The Controversy of Style

When parents have asked me, “What’s your teaching style?” I have found answering their question difficult. The reason was that my teaching methods depended upon knowing my students. Colorado State University enumerates four teaching styles and each has potential advantages. (This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.)

1. Formal Authority: As a “sage on the stage,” teachers can interest students in scenarios that make their content come alive. They can also share stories of overcoming failure. Sometimes a little authority helps to open students’ minds with reasoning targets that are counterintuitive.

2. Demonstrator: Some visual learners have told me that seeing a teacher show how structures work helped them learn most. Concrete learners also like to have procedures to follow. While my own preference is to give students experiences like games or group activities that lead to mastery for skill targets, demonstration can streamline key information and breed confidence for some students.

3. Facilitator: A community of learners in which students like to explore can lead to meaning-making and increased opportunities for creative thinking. There can be a powerful synergy between reasoning and skill!

4. Delegator: Students who are ready to manage their own learning at a high level can thrive from open-ended, project-based learning. Even with relatively straight forward product targets, a little independence can go a long way with developing student ownership.  Just don’t overlook putting in place support structures that will set students up for success.

This article about a school in Renton, WA, illustrates the value of teachers within a curricular department utilizing a unified philosophy. What works in your school? What effects have you seen from teachers in the same department using different philosophies?


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