My dad taught 2nd and 3rd grade for over thirty-five years.
He loved his job, so we’d often hear about it at home.
And, although we had a great childhood, the same wasn’t true for him.
He grew up in New York just north of Manhattan. His parents divorced when he was young, and my grandmother limited contact between my dad and his father.
She also called my dad names. I know these things shaped him — and hurt him.
But I also know my dad became a teacher because he wanted to give kids the opposite experience of what he had.
He wanted to give back and positively influence students’ lives.
He taught in the inner cities of the Bay Area in tough schools. But I can still remember the sign he had on his classroom door that everyone read as they entered.
“Only kind words allowed!”
My dad was a fun teacher. He was a tough teacher. He was a caring teacher. He was innovative before any type of technology entered our schools. But most importantly —
He was more than just a teacher.
He mentored his students. He encouraged them to look past their perceived limits and set higher goals.
He taught them to build paper airplanes, let them take flight across the playground, and then measure the distance and graph the results.
Talk about project-based learning!
But despite that, I wouldn’t say my dad had one particular teaching style. And I think that’s what made him a great teacher.
In my opinion, he was the best kind of teacher—
One who could adjust his teaching style to what his students needed.
If you want to do the same, or if you just want to find out what teaching style might be a nice “home-base” for you, keep reading.
In this post, I’m going to share the 6 main teaching styles, as well as my strategy to help you cultivate the most effective teaching style for today’s classroom.
The 6 Main Teaching Styles
This is an old-school teaching style where the teacher is essentially the encyclopedia of information, and the students receive that information in lecture format or some other type of direct instruction.
To get an idea of a Teacher-Centered classroom:
Picture a classroom full of desks, neatly positioned in rows, with the teacher at the front of them all lecturing.
The teacher talks. The students listen, fill out worksheets, and/or take notes.
There is little student engagement, conversation, or collaboration.
At first glance, it seems like this teaching style holds little value. But if done correctly, it can still be effective.
If you want to try a Teacher-Centered style, here’s my advice:
Use a 3 – 5 minute mini-lesson to introduce the main concept. Cover the day’s lesson, any objectives, learning goals, or intended outcomes, then introduce some type of group activity or project, and let students work.
If you’re wondering…
Is a Teacher-Centered teaching style still relevant?
…I’d say, yes. 100%!
The trick is to make sure you approach it correctly.
In today’s classroom, Teacher-Centered does not mean a full period of lecture.
Yes, there will be times when you talk for longer than five minutes, and that’s entirely okay.
But here’s the key to making sure you get this right:
Make sure your students are talking amongst themselves more than you are to them.
This teaching style is where most everything you do is connected to an app, the Google suite, or another tech-related resource.
There are some schools that continually give assessments to students to gauge exactly where they are with a specific lesson or unit.
The teacher is then able to access that data and adjust their teaching accordingly.
Student-Centered teaching is giving kids voice, choice, and autonomy to take control of their own learning. It lets them use the resources and learning tools in the classroom to help their journey.
When you walk into a Student-Centered classroom, there’s a hum in the air.
It’s not quiet like a Teacher-Centered classroom might be, because the students are collaborating with each other. They’re moving around the classroom, because that’s how they think best.
Some may be working on a Chromebook to gather information for a project. Others may be editing an iMovie on the iPad, because video creation is an awesome tool for kids to use to create content around their learning objectives.
The teacher is in the classroom, and the teacher is still important — just in different ways.
Student-Centered means the teacher is actually facilitating the learning process, because there are about four different things happening in class at any given time. They might be working with a small group on the carpet for some math intervention. Or they could be helping to film a video being made for an ongoing social studies project.
A teacher needs to be comfortable with some discomfort in a Student-Centered classroom, because they’ve given up some control to their students, which can be anxiety-provoking for some people.
But the rewards are amazing.
Student engagement goes up. Discipline goes down. Participation goes up. Incomplete work goes down, because kids have more choice and voice in their learning.
A Relaxed teaching style is exactly what it sounds like:
There isn’t too much structure.
If the teacher accidentally adopts a Relaxed style, he or she may spend a lot of time shushing students. But if they adopt this style on purpose — or it’s how their personality is naturally — those type of things might not even bother them.
Many teachers I know use this style. They have great control of their students, and they’re still able to provide plenty of learning opportunities.
A Relaxed Teaching style is not for everyone, but if you can pull it off, you’ll be one happy teacher!
5. Flipped Classroom
In the Flipped Classroom teaching style, the teacher creates videos for students to watch at home before the lesson in class.
Truthfully, you actually don’t even have to create your own videos. There are tons of resources out there for flipped lessons if you want a quick way to get started.
But don’t be mistaken—
The Flipped Classroom teaching style doesn’t take all the teaching away from the teacher.
Instead, the flipped lesson acts more like a sampler to get kids ready for the actual learning in class.
It’s a great way to save time and hit the ground running during the class period.
I’ve even seen Principals (me included) use this style for their staff meetings with great results!
The Facilitator-in-Chief teaching style is kind of like an educational buffet.
It takes a little part of each teaching style and blends them together.
The Facilitator-in-Chief is exactly that. They facilitate learning for their students. They introduce the lesson or concept, and then let students go free with their learning.
There are different technology tools throughout the classroom that kids can use to help with their learning. These tools may include iPads, Chromebooks, 3D printers, robots, drones, and an array of other resources for them to use.
The Facilitator-in-Chief knows each of their students has a different learning style, and accounts for that. They know they can’t use just one teaching style and expect the same level of learning from every student.
They’re adaptable. They pull elements of every teaching style and use them as-needed.
The Facilitator-in-Chief teaching style can be risky, but more often than not, kids and teachers alike enjoy the variety.
Which Teaching Style Is Most Effective in Today’s Classroom?
The important thing to know is:
You can’t reach every student with a single teaching style.
You must pay attention to what your students need and adjust as necessary.
There is no single best teaching style.
As I said earlier, that’s what made my dad a great teacher. He was able to sense the needs of his students and adjust his style to match what they needed.
But, if I had to give you a single teaching style that I believe is most effective in today’s classroom, I’d recommend the Facilitator-in-Chief style…
Because it’s not really a single style at all.
It’s essentially a “master style” that lets you pull in the best parts of all the other teaching styles as necessary.
Don’t try to define yourself by a teaching style.
Instead, define yourself as a teacher who’s masterfully in-tune with the needs of students, and adjust your style to match those needs.
Constantly Reevaluate Your Teaching Methods to Ensure You’re Giving Students Your Best!
With any new idea or mindset change, I always give the same advice—
Don’t try to overhaul everything overnight.
Take things one day at a time, and start small.
Changing your teaching style is like remodeling a house.
If you’re living in the house you want to remodel, you can’t gut the entire house and remodel it all at the same time, because you’re living in it!
You remodel one room at a time, and after you do that consistently to each room over a period of time, the entire house is remodeled. That way, if something doesn’t go as planned, you can live in a different part of the house.
The same is true for changes in your classroom.
Take just 5% of your entire week or 5% of your classroom, and see what you can change.
If what you tried this morning doesn’t work, make an adjustment after lunch, and see what happens. Tweak, change, adjust, and try new teaching styles until you find what works for you and your students.
Here are some simple things you can do to improve your teaching style and approach in your classroom!
- Join my email list to learn more ways you can improve yourself as a teacher.
- Connect with five new teachers on Twitter that live in a different state. See what they’re doing in their classroom. Talk with them about what works and how you can make some of those changes.
- Talk with a colleague at your school, and see if they’re willing to trade classroom observations, so you can both learn some new strategies.
- Most of all, stay positive and focus on the kids. I know all too well how fun teaching is and how stressful and challenging it can be. Smile, give out some high fives, and live your best teaching life!