FocusDifferentiating among modes of teaching
Principal MetaphorsThe word “teach” is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word deik- “to show, point out.” It is also related to the Old English tacn, meaning “sign” or “mark.” That is, the notion of teaching originally had to do with orienting attentions toward significant features. Given this background, and in consideration of that the word “learning” is derived from a path-based notion (see Attainment Metaphor), it’s perhaps not surprising notions and images of pointing figure so prominently in modern conceptions of teaching. (If you’re unconvinced, take a moment to do image searches of “teach,” “teaching,” and “teacher.”) Nor is it surprising that teaching has long been interpreted and enacted in terms of directing, leading, guiding, showing, focusing, and other acts of orienting. Thus, while there are many dozens of popular synonyms for teaching, those arising from following flock of metaphors are among the most prominent:
- Knowledge is … a territory/area/domain/field (typically involving challenge)
- Knowing is … attaining a goal
- Learner is … a seeker (individual)
- Learning is … journeying (arriving at, reaching, progressing, accomplishing, achieving)
- Teaching is … directing, leading, guiding, showing, focusing
SynopsisTeaching Styles Discourses include any attempt to identify and/or categorize modes of teaching. The least sophisticated efforts involve undifferentiated lists of teaching approaches, usually with brief descriptions that are infused with moral judgments and uncontextualized assertions on effectiveness. Slightly more sophisticated versions employ questionnaires and planar diagrams to assist users in locating themselves among two or more categories of distinction. Almost all Teaching Styles Discourses assume simplistic distinctions, such as the following:
- Teacher- vs. Student Centered
- Teacher-Centered Learning (Traditional Education) – a mode of teaching in which the student is positioned as passive – that is, the educator defines what will be learned, how it will be learned, and how the learning will be evaluated
- Student-Centered Learning (Child-Centered Learning; Learner-Centered Education) – a mode of teaching that takes up one of more of the following principles: (1) Students are treated as active participants in their own learning. (2) Teaching styles accommodate to differences among individuals. (3) Students participate in choosing topics, pacing lessons, and assessing outcomes
- Structured vs. Unstructured Learning
- Structured Learning – most often, a phrase that describes teaching styles associated with pre-analyzed subject matter, sequenced learning trajectories, and standardized performance expectations. (Structured Learning can also refer more specifically to the focused and intensive supports provided to meet the specific behavioral, emotional, and/or cognitive needs of a learner.)
- Unstructured Learning – a phrase the refers to the removal of constraints that are typical of formal schooling, but that does not specify which constraints are removed – and so Unstructured Learning might be applied to rejecting standard curricula, making tasks open-ended, avoiding classroom spaces, ignoring school formalities, and so on
- Authority Teaching Style (Lecture Teaching Style; Command Teaching Style; Delivery Teaching Style; Directing Teaching Style) – a designated expert makes all decisions around intentions, actions, and measures and then presents information on preselected topics to attentive students who are responsible for ensuring adequate retention and/or comprehension of the material presented.
- Demonstrator Teaching Style (Coaching Teaching Style: Modeling Teaching Style; Practice Teaching Style) – a designated expert makes all decisions around intentions, actions, and measures and then demonstrates appropriate actions, usually accompanied or followed by opportunity for students to mimic, practice, or apply those actions
- Facilitator Teaching Style (Self-Check Teaching Style) – a student-centered approach in which the teacher sets out the parameters and goals, but students work individually or collectively to come to an adequate outcome. In more formal versions, students are provided with explicit criteria to gauge progress and success
- Teaching Presence (Terry Anderson, 2000s) – an online student-centered approach in which the teacher sets out the parameters and goals, but students work individually or collectively to come to an adequate outcome. Active interventions through collaborative computer conferencing is thought to support students engagement with the learning materials.
- Delegator Teaching Style (Empowerment Teaching Style) – a student-centered approach in which the teacher sets the stage and self-positions as a consultant or resource, enabling students to define appropriate actions according to personal interests
- Reciprocal Teaching Style – students teaching one another, typically with the teacher available as a consultant who assigns differentiated responsibilities across students (e.g., explainers, note-takers, feedback-providers, information-gatherers)
- Conductor Teaching Style (Hybrid Teaching Style; Blended Teaching Style) – combining the teacher’s expertise with students’ interests, this approach employs a range of styles, as appropriate to the moment
- Collaborator Teaching Style (Discussing Teaching Style; Interaction Teaching Style)– focused on group process, this style involves students in presenting and challenging opinions through discussion, debate, and a range of research activities. The teacher’s roles include arbiter, participant, and more-experienced knower
- Inclusion Teaching Style (Continuous Progress Teaching Style) – after being provided with an overview of a learning trajectory, the student is able to make decisions on pacing, materials, and relationship with the teacher – who is present to monitor progress and provide assistance as requested
- Guided Discovery Teaching Style – the student moves through a sequence of carefully parsed experiences designed by the teacher, ideally culminating in the realization of a predetermined concept and the honing of self-directed learning skills
- Divergent Discovery Teaching Style – oriented by a common topic, students are invited to structure their own engagements and to work toward satisfactory resolutions
- Grasha’s Inventory of Teaching Styles (Anthony Grasha; 1990s) – a questionnaire-based model that begins by acknowledging that every teacher employs multiple styles. Based on such varied criteria as expertise, institutional authority, relationships with students, and educator intentions, Grasha identified five teaching styles: Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, Delegator. Those styles were then collected into different clusters, which were then tied to families of teaching practices that vary across such dimensions as lesson formats, assignment preferences, student participation, and learner autonomy.
- The Staffordshire Hexagon of Teaching Styles (Kay Mohanna, Ruth Chambers, David Wall; 2000s) – a questionnaire-based model that renders scores on six scales that are then plotted on a hexagonal grid (see diagram).
CommentaryThe prevailing strategies among efforts to identify Teaching Styles Discourses – that is, simple lists and simple maps – come with two intersecting problems. Firstly, such strategies can engender senses of completeness, whereas they likely omit more than they include. Secondly, in our searches, neither strategy seems to be associated with efforts to interrogate the beliefs and assumptions about learning that undergird conceptions of teaching – that is, most Teaching Styles Discourses seem to operate in complete ignorance of the fact that “learning” is a highly contested, poorly understood phenomenon and that teaching styles say at least as much about cultural norms, stakeholder expectations, institutional requirements, and professional standards as they do about personal preferences. Disconnected from critical insights into individual learning and social action, many of these discourses come across as simplistic classification schemes that say more about the observer than the observed. Against the backdrop of Teaching Styles Discourses, it is important to note that there are discourses on teaching that go in a different direction. For example, Emergent Design Discourses typically focus less on simple dichotomies and observable actions and more on complex dynamics and malleable attitudes.
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesDiffuse
Status as a Theory of LearningWe did not encounter any Teaching Styles Discourses that could be construed as a discourse on learning.
Status as a Theory of TeachingClearly, Teaching Styles Discourses are discourses about teaching. None that we encountered, however, seemed to merit the descriptor “theory,” even in very naïve senses of the word.
Status as a Scientific TheoryAcross all of the entries on this website, few are as laden with uncritical and unsubstantiated assumptions as this one. None of the Teaching Styles Discourses that we have been able to examine meet any of our criteria for a scientific discourse. In particular, apart from a common reliance on questionnaires that appear to be based almost entirely on beliefs, experiences, and expectations of the designers (as opposed to, for example, defensible research into learning and teaching), there appears to be little that resembles empirical evidence across these discourses.
- Authority Teaching Style (Lecture Teaching Style; Command Teaching Style; Delivery Teaching Style; Direct(ing) Teaching Style)
- Collaborator Teaching Style (Discussing Teaching Style; Interaction Teaching Style)
- Conductor Teaching Style (Hybrid Teaching Style; Blended Teaching Style)
- Delegator Teaching Style (Empowerment Teaching Style)
- Demonstrator Teaching Style (Coaching Teaching Style: Modeling Teaching Style; Practice Teaching Style)
- Divergent Discovery Teaching Style
- Facilitator Teaching Style (Self-Check Teaching Style)
- Grasha’s Inventory of Teaching Styles
- Guided Discovery Teaching Style
- Inclusion Teaching Style (Continuous Progress Teaching Style)
- Reciprocal Teaching Style
- Staffordshire Hexagon of Teaching Styles
- Structured Learning
- Student-Centered Learning (Child-Centered Learning; Learner-Centered Education)
- Teacher-Centered Learning (Traditional Education)
- Teaching Presence
- Unstructured Learning
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Teaching Styles Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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