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Teaching Styles and the Delivery of Instruction

Posted by k conway on May 14, 2011 at 3:39 PM

     Just as learning styles differ amongst students, so does the delivery of curriculum amongst teachers. Differences occur in how teachers establish and communicate learning goals, design lessons, implement instructional strategies, respond to student needs, and adjust instruction based on assessment results. Teaching styles range from humorous and entertaining to kill and drill of content. While some teachers use creative and flexible teaching techniques, others struggle with modifying lessons for students who struggle, learn differently, or need more challenge. Delivery of instruction is also affected by varying degrees of knowledge, experience, and confidence on the part of the teacher. My opinion of teaching style has changed greatly since I began teaching 25 years ago. I began as a strict, by the book, sit in your seat social studies teacher. Now technology has been a significant tool that allows my teaching to become as diverse as the students who enter my classroom. Like so many teachers, I instruct a wide variety of students: the gifted, the shy, the insecure, the talented, the two left feet, the ones who fall in between the cracks, the enthusiastic, the ones who dread coming to school, and the ones from an abusive or neglectful home. Today, I believe lesson plans must be much more adaptive and flexible in order to provide more individualized instruction to a student or a small group of students as appropriate. I think that when an activity is flexible, it prevents isolation or segregation of students with diverse learning needs. Teaching style goes a long way in determining the success of an educator reaching the goals of his/her curriculum!  Please share your ideas on how teachers can deliver content more effectively and communicate high expectations for all students. 

Categories: Delivery of Instruction

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7 Comments

Reply Beth Stone
12:49 PM on May 17, 2011 
Are you getting ready to start working with your students toward a new learning target? Are you frustrated that you are in mid instruction and your students still aren't getting it? Do your students ever look at you and wonder why are you making me do this? Do you wonder how you can get your students to be more engaged? Do you ever find yourself saying "I know my students can do the work, but they seem very distracted and disinterested" Do you wonder how you can get your students to buy-in, participate, and engage in the activities of the class?
Douglas Reeves, CEO and founder of the Center for Performance Assessment, says that these questions are some of the most frequently asked questions he hears from teachers around the country.
In all teaching, you usually make several "stops" on the way to where you are going. When you plan your lessons, I have no doubt that you make decisions about what activities will actually motivate your students, while helping them learn those standards that they have to master. It is a painstaking process, and just like the physician, teachers spend our time diagnosing, and trying to "cure" our patients.
Unlike a doctor, how often do we let our students know why we are doing what we are doing? When you go to the doctor you expect him to tell you why he is treating you the way that he is. As a teacher in a very real and active classroom, I know that there are days when it is just easier for me to know and them to find out, but I have learned that I have much more buy in when I let my students know why they have to accomplish x, y and z.
Over the years, I have created many beautifully written units. They were all meant to function together like the gears in a well oiled machine. Sadly, they often failed to work exactly like I wanted them to, at least not until I took the time to begin to consider my student learning styles, and in turn to fine tune my teaching style. What I discovered, was that when I took the time to fine tune my plan, to help my students see the whole picture, and actually consider that I might not be able to teach the same way every day, in every single class I saw an amazing degree of success. Was it a lot of work? You bet. Was it fun? Not always. Do I regret it, or feel like my time was wasted? No, never!
If you take the time to do the same things, you might just find the same success I have noticed. Here's how: When you start a new unit, take a day and let your students dig into the unit plan. Yes, that means that you have to have a fairly comprehensive plan to begin with. It doesn?t have to be a perfect plan, but it does have to exist. Let them look at all the activities. Let them decide what they think looks interesting, and make them tell you about it. I have found that using anticipation guides at the beginning of each unit, helps my students feel at ease about what we are studying. In addition, it activates prior knowledge, and I get a great amount of buy in.
It also helps to use a variety of formative assessments, including not being afraid to show your students the final test ahead of time. I am not sure why we, as educators, decided that we should keep that document a secret, but we only harm ourselves when we do. Students need to know ahead of time what is expected of them. We all want our students to step up to the plate and give their very best, but sometimes we act like giving them the expectations up front is wrong or detrimental. Nothing could be further from the truth! Taking a look at the expectations in advance sets our students up for greater success. Hiding the test until the end sets them up to begin to believe that our goals and desires as educators are to trick them and make their lives miserable. I am confident that none of us want that!
By letting students know the expectations up front, by tell them explicitly that this is something they have to accomplish during a particular unit, and by telling them what pieces from the unit will help them come summative assessment time, we help them to step up and accomplish the task. Don't be afraid to discuss these things with your students, or to take a few minutes to talk about your expectations. Taking the time to let them know where you are going, what you hope to accomplish while you are there, and how they can demonstrate proficiency and even mastery are keys to successful teaching. Don't leave them in the dark! Students perform better when they are given learning targets; up front expectations, multiple opportunities, a variety of styles, and the time to know which "stops" are important along the journey around the mountain they are traveling.
Reply Samantha I. Anderson
10:55 PM on May 18, 2011 
My greatest tool as a teacher is the experience I have as a student. Often times I reflect on which teachers had the greatest impact on my learning and why it was they did. I?ve been a student in many types of classrooms with many types of teachers. To think in terms of ?how will I teach?? without delving into the question ?how do I learn?? is a one-sided reflection.
How do I learn? More specifically, how do I learn most effectively? I am engaged when the teacher utilizes visuals, entertains her learners, responds to the needs of the group, and makes clear, specific connections. When taught content in isolation without connections, I struggle (as do most students). As a high school student, I remember asking a teacher, ?How does this apply to the real world?? This question was not meant to be cheeky, disrespectful, or cliché. It was, in fact, my attempt to connect the very high level math skills that were being presented to me to some tangible application. Without the relationship and connection to either real world applications or prior knowledge/experience, learning at the highest level possible is difficult, to say the least. I learn through personal stories shared by students and teachers. I learn through cooperative think-alouds and discussions. I learn through well managed technology. I learn through variety. I learn through project and writing based responses. Most importantly, I learn through enthusiastic, engaging, ?this is the best topic in the world? kind of teacher. I have been lucky in my life to have had many teachers who tapped into what made me a successful student through their teaching styles.
Now, how do I teach? More specifically, how should I teach to be most effective? I would love to say that each and every day I utilize all of the aforementioned strategies of teaching to reach all of my students. An interesting thought is, not all of my students learn the same way I do. In college, I was introduced to many theories of education and teaching. The one that particularly struck a chord with me was Howard Gardner?s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Through my years of teaching in the elementary school classroom, this theory has taken on more meaning to the teaching and learning styles that prevail in my classroom. As I vary my instruction, I can see the ?light go on? for students at different times, through different learning experiences. Finding a student?s strengths and gearing my instruction to that strength while still attempting to engage all of the other intelligences is my ultimate goal. In my experience as both student and teacher, I perceive schools to be inherently structured to value the ?word smart? and ?logic smart? kids. What about everyone else? How do we engage the student who learns best through movement or through music on a daily basis? I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of teachers where I see these intelligences engaged in the most astounding ways each and every day. The elementary school is a unique and fantastic place where learning can be accomplished in a plethora of ways. All levels of schooling can be diverse in instruction. I believe that the elementary school is already a model for this type of teaching and learning. Classrooms are vibrant and purposeful. Teachers vary their content delivery and provide multiple paths to discovery. Students are given the opportunity to make connections in their own time, but connections are also made overtly and explicitly when necessary.
Adapting your teaching style to match the learning modality of each student is the key to a successful classroom. The needs of our students change year-to-year, perhaps even day-to-day. Being sensitive to these changes is vital to the success of both teacher and student.
Reply Isabel A. McLaughlin
9:05 AM on May 24, 2011 
Wow Kelly, couldn't have said it better myself! I too began as a strict, by the book teacher. But times have changed, students have changed, parents have changed.....I have seen a lot of change in my 31 years of teaching and thankfully, I have changed! My teaching style has changed into teaching styleS so I can reach all of my students...as you say, 'the gifted, the shy, the insecure, the talented, the two left feet (not sure I have to worry about that in biology) the ones who fall in between the cracks, the enthusiastic, the ones who dread coming to school, and the ones from an abusive or neglectful home'. I search and work each year to come up with ideas so I can try and reach the variety of students who come into my classes each year... sometimes I lecture, sometimes we work in groups, sometimes we write poems, sometimes, we make costumes, sometimes we do presentations.... It is a challenge, but searching and sharing with others helps me stay current and hopefully keeps my kids interested in biology!
Reply Teresa Tyson
2:30 PM on May 25, 2011 
In my experience, teaching styles make all the difference. If we do not continue to evolve as teachers, we will be left behind and our classes will become less relevant in our students' learning experience.
Reply Margaret
7:41 PM on May 25, 2011 
One of the most important ways I have found to tap into the many different learning styles of my students is to offer choices. I try to incorporate Gardner's Multiple Intelligences when I construct an assessment. Students can write a poem, song, or play, take a paper and pencil test, create an artistic rendering using a variety of media, or create a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate mastery of a concept or skill. The only thing I ask is that they mix it up and step outside their comfort zone once in a while. I want them to be able to show what they know in a variety of ways, so they develop all areas of learning. What I have found, is that sometimes a gifted student who identifies themselves as being smart and methodical might actually discover a musical/artistic side to themselves they didn't even know existed. A student who does not see themselves as being smart, might discover just how smart they are - now that they have found a new way to show it. Sometimes, it might not even be a strength that is discovered, but rather, they discover a passion for something that later may be developed into a strength (or at least a something they like).
Reply Jill Webb
7:41 PM on May 29, 2011 
As a parent of a high school student, I have seen my child's mixed reactions to different teaching stylels. He has had some teachers who are old-school, by the numbers people, and conversely he has had some who are all butterflies and rainbows. What has made the difference for him is when a teacher is willing to step outside the box of tradition a bit and find creative ways to make the material relevant to HIM. When that happens for him, he becomes engaged and invested in what is going on in the classroom, and his grades and attitude toward learning reflect it.
Reply Beth Stone
8:49 AM on June 4, 2011 
Jill Webb says...
As a parent of a high school student, I have seen my child's mixed reactions to different teaching stylels. He has had some teachers who are old-school, by the numbers people, and conversely he has had some who are all butterflies and rainbows. What has made the difference for him is when a teacher is willing to step outside the box of tradition a bit and find creative ways to make the material relevant to HIM. When that happens for him, he becomes engaged and invested in what is going on in the classroom, and his grades and attitude toward learning reflect it.


I love that your child has had those experiences! To me that is what this is all about! We don't all fit into the same mold. Teaching becomes my greatest joy when I can help a student understand the material. I often have to get creative to make that happen. Sometimes that means a great deal of work is involved, but every student is worth it! Watching those a ha moments is simply priceless! :)