Teaching styles are the way in which teachers manage their classroom and deliver content. Teaching methods depend on the preference of the teacher, the needs of students and the subject.
Teaching styles and methods
During their training and qualification period, teachers become familiar with various teaching methods and styles. After using these methods in real-life classroom scenarios, teachers can determine which methods best suit their personality and delivery style.
Although teachers may prefer to deliver content in a specific style and via a particular method, their extensive training ensures they are able to adopt a wide range of teaching methods and adapt their style when necessary. Specific classes or groups of students may respond better to alternative methods, for example, while some subjects may be more suited to a particular teaching style.
In basic terms, teaching methods can be divided into four categories with two main variables:
- Teacher or student-centered
- Low tech or high tech
Using these two principles, four different teaching methods can be extracted, such as:
- Teacher-centered, high tech approach
- Teacher-centered, low tech approach
- Student-centered, high tech approach
- Student-centered, low tech approach
Of course, there are various examples of teaching methods within these four groups. With numerous low tech and high tech options to deliver content to the classroom, for example, there are endless teaching styles which teachers can adopt, regardless of whether they’re taking a teacher-centered or student-centered approach.
Teacher-centered methods may be seen as a more traditional form of teaching, with the students receiving information from the teacher via lectures. Students may sit silently at desks throughout the lesson and passively take in the material which is recited and explained by the teacher.
This approach to teaching doesn’t require on-going assessment. Instead, students are assessed at the culmination of a topic or at the end of the school year and quantitative data is used to determine how well they have performed.
Educators remain in authority even when a student-centered approach is taken but students are encouraged to take an active role in the classroom. Using this teaching method, teachers effectively coach their students and facilitate learning through a variety of means. Rather than simply delivering the content directly to students, teachers may set group tasks, student assignments, research exercises, and practical experiments so that students can actively learn.
In order to assess students, teachers will conduct a series of informal assessments throughout the school year, as well as incorporating more formal tests into the curriculum. Educators may assess students whilst their working in a group, for example, to determine how well they are understanding and retaining the relevant information.
High tech learning
Technological advancements have brought new teaching methods to the fore and many teachers prefer to use a range of high tech equipment in the classroom. As the internet provides students with unlimited knowledge, it can be useful for teachers to provide supervised internet access in class. In addition to this, high tech learning methods can be used to bridge the gap between the classroom setting and the student’s home, with online school portals and online homework assignments.
In a high tech learning environment students may use any or all of the following:
- Collaboration apps
- Education-based networks to connect with students around the world
- Software designed to facilitate gamification learning
A high tech approach to learning can also be extremely beneficial for teachers and students with disabilities. There are a variety of apps which assist individuals with disabilities and this type of technology can make it easier for both educators and students to navigate the school environment. A student with sight issues may alter the size of fonts using a tablet, for example, as this could enable him or her to read assignments and course materials. Alternatively, a text to speech reader and voice typing apps can be used to complete assignments and tests.
Low tech learning
Although technology can enhance the classroom environment, some teachers prefer to use low tech teaching methods. By keeping classes low tech, students don’t have access to modern shortcuts, such as spellcheck, calculators and autocorrect options. This can improve a student’s reading, writing and mathematical skills are they are forced to work out these issues without being given the answer by a tablet or computer.
In addition to this, some teachers prefer to communicate with students directly and some subjects are best delivered in this way. When students have access to a range of technology, they may become distracted and communication with the teacher may be affected. By opting for low tech teaching methods, teachers can ensure students stay on task more easily.
Another benefit of low tech learning is the option to incorporate learning by ‘doing’. This is great for kinesthetic learners who retain information more easily when they are moving. Experiments, research activities and performances all facilitate this type of learning environment and don’t require high tech options. Furthermore, there are some subjects in which virtually learning isn’t effective. If students need to carry out ‘hands-on’ tasks, there is no substitute for the low options computers simply can’t provide.
Teacher vs tech learning
Within the subdivisions of teacher/student-centered learning and high or low tech learning, there are various options available. Teachers who opt to implement student-centered, low tech learning aren’t stuck with one teaching style, for example.
In fact, each subdivision offers a variety of teaching options, such as:
Teacher-centered & low tech learning
- Kinesthetic learning
- Direct instruction
Teacher-centered & high tech learning
- Flipped classroom
- Online instruction and lecture delivery
Student-centered & low tech learning
- Learning by doing
- Differentiated instruction to suit varying needs
Student-centered & high tech learning
- Game-based learning
- Personalized learning options
- Inquiry-based discovery
With so many options to choose from educators can adopt different teaching methods depending on what they’re most comfortable with, what facilities are available to them, the content they’re currently teaching and the response from students. By assessing these factors and keeping an open mind, teachers can deliver content in an innovative and effective way at all times.
Teacher-centered style and methods
Direct & low tech
Direct instruction is the primary teaching style in teacher-centered approaches and mirrors traditional teaching methods. When students are taught in this way, they are learning passively and absorbing the information they need by listening and/or watching the teacher.
When delivering content via direct instruction, teachers may take on the following roles:
Using this approach, educators teach pupils by example. They may demonstrate how to perform tasks, access information and understand subject content. Students are then expected to digest the material by watching and copying the teacher’s behavior.
Teacher-centered options allow teachers to plan intricate lesson plans and ensures every minute of classroom time is accounted for. Students are not encouraged or permitted to take an active role, which enables teachers to determine exactly how lesson time will be spent.
Often, this type of teaching method is considered to be low tech. When using direct instruction, teachers are imparting their knowledge to the students so there is no need for students to use high tech equipment, such as laptops or tablets.
Educators are in a position of authority due to their status and knowledge. This exemplifies traditional styles of teaching most accurately. Students are expected to conform to the rules of the classroom and to take a passive role in the learning process.
Due to their advanced knowledge, teachers are seen as experts and are tasked with the responsibility of teaching the lesson content to their pupils. Students are routinely described as ‘empty vessels’ when this approach is taken, as they are ‘filled’ with knowledge by sitting and absorbing the information given to them.
Kinesthetic & low tech
When students learn kinesthetically, they absorb information by creating, doing or making things. Based on the idea of tactile learning, students may perform a series of tasks in order to gain a greater understanding of a particular topic.
Teachers may set base tasks on the following when implementing a kinesthetic learning plan:
As kinesthetic learning requires the use of creativity and movement, it is typically a low tech form of learning. Depending on how it’s employed, kinesthetic learning can lean towards either a student or teacher-centered approach, although students do take an active role in each lesson. Although kinesthetic learning options can be cost-effective for schools to use, they aren’t often used in isolation. When used in conjunction with other teaching methods, however, kinesthetic learning programs can benefit both students and teachers alike.
Flip classroom & high tech
The flipped classroom is a relatively new phenomenon which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Despite being a teacher-centered form of instruction, it incorporates various technologies and is, therefore, considered a high tech model of teaching.
Traditionally, students are taught information in class and then complete related homework outside of school. When the classroom is ‘flipped’, however, this process is reversed. Pupils have access to lectures or direct instruction via online videos and then complete assignments in class, based on the information they have already received.
Some educators choose to record their own videos and upload them to a school portal so that students can access them, whereas others rely on pre-made videos which are already available online. As a high tech option, the success of the flipped classroom model does depend on whether all participants have access to a reliable internet connection.
Although the flipped classroom is a teacher-centered approach, it does allow for greater student input. Educators may allow students to work through content at their own pace, for example, or they may try and keep the whole class at the same level.
Students-centered style and methods
Inquiry-based & high tech
An inquiry-based learning method encourages students to examine the world around them and to question the content they’re taught, the context in which it applies and it’s importance in real-life scenarios. Whilst the teacher maintains control of the classroom, they are not seen simply as an authority figure.
Instead, teachers may take on the following roles when using inquiry-based learning techniques:
By being a personal model the teacher is effectively being a role model for his or her students. By showing students how to access content and critique materials, for example, students will learn how to do this for themselves.
When educators act as a facilitator there is the opportunity for a strong teacher-student relationship to develop. Rather than delivering a set of rigid instructions, students and teachers approach the learning process as a team. Whilst the teacher may provide loose guidelines and have lesson aims, they encourage pupils to learn independently and to explore topics via hands-on learning techniques.
This role allows teachers to take a passive role in the classroom and allows students to take independent learning to a new level. Although teachers are present and act as a resource, they respond to queries from students and encourage them to engage fully in the learning process.
With students playing an active role in all types of inquiry-based learning techniques, this approach is certainly student-centered. However, teachers can take an active role as and when it’s needed. This flexibility is beneficial if individuals go off track or need further assistance. In general, however, students relish the autonomy provided to them via inquiry-based learning and quickly learn how to think critically about the subjects they’re studying.
Differentiated & low tech
Originally used to ensure children with special needs were receiving effective instructions in the classroom, differentiated instruction has since been adapted to cater for all types of learners. When using differentiated instruction, teachers vary their content delivery in accordance with the needs of individual students.
With average classroom sizes of 25-30 students, it’s not uncommon for individual pupils to have varying needs and be achieving differing grades. By changing the tasks students undertake and offering a variety of ways to access materials, teachers can ensure that all students are able to flourish.
Differentiated instruction can incorporate laptops, tablets and other technologies but it doesn’t have to, hence it’s low tech designation. Having been in use since the 1970s, differentiated instruction does not require any specific technologies and can be delivered in any type of classroom setting.
Personalized & high tech
One of the newest teaching methods, personalized learning gives students control over their education and their learning experience. Teachers work in accordance with student preferences and pupils are encouraged to study subjects which are of interest to them. Giving students a choice over the curriculum and allowing them to direct the learning process encourages pupils to be fully engaged and allows them to tailor their education to their strengths and interests.
Self-directed or personalized learning also offers a variety of assessment methods, so students aren’t stuck in the cycle of taking end of term or end of year tests. Instead, teachers assess pupils via competency-based criteria. This works well if individuals in the class are at different stages and ensures pupils can progress at their own pace, regardless of whether this means spending a little extra on one topic or moving on to advanced level study.
When practicing personalized learning, students can use a range of technological equipment but the use of technology can help to make personalized learning effective. Although this model is student-centered, teachers will need to liaise with students, provide support when needed and help students to modify their learning plans throughout the year. Collaborative software and internet connectivity help to make this a realistic objective and ensures teachers can support a whole class or grade of students.
Expeditionary learning & high tech
This is a form of project-based learning which teaches students by accompanying them on expeditions and outdoor pursuits. Typically, students use this type of learning when they are focusing on topics and subjects which impact their school environment or their own communities.
Although expeditionary learning does require students to carry out tasks and partake in expeditions, the use of technology renders this teaching method high tech. When recording expedition data, for example, collaborative software allows pupils to collate and share their data. Furthermore, virtual expeditions may be used when funds or time are limited and real-life expeditions aren’t a viable option.
Whilst various forms of technology can be used to enhance the expeditionary learning method, the main premise of this teaching method is to expose students to real-life examples of the subjects they’re studying. If students are assessing the environmental impact of discarded plastic, for example, they may go out into the community in order to determine whether the issue has a local effect, why it’s harmful and what action can be taken to minimize the harm caused.
Game-based & high tech
Game-based learning incorporates many features from video games and mimics the gaming environment students are used to. Students may undertake game-based quests or challenges, for example, and be asked to respond to particular virtual scenarios. When successful, pupils are rewarded via virtual points and badges and are able to progress.
Typically, game-based learning isn’t assessed by giving students grades or formal assessments. Instead, teachers focus on the student’s participation, understanding, and progress throughout the learning program.
Although game-based learning is student-centered in that it allows students to work through topics at their own speed, it does require a lot of input from teachers in order to be effective. Teachers may need to develop their own games, challenges and quests in order for students to be able to access them, for example. Due to this intensive requirement, game-based learning has been limited to a relatively small number of classes and schools. However, the availability of commercial software to assist in game development means more and more schools are incorporating game-based learning techniques.
With so many teaching methods to try, educators should spend time deciding which options are most suited to their personality and teaching style. In all cases, teachers should ensure that all students are catered for and that their chosen teaching method enables them to communicate with each student effectively.
Whilst some teachers prefer to stick to one teaching method when possible, using a combination of teaching styles can help to provide the best education for students. Certain subjects, grades or groups of students may respond well to high tech learning, for example, whereas others may flourish in a more relaxed, low tech environment. By adapting their teaching methods, teachers can find innovative ways to deliver content to students and ensure their pupils are able to understand and apply the material in a way which is meaningful to them.