Guide to the Different Styles of Teaching

How Classroom Teaching Has Changed

Teaching has changed from the days when a teacher stood in front of a class and read from a book while students quietly took notes. Now, classrooms are much more interactive, and participation is encouraged in the form of questions and activities. One reason the classroom has evolved is because of technology. As we’ve become more advanced as a society, our teaching methods and manner of conveying information to students have changed. From interactive lessons and quizzes to new ways of teaching learners with varying learning styles, current classrooms are a place where there is no longer one right way to teach a subject.

Teacher-Centered Learning

“Sage-on-the-Stage” Teaching / Lecture Style

When someone thinks of a teacher, especially at the high school or college level, this is the image most commonly conjured. The all-knowing teacher or professor stands at the front of the classroom, normally behind a lectern, imparting their wisdom of a subject to their eager-to-learn audience. For some, this style is adequate because they believe that the person on the stage has valuable information to pass along. After all, if they didn’t know what they were talking about, they wouldn’t be on the stage, right? For others though, especially younger students, this approach is more of a turn-off. The superiority aspect of the sage versus learner is off-putting or boring. The student might not be as knowledgeable as the sage, but for upper-level students who might have work experience, they aren’t necessarily newbies to the subject either, and younger students may just fall asleep if you drone on about something they don’t yet understand.

Demonstrator Style / Visualization

Teachers with a demonstrator style believe that seeing something in action is the best way to learn a topic or skill. These teachers use videos to demonstrate a skill or topic (such as a reenactment), or they provide worksheets that require students to work through a scenario that covers the skill or idea being taught. This is good for students who need a more hands-on approach for learning but can seem like overkill the students who got the concept when the instructor initially presented the information. However, as long as the demonstrations are engaging and interesting, there usually is very little pushback to this teaching approach, provided the material used for the demonstration isn’t viewed as offensive. Teachers who take this approach should be careful to ensure the demonstrations are appropriate for all students.

Facilitator Style

Facilitator-style educators believe that once they have introduced the topic and explained the key elements, students should work through material with each other to gain further understanding. This is a roundtable approach that requires students to be more prepared for class than the “Sage on the Stage” style. For example, the teacher might throw out a scenario that covers the current subject being taught and ask the class to discuss how to solve the issue presented. Students would then be required to use what they’ve learned about the subject to solve the issue. This style is only effective if the instructor has provided a sufficient overview of the topic and is able to keep the discussion on track with guided questions and specific hints. Otherwise, this type of style can lead to frustrated students because they feel they have been left to fend for themselves when learning the material.

Delegator or Group Style

This is a play on the traditional lecture/questions-and-answers teaching paradigm. In a delegator or group style, the teacher lectures on a subject and asks questions. Students respond to the questions and ask questions to both the instructor and their peers. This format allows the teacher to remain in control of the learning environment, but also allows for students to provide input, ask for clarification and provide additional insight. This method works well when combined with practical application methods and techniques but can be daunting for students who have anxiety about speaking in front of a large number of people. This could lead to the same core group participating each time, while the rest of the class passively listens.

Student-Centered Discussion (Small Groups) / Co-operative Learning

Teachers that allow students to work in small groups provide opportunities for students who otherwise might not participate to excel. Some students are intimidated by participating in a whole classroom setting but feel more comfortable speaking to a smaller group of their peers. There is also a better chance for practical application and experience to be applied to the subject, which leads to a greater understanding. A student might not feel comfortable sharing an experience with 50 students but is okay with sharing it with five. In using this approach, the teacher should try and blend several types of learners and personalities in the groups. Otherwise, the activity could devolve into a mess where no one learns. For example, placing two students who are always participating in class in the same group could lead to a battle for power, and leave less assertive students caught in the middle.

Learning/Life Connections

Teachers who adopt a learning and life connection approach believe that practical application of material is the best way a student will retain the information. By applying a concept to a regular activity or happening in students’ lives, they are more likely to understand the concept at a personal level, thereby making it more likely they will remember the information. For example, if budgeting is being taught, providing students with play money and walking them through a scenario where they have a certain amount of money that has to be used for a variety of things helps a student learn the responsibilities and difficulties of financial budgeting. It is important to note that this approach cannot be applied to every learning situation. Some subjects simply require students to memorize the material, and therefore, this type of learning might be ineffective for some students.

Student Autonomy

Allowing students to create their own learning environment is an effective way of letting students choose the learning style that is best for them. Once a teacher has explained the subject or concept, students are free to explore the subject in the manner that makes the most sense to them. By allowing students to learn in their own most natural way, retention of the material increases. Practical application, role-playing, and other methods are encouraged. As a student progresses through their learning, a teacher should offer specific praise to the student for grasping the material. This approach is better for smaller class sizes; large classes could become a bit unwieldy if 50 students are each trying to apply their own learning styles, but if a teacher feels up to the challenge, it is always an option.

Literacy/Self Learning

People have been self-taught since the beginning of time. Self-learning uses a person’s natural desire to learn a variety of subjects, including subjects students might not be as keen to learn. Self-learning allows students to learn about subjects in the way they want, whether by reading about it, watching videos about the subject, or using hands-on lessons. The learning process leads to greater literacy because it requires students to read, listen, and comprehend what is being presented to them. Increased literacy leads to additional learning, which leads to increased literacy. If this style is implemented, it is important that subjects that require adherence to a specific method or steps are self-learned in the correct order, especially if learning out of order is going to create major issues for the student or other students in the classroom, as with math operations.

Flipped Classroom

In a flipped classroom, students are given a topic or subject to research and learn the material as if they were going to teach a lesson to their classmates. This style requires a student to not only understand the subject matter but internalize it in a way that allows them to teach others. Unlike traditional learning styles, which are more rote than practical application, a flipped classroom requires students to really think and conceptualize the aspects of a subject so the information can be effectively passed on to others. For a classroom setting the subject matter should be kept relatively simplistic; more complex subjects might frustrate a student and turn them off of this learning style, which could be problematic in the future when the learning style might be more useful.

Hybrid or Blended Styles / Differentiation

Every learning style has its pros and cons, but learning isn’t a cookie-cutter activity. A teacher should consider using two or more learning styles to engage their students in the best way. Taking time to figure out the learning styles of students in a classroom can help a teacher choose which styles to implement and with what subject matter. For example, if a class is learning a process, using a learning/lifestyle approach is effective, whereas, when teaching about a historical period, self-learning or discussion groups could be ideal. A flipped classroom can also be utilized in this situation so students can learn the materials and teach and discuss with each other. It can take time to evaluate students in a classroom to determine the best learning styles to implement, but once you figure it out, the learning environment can be enhanced immensely.

Other Things Teachers Use in the Classroom

Gamification

Gamification doesn’t necessarily mean using games as teaching tools. Although using games as teaching tools isn’t a foreign concept, in this case, gamification is a process of using a game-like environment to help students learn. Whether it’s the use of levels to show achievement, a point system, or the rewarding of stars or other special symbols; gamification engages and challenges students while keeping them entertained. More importantly, the process improves a student’s retention of the subject matter. As an added incentive, implementing leaderboards and progress meters can provide some healthy competition between students, which increases the learning potential in the classroom.

There are some downsides to this method, however. For example, a class that is learning their multiplication tables might have a chart with all the student’s names on it and each student has a car. The object is to get the car to the finish line; aka learn all the multiplication tables. For each table learned, the car moves a space toward the finish line and gets a star for each space earned. For fast learners, this is a fun exercise, but for those students who are struggling with learning the tables, it could be discouraging. So, a teacher should evaluate what is being taught and the abilities of their students before they decide if gamification for that particular subject is a good idea.

Social Media

Social media is quickly becoming the norm where communication is concerned, so it’s no shock that it’s making its way into classrooms. Whether it’s a science class sharing its latest experiment or the band showing off the song they learned, classrooms are implementing the use of social media into the everyday learning process. In some classrooms, the teacher does all the posting, while in other classes, students take turns posting about what activities they’ve participated in or any fundraisers they are having. Students who learn how to use social media responsibly early are less likely to be irresponsible with their social media accounts later on.

Free Online Learning

There is no shortage of sites that can help teachers and parents educate students of all ages. Here are some of the more popular sites, as well as a few you might not have considered.

- KhanAcademy

This site is a go-to for insights into complex math and science concepts. Videos, games, and other learning tools are available to help teachers and parents educate students.

- TEDed

For teachers who are looking for creative and innovative ways to teach students, the lectures and presentations on this site are worth every minute you spend on the site.

- Time4Learning

Videos, games, and quizzes for children on a variety of topics and subjects.

- Time4Writing

This site helps children and students improve their writing skills.

- Pinterest

You might be shocked to see this site on here, but there is a lot of educational material on this site. Pin to your heart’s content.

Technology

Technology has made keeping teachers and students in contact with each other easier than ever. Gone are the days of only communicating with teachers during class time and at parent/teacher conferences. Now students and teachers are merely a login away from keeping in contact. Here are a few examples of how technology helps teachers and students stay connected even when the school is closed.

- Virtual blackboards

Teachers can post assignments, exams, and grades for each student on an online blackboard. This tool can also be used to help students participate in discussion questions and team exercises. Parents can also use this tool to communicate with teachers and track their child’s progress.

- Twitter

Need to remind students about an upcoming exam or make an update regarding the current homework assignment? Twitter is a great way for a teacher to keep their older students on track.

- Text message

Most students over the age of 10 seem to have cell phones or at least access to one. Teachers can text students and their parents about important matters and reminders.

- Facebook

Teachers can create closed, private groups for students and use the platform for additional learning and communication opportunities.

- Webinars

Instead of teaching from an actual classroom, a teacher and their students can meet in a virtual classroom, with both audio and video or just audio. Also, students who cannot attend school for various reasons can log into the web classroom and be counted as present, which reduces absenteeism rates.

Behavior Management

An unruly classroom leads to a frustrated teacher and a lack of learning for students. For a class to learn, the teacher must have control of the room. Gaining control of a class is a collaborative effort between the teachers and the students. If everyone is on the same page, understands the rules, and the consequences for when the rules are broken, things go much smoother.

  • Set the Example

    The best way for students to use good behavior is for them to see consistently good behavior from the teacher. If you don’t run around, yell in class and act rudely, they most likely won’t either.

  • Set the Rules as a Class

    If students have a hand in determining what the consequences are for bad behavior, they are less likely to exhibit bad behavior. For example, if talking during class results in missing 15 minutes of recess, a student who loves recess is less likely to be chatty in class.

  • Deal with individual student’s bad behavior, not the entire class as a whole

    If one of two students are acting up, don’t punish the entire class. Deal with the offending students using the rules and consequences set up previously.

Continuing Education

Keeping up to date with new technology can be a daunting task. Check with your school administrators and school board for new tech opportunities for your classroom. When you discover new tech that you would like to implement, approach school administrators with your ideas. Most new tech advances offer training for teachers, so look into those opportunities for learning as well.

In some cases, schools and school boards will pay teachers to go to conferences to train on new technology that they feel might benefit their schools. And don’t discount local colleges and universities, especially those with a technology slant. That could be another option for learning about the new technology you can use in your classroom.

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