What’s Your Teaching Style?

For most college professors, the week before classes begin is usually full of activities, including meetings, syllabus/course planning, office organization (or reorganization), etc.  At ULM there are also a number of faculty development workshops held during this week on topics related to teaching and learning, technology, and a host of other professional areas.  Although this is a busy week for everyone, I try to attend at least a few of the sessions each semester, and I always come away having learned something new or looking at a topic from a different perspective.  One of the sessions I attended this semester was titled Teaching Styles versus Learning Styles, presented by Dr. Deanna M. Buczala, Director of the Office for Course Redesign at ULM.  The presentation was very well done, with lots of great information on pedagogical techniques – things which could be applied to virtually every area of music education, from applied lessons to classroom teaching.  One main point I took away from her presentation is that the way we learn as individuals might not always be the most effective way to teach others.  Dr. Buczala also discussed five different teaching styles, and had each of us take a short survey to determine which teaching styles we employ.  If interested, you can take the teaching style survey here.  Once you’ve taken the survey, make a note of your ratings in each of the five categories: Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator.  Here are descriptions of those teaching styles, along with advantages and disadvantages to each.  This material is quoted from Dr. Buczala’s handout.

Five Teaching Styles:
1. Expert:
Possesses knowledge and expertise that students need. Expert teaching style strives to maintain status as an expert among students by displaying detailed knowledge. The professor-as-expert attempts to challenge students to enhance their competence. The expert concentrates on transmitting information, and requires that students be prepared to learn and use that information. Advantage: expert’s information, knowledge, and skills are the combined advantage of this teaching style. Disadvantage: if overused, the display of knowledge may intimidate less experienced students. Also, the display of knowledge and skills may not always reveal their underpinning.

2. Formal Authority: Possesses status among students because of knowledge, and role as a faculty member. In this style professors provide positive and negative feedback. The professor establishes learning goals and expectations and rules of conduct, providing students with a learning structure. Students concentrate on correct, acceptable, and standard methods. Advantage: focus is on clear expectations and acceptable method. Disadvantage: a strong investment in this style can lead to rigid, standardized, and less flexible ways of managing students and their concern.

3. Personal Model: Believes in teaching by personal example. This professor establishes a prototype for thinking and behavior, then oversees, guides, and directs by showing how to do things. A Personal Model teacher also encourages students to observe, then emulate the instructor’s approach. Advantage: an emphasis on direct observation and emulation of a role model. Disadvantage: some professors may believe that their approach is the best way, leading some students to feel inadequate if they cannot live up to the expectations and standards of the method they see.

4. Facilitator: Emphasizes the personal nature of teacher-student interactions. The professor guides and directs students by asking questions, exploring options, and suggesting alternatives. The professor encourages students to develop criteria to make informed choices. The professor concentrates on the overall classroom goal of developing the capacity for independent action, initiative, and responsibility, while providing students with as much support and encouragement as possible. Advantage: Personal flexibility provided by a professor‘s focus on students’ needs and goals. Disadvantage: style can be time consuming.

5. Delegator: This professor develops students’ capacity to function in an autonomous fashion. This educator encourages students to work on projects independently or as part of autonomous teams. He or she is available upon request as a resource person. Advantage: helping students perceive themselves as independent learners. Disadvantage: it may cause professors to misread student’s readiness for independent work.

Most teachers utilize a combination of the above, usually with one or more being dominant. Amongst the prominent horn teachers I’m familiar with, all of these styles are employed to varying degrees. Thinking back over the important/effective/influential teachers I’ve had over the years, I can see how they employed these various pedagogical approaches, even changing dominant styles when necessary to adapt to a specific student’s needs.

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3 Comments

Teachers must understand how students think, and build from there using the basic principles and logic. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.

Glad you like the post Lyle! I am partial to the facilitator style myself, but it is definitely more effective in a one-on-one/small group situation versus a large group or classroom scenario.

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