Teaching Styles

In our previous tip, we discussed several of the leading models of student learning styles, and suggested the employment of one may well hold positive impact on student retention, program completion and related accountability objectives. Now that the new academic year is up and running, let's take a look at some of the dynamics of our individual teaching styles.

You have likely heard your entire career that we "teach as we have been taught." While I have not seen hard research on this issue, we do not doubt its veracity. Digging a bit deeper however, we are increasingly convinced that each of us also derives much of our individual teaching style from our individual learning style. That is what has worked for us as a student has probably convinced us that it likely works for many students, and therefore it drives much of what we do in front of the classroom. Richard Felder, of North Carolina State University, has researched this issue extensively, and some of his thoughts are quite revealing.

Felder states that individual teaching styles may be defined in terms of the answers we provide to five questions:

  1. What type of information, i.e. concrete or abstract, is most emphasized?
  2. What mode of presentation, i.e. visual or verbal, is stressed?
  3. How is the presentation organized, i.e. inductively or deductively?
  4. What mode of student participation is facilitated, i.e. active or passive?
  5. What type of perspective is provided on information presented, i.e. sequential or global?

Problems occur because there are often significant mismatches between the learning styles of most college students and the teaching styles of most college professors. The key to addressing the issue is present a variety of styles to all learners, so that students are not consistently taught in their least preferred mode. Among others, Felder recommends:

  • balancing between concrete and abstract information;
  • making extensive use of visuals before, during, and after presenting verbal material;
  • conducting small group exercises in class;
  • having students cooperate on homework;
  • informing students of their individual learning styles to foster "ownership" of their learning.

Why not invest some time in reflecting upon your individual teaching style, and making some small adjustments that might increase your instructional effectiveness?

Shop on line at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble to get your copy of Dr. Lyons' book, The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom.

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