Teaching & Learning Styles

Teaching Styles
Learning Styles

Teaching Styles

Articles and books about teaching styles abound. Although this book is unable to give a comprehensive view of all of the theories and ideas pertaining to this topic, here is an overview of some of the more important considerations. It is important that you take some time to reflect on what kind of teacher you want to be. Bear in mind your own personality and the learning processes of your students in order to find a teaching style that is right for you and a learning style that is right for them.

The teacher-centered classroom: In teacher-centered instruction, the teacher is the main source of information and knowledge. These days, a fully teacher-centered class is construed as a less effective type of instruction, but some forms of teacher-centered instruction are good and often necessary in the classroom. Here is an idea of what a completely teacher-centered classroom might resemble:
o The teaching mode is mostly lecture.
o There are few questions from students.
o If questions are asked, they are generated by the instructor.
o The main source of notes is from the blackboard and overhead transparencies.
o The course policies and rules are all dictated and governed by the instructor.
o The course material is controlled by the instructor.
o The instructor rarely knows if the students understand the material until the exam has been evaluated and the grades reviewed.

The student-centered classroom: In the student-centered classroom, the teacher is more of a facilitator than an expert, acting as a guide rather than an enforcer. As an objective, this style of teaching is supposed to help the students become more engaged and responsible in their own learning. Many find that a completely student-centered classroom lacks organization and structure. The fully student-centered classroom might resemble the following:
o The teaching mode is mostly discussion and group-work.
o The instructor remains relatively quiet so that the students can learn.
o Most of the questions are generated by students.
o The students take notes during the discussions.
o The course policies and rules are dictated by the students and the students tell the instructor how to enforce them.
o The course material is flexible and depends on what the students want to learn.
o The instructor is very conscientious of what students understand.

As you can probably tell, the information here shows the extremes of the spectrum. You will probably find that a mixture of the two might work best to help your classroom to succeed. The most important thing is to determine what will best fit your personality. One way to determine your personality style is to envision a famous person that best represents the traits you would like to have in the classroom. If you can't quite picture a person, here's a possible list:

Adolf Hitler
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mahatma Gandhi
Sandra Day O'Connor
Martin Luther King
George Washington
Elizabeth Dole
Winston Churchill
Jim Carrey
Oprah Winfrey
Mother Teresa
Abraham Lincoln
Margaret Thatcher
Amelia Earhart
Julia Roberts
Homer Simpson
Jack Nicholson
Florence Nightingale
John F. Kennedy
Keanu Reeves
Katherine Hepburn

As you can tell, to most people certain characters seem more appealing than others. Would you rather be a dictator, a bright leader, a compassionate guide or a goofy jokester? It's up to you to decide and then carry it out in your teaching style. Here's an example of different ways that each style might handle, for instance, classroom policy:

--Dictator: The class must do what s/he says or strict consequences will ensue
--Bright leader: Some democracy, but strict on certain principles
--Compassionate guide: A great deal of democracy and flexibility
--Goofy jokester: Not overly interested in making and keeping rules

Your teaching style will guide the class. For example, if you allow the students to decide what the best format is for a discussion (see Facilitating a Discussion), they will probably feel more comfortable during the activity. On the other hand, if you have note-taking guides during your lecture, the students will probably feel like they have accomplished something by the end of the lecture. Again, it is important that you consider your own personality, your students' learning processes and the fact that most students like variation.

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Learning Styles

The variation of teaching methods that one uses in a classroom can have a profound impact on student comprehension. Several different theories exist on the subject. There is the basic auditory, visual, kinesthetic learning idea which implies that some people learn better while hearing, some while seeing and others through movement. Due to the size of this manual, however, here is a simple chart based on several studies regarding successful student comprehension along with lists of activities in each area. The table represents the most effective teaching methods based on studies by William Glasser.

The percentages in the table represent the average amount of retention or "learning" that adults maintain from the given activity. Examples of specific activities are included.

Reading: 10 % Example activities: Chapter and article readings, reading statistical findings…
Hearing: 20% Example activities: Lecture, Listening to radio…
Seeing: 30% Example activities: Pictures, Diagrams, Watching an operation/demonstration without hearing the explanation, Visualization, Studying behavior
Hearing and seeing: 50% Example activities: Video excerpts, Power-Point presentations, Field trips, Expert lectures with authentic materials, Watching and listening to a demonstration
Discussing: 70% Example activities: Class discussion, Debates, Role plays,
Peer learning, Study groups, see Collaborative Activities
Experiencing: 80% Example activities: Lab experiments, Internships, Service learning, Creation, Using learning in a real-life situation
Teaching: 95% Example activities: Mentoring, Doing a demonstration, Giving a presentation, Jigsaw activity (see Collaborative Activities), Researching and reporting

Other theories include:

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/AMI/mi.htm
Experiential Learning: http://tip.psychology.org/rogers.html
Brain-based Learning: http://cainelearning.com/pwheel/

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Written/Prepared by Kim Welch:
Education Specialist for Teaching Assistants
Center for Teaching & Learning Excellence, University of Utah