We all learn in different ways, and similarly, as teachers we tend to have different ways of teaching which come more naturally for us. As teachers, we need to be aware of what our particular style is, but we should then try to adapt the way we teach to fit the needs of our students as well.
There are many different categorizations of teaching styles, but rather than discuss the ways styles are categorized, I will simply summarize the ones most commonly referred to. Probably the most traditional one is the direct instruction style. Direct instruction is very teacher-centered, and provides for little if any student-teacher interaction or group interaction. The teacher is the focus of attention and provides all the information necessary for the student to excel in the class. Another name for this style is formal authority. The teacher is seen as the source of all knowledge and controls the flow of information. Relationships in the classroom are unimportant. This style is usually efficient and well-organized, and is advantageous for teaching facts, formulas, and any subject matter where a large amount of information must be covered in a short period of time. The drawbacks, of course, include the possibility of boredom, a lack of practice, no group interaction, and an environment which does not encourage students to think for themselves. This classroom style also encourages competition which may or may not be beneficial.
Another teacher-centered style is that of the demonstrator or personal model style. The teacher acts as a role model by demonstrating the skills or processes being taught, and then helps the students try to duplicate what the teacher demonstrated. This style focuses on the teacher as the source of information, but also encourages some student interaction and responsibility in learning.
A teacher who prefers a coach or facilitator style will tend to take a much more student-centered approach such as indirect instruction. This method focuses on activities which encourage students to take some basic information and then think through it to come to their own conclusions. Students, in effect, teach themselves much of the material while the teacher facilitates the process and guides the students through testing and discussing the results they come up with. This approach helps develop students’ thinking and enables them to better retain what they have learned since it is not so dependent on memorization. However, not all subject matter is such that students can learn it independently. Also some students are not as willing to take on the responsibility of learning and are difficult to motivate.
Another interactive method used by facilitators is cooperative learning. This method encourages interdependence among students by having them work together to solve something or develop a conclusion. It can aid in developing problem-solving skills. This method can also create a warmer classroom dynamic and positive attitude from students because of its social nature, but can be a little hard to manage and makes for a noisy classroom. This approach is good for students who work well with others, enjoy creativity, and actively participate in group settings, but a shy student or someone with a more individual learning style may feel overwhelmed or left out and not participate.
A teacher who desires an even more student oriented approach may have a delegator style. A delegator wants the students to take on the responsibility of learning themselves. This teacher may use several methods, including that of discussion. In this method, the students discuss various concepts as a group and with the teacher. The delegator style may also prefer students to work individually and use the method of self-directed instruction. In this method, the teacher generally explains the reasoning involved but then directs the students to apply that reasoning to a variety of problems on their own, such as making predictions, questioning, or summarizing. This develops critical thinking skills and enables the students to improve their independent thought and reasoning instead of becoming dependent on a teacher to do everything for them. In both of these methods, the delegator teacher simply has a consultative role, allowing students to largely choose and direct their own learning. Again, as with the facilitator styles, some students do not readily accept that learning responsibility and it may be difficult to ensure they are equally participating in the class.
So which teaching style is best? Because we all have different learning styles, it should be fairly evident that a variety of teaching styles is needed. Also, different subjects clearly require more or less direction from the teacher, and some subjects more easily lend themselves to student centered activities than do others. Therefore, a good teacher should know which styles they work best with, but should work at developing a variety of styles.
“Helping students to link what they are learning to daily living experiences keeps them engaged and motivated in the learning process. The effective teacher is constantly making decisions about how to present information to achieve this, as well as monitoring and adjusting presentations to accommodate individual differences and enhance the learning of all students.”
Even in a single class period, a teacher can design different phases of the class to correspond to different teaching methods where the teacher takes on more or less involved roles depending on the activity.
According to Felder and Solomon, who developed an index for learning styles, “when planning and developing instructional material, strive for a balance of teaching styles to match the various learning styles.” If you vary the styles used, you are more likely to effectively teach students according to the style that works best for them. When using a style that does not exactly match some students’ particular learning preference, it will still help them learn how to adapt to a reality they will have to face in life (not everyone will adapt to their needs), and the variety will ensure that at some point you are using the best style for everyone. “It is recognized that it is difficult to match with every learning style and therefore, a portfolio of teaching styles is recommended.”
After studying two different languages I have found that use of the old Lexical approach is not efficient in learning conversational speaking. I took a crash course on Czech language which was oddly taught in this style, and I found it completely useless. As I knew present perfect and past perfect formula, I could not tell you what the conductor was saying while riding the metro. I feel that in a crash course of a language one must learn the basis of conversational and fluency before grasping the technical aspects of the language. This is where I find that the New Lexical Approach is a better way to approach a foreign language. Through the new Lexical Approach, words are put into lexemes where meaning of more than one word is stressed opposed to a single word. As some words may be found in more than one lexeme, it is through these that the meanings are absorbed (Schmitt). With this methodology, the use of grammar is found second to the knowledge of vocabulary.
The new Lexical approach of word association and language corpora is something that I find to be more useful when trying to pick up a language for everyday purposes. In an introductory crash course on a language, I find it more important to learn common phrases and word association oppose to learning proficient grammar structure. In the new Lexical Approach method the study of collocations is what is found to be useful because of generalities in grammar (Lewis). Schmitt’s book states that the knowledge of word association and meaning within more than one word (lexeme) is far more important than the single word itself (Schmitt). Through lexeme students are able to absorb context and meaning of a word, rather than one single meaning. I find that through vocabulary and contextual information, is where fluency can be achieved.
The Lexical approach is something found useful because of the 320 million words in the English dictionary the average person uses only one million of them per month. Schmitt finds that the use of lexemes, rather than pure vocabulary, is more efficient when learning the English language. As the brain chunks words together without the use of lexemes, researchers have found that the use of “word chunking” is doing what the brain already does (Schmitt). As the brain chunks single words in order to form sentences, it is through lexemes that this “chunking” process is being taught (Schmitt).
Stressing the use of word context and word association, counter to grammar, makes fluency a key part of learning the language. As I find that both methodologies of the Lexical approach are worthy, I find that the use of the new method is more resourceful when trying to learn a language in a short period of time. I also feel that the overall grasp on the language is a great building block for more complicated language lessons.
Lewis, Michael. "Teaching Collocation: Further Developments in the Lexical Approach." Google Scholar (2000). 19 June 2007.
Schmitt, Norbert. "Vocabulary in Language Teaching." Cambridge Press (2000). 19 June 2007
Mikela Lee- Manaois