Substantive Approach


By: Megan Prats


Critical Thinking Development

At 2learn®, we specialize in critical thinking development. However, we are also responsible for the substantive aspect of learning as the 2learn® student normally comes to 2learn® as a first place of learning. Thus, it is imperative that the substantive approach compliment critical thinking development as critical thinking development must always be implemented in the lessons.

For the substantive approach to compliment critical thinking development, foundation is key. Foundation in this sense means giving the student the substantive bare bones  so that the student will have to “leap” to the answer. For instance, in language lessons the bare bones information would be grammar rules and vocabulary. In music lessons, on the other hand, it would be notes and measure construction. In general, the foundational information is information that is learned via memorization and does not involve critical thinking to solve.

Because the substantive approach mainly involves memorization, substantive learning should mainly take place outside of the lessons. Thus, for instance, you should assign grammar rule learning for homework and then in the following lesson, apply the substance via critical thinking development in using those grammar rules to build sentences. Or, have the student memorize the C scale for homework and when she comes into the next lesson, have her apply the C scale to a jazz improvisation jam.


However, substantive delivery might be necessary in the lessons as sometimes the student needs some more substance in order to be able to solve a problem. Thus, it is not necessarily bad to take lesson time for substance when it is needed.

The most important element of the substantive approach is foundation. Focus on the content in a way that it gives the student the building blocks that she needs to use her critical thinking skills to put the house together.


A Customized Curriculum

No matter what the student’s wants and needs are, the substance should be delivered to her in bare bones form for critical thinking development purposes.  However, how and when you teach the student substance depends on the customized curriculum.

For instance, yesterday I provided a Spanish lesson to a new student.  In the initial evaluation of his level, I realized that we were starting from square 1 because he couldn’t go past the first sentence in conversation nor in writing.  So, because he needed to start from the beginning, we first covered the alphabet in Spanish both the names of the letters and the sounds they make.  Then we went over syllables and the sounding out the word method.  A more advanced student, conversely, does not need to start from square 1 like this student thus a more advanced student might cover parts of speech in the first lesson.  The moral of the story is, how and when you teach the student information, depends on the student’s wants and needs (aka the customized curriculum).


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