From all my years of study and practice, I have distilled all of the equivical literature about how best to teach down to three commandments>
- Thou shalt engage the learner - If students (at any level) are not engaged, they will not learn. What engages learners depends on the content, the learner and the context. Learners can be fully engaged by interacting with an interesting essay, a well designed textbook, a computer learning module, short excellent lectures and small group activities.
- When teaching about complex concepts, thou shalt offer opportunities for learners to "elaborate" on new concepts - When topics are complex or controversial learners usually benefit from hearing others point of view and having the opportunity to articulate their understanding and receive feedback from experts and peers. Although the norm is face-to-face during discussion groups, on-line electronic discussions work well for certain content and learners. The disadvantage of "solitary study" is that the learner is stuck with only 2 perspectives (the teacher and him or herself)
- Thou shalt design and share goals for any instructional activity - Purposeless chats about anything that crosses our minds may be therapeutically beneficial, but are not a good basis for learning. Carefully crafted cases can provide the goal as can experienced facilitators.
Perhaps overly simplistic, but I've found these three commandments to be very serviceable.