What are the different teaching styles?
Your teaching style is as individual as your own accent: it is a culmination of your background, context, and personal preference. However, when teaching styles are discussed, you can broadly break them down into a few different approaches.
A teacher may use any combination of these different methods, and may change their approach depending on context, teaching phase, and content that they are delivering.
Popular teaching styles:
- The Montessori method
- Socratic questioning
- Retrieval practice
- Project-based learning
- Teach Like A Champion
- The Mantle of the Expert
- Dialogic teaching
Teacher-centred style and child-centred style
Very broadly speaking, your teaching style could be split into two different approaches. However, some people may identify themselves as being somewhere in the middle of these two approaches.
The teacher-centred style puts the teacher as the expert in the classroom, and the students as the novices. The idea of being 'teacher centred' would be supported by the theory behind behaviourism, a concept that came from the work of pedagogical research by Thorndike (1911), Pavlov (1927) and Skinner (1957).
Whereas, child-centred teaching places the child as the focus of the learning. In a child centred approach, the child may even decide upon what is learnt, how it is learnt, and where the learning takes place. It can be thought of as a more constructivist approach, and is based on the pedagogical research of Piaget (1896-1890) and others.
Teacher-focussed teaching styles
The following teaching methods may be found in a classroom where the teaching style is teacher focussed:
Possibly the oldest teaching method, the lecture style puts the teacher at the front of the classroom delivering the content, and the students taking notes. Sometimes referred to as ‘chalk and talk’, a lecture could include visual images, written notes on a handout, or a display of key points on a projector or whiteboard.
In secondary and at sixth form, a lecture might dominate part, or all of a lesson. Students may take notes using the Cornell Notes Method. Sometimes, lectures can be delivered to whole year groups, or to targeted groups of students.
Unsurprisingly, this method is less common in the primary phase, where younger children would struggle to stay focussed.
The teacher delivers the content by explaining the concept themselves, rather than relying upon the student discovering the information on their own. They will give examples of what they mean, and what they don’t mean, and check understanding through questioning.
Direct instruction should lead onto guided instruction, before students begin independent practice.
Modelling and live modelling
As the expert, the teacher will model what they expect the student’s work to look like. The teacher will use prepared models to dissect with the class, as well as live modelling an answer (actually completing an answer in front of the class using a visualiser). When live modelling, the teacher may also model the thinking process behind the task, and take input from the students.
Prepared models could also be examples of student work that the teacher has chosen. This could be something that the teacher uses in the middle of a lesson, as a student produces it, or from a previous lesson that the teacher has selected whilst marking.
Assessments that are made frequently, and without any impact on the student’s final assessed mark, are called ‘low stakes quizzing’. These can take the form of multiple-choice or closed-answer quizzes. The teacher would then use this information to inform their teaching, and what sections that need reteaching, or correcting.
Scaffolding can mean providing sentence prompts, mind maps, essay plans, or teacher-led explanations of the thought process behind an idea before the students attempt to write their own response. Types of scaffolds vary depending on the phase or focus of the class.
Questioning definitely occurs in both teaching styles- however the types of questions used may differ. With a teacher led approach, you may find different types of questioning can be used to monitor the student’s understanding, and to correct misconceptions. Examples include cold-call questioning, dialogic questioning, oral-drill questions, open questions, closed questions, and questioning using the Bloom’s taxonomy of remembering, applying, and evaluating.
Hinge questions and key questions could be planned as key formative assessment points, and then if students are unable to answer the teacher can then plan re-teaching of misconceptions.
The term 'drilling' refers to the approach uses repetition to assist the memorisation of the content. It might include: call and response (sometimes called choral response), short written responses, longer written responses, and other ‘ronda’ style activities.
The phrase 'self quizzing' refers to students working independently testing themselves on a topic that they have already covered with a teacher. It involves students testing themselves, either as a homework task, or in an independent task in the classroom. Using a knowledge organiser, students quiz themselves on closed answer questions.
Child-focussed teaching styles
In this approach, inquiry based learning refer to when the teacher sets the students a task, or poses a question, and then facilitates the students in their discovery of this knowledge. The teacher may provide the students with books, or with the tech needed to uncover the information, and teach the students the thinking skills needed to discern when the information is reliable or relevant.
Inquiry-based learning can be split into: confirmation inquiry, structured inquiry, guided inquiry, and open inquiry. Some inquiry-based learning activities could include: field work on a school trip, research projects, research for context, group work presentation, and other experiment-based tasks.
With a child centred approach, questioning in the classroom would be more centred towards critical thinking questioning, and teachers may use Bloom's Taxonomy to probe students to think in what is called 'higher oder' thinking skills.
Not only a technique to be used in drama, role play is a teaching technique in itself. Students in secondary school might devise a role play where they take on the parts of historical characters in order to learn about life in Victorian England, whereas in the primary phase, role play may be used to learn about maths through acting as customers and cafe owners, and counting out change.
A more intensive role-play approach would be something like The Mantle of the Expert, where the students take part in an immersive role play, and are tasked with a problem, and role playing as the experts they find the solution. For example, a dinosaur egg is discovered in the playground, and the children take on the role of archaeologists to take care of it.
Teacher in role or question and answer sessions
A popular drama teaching method sees the teacher role play a character, and then the students question the teacher in order to understand a concept in more depth. The Mantle of the Expert also comes under this umbrella, but teacher in role doesn't necessarily mean that there is role play involved on behalf of the students. In other subjects this can be used to deliver content directly to the students, possibly after the students have themselves researched the subject as a homework or group task.
Rather than taking place in the classroom, here the learning moves outside, and students go outside the classroom to find real-world examples of what they’re learning about. For instance, if students are learning about coastal patterns, then they go and visit a coast and see it for themselves. This can refer to Forest Schools, Beach Schools, and other outdoors based learning.
Pair work and group work
This method could appear in either a teacher led or child led teaching style, however, it is generally thought of as being more child led. In pair work or group work, the students work on an activity placed into groups or pairs decided by the teacher, or chosen by themselves. Sometimes the activity will have a definite final task with defined roles for each member of the group, or it could be a more general ‘research’ type task, where the students lead the outcome. The teacher takes on the role of facilitator, and the students are in charge of their own learning.
When a teacher adopts a 'personalised learning' approach', students are given the freedom to choose their learning method for themselves, and then produce their own work in a form of their choosing. The teacher may even give the freedom of allowing the students to choose their topic, and make choices based on their own prior learning and interests.
Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning is when a teacher sets a task, and then students work independently of the teacher to solve a problem, or respond to a question, over a period of time. The students might be responding to a specific task set by the teacher, or they may devise the task themselves under guidance from the teacher. The project could last a week, or as long as a half term.
Active learning means exactly what it says: learning where students are active and vocal in the classroom. This can be as simple as moving from their seats during the course of the lesson, and asking them to move around the room to demonstrate that they have understood or to communicate an opinion, or it could be a jigsaw activity, where you use student ‘experts’ to deliver content to the next group. These type of tasks suit problem solving tasks, and require the discrete teaching of collaboration skills. Focus is both on what they learn, and how they learn it.
To find more...
These methods are just the beginning of the different approaches teachers use to deliver content. This is just the beginning, and each school and teacher has their own preferences.
If you would like to find out more, then there are many good books available on teaching styles.
Kirsty Ward, course tutor at Mid Essex Scitt, suggests reading 'Teaching and Learning' by Alex Moore. "This is essential reading for teachers who want to find out more about teaching styles," she says.
Get the latest news on teaching research and pedagogy.