Unit 2: Teaching Techniques

2.1 Stages of learning – Acquisition, Maintenance, Fluency. & Generalisation

2.2 Principles of teaching – Concrete, Iconic, Symbolic

2.3 Teaching Strategies – Task Analysis, Prompting & Fading, Shaping, Chaining,

2.4 Teaching Approaches – Multi-Sensory, Montessori, Project Method, Play-Way

2.5 Reinforcement – Principles, Types, Rules for application








2.1 Stages of learning – Acquisition, Maintenance, Fluency. & Generalisation

Crow and Crow , 1975 - learning is the acquisition of habit , knowledge and attitudes. It involves new ways of doing things and it operates in individual's attempt to overcome obstacles or to new situations . It represents progressive changes in behaviour and further enables the individual to satisfy interest to attain goals .

Stages of  learning

·      Acquisition - refers to acquiring new skill and knowledge. In this the individual has begun to learn how to complete the target skill correctly but is not yet fluent in the skill .The goal in this phase is to improve accuracy.

·      Proficiency - the individual learns to perform a task or an activity to a higher level of accuracy that further leads to practice, feedback and/or reward.

·      Maintenence - refers to retention of learned knowledge,  skill or behaviour.

·      Generalization - refers to implementation of skill or  behaviour across settings , individual and/or time . Automatically transferring learning to new situation or setting.

2.2 Principles of teaching – Concrete, Iconic, Symbolic

Jerome Bruner was born in U.S.A and his influence on teaching has been important. He was possibly the leading proponent of discovery approach in mathematical education although he was not the inventor of the concept.
Bruner describes the general learning process in the following manner. First the child finds in his manipulation of the materials regularities that correspond with intuitive regularities it has already come to understand. According to Bruner the child finds some sort of match between what it is doing in the outside world and some models or templates that it has already grasped intellectually. For Bruner it is seldom something outside the learner that is discovered. Instead, the discovery involves an internal reorganisation of previously known ideas in order to establish a better fit between those ideas and regularities of an encounter to which the learner has had to accommodate.
His approach was characterised by three stages which he calls enactive, iconic and symbolic and are solidly based on the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget. The first, the enactive level, is where the child manipulate materials directly. Then he proceed to the iconic level, where he deals with mental images of objects but does not manipulate them directly. At last he moves to the symbolic level, where he is strictly manipulating symbols and no longer mental images or objects. The optimum learning process should according to Bruner go through these stages.

In his research on the cognitive development of children,  Jerome Bruner proposed three modes of representation:

  Enactive representation (action-based)

  Iconic representation (image-based)

  Symbolic representation (language-based)

1. Enactive mode. When dealing with the enactive mode, one is using some known aspects of reality without using words or imagination. Therefore, it involves representing the past events through making motor responses. It involves manly in knowing how to do something; it involves series of actions that are right for achieving some result e.g. Driving a car, skiing, tying a knot.

2. Iconic Mode. This mode deals with the internal imagery, were the knowledge is characterised by a set of images that stand for the concept. The iconic representation depends on visual or other sensory association and is principally defined by perceptual organisation and techniques for economically transforming perceptions into meaning for the individual.

3. Symbolic mode. Through life one is always adding to the resources to the symbolic mode of representation of thought. This representation is based upon an abstract, discretionary and flexible thought. It allows one to deal with what might be and what might not, and is a major tool in reflective thinking. This mode is illustrative of a person’s competence to consider propositions rather than objects, to give ideas a hierarchical structure and to consider alternative possibilities in a combinatorial fashion.

The association of these ideas of manipulations of actual materials as a part of developmental model and the Socraterian notion of learning as internal reorganisation into a learning by discovery approach is the unique contribution of Bruner.

2.3 Teaching Strategies – Task Analysis, Prompting & Fading, Shaping, Chaining,

Task Analysis

Due to the intellectual impairment, the children with mental retardation have limited capacity to learn, retain and recall the learned skills. The tasks like eating, dressing or bathing, which non-disabled children learn to do by themselves after certain age are to be taught to children with mental retardation. Further, it is observed that children with mental retardation are unable to learn the task as a whole, but when presented the task in simple steps, they are able to make better progress. The process of identifying these small steps is known as task analysis.

What is task analysis?
To tell you in simple words, it is the analysis of a task into simpler steps and arranging them in a sequential order. Macarthy (1987) states that task analysis is a teaching strategy in which the task is broken down into teachable components and arranged in sequential order. It is a blueprint for instruction/ teaching, through which a student should proceed to achieve the terminal goal. It describes an end point of what must be learned but not the methods that will be employed for learning. Therefore, it is not a teaching methodology.

Need for task analysis
Task analytic approach helps us in pinpointing students functioning level on a specific task and also provides basis for sequential instruction. In addition, we can tailor-make the sub-tasks as per each students pace of learning. It is very important when we are teaching children with severe and profound mental retardation. For them, the steps must be sequenced with more precision and care, not ignoring any minute detail.

Procedure for analyzing the task
Yes, you need to, follow the steps given below.

If a task has numerous sub-tasks, take a set of only 10-12 sub-tasks sequentially at a time, to teach. When the student learns then take another 10-12 sub-tasks and finally link all of them from the total task.

Methods for analyzing the tasks
For analyzing task, a few methods have been suggested, hence, any of which you may use. After identifying and specifying the task to be taught, you have to do a systematic analysis of the task and organize the sub-tasks in a hierarchical order. The following are some of the methods.

1.     Watch a master: In this method, you observe another person performing the task and write down the steps. Ask your friend to do the task, which you have selected for the student for teaching. Observe him/her keenly and write the steps

2.     Self-monitoring: perform the selected task by yourself and list the steps. Sometimes, doing the  task and writing the steps may be difficult as the writing will interrupt the performance of task.

3.     Backward chaining: In this method, focus at the terminal objective and write down the components in the preceding level of difficulty – i.e., recording from last step to first step.

4.     Brainstorm: First, write down all the component steps irrespective of the sequence. Later, arrange the steps in a logical order.

To check whether your statements of sub-tasks are clear, or whether you have noted down all the components of the task, do the exercise as suggested below. We need two persons, one to read the statements and another to follow the instructions and perform. A few audience to observe the person performing the task will be helpful. Ask the person who has to read the statements to face the wall and the other to face audience. Instruct the person who has to perform the task to follow strictly the way the steps are read. The person will complete the task if the statements are clear, if not she will end up not completing the task. It is a very useful exercise to check the clarity of the statements and you will enjoy doing this activity, as well as correct errors in the listing.


Shaping refers to sequential, systematic reinforcement of successive approximations of target behaviour until the behaviour is achieved. Suppose a teacher wants Harish to remain in his seat for an entire 20 minutes work period. She has observed that Harish has never remained in his seat for longer than 5 minutes with an average of 2 minutes. A programme in which Harish earns a reinforcer for remaining in his seat for 20 minutes will never happen and Harish will never earn a reinforcer. Instead of this approach, the teacher defines her target behaviour as Harish remaining in his seat for the full 20 minutes but sets up a graduated sequence of criteria.

- Harish remains in his seat for 3 minutes.
- Harish remains in his seat for 5 minutes.
- Harish remains in his seat for 10 minutes.
- Harish remains in his seat for 15 minutes.
- Harish remains in his seat for 20 minutes.

Each step in the sequence will be reinforced until established. Then the criterion for reinforcement will be shifted to the next step. Shaping procedures may be used to establish new behaviours of many kinds, ranging from verbal behaviour in severely disabled students to study behaviours in college students.

Shaping appears deceptively simple. Its efficient use requires great skill on the part of the teacher. First, the teacher should have the skill to precisely describe the target behaviour. Second is the skill required planning a shaping programme. The steps planned should be neither too small nor too large. Finally the teacher must consider how long to remain at each plateau – just long enough to establish the behaviour solidly, but not so long that the student becomes struck at that level.

There are six steps that should be followed in shaping behaviour.

1.     Select the target behaviour in precise and behavioural terms.

2.     Obtain baseline data on how often the target behaviour is occurring in the natural environment.

3.     Select appropriate reinforcers.

4.     Reinforce successive approximations.

5.     Reinforce the target behaviour each time it occurs.

6.     At the appropriate time, reinforce the target behaviour on an intermittent schedule.


Chaining refers to the actual process by which each of the responses is linked to one another to form the behavioural chain. The identification of response sequence is done through a task analysis.

Backward Chaining
When backward chaining is used, the components of the chain are acquired in reverse order. The last component is taught first, and other components are added one at a time. For example, to teach the task “taking off shirt”. The child is given the instruction, “Raghu, take your shirt off”, and his shirt is pulled over his head until the arms are free and the neckband is caught just above this eyes. If the child does not automatically pull the short off, he is physically guided to do so. Primary and social reinforcers are then given. During the next training session, the neckband is left at his neck, in subsequent sessions, one arm, then both arms are left in the sleeves. The verbal instruction, “Raghu, take off your shirt”, is always presented and reinforcers given only when the task is completed.

Forward Chaining
When forward chaining is used, the teacher starts with the first link in the chain, trains it to criterion, and then goes on to the next. The student may be required to perform all the steps previously mastered each time, or each step may be separately trained to criterion and then the links made. To use forward chaining to teach undressing skills, the teacher would start with the student fully dressed, deliver the instruction, “Raghu, take your shirt off”, and then provide whatever prompting was required to get Raghu to cross his arms and grab the bottom of his tee-shirt. When Raghu reliably performed this behaviour, she would add the next step until Raghu shirt is.

Total task presentation
We can also use total task presentation. Here, the student performs all of the steps in sequence until the entire chain is mastered. Total task presentation may be particularly appropriate when the student has already mastered some or all of the components of a task but has not performed them in sequence. However, it is also possible to teach completely novel chains in this manner. Many academic chains are forged using a total task presentation. The arithmetic teacher working on addition with carry over usually requires her students to solve an entire problem, with whatever coaching is required, until they have mastered the process.

One cannot say definitely that which chaining technique is most effective, although there is some indication that total task presentation may be most effective in teaching complex assembly tasks to retarded students. Classroom teachers are again advised to try what seems in their professional judgment to be the best procedure.

Prompting And Fading

 A prompt is a form of temporary assistance used to help a student perform in a desired manner. When a student is unable to perform a task, a prompt (temporary assistance) is used to help the student perform the task. As the student learns to perform the task, the temporary prompt is faded (slowly removed) from use. Different types of prompts and methods of fading are discussed below.

e.g.- When a skill is taught by using ‘hand over hand’ prompt, it should be withdrawn as soon as possible so that child can perfrorm the task without prompt.

Using prompting and fading

If a student does not perform a task/activity when we make a verbal request, prompts are introduced in the following manner until the student has made the desired response.     


Verbal Request (VR)
VR + Verbal Prompt (VP)
VR + VP + Gestural Prompt (GP)
VR + VP + Modelling Prompt (MP)
VR + VP + Physical Prompt (PP)

For example, a child is requested to wear a shirt. If the child does not wear the shirt, give verbal prompt and wait for few seconds. When no response occurs, the next level prompt (GP) is given. Similarly depending on the response the prompt levels will be increased. The prompts are introduced in the “least-to-most prompts sequence” as indicated above. This helps in finding out precisely at what prompt level the student is able to perform a task and also in gradual fading of prompts.

Giving additional instructions, emphasizing important words by saying them louder or longer, giving single word reminders, bringing attention to each important part of the instruction by pausing, are some of the verbal prompts used in teaching tasks.

Gestural prompts
Gestural prompts are pointing the place where the response is to be made, making noise by tapping finger where the response is to be made, and using finger to relate the part of the task along with a verbal prompt.

Modelling is a method of teaching by demonstration. In this, the teacher models the performance of a task and the student imitates the model. The modelling prompt is used when student fails to perform the activity following a verbal prompt and gestural prompt.

Physical prompt
Here, a teacher uses her hands to support a student to go through the steps of a task. The teacher may give complete physical support/partial physical support depending on the type of support required by the student.

Among the above prompts the one with least assistance is the verbal prompt and that of most assistant is the physical prompt. While providing prompts, the teacher needs to check the level of assistance required by the student in the beginning so that appropriate assistance is provided and the student moves forward. As the student learn each step, the temporary assistance is faded away and the student is made to perform the task by himself.

FADING: The process of gradual decrease in assistance or help by so that the child could begins to perform the activity or behavior independently, called Fading.

For example, fading the physical prompt of guiding a child’s hands may follow this sequence: (a) supporting wrists, (b) touching hands lightly, (c) touching forearm or elbow, and (d) withdrawing physical contact altogether. Fading ensures that the child does not become overly dependent on a particular prompt when learning a new skill. One of the first decisions that should be made when teaching a new behavior is how to fade the prompt or prompts. A plan should be in place to fade the prompts in an orderly fashion. 

The approach of fading is built on studies in operant conditioning in which a new stimulus was presented alongside an existing one to which a response had been learnt. The old stimulus was gradually faded out, by a process of stimulus attenuation, its frequency or intensity reduced, and it was shown that this allowed the new stimulus to gain control of the response.

Ø Stimulus attenuation: Gradual decreasing of an external stimulus.

Ø Applied Behavior Analysis: Behavior Analysis is the scientific study of behavior. Applied behavior analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.

Ø Operant conditioning: A learning process in which the likelihood of a specific behavior 

increases or decreases in response to reinforcementor punishment 

that occurs when the behavior is exhibited, so that the subject comes 

to associate the behavior withthe pleasure from the reinforcement or 

the displeasure from the punishment.

2.4 Teaching Approaches – Multi-Sensory, Montessori, Project Method, Play-Way

Multi-Sensory Approach

Multisensory Approach is the simultaneous use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile to enhance memory and learning.

 Links are consistently made between the visuals (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic- tactile (what we do or feel) which enable the learner to store the information directly to the brain in its real sense.


Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.

Montessori classrooms are beautifully crafted environments designed to meet the needs of children in a specific age range. Dr. Maria Montessori discovered that experiential learning in this type of classroom led to a deeper understanding of language, mathematics, science, music, social interactions and much more. Most Montessori classrooms are secular in nature, although the Montessori educational method can be integrated successfully into a faith-based program.

Every material in a Montessori classroom supports an aspect of child development, creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities. Children can learn through their own experience and at their own pace. They can respond at any moment to the natural curiosities that exist in all humans and build a solid foundation for life-long learning.

Hallmarks of Montessori

Components necessary for a program to be considered authentically Montessori include multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity. In addition, a full complement of specially designed Montessori learning materials are meticulously arranged and available for use in an aesthetically pleasing environment.

The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is  prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop himself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.

Multiage groupings are a hallmark of the Montessori Method: younger children learn from older children; older children reinforce their learning by teaching concepts they have already mastered. This arrangement also mirrors the real world, where individuals work and socialize with people of all ages and dispositions.

Dr. Montessori observed that children experience sensitive periods, or windows of opportunity, as they grow. As their students develop, Montessori teachers match appropriate lessons and materials to these sensitive periods when learning is most naturally absorbed and internalized.

In early childhood, Montessori students learn through sensory-motor activities, working with materials that develop their cognitive powers through direct experience: seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and movement.

In the elementary years, the child continues to organize his thinking through work with the Montessori learning materials and an interdisciplinary curriculum as he passes from the concrete to the abstract.  He begins the application of his knowledge to real-world experiences.

This organization of information—facts and figures—prepares the child for the world of adolescence, when thought and emotion evolve into understanding more abstract, universal concepts such as equity, freedom, and justice.


       The Fernald method is a multi-sensory remedial approach combining language experiences with vision (visual), hearing (Auditory), movement and touch (Kinesthetic and Tactile) VAKT is instructional techniques it is contributed by Grace Maxwell Fernald in 1943.

       It is also known as “ whole word approach”

According to this approach consists the following steps

1.     Let the student choose a word.

2.     Write it in cursive writing (large enough for the student to trace with finger) with a crayon on plain paper or on black board.

3.     Have the student trace the word with one or two fingers saying the sound of each letter while tracing and the whole word after completing tracing of all the letters in the word.

4.     Let the student write the word from memory after tracing several times.

5.     Write words in context to give the meaning.

6.     After the student has mastered the above steps, have the words written in print/typewritten and ask the student to read.

7.     Make individual word files of students and tell them to arrange in alphabetical order.

8.     Encourage the students to write stories using words from individual word files.

9.     Introduce written story in typed form immediately and make students read the printed version.

10.                        File every new word in word card file, which has been used in the story. It helps the students to learn alphabets meaningfully without emphasis on rote memory.

Project Method

 This method is based on the philosophy of Pragmatism and the principle of 'Learning by doing'. It demands work from the pupils. It was introduces in 18th century in Europe and was founded by William Kilipatrik.

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.

Project work is a series of activities that allows the students to study, do research and act by themselves using their abilities, interests, personal experience and aptitudes. The Project Work Progresses under the guidance and monitoring of a Teacher or other Adviser.

If we examine project-based learning in the most general way, we can break it down into the following nine steps (of course, teacher-coaches should modify the steps accordingly to suit the task and the students):

1.     The teacher-coach sets the stage for students with real-life samples of the projects they will be doing.

2.     Students take on the role of project designers, possibly establishing a forum for display or competition.

3.     Students discuss and accumulate the background information needed for their designs.

4.     The teacher-coach and students negotiate the criteria for evaluating the projects.

5.     Students accumulate the materials necessary for the project.

6.     Students create their projects.

7.     Students prepare to present their projects.

8.     Students present their projects.

9.     Students reflect on the process and evaluate the projects based on the criteria established in Step 4.


Assessing Project-based Learning. "Student projects are culminating experiences, activities designed to bring together a number of strands in a unit. As culminating activities, projects often consist of higher-order objectives, which are integrative in nature.”

Play Way Method

Play way in education aims to introduce the spirit of play in all educational institutions. The methods and techniques used for imparting education must be able to create an environment in which the child can learn his lesson or acquire the desired knowledge.

Play-way in education insists on child centered education. It advocates educating children through activities in which children can put their heart and soul and work in an atmosphere of freedom and spontaneity.

2.5 Reinforcement – Principles, Types, Rules for application


If we were to examine the course of events in our daily lives, we would readily see that our continued performance of certain behaviours is due to the results or performing consequences of those behaviours. Every action we engage in results in some consequence. When our behaviour results in a naturally occurring, desirable consequence, this experience serves as a motivating force for our continued performance. However, some times this natural process may be insufficient to maintain all desirable behaviours and we need to look for more powerful ones that motivate learning.

What is reinforcement?
Reinforcement describes a relationship between two environmental events, a behaviour (response) and an event or stimulus (consequence) that follows the response. The relationship is termed reinforcement only if the response increases or maintains its rate as a result of the consequence.

Reinforcement is frequently the critical component of programmatic attempts

Positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is the contingent presentation of a stimulus, immediately following a response, that increases the future rate and/or probability of the response. There are three operative words in this definition.

Negative reinforcement
Negative reinforcement is the contingent removal of an aversive stimulus immediately following a response that increases the future rate and/or probability of the response.

The teacher will not remove the aversive condition unless and until the requested response is produced. If teacher states the contingency “Krishna, you must stay in the room by yourself and finish all your maths problems before you may join the rest of the class in the playground”, that teacher is using negative reinforcement. The aversive condition of being left behind in the classroom while the rest of the class goes to the playground will be removed contingent upon completion of the maths assignment that Krishna should have completed earlier.

Negative reinforcement works because the student performs the behaviour to escape the aversive stimulus. It is not necessary, however, for an aversive stimulus to be present in order for negative reinforcement to work. Negative reinforcement also works when a student performs some behaviour in order to avoid an aversive stimulus.

Schedules Of Reinforcement

Continuous schedule of reinforcement
Schedules of reinforcement refer to patterns of timing for delivery of reinforcers. Delivery of reinforcement on a continuous basis is referred to as a continuous schedule of reinforcement (CRF). That is, each time the student produces the target response she or he immediately receives a reinforcer. This schedule may be seen as having an one-to-one ratio – Response: Reinforcement.

Because of this dense ratio of response to reinforcement, CRF schedules are most useful in teaching new behaviours (acquisition), especially to young and disabled tudents. It is necessary to ensure that a student who is learning a new behaviour will receive a reinforcer for each response that is closer to a correct response.

Problems with CRF schedules

Intermittent Schedules of reinforcement
In intermittent schedules, reinforcement follows some, but not all, correct or appropriate responses. Because each occurrence of the behaviour is no longer reinforced, intermittent schedules put off satiation effects. Behaviours maintained on intermittent schedules are also more resistant to extinction. In addition, intermittent schedules require greater numbers of correct responses for reinforcement. As a result, the student learns to delay gratification and to maintain appropriate behaviour over longer periods of time.

The two categories of simple intermittent schedules most often used to increase frequency of response are, ratio schedules and interval schedules.

Ratio schedules

Under ratio schedules, the number of times a target behaviour occurs determines the timing of reinforcer delivery. Under a fixed ratio schedule (FR), the student is reinforced on completion of a specified number of correct responses. Under a Variable Ratio schedule (VR), the target response is reinforced on the average of a specified number of correct responses.

Interval schedules
Under interval schedules, the occurrence of at least one correct or appropriate response plus the passage of a specific amount of time are the determinants for delivery of the reinforcer. Under a fixed interval schedule (FI), the student is reinforced the first time he or she performs the target response following the elapse of a specified number of minutes. Under a Variable Interval (VI) schedule, the intervals are of different lengths, while their average length is consistent.

Response duration schedules
Under response-duration schedules, the continuous amount of time of a target behaviour is the determinant for delivery of the reinforcer. Under a fixed-response-duration schedule (FRD), the student is reinforced following completion of a specified number of minutes (or seconds) of appropriate behaviour. Under a Variable Response Duration (VRD) schedule, continuous appropriate behaviour is reinforced on the average of a specified time period.