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Teaching Methods and Strategies: What's Your Style?

Teaching Methods and Strategies: What's Your Style?

Teaching is both an art and a science. Though all teachers infuse lessons with their own unique mix of personality and style, they also rely on time-tested and research-based teaching methods and strategies. Though technology has been a huge game-changer for schools and teachers, many traditional teaching methods prevail, evolving in ways that allow teachers to adapt and continue to provide quality instruction. Here are some different types of teaching methods which can be used across most subjects and grade levels:

  • Cooperative Learning remains a popular approach to teaching and learning. It's a common misconception that cooperative learning is a fancy way to say "group work." Rather, cooperative learning requires careful planning and preparation by the teacher. Groups are organized heterogeneously; each member gets a specific task that fits into a larger whole. Using this approach gives students the opportunity to provide support to each other, helping them acquire the important collaborative skills they'll need to bring into the workforce. Though research has revealed multiple benefits of cooperative learning, teachers will still have to navigate some challenges. Some students may express a preference for working alone while others might not take the work seriously. Since ideal groups are heterogeneous, advanced students may feel frustrated while working with students who need more support, and students who need more support may feel intimidated. But teachers may find the benefits and flexibility far outweigh the potential problems.
  • Direct Instruction, often called "chalk and talk" by its detractors, refers to an approach which encompasses multiple traditional teaching methods. Though lecturing is the primary means of direct instruction, the term refers to any learning activity where the teacher has the primary role in guiding the learner. Though some educators and administrators dismiss direct instruction as a quality method because it doesn't engage the student as much as other approaches, it can be both useful and effective. Direct instruction allows the teacher to explain in a timely manner what the students need to know, instead of waiting for the students to uncover the information themselves. While direct instruction does have the potential to be unengaging and result in students tuning out, when it's used well it can be a powerful instructional strategy.
  • Inquiry Learning is the opposite of direct instruction. Unlike direct instruction, which is led exclusively by the teacher, inquiry learning is student-directed. The teacher provides the students with an issue or question and facilitates the process of uncovering the knowledge. Students in an inquiry-based classroom play an active role throughout. Like direct instruction, inquiry learning can take many forms. In this approach, the teacher facilitates the learning process by providing support and guidance. Inquiry learning provides students with the great opportunity build independent work skills and follow their curiosity. Effectively assessing inquiry- based learning is its primary challenge. Since this method allows students to construct their own learning experiences, developing a quality assessment may be difficult.
  • Mini Lessons, though typically used to teach reading and writing, can be used in other subjects as well. A mini lesson involves a brief period of direct instruction and teacher demonstration, but it also incorporates immediate opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the skill or concept being taught. Because they're brief, mini lessons can effectively hold student attention longer than other types of traditional teaching methods. However, teachers may find it difficult to adhere to the mini lesson's brief time constraints.

The above teaching methods and strategies have been used by teachers for generations, because anecdotal and statistical evidence have proven their effectiveness. But the rapid growth of technology and its evolving applications provides teachers with additional options for enhancing instruction. The SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) provides teachers with a structured framework for integrating technology by combining established teaching strategies, like those above, with current hardware, software and gadgets. While not a teaching method, SAMR supports other methods by helping teachers assess current practices and helping them find ways to improve instruction through technology.

Teaching and learning is always evolving as we learn more about best practices. But the above teaching methods have prevailed because of their adaptability and effectiveness. A working knowledge of these strategies will give teachers a strong foundation for mastering additional techniques.

Mastering teaching methods and strategies is an important part of a successful teacher's skill set. If you're thinking of expanding your knowledge of this type of topic by continuing your own education, explore AIU's Master of Education programs.