It is abundantly clear that today’s teachers are responsible for students with a diverse range of learning abilities. The 21st-century teacher does not have the luxury of “picking the low-hanging fruit” and then leaving the rest of the tree for experts who specialize in children with behavioral issues or learning disorders.
Today’s teachers must develop instructional styles that work well in diverse classrooms. Effective teaching methods engage gifted students, as well as slow-learning children and those with attention deficit tendencies. This is where differentiated instruction and a balanced mix of teaching styles can help reach all students in a given classroom — not just the few who respond well to one particular style of teaching.
The wonderment of teaching, what author/educator refers to as “that ah-ha moment” when a child “gets it,” is one of the most rewarding and seemingly elusive benefits of becoming a teacher. This transference of knowledge from expert to student is an art form and a skill. Fortunately, both can be learned and perfected.
Knowing how to engage students begins with selecting the teaching style that’s right for them. Winsight try different styles to meet different objectives, and always accept challenge to find ways to reach each student.
The ‘sage on the stage’ meets the ‘tiger mom’
The objective of blending teaching styles to leverage the teacher’s strengths while meeting the demands of diverse students has become increasingly difficult, as parents take a decidedly proactive role in child-learning techniques.
The traditional authoritative/expert, or “sage on the stage” lecture style, has come under attack by some parents — and contemporary educational leaders — who emphasize that a more diverse approach to teaching is necessary to engage students. This is compounded by the rise of “tiger moms,” a term made popular by parents devoted to improving the quality of education with laser-precision focus on A-list schools and a highly competitive job market.
Age of the proactive Parent
Regardless of what style a teacher adopts, it’s important for teachers to develop positive attitudes, set goals and establish high expectations for students.
“Assume students can excel!” education authors Harry and Rosemary Wong declare. As former teachers with a combined 80-plus years of educational experience, the Wongs emphasize in their best-selling book, “The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher” and their more recent, “The Classroom Management Book” that successful teachers share three common characteristics:
- effective classroom management skills
- lesson mastery
- Positive Expectations
factors to consider as teachers determine the best teaching method for their students.
Empty vessel: Critics of the “sage on the stage” lecture style point to the “empty vessel” theory, which assumes a student’s mind is essentially empty and needs to be filled by the “expert” teacher. Critics of this traditional approach to teaching insist this teaching style is outmoded and needs to be updated for the diverse 21st-century classroom.
Active vs. passive: Proponents of the traditional lecture approach believe that an overemphasis on group-oriented participatory teaching styles, like facilitator and delegator, favor gifted and competitive students over passive children with varied learning abilities, thereby exacerbating the challenges of meeting the needs of all learners.
Knowledge vs. information: Knowledge implies a complete understanding, or full comprehension, of a particular subject. A blend of teaching styles that incorporate facilitator, delegator, demonstrator, and lecturer techniques helps the broadest range of students acquire in-depth knowledge and mastery of a given subject. This stands in contrast to passive learning, which typically entails memorizing facts, or information, with the short-term objective of scoring well on tests.
Interactive classrooms: Laptops and tablets, videoconferencing and podcasts in classrooms play a vital role in today’s teaching styles. With technology in mind, it is imperative that teachers assess their students’ knowledge while they are learning. The alternative is to wait for test results, only to discover knowledge gaps that should have been detected during the active learning phase.
Constructivist teaching methods: Contemporary teaching styles tend to be group focused and inquiry driven. Constructivist teaching methods embrace subsets of alternative teaching styles, including modeling, coaching, and test preparation through rubrics scaffolding. All of these are designed to promote student participation and necessitate a hybrid approach to teaching. One criticism of the constructivist approach is it caters to extroverted, group-oriented students, who tend to dominate and benefit from these teaching methods more than introverts; however, this assumes introverts aren’t learning by observing.
Student-centric learning does not have to come at the expense of an instructor’s preferred teaching method. However, differentiated instruction demands that teachers finesse their style to accommodate the diverse needs of 21st-century classrooms.
Here is the list of teaching methods used by Winsight.
- Authority, or lecture style: This traditional, formal approach to teaching is sometimes referred to as “the sage on the stage.”
- Demonstrator, or coach style: This style retains the formal authority role while allowing teachers to demonstrate their expertise by showing students what they need to learn.
- Facilitator, or activity style: This approach encourages teachers to function as advisors who help students learn by doing.
- Developer, or group style: This style allows teachers to guide students in a group setting to accomplish tasks and learn what works or doesn’t.
- Hybrid, or blended style: This approach incorporates different aspects of the various styles and gives teachers flexibility to tailor a personal style that’s right for their coursework and students.