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Is there only one proper way to teach using these worksheets?

Short answer:

No. These worksheets do not embody a specific method of teaching so much as they do a general philosophy of teaching: that students learn at a very high level, as well as learn to teach themselves, when they personally research the subject matter and subsequently present their work in a constructively critical environment. These principles are not limited to application in any one classroom format.

Long answer:

What I'm really trying to communicate with this website is a general philosophy of instruction, complete with resources to expedite its implementation. However, this does not mean that the particular format I chose to implement is the best. In the interest of provoking creative thought among educators, I present the following principles I believe to be responsible for the student success I've seen when learning in a "research/presentation" format:

Prior exposure to material: Students should enter a classroom ready to discuss what they have already exposed themselves to before class. Class time should never be students' initial encounter with the subject matter. People learn by establishing cognitive connections, and these connections are enhanced if students build familiarity with the subject matter before discussing it with others. This is especially true for people who process information slower than most, for whom the pace of discussion in a group setting or a lecture is faster than they can absorb.

Accountability for study: It is human nature to avoid the unnecessary. Make engagement with the course material a necessary action by holding students accountable for their study every time they meet. Telling students that "they ought to study," or that "they really should read about tomorrow's subject at home tonight" is wishful thinking.

Students present what they've learned: Something every teacher knows is that you never learn a subject quite as well as when you teach it to someone else. The very act of expressing newly acquired knowledge consolidates that knowledge in the mind of the learner, because the learner casts that knowledge into their own terms. Harness the power of this process by having students regularly explain what they've learned to others.

Expose students' thought processes: Have students present their thinking as they work, not just provide answers to problems or facts researched. When students explain the problem-solving techniques, research strategies, and creativity applied in their work, it allows the instructor to critique and refine those essential skills. Sharing these processes sharpens the audience's cognitive skills as well.

Detect and correct misconceptions with "Socratic Irony": Student activities should include exercises designed to expose common misconceptions. The exposure should be done in such a way as to avoid embarrassment for the student: the point here is not to make the student feel bad, but to improve their understanding and their critical thinking skills. "Socratic irony" is the logical tension resulting from a paradox built on misconception(s) in the mind of the student. Design your curriculum to include scenarios that will not make sense to students harboring common misconceptions about the subject matter. Frequent use of Socratic irony as an instructional tool not only corrects present misunderstandings, but it also prepares students to test their own understanding in the future by conditioning them to ask similar questions of themselves.

Multiple modes of interaction: Provide more than one means of student interaction with the subject matter (printed text, audio/visual presentation, hands-on activities) so that students may discover and apply the mode(s) best suited to their unique personalities. Ideally, students should have access to multiple modes of research (and presentation!) for each and every topic in the syllabus.

Immediate context and relevance: All too often, students fail to learn because they cannot perceive the relevance of their studies. The more cognitive connections a student has between the subject matter being taught and the rest of their knowledge and experience, the easier it is for them to relate, to engage, and to learn. Design your curriculum so that topics build upon each other throughout the course, and show students how their learning relates to real issues in life.

Closely link theory and practice: Ideally, each and every subject taught in your class should be done so with students engaging in both theoretical and practical exploration. Not only will this help students better understand through the use of multiple modes of interaction and by providing context, but it also teaches students how to relate abstract thought to hands-on activity. This will help them learn better in the future, when they may not have the luxury of engaging in both theory and practice when learning something new.

Continuous feedback: An environment of constructive criticism is important to maximize student learning. Let students know how they are doing as they demonstrate their learning to you. Be intellectually rigorous, but emotionally supportive. Ideally, students participate in the constructive criticism of their peers, learning not only how to improve their own learning but also how to assess and direct the learning of others.

Establish a learning community: Your classroom must be a place where students feel at ease proposing ideas, posing questions, challenging assertions, and generally interacting with others on an academic level. Students look to you as a guide for their conduct, so be sure to model the caliber of professionalism you would expect them to exhibit each and every day. The classroom should be a place of professional courtesy every bit as much as it is a place of intellectual rigor.

Sense of accomplishment in learning: Your students' assignments should be challenging and meaningful enough that they feel a sense of accomplishment upon completion. Grades and praises are not what I have in mind here, as these are external motivators. By making assignments challenging and relevant, the act of completion itself will translate into internal motivation for learning. Students motivated to learn by their own sense of achievement and joy will pursue additional learning much more vigorously than students conditioned by external motivations. Practical projects and realistic problem-solving activities work well to foster feelings of personal accomplishment.

Valid assessment: All assessments should accurately and fairly measure the learning objectives. I strongly recommend performance-based assessment, measuring student learning by their ability to apply knowledge to action. In a phrase, "Show me what you can do, don't tell me what you know."

Success-based objectives: Education possesses worth in direct proportion to the degree that it empowers student success in the given subject area after completion. Meaningful educational objectives, therefore, are defined solely by the challenges facing graduates. Allowing any other criteria (money, time, resources, tradition, natural student ability, student expectations, etc.) to dilute or eliminate learning objectives important to post-graduation success degrades the worth of that curriculum.

Make "learning how to learn" the primary objective: Learning any one particular subject has limited value. Learning how to learn has unlimited educational value, because it uniquely and fundamentally enables success in all other areas of life where further learning is necessary.

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