SOAR to Success
What is SOAR?
SOAR is a teaching and learning method I developed. It is an acronym that stands for its four components: Select, Organize, Associate, and Regulate.
To learn, students must select important ideas (usually through note taking), organize them (usually using graphic organizers like charts and diagrams), associate them (to one another and to previously acquired knowledge), and regulate learning (usually through practice testing).
Students can employ powerful SOAR methods on their own but rarely do. Instead they tend to use weak strategies such as taking incomplete notes (instead of taking complete notes), failing to organize noted ideas or organizing them in lists or outlines (instead of organizing them graphically using matrices and diagrams), studying ideas in a piecemeal fashion—one fact at a time (instead of associating ideas), and studying ideas in a redundant fashion using rehearsal strategies (instead of using practice testing to make sure learning has occurred).
Teachers can design instruction to make sure students SOAR. For example, an instructor can provide skeletal notes—partial notes with spaces for additional note taking—to make sure students select and note the lesson’s important ideas. An instructor can aid organization by supplying charts and diagrams. An instructor can provide students with associations that link lesson ideas with one another and with previously acquired information. An instructor can provide practice questions that help students regulate how well they have learned.
Below are SOAR Examples. Example 1 shows how an instructor can teach in ways that help students SOAR to success. Example 2 shows how students can use SOAR on their own.
SOAR Example 1
Suppose you were to teach students the following information about the appearance of spiders and insects. How would you go about it?
Simply giving students these blocks of information to learn is not the ticket. Most students employ weak learning strategies. Teachers can foster learning by helping students select, organize, associate, and regulate lesson information. When teachers do, they help students SOAR to success. Let’s look.
- Body Parts: 2, Head and chest
- Legs: 8
- Eyes: 8
- Wings: None
- Antennae: None
- Skeleton: Hard outer shell
- Skeleton: Hard outer shell
- Body Parts: 3, Head, chest, and abdomen
- Eyes: 2 big and 3 smaller between them
- Legs: 6
- Wings: 1 or 2 pairs
- Antennae: 1 pair
|Skeleton||Hard outer shell||Hard outer shell|
|Body Parts||2: head, chest||3: head, chest, abdomen|
|Eyes||8||2 big, 3 small between|
- Both have hard outer shells.
- Spiders have 8 eyes and 8 legs. Think of a spider like a table where each corner has 2 legs and each side has 2 eyes.
- Spiders have no wings or antennae. Think about Spiderman who had no wings or antennae.
- Both have heads and chests but only the insect has an abdomen. Think about a bee (insect) with a fat belly.
- Insects have fewer eyes (5) than spiders (8) but compensate by having antennae to sense things.
- Insects have fewer legs (6) than spiders (8) but compensate by having wings for flight.
Answer spider, insect, or both.
- Has wings
- Three body parts
- Hard outer shell
- Eight legs and eyes
SOAR Example 2
Schedules of Reinforcement
Select & Organize
- Interval schedules are based on time; ratio schedules are based on number.
- In fixed schedules, the reinforcement pattern remains constant; in variable schedules, the reinforcement pattern changes.
- Interval schedules produce slow responding; ratio schedules produce rapid responding.
- Fixed schedules produce pauses in responding; variable schedules produce steady responding.
- Fixed schedules are easy to extinguish; variable schedules are difficult to extinguish.
- Fixed ratio. A salesperson receives a commission for every five products sold.
- Variable ratio. Checking the coin return on a vending machine pays off on a variable ratio schedule.
- Fixed interval. Teachers who evaluate students using just midterm and final exams. As a result, students’ studying behavior (response rate) is predictably “paused” for most of the semester except days just prior to the two tests.
- Variable interval. Teachers who evaluate students using pop quizzes. As a result, students’ studying behavior is “steady” throughout the semester because they never know when a quiz is forthcoming.
- To remember that fixed schedules are easy to extinguish, remember that when you fix something in gambling, it’s easy to win.
- To remember that variable schedules are difficult to extinguish, remember that something variable, such as weather, is difficult to predict.
- To remember that ratio schedules produce rapid responding, remember the three Rs: ratio, rapid, and responding.
- What is the definition of variable interval schedules?
- Extinction is ____________ to carry out for fixed ratio schedules.
- What is the response rate for variable interval schedules?
- Which schedules involve steady responding?
- Which schedules involve pauses following reinforcement?
- Which schedules are difficult to extinguish?
- In Frau Heibert’s German class, students listen to and repeat German conversation in a listening laboratory with personal headphones and microphones. Frau Heibert can listen in on any student at any time and reinforce him or her for responding appropriately. What reinforcement schedule is this?
- Bobby is solving chess problems using a computer program. Every time he solves five problems correctly the computer responds, “You’re the champ, Bobby.” What might you predict about Bobby’s response pattern?