Even though every instructor is unique, the prevalent style of teaching has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, along with the new cultural norms and technological advancements.
Educational researchers today define at least five different teaching styles on a spectrum that moves from a teacher-centered approach to a student-centered one:
Other teaching methods outside of the core five exist as well. The Spectrum of Teaching Styles in Physical Education defines 11 distinct teaching styles that can be used to coach students in schools and universities.
While most instructors can be described by a single personal model of teaching, the best ones always adjust their teaching strategies to their students and the learning process at hand.
That’s why it’s important to know what the different teaching styles are and have a clear idea of how to use them when needed.
5 different teaching styles to use today
A lot of educators in traditional teaching environments with decades of experience are not aware of their primary teaching style, even though their approach to teaching has a direct effect on student participation and student engagement.
Let’s explore five teaching style examples to show how broad differentiated instruction in classroom settings can be.
The lecturer style (sometimes called the formal authority style) is familiar to anyone who’s sat through long unidirectional lectures in giant university auditoriums.
This teaching style is often used with large groups of students, when a lot of interaction between the teacher and students is not feasible.
The subject matter in the lecturer style, most of the time, is singular and predetermined. Students are encouraged to take notes and ask questions at the end. There are usually no activities planned.
- Possible to teach large groups of students at once
- Easy to prepare lecturers
- Low information retention
- No active learning
Under the demonstrator style, the teacher still retains a lot of authority but is more open to trying a student-centered approach to teaching.
You can see the demonstrator encouraging students to come up with problem-solving strategies, ask questions and simulate what they’ve just learned.
The demonstrator often goes beyond lectures, showing presentations, images, films and experiments. As a result, it’s more applicable to more learning styles.
- Incorporates a variety of teaching formats
- Doesn’t accommodate the needs of all students
The hybrid (also known as blended) style strives to strike a balance between teacher- and student-centered approaches.
Most of the time, the teachers who follow the hybrid style bring their own knowledge and expertise into the class. They still have a structure for every lecture but are able to adjust their flow and come up with the right activities to keep the students engaged.
While the hybrid approach tends to be quite effective in a variety of settings, it can make covering information-heavy courses difficult due to its slower pace.
- Students remain active and engaged for longer
- Can be less focused and slow
- Requires a lot of energy from the teacher
Shifting to an even more student-centered approach, there’s the facilitator style of teaching.
Instead of giving one-directional lectures, a facilitator encourages inquiry-based learning. Students learn by asking questions and discussing real-world case studies. Some other activities might be designed to improve problem-solving skills and help understand the subject matter better through practical challenges.
- Helps students develop self-sufficiency
- Doesn’t work well for theory-heavy classes
The most student-centric teaching style of all is called the delegator style (also known as the group style). Here, the teacher is merely present as an observer, and it’s the group of students who are doing all the work.
Most of the learning in the delegator style happens peer-to-peer, through frequent collaborations and discussions. The instructor is practically removed from the position of authority and only facilitates the discussions instead.
The delegator style works best for lab-based experiments, group tutoring classes, creative writing, debates and other peer-to-peer activities.
- Encourages learning and collaboration among students
- Can be inefficient since students have to find the right answers for themselves
These are just five of the most popular teaching styles that instructors can choose from when creating their courses. Depending on the system you look at, there might be even more, as described in a paper titled Teaching Styles and Language Performance by Edgar R. Eslit and Mercedita B. Tongson.
Is one style of teaching better than others?
As you can see from the list above, each style of teaching has its pros and cons. So there’s no definitive winner here — rather, you should learn to mix and match based on a situation.
When preparing your course content, you can imagine which teaching style would help your students learn the material best. If you’re not sure, try experimenting with a few different styles for the first few student cohorts to find out.
How to adapt teaching styles to different learning styles?
We’ve written about the four main types of learning styles before, which are essential for every instructor to understand.
There’s no doubt that different students shine under different teaching approaches.
There’s a famous “empty vessel” theory, for example, which asserts that students’ minds are essentially empty until teachers pour their knowledge into them, lecture-style.
But cooperative learning which requires more group work and would pair well with the facilitator or delegator style of teaching. Check out Cohort-Based Learning for a deeper dive into this kind of teaching style.
Interactive learning can be a great fit for the demonstrator or facilitator style, and so on.
Does classroom diversity influence my style of teaching?
Another reason to have different teaching styles in your arsenal is the diversity of students you might see in your class. As students learn better by different approaches and at a different speed, you should be able to adjust your teaching style on the fly to maximize the learning opportunity for all.
It’s likely that your primary teaching style won’t be purely of the big five discussed above, but rather an ever-changing mix that would be unique to you and the students you teach.
In addition, as teachers lead students and help students become future leaders, you should be aware of the kind of leadership that you want to facilitate through your teaching.
How to create a perfect course online
Do you want to put your teaching style to practice? There’s no better way to do that than creating a brand new online course. The only thing you need is a course-creation platform to do that.
Thinkific is an intuitive and easy-to-use platform for all teachers to create beautiful online courses in no time. The platform adjusts easily to various teaching styles through the use of multimedia materials, from presentations to videos to quizzes to member communities.
Best of all, no coding skills are required. Just pick a gorgeous template and quickly customize it to your need with a drag-and-drop editor.
Get started today for free and see how easy creating your own course can be.