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By Dr. Harry Tennant

Edclicking

by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: small groups
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Individualized tutoring vs. online instruction

I have been told that individualized tutoring is the gold standard of instruction. 

A classroom of one beats a large classroom because the student proceeds at her own pace, her particular misunderstandings are addressed quickly and any deficits in background or preparation are detected and remedied. Having a teacher beats self-learning because the teacher provides guidance and diagnoses problems, both of which can be impediments to self-learners.

But what about small groups? One of my favorite learning experiences was participating in a Great Books group. There were six or seven of us. There was no teacher present but guidance was provided by the Great Books organization. They selected readings and provided a scheme for discussing each one. What does the author say? What does he mean? What of it? I invariably got more out of the reading by participating in the discussion than I had on my own. (Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren elaborate on this in their classic How to Read a Book.)

Online courses offer the benefits of guidance and small group interaction. The groups can be conducted face to face like our Great Books group, but done through online video conferencing. Or they might be done through written interactions.

What about diagnosing misunderstandings and deficits in preparation? Quizzes have been effective diagnostic tools and are even easier to use and assess online.

I expect that we will see online instruction to small groups emerging as more effective than the "gold standard" of individualized tutoring.

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Keywords: online instruction, small groups

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