a great deal more preparation than most other methods. It tends to work poorly with large classroom sizes. Students will likely encounter more active learning as they reach the upper-level classes in their degree.

Technology Integration

The use of technology to enhance learning and presentation permeates college-level work. Students will often create visual presentations using programs such as Microsoft Power Point or Publisher. Teachers may also make extensive use of online tools, Smart Boards and other in-class technology.

For the most part, the teaching methods used in the modern college classroom are superior to those used in the past. They are also more resource consuming, requiring more professors, smaller class sizes and more physical resources. What students encounter in their learning experience is largely a product of the size of the institution and the cost of tuition.

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