Enumeration of Potential Teaching Methods in Higher Education: A Cross-Disciplinary Study
In today’s multifaceted academic context, selecting, adopting, and adapting appropriate teaching methods (TMs) have been a pivotal concern for teachers. No study, to the researchers’ knowledge, has been conducted on compiling the maximum number of TMs in higher education. This study aims to list, describe, and provide a platform of the potential and the most practicing TMs in four major educational disciplines. This article, taking a cross-disciplinary lens, conducts an in-depth review of 90 articles and enumerates 110 TMs of higher education. It also identifies several TMs that are commonly used in each discipline. The article concludes that knowledge generated from this study fills up the existing literature gap. It calls attention to the current TM practices and provides teachers with an outline to employ available TMs in their respective disciplines.
Higher education institutions exhibit quality education, prepare students for professional attainment and growth, and serve various stakeholders with diverse expectations . Methods and approaches followed by teachers in their respective contexts work as a prominent catalyst. Again, selecting the right method and customizing it according to the need of students partially depend on teachers’ knowledge of “definitions” and “types” of methods. Hence, a multifaceted academic context cataloging TMs and approaches suitable for higher education is essential for the academicians who are directly involved in teaching.
It is believed teachers should demonstrate an intention to adapt and customize methods aiming to improve students’ learning . Using methods for a positive change prompted by creativity, originality, and professionalism demands a good knowledge of the existing methods being used in teaching phenomenon. With a sound knowledge of TMs, a teacher can improve and improvise the techniques to make the teaching-learning situation more conducive to students. A teacher can also be eclectic in using techniques if he has a commendable knowledge of the methods at hand. In every educational discipline, methods are, therefore, relatable to observable results for teaching and learning. Here, in this study, a few methods from four major disciplines have been discussed briefly to show how methods can bring substantial developments in the way teachers teach to facilitate students’ learning. The grouping of disciplines, in this regard, has been flexible according to the nature of their academic content and knowledge .
The present academic milieu is getting more and more multidisciplinary and multicultural. This ever-changing situation poses extra challenges on the teachers and demands from them customization and modification of objectives, context, the contents of the lessons, and teacher-student, student-teacher, and student-student communication patterns. Teachers’ unfamiliarity with the TMs sometimes complicates the teaching-learning affair in the manifold. Henceforth, along with familiar types of TMs  used in the academic arena for a long time, some additional names, though not widely practiced by the academicians , have been listed in this article. On occasions, these fewer known methods could be useful for innovative teaching techniques.
Each discipline has its own requirements according to the objectives that it has to be achieved . The course curriculum makes it possible to implement those objectives. There are several mechanisms of a curriculum, e.g., the contents, methods, and the process of the teaching. The curriculum or syllabus itself is settled following its educational objectives in respect of the participants, circumstances, and education programs. In teaching, a method is essential to conceptualize the whole teaching and learning binary to facilitate both teachers’ teaching and students’ learning. TMs are essential aspects of teaching and learning that define the undertakings of teachers and students, the quality of the teaching process  that tacitly sends a message about teaching techniques, students’ progress in learning, and knowledge acquisition . According to contemporary development in the teaching-learning milieu, the plurality of TMs and the need for more balanced use of them is an integral part of the development for each discipline. Insight into the understanding of TMs substantially impacts the quality of teaching. Understanding and analyzing TMs can lead to a deeper understanding of the quality of students' learning and the work of teachers .
When TMs are self-initiated, self-motivated, and self-valued, they become meaningful and sustainable in a learning framework . The application of TMs, techniques, or principles largely depends on multiple variables of the surrounding contexts. Teachers should adopt a method that is relevant, significant, and appropriate for their own classroom setup . However, teachers always attempt to innovate in their teaching in order to improve student learning. Many forms of pedagogical innovation have been made in recent years to meet the challenging contexts of higher education [2, 10]. We could hardly find a list of potential methods in one place. Besides, different educational disciplines use different methods to cater to the need of the students of their respective disciplines. Here, the concern is to present the potential methods through this study and provide a platform where the readers find many methods in one place.
1.1. Aim of the Study
This study aims to facilitate educators with the potential and the most practiced pedagogical methods in four educational disciplines, i.e., Arts and Humanities (AH), Medical Education (ME), Science and Engineering (SE), and Social Science (SS). It presents a manually conducted analysis of scientific literature on the available TMs to recognize the major four disciplines in higher education. It determines the TMs that are exclusively practiced in those disciplines and raises the potential research questions around TMs. It also provides educators with the choice of teaching methods for subjects to be taught.
Therefore, the study’s approach is intended to examine the following two potential research questions: RQ1: What are the potential TMs being practiced in higher education? RQ2: What are the TMs exclusively being practiced in the four major disciplines?
2.1. Data Acquiring, Retrieval, and Preanalysis
In information retrieval and manual analysis, deciding one procedure to search the keywords was challenging. Initially, the authors discussed several ways and keywords of the searches for information retrieval, e.g., scientific research databases, seminars and webinars, accessing library resources, and discussing with educators. Further, the choice of keywords, such as higher education, teaching methods, pedagogy, e-learning, traditional teaching methods, technology-based teaching methods, major disciplines, and sometimes the combination of such keywords were discussed arbitrarily. Additionally, some of these keywords narrate similar phenomena in the higher education context. The other challenges were how to choose disciplines and investigate the maximum number of TMs and the most practiced TMs in each discipline .
The study was conducted in three distinct phases:(1)Phase 1: a systematic literature review for TMs in higher education institutions. Firstly, the four disciplines—Science (Medical and Engineering), Social Science, and Arts and Humanities—were taken as major disciplines in higher education by considering the knowledge available at the platform of Web of Science (WoS) core collection. Besides, these disciplines are popular and widely taught in higher education institutions across the regions. Secondly, the literature was searched in a manner that would identify the maximum number of TMs across the disciplines. The presented study used the keywords robustly in the searches to maximize the review scope. Most importantly, the search results of hundreds of articles included at least one of these keywords, in either titles or abstracts. Besides, the articles were selected manually, screening the description of teaching methods and the disciplines where they were applied practically. In the end, the authors took opinions from several educators about the study’s idea and intended to provide readers with the maximum number of potential TMs in a single article. This review process was conducted for almost seven weeks accessing the different online scientific databases and other resources. During the search process, the keywords listed in the review design in Figure 1 were searched from the published articles. All the keywords were searched in different combinations to obtain the most similar and relevant articles from the databases. The databases were selected considering (i) education research journals, (ii) published quality articles, i.e., ISI indexed journals, (iii) other databases relevant to the study’s aim. The criteria were the same for all the disciplines, i.e., teaching methods in higher education. Moreover, we considered some other research databases based on the content relevant to the study’s idea. ptFor the selection of articles, screening, eligibility, and final inclusion have been considered. Articles have been screened considering the titles and abstracts that included the keywords listed in Figure 1. For eligibility, the articles were included considering their accessibility to the authors and their suitability in the four disciplines of higher education. The articles were also carefully weighed for method, discussion, and result in line with the study’s aim. Finally, these articles have been selected based on their complete content and cited in the body text and included in the reference section.(2)Phase 2: an analysis of the literature review to find out the TMs in four educational disciplines. Under phase 2, the selected articles were analyzed to find the TMs in four educational disciplines. Figure 2 describes the total number of articles that have been differentiated according to four disciplines. Analysis of these articles enumerated different TMs and led the study to phase 3.(3)Phase 3: identifying the exclusive TMs in four disciplines. This phase analyzed the corpus of articles to determine the most practicing methods in each discipline exclusively. A thorough reading of the corpus of included articles led to consensus meetings which resulted in critical evaluation. Subsequently, different TMs which were found exclusively used in each discipline have been enlisted.
2.2. Referencing Timeline
This study mostly considers articles with TMs published in the last three decades. A few of the articles were dated very old and presented some of the TMs that had been significantly practiced for years. With the advent of modern methods, they might look obsolete, but those methods ushered the path to the latest. Authors found these references, though old, very relevant for discussion purposes. Besides, some methods discussed in those references are still useful in the teaching-learning context. In combination with the latest methods, old methods can be used partially to facilitate the learners. Subject and discipline-wise, some old methods occasionally prove useful, such as the grammar-translation method in Humanities and lecture method in all disciplines. Our referencing aims at showing the gradual progression in the teaching methods happening for decades in academia.
2.3. Methodology Selection
Howe and Abedin  searched 21 terms to carry out the review on a single TM, “classroom-dialogue.” Song et al.  used the same terms for their research. Further, they employed the Delphi method, consulted four experts to give their opinions about the terms used in the study, and employed bibliometric analysis to evaluate academic outputs of a specific research field and publication source for a period of time. The bibliometric analysis shows a research trend and its importance for a specific research field, e.g., education. It utilizes the impact factor of journals, citation count, and the h-index of authors to measure the influence of the research [12–14]. Similarly, topic modeling is a natural language processing method that mines research texts to discover semantic structures among them, which is used in social sciences . On the contrary, this study used online and manual search using predefined keywords for article mining. Several potential research databases were needed to search rather than a single source because of its focus on multiple disciplines and an open range of time. The search was distributed among the authors according to their specialty. Factually, the bibliometric analysis was found difficult to be employed and inappropriate under such a case.
3.1. Teaching Methods in Higher Education
This article provides an in-depth search for the available TMs being practiced in the aforementioned disciplines in higher education. Additionally, it identifies that there is no such study that fully acknowledges similar kinds of work in listing TMs that teachers should adopt. It organizes the potential TMs in higher education, found in the literature review, and includes them in Table 1 to illustrate the study’s findings. Remarkably, we found 110 TMs after careful review of 90 articles from the different publishers’ databases.
3.2. TMs Exclusively Being Practiced in Each Discipline
One hundred and ten TMs share a lot of commonalities. However, Table 2 enlists 14 TMs in AH, 21 in ME, 22 in SE, and 25 in SS that are exclusively practiced in higher education. Exclusive TMs are the methods used for a particular discipline. Figure 3 illustrates 110 TMs of higher education that accommodates the number of exclusive TMs in each discipline and 28 TMs that are used across the disciplines.
3.2.1. Arts and Humanities
We found 14 exclusive TMs from 26 research materials that are generally being practiced in Arts and Humanities. According to our study, most of the methods found are active and student-centric, while a few are passive and teacher-centric. One study  found that in Asian context, CLT was unsuccessful at the classroom setup. The researchers suggested the teachers to consider educational, cultural, economic, and social factors in accepting any particular TM. Likewise, the grammar-translation method is limited to literature and fine arts . Besides, students engage themselves in student-to-student mentoring and in real-world situations in different ways through artists’ talks, consultancy, event-based learning, live projects, and simulating conditions of industry . An analysis of the data-driven learning method shows that most of the students found the method interesting, productive, and motivating .
Similarly, under desuggestopedia, the classroom was found bright, cheerful, and positive, whereas, on the other hand, the discovery method intensifies students’ knowledge, but no classroom was observed under this method . As student diversity is increasing, methods based on multiple intelligence play a vital role in the pedagogy of higher education. The researcher suggested enhanced students’ learning using this method . Two student-centric methods task-teach-task and total physical response are used for learning foreign languages, and still, there are scopes to improve [91, 95].
3.2.2. Medical Education
We reviewed 17 articles with utmost care to find out the potential methods. In this case, we found 21 TMs which are exclusively being practiced over the years. As ME has been advanced in recent years, tape-slide program , CAL and tape/slide, didactic teaching, and models poorly fit the learning objectives. In contrast, three other practical methods: dissection, living and radiological, and prosection, have higher “fitness for purpose” and widely preferred by the anatomy students . A recent study  in an educational setting suggested that students find more learner satisfaction in hybrid groups that combines online materials and short in-person simulation than online-only groups. Another study  found the hybrid tutorial to be successful because of increased student involvement and accountability.
It is evident that medical students require clinical tests and laboratory work. Therefore, students preferred structured lectures more than self-study . Besides, using clinical cases, theoretical-practical seminars, and experiments, students participate more actively in their own learning process .
Moreover, teaching with real patients is limited by manpower shortage, and patients’ safety, and similarly, the use of animal models is limited to a few medical facilities. Studies [28, 74] found that serious gaming could be ideal for overcoming these limitations. Working under a simulated environment prevents medical error, and thus, students acquire skills before practicing on real patients.
Tuition was used occasionally  and “video + handout” was significantly effective  for the medical students. Interestingly, one TM, VTS, from the humanities was used for training family medicine residents who found this method valuable in working together as a group .
3.2.3. Science and Engineering
For SE, we reviewed 27 articles, the maximum number of articles among all. We found 22 TMs used extensively while teaching the academic courses in this discipline. An interactive method like activity is useful for the classes that do not have a laboratory component. This was the most favorite method among other studied methods, and it encouraged the students to think. Although the lecture method is widely criticized , modification of this method like “lecture with collaborative exercises” was beneficial, and teachers can supervise a large-sized class through group exercises . In contrast, “both activity and lecture” and “lecture with PowerPoint” method were the least preferred by the students .
A recent study  in an engineering program compared the perceived effectiveness of different learning methods in one graduate and one undergraduate course. Graduate students were positive towards s-lecture, but they were undecided for making/reading peer reviews. On the other hand, undergraduate students found homework, lecture handouts, and s-lecture to be useful. Though the blog is an innovative method, students were undecided of its utility in their learning. They were also undecided for making/reading peer reviews.
Another method, extended analogy, helps students in understanding and retaining technical concepts. The researchers  suggested using extended analogy to hold students’ attention in the learning process. Similarly, teachers can use dialogic technique [43, 44], in-class discussion , and group work  to involve students. Teachers can also use the traditional face-to-face method to deliver complex theoretical topics in the classroom and perceptional teaching to conceptualize empirical meanings . Besides, a study  found invited expert lecture to be popular and more active than expected, and simulated international conference to be positive.
Carpenter  conducted pretest and posttest studies of the students using five different TMs. The researcher found that all five of the methods positively affected students’ scores, and students improved the most using the jigsaw method. However, despite the improvement, students considered the jigsaw method to be the least valuable. On the other hand, Perkins and Saris  also found that students’ perceptions of the jigsaw method were very positive.
In some situations, the low-tech hands-on technique can improve students’ performance more than high-tech tools . Nevertheless, analyzed data suggested that the high-tech method, as the virtual internship, can develop students’ design thinking and understanding in engineering , and today universities are using web-based laboratories to combat the increase in class sizes and the drain on resources .
3.2.4. Social Science
Social Science is one of the broader disciplines in higher education. In this discipline, we selected 25 articles for detailed analysis. We found 25 exclusively used TMs, the highest number of TMs in the four disciplines. In a study, Casado  investigated TMs preferred by the students. Surprisingly, most of the students preferred group presentation, and the combination of lecture and discussion more than applied projects, in-class exercises, and guest speakers as a TM. Similarly, Lonappan  conducted another research to compare the perception of different methods in teaching entrepreneurship education. In that study, only 12% and 5% of the students preferred individual presentation and action learning, respectively, which are less than other practice-based approaches. Besides, behavioral simulation, business plan creation, new venture creation projects, expert script, life stories, real-life case, role model, and individual project are widely used for teaching entrepreneurship [4, 23, 26, 32]. Carrier  also suggested that entrepreneurship can be taught using classical literature. Students can assimilate lessons from the characters of the novels and other essays. Another study  found that some methods might be enjoyable but not effective for a specific course. “Discussion and debate” and group presentation were rated high, but library exercise was rated low because of its limited connection to the course.
However, Anthony and Garner  found guest speakers to be very much influential. In contrast, Casado  found guest speaker as the least-liked method, and Lonappan  reported that only 15% of the students opted for the guest speaker. On the other hand, self-analysis and journal articles were found to be helpful. Surprisingly, students reported interviewing a boss or a manager to be least helpful . Moreover, students perceived management simulation as a valuable instructional method for business courses , and mind mapping to be beneficial for learning business English . Lastly, two tech-based methods, virtual classroom and virtual simulation program, are found to be interactive that increase student engagement in learning [26, 98, 100].
3.2.5. Teaching Methods across the Disciplines
Among the 110 TMs, we found 28 methods to be used across the disciplines. These are the methods that were not being used exclusively for a specific discipline. They can be adapted to diverse circumstances. E-learning, lecture, and problem-based learning were found to be in all four disciplines. Furthermore, 10 TMs were applied in three disciplines in different combinations. Table 3 lists the TMs that have been used across the disciplines.
The question that incepted our study was, “How TMs are important in each discipline?” This led us to find out the TMs that were employed in different disciplines in higher education. Research for this was done, and we classified our findings into four major disciplines: AH, SE, SS, and ME. Numerous data gathered from different sources influenced us to narrow down our scope of research, and subsequently, we decided to pursue “What are the potential TMs being practiced in higher education?” and consequentially we investigated, “What are the TMs exclusively being practiced in four major disciplines?”
A self-contained study incorporating TMs across the four disciplines in higher education is hardly found in the academic arena. Individually cited articles focused on a small number of teaching methods used in each discipline, and hardly those articles discussed methods used across the disciplines. Researchers have ignored the age-old methods, e.g.,lecture, Keller plan, and lecture with collaborative exercises, although they might have some potential in certain scenarios. The current study allows learning about potential TMs which are being practiced for decades in the academic arena. Moreover, it also enumerates new and contemporary methods that are evolving alongside emerging technologies, e.g., computer simulation, web-based learning, and virtual internship.
This study lists 110 TMs, which are explained briefly individually and narrowed down to identify exclusive TMs from each discipline. This process helps teachers understand the useful contributions of these methods in teaching and learning in their respective disciplines. If they need a more practical understanding of these methods, they can access the cited articles and get extensive understanding. Furthermore, comfortably they can get help from this article if they want to know about some identical and new methods.
While collecting data, we came across a number of articles in different disciplines; however, narrowing down our search, we studied a total of 90 research articles. Of the 90 articles, 84 articles focused on specific disciplines, whereas 6 articles discussed several disciplines and their associated TMs.
Of the 110 methods that we have enumerated from 90 articles, there has been varied distribution of these among different disciplines. Twenty-six (i.e., 27%) of the articles were in reference to AH, and 18 articles (19%) were pertaining to ME; similarly, 27 articles (28%) discussed SE, and 25 articles (26%) were related to SS.
These findings resulted in 14 methods in AH, 21 methods for ME, 22 methods for SE, and 25 for SS that were exclusively used for each of the disciplines. The word “exclusively” used here is our way of saying that these methods did not overlap with the other disciplines. The findings also include 28 TMs across all four disciplines.
Surprisingly, only three methods were common with all four disciplines, i.e., lectures, e-learning, and problem-based learning. Lectures have been the age-old method of conveying the intent verbally. Even though it is a passive method of conveying information, it is effective when the number of participants is great and when the same information has to be conveyed to all at the same time. Problem-based learning is a relatively newer method of teaching which has become very popular due to its vocational approach. E-learning is another method which has been used by all disciplines in higher education due to the fact that it is effective in distance learning and convenient for study time suitability.
In reality, however, the TMs covered in this study would not be all the methods that exist in the four major disciplines. To the best of our efforts, we could find these methods after searching more than 1200 research materials.
The study has identified a wide variety of TMs employed in four disciplines, as mentioned. Apart from focusing on practicing TMs in higher education, a few teaching approaches were also considered, as they have been used in all the four disciplines under study interchangeably. On the other hand, TMs that are employed in primary and secondary education were not included, as the study would be voluminous. The study’s limitation also includes that only reputed journals, e.g., ISI, Scopus, and other peer-reviewed, were considered where some accepted methods might not have been reported.
This study has been conducted to methodically explore the most practicing TMs used in higher education. Attention was focused on four major disciplines that included AH, ME, SE, and SS. In our approach, we found that a broad spectrum of TMs has been practiced, and lecture is the most common method employed in the four disciplines. In the age of emerging technologies, electronic dependent modern TMs, like e-learning and computer-based simulations, are also employed massively across the disciplines.
The present study, though enlists TMs used in four disciplines, also admits its inefficiency in ensuring generalizability across every discipline in higher education. Future studies, in this regard, should include more disciplines to obtain a more holistic and comprehensive picture. Further studies employing questionnaires, interviews, and class observation data could be conducted to investigate essential factors influencing teachers' decisions to use TMs. Primary and secondary education levels could also be studied to this end. Moreover, there is much scope for future research in terms of the pedagogical dimensions that impact upon learners' classroom experiences. Relatedly, studies in this area could further focus on identifying pedagogical strategies that create, value, operate, and support a positive and inclusive classroom learning environment. Investigating the compatibility between TMs and assessment strategies used in the higher education level is another avenue for further research. The knowledge generated from this study, thus, potentially intends to bridge the literature lacuna, calls for attention to the current teaching practices, and provides critical insights for further research in higher education.
This article does not include any third-party data. It only includes the articles that have cited and listed in the reference section.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
This work was supported by the Deanship of Scientific Research, King Khalid University, under Grant R.G.P-42-39.
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