Expository Teaching – A Direct Instructional Strategy

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Se. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Expository teaching strategy is basically direct instruction. A teacher is in the front of the room lecturing and students are taking notes. Students are being told (expository learning), what they need to know. However, expository instruction goes beyond just presenting students with the facts. It involves presenting clear and concise information in a purposeful way that allows students to easily make connections from one concept to the next. The structure of an expository lesson helps students to stay focused on the topic at hand. Often times, when students are discovering information on their own, they can get distracted and confused by unnecessary information and have difficulty determining what’s important. This is why expository instruction is one of the most common instructional strategies. Most educators believe students learn new concepts and ideas better if all of the information they need to know is laid out before them.

Expository teaching is a teaching strategy where the teacher presents students with the subject matter rules and provides examples that illustrate the rules. Examples include pictorial relationships, application of the rules, context through historical information, and prerequisite information. Examples are provided to give contextual elaboration and to help students see the subject matter from many different perspectives.

In expository teaching teacher gives both the principles and the problem solutions. In contrast to his role in discovery learning, the teacher presents the student with the entire content of what is to be learned in final form; the student is not required to make any independent discoveries. The usual verbal instruction of the lecture hall exemplifies expository teaching. It is sometimes called deductive teaching because the teacher often  begins with a definition of concepts or principles, illustrates them, and unfold their implications. Asubel believes that the reason for the lack of research in is that expository teaching has been identified with rote learning. The students, presumably, can only memorized the lectures by constant review and repetition.  Indeed, it is possible to present a body of material so poorly that unless the students commit it to rote memory (as in the case of nonsense syllables), they have no way of remembering it. Expository teaching, however, can present a rich body of highly related facts, concepts, and principles which the students can learn and transfer. Textbooks are examples of expository teaching, and, as you very well know, they can vary in their methods of teaching subject matter and in their organization of that subject matter.

As in the case of discovery learning, it is probably difficult to find pure examples of expository teaching. In most classes we find a combination of lectures (or teacher explanation) and discussions or lectures and laboratory and field work. In these situations, although most of the instruction is under the direct guidance of the instructor, much of it is the most or less independent effort of the student.

Expository Teaching Procedure

Expository teaching is a lecture, presentation or telling strategy used during instruction. The teacher is in control of presenting the subject matter and directs the students through the lesson. A rule is presented with an example and then practice is provided. The teacher focuses the students’ attention on the key points of the subject and may use graphics, diagrams, or other representations to elaborate on the subject.

Generally the expository teaching begins with an introduction and overview of the topic before providing more specific information and detail. This expository strategy sets up the lesson and prepares the students for what’s to come. By moving from the general to the specific, it allows students to understand the increasingly detailed explanations of the information and link those explanations to information that was presented previously as part of the general overview.

Instructional Strategy is designed to assist students in the acquisition of relatively factual

material. This technique is facilitated by the by the use of pre-instructional verbal statements or advanced or conceptual organizers and the sequencing of the content. In the hierarchically arranged sequence, global, overarching concepts and principles of the discipline are presented first in the advanced organizer.

How the expository teaching technique works-

(1) a statement in advance of the instruction (the advanced or conceptual organizer) is provided to the Students

(2) the content is presented in a hierarchically arranged sequence in which the global, overarching concepts and principles are presented first.

The conceptual organizer presents the content at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness than the content of the lesson. It is then followed by a progressive differentiation of ideas or details, concurrently integrating the new ideas with previously learned material. The explanations and clarifications made subsequent to the conceptual organizer are usually deductive arguments.

Another aspect that the expository teaching strategies have in common is that they provide transitions and sometimes a storyline to lead you through the lesson. Expository instruction involves an organized teaching method where information is presented in a specific order. This helps to keep your focus and attention, and lays out all of the information you need to know in a way that helps you to remember it. Once all of the new information has been presented, lessons typically end with a summary. The summary serves as a quick review and points out the most important facts to remember.

Donald Jhonson and Paul Stratton compared several methods of expository teaching with the usual inductive method of teaching concepts in three expository programs, one discovery program and one mixed program set up as follows:

1-      Students were given definitions of terms, similar to those one finds in the dictionary although each term was related to higher order class. Then the students were required to write their own definitions of the terms.

2-      The term was used in sentences which were part  of a short story. After reading the story, the student was asked to complete a sentence which required the use of the term.

3-      Students were given synonyms for the new term-“alacrity means eagerness” and “altercations means squabble.”

4-      In the classification approach, students were given examples of objects and events and were asked to classify them. The students had to discover the correct categories.

5-      A mixed problem was constructed out of materials in the four preceding approaches. This is an example of instruction using the mixed method.

The students who were taught with the mixed method did better than those in all the other groups. The experimenters concluded that the “superiority of the mixed program supports the common practice of teachers and textbooks”.

Programed instruction is a form of expository teaching, especially when the Ruleg sequence is used (Glaser, 1966). In the Ruleg sequence, the student is presented with an explicit statement of the rule (or principle) followed by one or more carefully chosen examples. He is then presented with one or more incomplete examples, which act as prompts to reduce the possibility of incorrect responses.  The incomplete examples also provide the student with the reinforcing activity of directly employing the rule.

The rule-example technique is very frequently used in teaching. The teacher provides the student with a general statement of the principle and then offers a series of illustrations. Glaser suggests that this procedure is widely used because it leads to rapid reinforcement for both teacher and student.

Merits of expository teaching

Ausbel provides a clear picture of the expository teaching merits “The art and science of presenting ideas and information meaningfully and effectively- so that clear, clear stable and unambiguous meanings emerge and are retained over a long period of time as an organized body of knowledge- is really the principal function of pedagogy. This is a demanding and creative rather than a routine and mechanical task. The job of selecting, organizing, presenting, and translating subject-matter content in developmentally appropriate manner requires more than the rote listing of facts. If it is done properly it is the work of the master teacher and is hardly a task to be disdained….Beginning in the junior high school period, students acquire most new concepts and learn most new propositions by directly grasping higher-order relationships between abstractions. To do so meaningfully, they need no longer depend on current or recently prior concrete-empirical experience, and hence are able to bypass completely the intuitive type of understanding reflective of such dependence. Through proper expository teaching they can proceed directly to a level of  abstract understanding that is qualitatively superior  to the intuitive level in term of generality, clarity, precision and explicitness. At this stage of development, therefore, it seems pointless to enhance intuitive understanding by using discovery technics.”

In short we can conclude that the teachers who use expository teaching present information to their students in a purposeful way that allows students to easily make connections from one concept to the next. Students receive the information from an expert, which could be the teacher or another expert, such as a textbook author or educational video. Whenever possible, the instructor uses an advance organizer, which is a tool used to introduce the lesson and illustrate the relationships between what the students are about to learn and the information they have already learned. The structure of an expository lesson is designed to help students stay focused on the topic at hand. Expository teaching is more popular because it is more efficient and takes less time than discovery learning. When combined with practice, it is very successful in teaching concepts and principles. Expository teaching offers the student the best opportunity to obtain an organized view of the discipline he is studying because the teacher can organize the field much more effectively for learning than the novice student can. In discovery learning the concern to teach the techniques of discovery overrides the concern for learning the unifying principles of a discipline.


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