Teaching styles and connecting with students

What’s your teaching style, and is it working for some of your students better than others? Find out in this blog.

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In our previous blog, we highlighted how students can be very different in how they learn and absorb information, and how they generally fall into one of four different learning styles. But we should also remember that teachers can be very different, too.

Not only do teachers have to account for learning style variations, but they also have to consider their own characteristics, and their own strengths in delivering lessons. So in this blog, we’re going to explore the four key teaching styles, and how they fit in with the different learning styles.

What are the four key teaching styles?

There are four principal styles of teaching, which vary according to educational philosophy, classroom demographics, subject matter, and even the overarching mission statement of the school in question. The styles are:

  • Teacher-centred: out of the four styles, this is the one that could perhaps best be described as ‘traditional’. Teachers will deliver lessons mainly verbally, through lectures or by reading materials, which students listen to. There is minimal interactivity for students in this method and they aren’t assessed as they go to measure their understanding of the subject matter: tests and data are used at the end of a module, term or school year instead.
  • Student-centred: under this approach, students are able to play a much more active part in lessons, although teachers retain the overall control and authority of the class. Teachers can set students group tasks, experiments or other exercises that enable them to learn actively and collaboratively. This enables less formal and more frequent assessments to take place to gauge understanding of the subject matter.
  • High-tech: there are now so many different technological innovations available to teachers and students that many teachers are able to put them at the core of their lesson delivery. Combining the virtually limitless information available online (supervised in class) with a blended approach of class-based work and homework, a high-tech approach can make both teaching and learning much more efficient.
  • Low-tech: some teachers prefer to keep away from technology as much as possible, principally so that students can’t use tools like calculators and spell checkers to do the work for them. Instead, having to write things out or work out sums themselves improves their core skills and their critical thinking. A low-tech approach also helps with communication, as teachers and students converse face-to-face, and it cuts the risk of students being distracted.
Teacher interacting with student

How can you connect with different learning styles?

None of the above styles are necessarily right or wrong. However, some of them can be considered better than others when it comes to connecting with particular learning styles. For each of those four learning styles, we suggest the following:

  • Visual: give them enough time to process information in a way that suits them. This means allowing them to draw diagrams and pictures so that they can visualise the subject matter better, or using a whiteboard to illustrate key points. Those who prefer a high-tech teaching style should consider using a smartboard for even greater engagement.
  • Auditory: try to involve auditory learners in the conversation by talking to them directly, and even by asking them to repeat or explain certain things about what they’ve just learned. Other activities that allow them to hear information are also useful, like audio and video recordings, and group activities and discussions.
  • Reading & Writing: generally speaking, those who prefer a written approach tend to do better with more traditional, teacher-led lessons, where they are tasked with doing detailed research or writing out essays. However, doing this can take time, especially if done with handwriting rather than typing, so ensure that these students have enough time – or help them through access to a computer.
  • Kinesthetic: take every opportunity to get these students moving and give them physically interactive ways to channel their energy. This can be through role-playing games, acting out plays, team activities and other changes that break up the norm of sitting at a desk in a classroom.
Students and teachers interacting in classroom

In summary

What this blog demonstrates is that teachers must be fluid in their approach. Sticking to one tried-and-tested teaching style might be safe for them, but it risks disengaging and alienating some students for whom that type of learning might be incompatible. That’s not to say that teachers should abandon their style completely: more that they have to be prepared to adjust it as and when appropriate.

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