Best Procedure for Teaching Facts
By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education.
September 18, 2017—While facts are not altogether the most important thing in learning, they remain, nevertheless very important. Acquiring factual knowledge is fundamental, but not rudimentary. They consist of the “stuff” from which critical thinking, understanding, and ultimately application of knowledge is built. While it remains true that many teachers remain too long on facts and do not move quickly enough to critical thinking and application beyond the facts, it is also true that the more efficient we are at helping students acquire factual knowledge, the more effective will be working in the higher stages of learning. For one thing, teachers will not have to spend time correcting misunderstandings or reviewing material due to poor recall.
Facts are not often simple bits of information, and they are not “trivia.” Some facts can consist of concepts, and some, are complex concepts. Here is the best procedure for helping students with the acquisition of factual knowledge:
- Teach one fact at a time.
- Organize your material into no more than four or five derivative “chunks” (main ideas) per learning session.
- Help the learner make over connections between what you are teaching and what they already know.
- Organize more complex material into smaller, simpler components.
- Present facts and concepts in the precise form in which the learner needs to recall it (ensure retention).
- Ensure that learners can give you a correct response the first time they are asked.
- Ensure learners are able to state why the fact is meaningful (test for comprehension).
- Provide ways for learners to use the new information in practical contexts immediately, then over the course of time.
- Provide immediate feedback when assessing mastery and retention of new information.
- Provide ways for learners to evaluate the accuracy and efficacy of the new information learned in groups and individually.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists.