Everyone, at some time, must be a teacher. What? You don’t believe everyone must be a teacher? All parents must teach. All leaders must teach. All religious clergy must teach. All supervisors must teach. All humans must teach!
You see, even if you have no contact with anyone else, but yourself, you would still have to teach. You would have to teach yourself! :-)
In many of my posts, I’ve mentioned that I am a retired teacher. A question you might want to ask me is: “What was your teaching style?” If you asked me such a question, I would immediately rephrase the question to: “What were your teaching styles?” I, of course, have a personality and I’m sure it was manifested in the classroom. My style for a particular class didn’t depend on my personality, but instead, it depended upon the class I was teaching. The class I was teaching was always a group of students. That group of students needed a style of teaching that would help them learn as much and as well as possible.
I’m sure you have heard of different learning styles. Three that often were manifested in my classes were visual, auditory, and tactile learning styles. Now, when we say someone is a visual learner, we don’t mean that s/he only learns visually, but we are saying that s/he usually learns better visually. Just because a student learns better using a particular style, doesn’t mean that’s the only way s/he can learn.
From a teacher’s point of view, it’s important to consider the different learning styles represented in the classroom and then adapt the teaching style, as much as possible, to fit the needs of the students’ learning styles. This is complex and in this case, diversity in the classroom makes it more so. The more diverse the classroom is – various learning styles, various ethnic and racial backgrounds, various abilities, and in general, various demographics – the more a teacher should adapt her/his teaching style to fit the needs of ALL the students. A teacher who has the attitude of, “It’s my way or the highway!” is setting the class up for many failures.
Ok, so it’s important to be flexible with your styles, but how do you determine what style to use. For example, think of the differences in teaching styles that would be used when comparing the teaching of a 1st grade class with a 12th grade class. Or, the differences in styles used when teaching a class of two students and a class of 200 students. These examples are extreme in comparison, but hopefully, you can see that using different styles are necessary. But, what is the best teaching style? You probably have already guessed what my answer is. There isn’t a best style!
When I say there isn’t a best teaching style, I mean there isn’t a best style for classes where there is more than one learning style represented AND the classes are different in subject or grade level. Of course, usually classes consist of much diversity, so I’m simply stating that we need different teaching styles for the differences in learning styles, types of students, size of classes, and/or student demographics.
What about parents? Shouldn’t they take this into consideration as well? Absolutely! What about individuals? In other words, should a person who is trying to teach her/himself, take into consideration different teaching styles? Well, yes, but before you can, you must “know thyself!” What style is best for you? On the surface, you might think that’s not important.
Let’s consider the advertisements often seen on TV, magazines and the internet for different learning opportunities. Some encourage you to buy CD’s, put them into your computer and learn. Some offer courses over the internet. Some have most of their teaching and learning opportunities “on the job.” Some require you to live in a dormitory on campus and attend classes on a regular daily schedule. Many of these are not considered “teaching yourself,” but in a sense, aren’t we all learning by teaching ourselves?
Even if we are attending classes on a daily basis, when it comes to learning, aren’t we responsible for the learning and therefore, must choose the teaching (style) that we think will allow us to learn the best? I remember being in a class in college where I eventually ignored the professor and learned best by reading and discussing the content with a classmate. At first, when I tried to learn from the professor, I was literally unlearning more than I was learning. This was an exception in my career as a student, but it was one of the best lessons I have ever learned about “how to learn.”
In summary, I think we should avoid, as much as possible, trying to use a teaching or learning style that is a “one-size-fits-all.” If learning is, metaphorically speaking, a set of holes and teaching is a set of pegs, we don’t want to have all pegs the same shape if all of the holes aren’t. In other words, we don’t want to try a put square pegs into round holes! :-)
What’s your teaching style?