The book deals with a range of teaching approaches that one can use for various tasks, from formal class teaching in lower grades of the formal schooling system to doctoral dissertations. Indeed, the approaches offered have wide and convincing applications in informal and unusual contexts and environments, such as industrial training, adult education and university mentoring.
The book opens with a discussion of the diversity of learners found in any learning population. It explores the view that, even in apparently homogeneous classes of learners, the infinity of brain cells that each learner brings to the task coupled to their diverse physical makeups and range of past experiences make of each person a unique individual. Although they might all be exposed to roughly the same curriculum by the same teacher in the same classroom setting, their needs will differ greatly, and each child or adult in the class will have different skills and insights they will bring to the tasks.
This implies use of a ‘constructivist’ approach that encourages each learner to attack the learning experience from a perspective best suited to his or her individual talents, interests and capacities. The learners construct knowledge in a personal way that makes it meaningful for them. The one-method-for-all methodology simply does not work.
Much of the book is thereafter devoted to exploring a range of teaching approaches (the terms ‘styles’, or ‘methods’ are used as approximate equivalents). These evolve broadly in a spectrum from the teacher-centred, command-response method to an approach that is comprehensively learner-centred, as used with mature candidates undertaking higher degrees. This latter approach or style relies on the teacher (or, more correctly, mentor or promoter at the higher level) only for infrequent inputs, with much initiative lying with the learner who must accordingly assume most of the responsibility for his or her own learning. It even encompasses doctoral studies. Here, the candidate must produce significant, substantial, verifiable new knowledge.
This, and the other similar approaches that afford much freedom to the learner, are well suited to tertiary study, yet elements have application even in secondary schooling and indeed in lower classes as well.