Apr 27, 2009

Teaching Styles

There has been plenty of talk on this blog about the different types of learning styles that a student may use. This information is useful for the classroom, as it identifies which elements of a lesson will be most effective and how to maximize the learning experience. However, that is just one side of the equation. It is also important to understand a few of the teaching styles you might encounter in order to better prepare for any difficulties or problems you may run into.

In his book Teaching With Style(1), Dr. Anthony F. Grasha outlines five basic teaching styles that educators could employ. These are listed as “Expert”, “Formal Authority”, “Personal Model”, “Facilitator”, and “Delegator”, and each has unique advantages, disadvantages, and methods for teaching material.

The “Expert” model is just as it sounds- the teacher exudes knowledge by possessing the special facts, figures, and insights that the students require. Students are expected to absorb the information and display a similar level of confidence and ability in their own knowledge. Teachers use this model in conjunction with formal lectures to transmit information. Advantages here are the level of content that is available to learn, however, this can have the disadvantage of intimidating students who might feel less prepared.

Next is the “Formal Authority” model. This is similar to the “Expert” model in that it tends to focus on the nitty-gritty details of a subject. However, this is done in a way that is tightly structured and outlined with a “right” and “wrong” way of doing things. This is good in that it provides the student with crystal-clear expectations and instruction. However, this structure can also be inflexible to the needs of students.

The “Personal Model” places the teacher at the forefront. Students are encouraged to solve problems by following the teacher’s example. This method emphasizes observation, however it may lead to a belief that the only way to solve a problem is the teacher’s way.

The methods of the “Facilitator” are more hands-off in that the teacher acts like a guide for students. Peer-to-peer learning and group projects are employed, with a greater degree of creativity allowed. The teacher lets students explore many different options and solutions. This is great for flexibility, however it is time consuming and may not be appropriate where more direct approaches are called for.

Finally, there is the “Delegator”. This model is for students who can act without the constant attention of the teacher, who is merely available to help when called for by the students. This inspires independence for learning, but may not be appropriate for students who are not ready for it.

With knowledge of these teaching styles, you can better prepare for any possible expectations or projects that the teacher may bring to the classroom. Also, if you think there may be a better approach, try suggesting it. You may find that you can make life easier for both yourself and your teacher.

1) Grasha, Anthony F. Teaching with Style: A Practical Guide to Enhancing Learning by Understanding Teaching and Learning Styles. Pittsburgh: Alliance Publishers, (1996).

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