Principles
for Teaching Procedure SkillsCase Study

That friend of yours, Jennifer, has now been hired to tutor Sam's
younger brother, Joe, in adding fractions. She remembered what wonderful
advice you gave her for tutoring Sam, so she is back for more help. After
you recover from the flattery, you remember that you should start with
the view that the most important concerns in any instruction are "what
to teach" and "how to teach it". With this in mind, what would you advise
Jennifer to do first? Think about it, and jot your answer below, before
you read on!

(Before
continuing to read, you must submit your opinion in order to see the author's
opinion.)

Let's assume that Jennifer is confident that Joe needs to learn how
to add fractions. Can we now turn Jennifer's attention to "how to teach
it"? Have we really spelled out what to teach? Not exactly. Jennifer will
need to be precise (refresh her memory) as to what the procedure is for
adding fractions. This is called a task analysis (or content analysis),
and entails identifying all the required steps. On your advice, after digging
around in the depths of her gray matter, Jennifer comes up with a flowchart
like the one on page 3. So now she is all finished with "what to teach,"
right?

Not exactly. She really ought to break down some of those steps into
substeps (such as steps 2, 3, and 6) until all steps are at a level that
Joe can understand. Part of this analysis process is to identify any concepts
that Joe may not be familiar with, such as denominator, common denominator,
and numerator. Jennifer doesn't have to use those terms (unless the post-instructional
situation will require their use), but some term will be needed (e.g.,
"top number" and "same bottom number") to communicate efficiently. These
analysis activities are also called task (or content) analysis, and the
term "prerequisites analysis" is often used for identifying such substeps
and concepts.

Based on your advice, Jennifer has done all these analyses, so now
she has truly identified "what to teach" and can proceed to think about
how to teach it. You remember how useful the notion of presentation-practice-feedback
was for Jennifer to teach the Presidents to Sam. Do you think that notion
would help for teaching this procedural skill? Clearly, practice is important
for learning a skill. We all know that "Practice makes perfect." But what
should that practice be like? Joe shouldn't just do the same practice over
and over again like memorization practice, should he? Think about it, and
jot your answer below, before you read on!

(Before
continuing to read, you must submit your opinion in order to see the author's
opinion.)

Now, you know well that if Joe is doing a lot of practice and getting
them all wrong, it could actually make things worse. His error would become
ingrained to the point where it would be much more difficult for Jennifer
to correct it. So feedback is clearly also important for skill learning.
But what should the feedback be like? Think about it, and jot your answer
below, before you read on!

(Before
continuing to read, you must submit your opinion in order to see the author's
opinion.)

So, imagine Jennifer asking Joe to add a couple of fractions. If
he couldn't do it in school, it's not likely that he can do it now for
Jennifer! So what other guideline should you give Jennifer? Jot your answer
below, before you read on!

(Before
continuing to read, you must submit your opinion in order to see the author's
opinion.)

Now, if Jennifer just demonstrates the procedure without saying anything,
would that be good instruction? Not exactly. So what should she say? Think
about it before you read on!

(Before
continuing to read, you must submit your opinion in order to see the author's
opinion.)