There are several different approaches one can take to sequencing learning, such as subject expert, general to specific, simple to complex, book, known to unknown, and problem to solution. This post will provide a brief overview of these six sequences
Subject Experts Sequence– Among other qualifications, educators are hired because they are subject matter experts in their field. Whether the subject is history or physics, the subject matter expert has intimate knowledge of the field and thus should instinctively know what should be taught first to provide a foundation for the further learning. The problem that I’ve seen some subject matter experts face is that they know too much and believe everything is important and nearly everything is foundational. Consulting with a curriculum designing can often help the subject matter expert identify levels of learning material.
General to Specific Sequence– I usually recommend this sequence as the introductory lesson to a subject. Provide the learner with an overview of the course or topic and then create lesson plans based on the important components. In each component I believe it is import to provide learners with anchors to the past and lifelines to the future. For example, if the course were in week six, I would introduce the topics and ask students how they believe it relates to the material in the previous five weeks. This may be a brief discussion or you may uncover material that was misunderstood. Next, throw the students a lifeline and let them know how this will relate to the components in the remainder of the course.
Simple to Complex Sequence– Similar to the general to specific sequence, but is best suited to learning a task. Much like scaffolding, start with a solid foundation and make each step build on the previous until a complex task is completed. This can work equally well when teaching arithmetic or bricklaying. Because the completed task can be complex, it is recommended that ample time be allotted for the students to practice the sequence several times.
Book Sequence– Many course require a textbook, which is often presented using the general to specific sequence. It is important not to fall into the trap of merely regurgitating the textbook in lesson. The textbook can provide a guide and extra material. Strike a balance between using the textbook and your own knowledge. If you use only the textbook then you, the professor, have little value.
Known to Unknown Sequence– What, exactly, do your students know abut the topic? A needs assessments can provide this information, but sometimes opening up a discussion about the topic can help you gauge where the learning will actually start. Once you know what they know, you can then take learners into uncharted territory.
Problem to Solution Sequence– A fun lesson plan for students is more than likely to be a good learning experience. I’ve often used problem-based learning and have had some really good results. You can either give the students a problem and tell them to solve it by whatever means by the end of the class, or you can arrange your lesson so that you work through the problem with them.
Feel free to mix up the different sequences so the lessons do not become predictable.