The CAS Teaching Method

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Being an engineer, you might think that I prefer to invent acronymns in order to describe complicated processes. However, this is the first process to which I have attached acronymn in my life. CAS simply stands for "common sense", "adaptive" and "streamlined". This is the learning and teaching process which I have followed throughout my academic career. I am more of a "do" person, than "say", but I will try my best to describe the technique to you. I guess it is kind of like explaining to someone how I ride a bike; it is a natural process to me, and I just "do" it (no pun intended).

C for Common Sense

In my tutorials I follow the CAS approach to effectively deliver complicated material to students of all grade levels, regardless of their own perceived abilities. In this type of session, all problems are approached from a common sense perspective while maintaining academic rigor. The basic standpoint is that complicated ideas should be explained to a student from a point within the student's comfort level. More time is wasted by just introducing a complicated idea and then progressively backtracking until the student recognizes a fundamental concept or principle. If complicated ideas can be related to simple principles and common sense, a student will become confident because the student will feel that understanding such concepts is within their reach rather than being an impossibility. It is for this reason, that simple words should be used and progressively replaced by the correct (and more complicated) terminology, rather than just "dumping" a bunch of fancy words on the student. One other aspect of the common sense approach is to provide a practical motivation (where possible) for concepts, rather than just the routine for solving them.

A for Adaptive

Common sense is the most fundamental principle of the CAS method. However, not every student's brain is wired the same way. It is for this fact, that my teaching method is adaptive to an individual student's needs. From experience I have found that no single explanation is universal to all students. It is important for the educator to be able to explain a specific topic using many angles. If one approach is not amenable to a given student, then another should be tried, and so on... In all of my years of teaching and tutoring, I have never failed at marrying an idea to a student. There is always a way! One example and key difference in learning style between many students is whether the student is a visual learner or not. If the student is a visual learner, then a geometric approach should be used. If the student doesn't gravitate to this approach, then a more algebraic approach can be used with the aid of repetition and use of patterns. Nevertheless, there is always a way of explaining the material to the student. It is my strong belief that if a student can understand a given concept or solve a problem from different angles, then there is a high probability that they will have strong academic performance. There are other important factors such as HARD WORK, neatness, and good communication. I look to develop those traits as well during a session.

S for Streamlined

Time is of value to everyone. A five-minute explanation should not be dragged on for an hour as is done in many classes, lectures, and tutorials. The final piece to the CAS teaching method is the streamlined process. Efficiency is the key to keeping students captivated and maintaining a strong learning momentum without learning a student's focus. Time flies when you are having fun, and sessions tend to fly by very fast once the ball gets rolling. After the session is complete, there is a genuine feeling of accomplishment on on both ends. The student truly feel like they have learned and the teacher truly feels like they have taught.

Over the past 10+ years, I have developed and used the CAS teaching method in many capacities; for myself, with fellow students, as a TA for four years, as a course instructor/lecturer for another four years, and as a tutor concurrently and ever since. This method has been proven successful and is only getting better with time.

Beyond the CAS Method

In addition to the CAS method, I want to point out that there are other important aspects in my teaching method. A tutor and a student must connect on a personal level and be able to relate to each other. I strive to provide a friendly and empathetic learning environment. It is a reflection of my personality, because that is the way I try to be with everyone that I interact with on a daily basis. I also try to balance short- and long-term goals. Yes, it is important to prepare for a test or an exam; but it is also important to build a solid foundation for future learning and concepts. The examples that are selected in a session are done so in an efficient manner, that covers roughly 90 percent of the material that would be covered on a test. The 90 percent measure is more qualitative and merely points out that those who administer tests always will have a tricky question in mind. But, with a solid foundation and familiarity with fundamental examples, a student will have less anxiety on a test and will be able to tackle the harder problems with a clearer head. With students of all ages and preconceived skills, I try to instill mature thinking and learning principles that can be transfered to a higher-learning environment, and especially life!

Optimal Session Time

I have found that the optimal time for sessions is 2 hours for most students.  I prefer to vary the frequency of the sessions in a strategic way to optimize student learning, progress, and advantage prior to evaluations.

For university students or mature students preparing for professional exams (MCAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.) session duration is not much of a debatable issue. Usually, 2 hours is a minimum for session time. However, I am not one to edorse marathons either.

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