Education Corner

Teaching Methods and Strategies: The Complete Guide

You’ve completed your coursework. Student teaching has ended. You’ve donned the cap and gown, crossed the stage, smiled with your diploma and went home to fill out application after application.

Suddenly you are standing in what will be your classroom for the next year and after the excitement of decorating it wears off and you begin lesson planning, you start to notice all of your lessons are executed the same way, just with different material. But that is what you know and what you’ve been taught, so you go with it.

After a while, your students are bored, and so are you. There must be something wrong because this isn’t what you envisioned teaching to be like. There is.

Figuring out the best ways you can deliver information to students can sometimes be even harder than what students go through in discovering how they learn best. The reason is because every single teacher needs a variety of different teaching methods in their theoretical teaching bag to pull from depending on the lesson, the students, and things as seemingly minute as the time the class is and the subject.

Using these different teaching methods, which are rooted in theory of different teaching styles, will not only help teachers reach their full potential, but more importantly engage, motivate and reach the students in their classes, whether in person or online.

Teaching Methods

Teaching methods, or methodology, is a narrower topic because it’s founded in theories and educational psychology. If you have a degree in teaching, you most likely have heard of names like Skinner, Vygotsky , Gardner, Piaget , and Bloom . If their names don’t ring a bell, you should definitely recognize their theories that have become teaching methods. The following are the most common teaching theories.


Behaviorism is the theory that every learner is essentially a “clean slate” to start off and shaped by emotions. People react to stimuli, reactions as well as positive and negative reinforcement, the site states.

Learning Theories names the most popular theorists who ascribed to this theory were Ivan Pavlov, who many people may know with his experiments with dogs. He performed an experiment with dogs that when he rang a bell, the dogs responded to the stimuli; then he applied the idea to humans.

Other popular educational theorists who were part of behaviorism was B.F. Skinner and Albert Bandura .

Social Cognitive Theory

Social Cognitive Theory is typically spoken about at the early childhood level because it has to do with critical thinking with the biggest concept being the idea of play, according to Edwin Peel writing for Encyclopedia Britannica . Though Bandura and Lev Vygotsky also contributed to cognitive theory, according to Dr. Norman Herr with California State University , the most popular and first theorist of cognitivism is Piaget.

There are four stages to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development that he created in 1918. Each stage correlates with a child’s development from infancy to their teenage years.

The first stage is called the Sensorimotor Stage which occurs from birth to 18 months. The reason this is considered cognitive development is because the brain is literally growing through exploration, like squeaking horns, discovering themselves in mirrors or spinning things that click on their floor mats or walkers; creating habits like sleeping with a certain blanket; having reflexes like rubbing their eyes when tired or thumb sucking; and beginning to decipher vocal tones.

The second stage, or the Preoperational Stage, occurs from ages 2 to 7 when toddlers begin to understand and correlate symbols around them, ask a lot of questions, and start forming sentences and conversations, but they haven’t developed perspective yet so empathy does not quite exist yet, the website states. This is the stage when children tend to blurt out honest statements, usually embarrassing their parents, because they don’t understand censoring themselves either.

From ages 7 to 11, children are beginning to problem solve, can have conversations about things they are interested in, are more aware of logic and develop empathy during the Concrete Operational Stage.

The final stage, called the Formal Operational Stage, though by definition ends at age 16, can continue beyond. It involves deeper thinking and abstract thoughts as well as questioning not only what things are but why the way they are is popular, the site states. Many times people entering new stages of their lives like high school, college, or even marriage go through elements of Piaget’s theory, which is why the strategies that come from this method are applicable across all levels of education.

The Multiple Intelligences Theory

The Multiple Intelligences Theory states that people don’t need to be smart in every single discipline to be considered intelligent on paper tests, but that people excel in various disciplines, making them exceptional.

Created in 1983, the former principal in the Scranton School District in Scranton, PA, created eight different intelligences, though since then two others have been debated of whether to be added but have not yet officially, according to the site.

The original eight are musical, spatial, linguistic, mathematical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic and most people have a predominant intelligence followed by others. For those who are musically-inclined either via instruments, vocals, has perfect pitch, can read sheet music or can easily create music has Musical Intelligence.

Being able to see something and rearrange it or imagine it differently is Spatial Intelligence, while being talented with language, writing or avid readers have Linguistic Intelligence. Kinesthetic Intelligence refers to understanding how the body works either anatomically or athletically and Naturalistic Intelligence is having an understanding of nature and elements of the ecosystem.

The final intelligences have to do with personal interactions. Intrapersonal Intelligence is a matter of knowing oneself, one’s limits, and their inner selves while Interpersonal Intelligence is knowing how to handle a variety of other people without conflict or knowing how to resolve it, the site states. There is still an elementary school in Scranton, PA named after their once-principal.


Constructivism is another theory created by Piaget which is used as a foundation for many other educational theories and strategies because constructivism is focused on how people learn. Piaget states in this theory that people learn from their experiences. They learn best through active learning , connect it to their prior knowledge and then digest this information their own way. This theory has created the ideas of student-centered learning in education versus teacher-centered learning.

Universal Design for Learning

The final method is the Universal Design for Learning which has redefined the educational community since its inception in the mid-1980s by David H. Rose. This theory focuses on how teachers need to design their curriculum for their students. This theory really gained traction in the United States in 2004 when it was presented at an international conference and he explained that this theory is based on neuroscience and how the brain processes information, perform tasks and get excited about education.

The theory, known as UDL, advocates for presenting information in multiple ways to enable a variety of learners to understand the information; presenting multiple assessments for students to show what they have learned; and learn and utilize a student’s own interests to motivate them to learn, the site states. This theory also discussed incorporating technology in the classroom and ways to educate students in the digital age.

Teaching Styles

From each of the educational theories, teachers extract and develop a plethora of different teaching styles, or strategies. Instructors must have a large and varied arsenal of strategies to use weekly and even daily in order to build rapport, keep students engaged and even keep instructors from getting bored with their own material. These can be applicable to all teaching levels, but adaptations must be made based on the student’s age and level of development.

Differentiated instruction is one of the most popular teaching strategies, which means that teachers adjust the curriculum for a lesson, unit or even entire term in a way that engages all learners in various ways, according to Chapter 2 of the book Instructional Process and Concepts in Theory and Practice by Celal Akdeniz . This means changing one’s teaching styles constantly to fit not only the material but more importantly, the students based on their learning styles.

Learning styles are the ways in which students learn best. The most popular types are visual, audio, kinesthetic and read/write , though others include global as another type of learner, according to Akdeniz . For some, they may seem self-explanatory. Visual learners learn best by watching the instruction or a demonstration; audio learners need to hear a lesson; kinesthetic learners learn by doing, or are hands-on learners; read/write learners to best by reading textbooks and writing notes; and global learners need material to be applied to their real lives, according to The Library of Congress .

There are many activities available to instructors that enable their students to find out what kind of learner they are. Typically students have a main style with a close runner-up, which enables them to learn best a certain way but they can also learn material in an additional way.

When an instructor knows their students and what types of learners are in their classroom, instructors are able to then differentiate their instruction and assignments to those learning types, according to Akdeniz and The Library of Congress. Learn more about different learning styles.

When teaching new material to any type of learner, is it important to utilize a strategy called scaffolding . Scaffolding is based on a student’s prior knowledge and building a lesson, unit or course from the most foundational pieces and with each step make the information more complicated, according to an article by Jerry Webster .

To scaffold well, a teacher must take a personal interest in their students to learn not only what their prior knowledge is but their strengths as well. This will enable an instructor to base new information around their strengths and use positive reinforcement when mistakes are made with the new material.

There is an unfortunate concept in teaching called “teach to the middle” where instructors target their lessons to the average ability of the students in their classroom, leaving slower students frustrated and confused, and above average students frustrated and bored. This often results in the lower- and higher-level students scoring poorly and a teacher with no idea why.

The remedy for this is a strategy called blended learning where differentiated instruction is occurring simultaneously in the classroom to target all learners, according to author and educator Juliana Finegan . In order to be successful at blended learning, teachers once again need to know their students, how they learn and their strengths and weaknesses, according to Finegan.

Blended learning can include combining several learning styles into one lesson like lecturing from a PowerPoint – not reading the information on the slides — that includes cartoons and music associations while the students have the print-outs. The lecture can include real-life examples and stories of what the instructor encountered and what the students may encounter. That example incorporates four learning styles and misses kinesthetic, but the activity afterwards can be solely kinesthetic.

A huge component of blended learning is technology. Technology enables students to set their own pace and access the resources they want and need based on their level of understanding, according to The Library of Congress . It can be used three different ways in education which include face-to-face, synchronously or asynchronously . Technology used with the student in the classroom where the teacher can answer questions while being in the student’s physical presence is known as face-to-face.

Synchronous learning is when students are learning information online and have a teacher live with them online at the same time, but through a live chat or video conferencing program, like Skype, or Zoom, according to The Library of Congress.

Finally, asynchronous learning is when students take a course or element of a course online, like a test or assignment, as it fits into their own schedule, but a teacher is not online with them at the time they are completing or submitting the work. Teachers are still accessible through asynchronous learning but typically via email or a scheduled chat meeting, states the Library of Congress.

The final strategy to be discussed actually incorporates a few teaching strategies, so it’s almost like blended teaching. It starts with a concept that has numerous labels such as student-centered learning, learner-centered pedagogy, and teacher-as-tutor but all mean that an instructor revolves lessons around the students and ensures that students take a participatory role in the learning process, known as active learning, according to the Learning Portal .

In this model, a teacher is just a facilitator, meaning that they have created the lesson as well as the structure for learning, but the students themselves become the teachers or create their own knowledge, the Learning Portal says. As this is occurring, the instructor is circulating the room working as a one-on-one resource, tutor or guide, according to author Sara Sanchez Alonso from Yale’s Center for Teaching and Learning. For this to work well and instructors be successful one-on-one and planning these lessons, it’s essential that they have taken the time to know their students’ history and prior knowledge, otherwise it can end up to be an exercise in futility, Alonso said.

Some activities teachers can use are by putting students in groups and assigning each student a role within the group, creating reading buddies or literature circles, making games out of the material with individual white boards, create different stations within the classroom for different skill levels or interest in a lesson or find ways to get students to get up out of their seats and moving, offers .

There are so many different methodologies and strategies that go into becoming an effective instructor. A consistent theme throughout all of these is for a teacher to take the time to know their students because they care, not because they have to. When an instructor knows the stories behind the students, they are able to design lessons that are more fun, more meaningful, and more effective because they were designed with the students’ best interests in mind.

There are plenty of pre-made lessons, activities and tests available online and from textbook publishers that any teacher could use. But you need to decide if you want to be the original teacher who makes a significant impact on your students, or a pre-made teacher a student needs to get through.

Read Also: – Blended Learning Guide – Collaborative Learning Guide – Flipped Classroom Guide – Game Based Learning Guide – Gamification in Education Guide – Holistic Education Guide – Maker Education Guide – Personalized Learning Guide – Place-Based Education Guide – Project-Based Learning Guide – Scaffolding in Education Guide – Social-Emotional Learning Guide

Similar Posts:

  • Discover Your Learning Style – Comprehensive Guide on Different Learning Styles
  • 35 of the BEST Educational Apps for Teachers (Updated 2024)
  • 15 Learning Theories in Education (A Complete Summary)

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Modern Teaching Methods: An Overview

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”~ Albert Einstein

This article is part of the Innovation in Education Guide . Learn all about Educational Technology , Innovative Learners , and Innovative Classrooms . 


The past few years have been a learning curve for everyone, and teachers and students alike had to adapt their learning styles in education. This is how all the modern teaching methods came to be.

Modern teaching methods refer to other ways than the classical in-class method. Students are connected and interact through various tech, and they also form social relationships through different assemblies they are a part of. 

Modern teaching is all about the learner and less about the teaching process. This teaching method lets learners participate actively in the lesson, and the teacher only leads them to where they should focus.

Modern teaching methods use new gadgets such as computers or laptops with Wi-Fi connections, LCD projectors and interactive whiteboards.

The importance of innovative teaching strategies 

Innovative teaching methods help you with

 – Staying connected to learning

 – Engaging in various online classes

 – Helps students with both knowledge and practical skills

 – Emphasises practical knowledge

Advantages of Modern Teaching 

Modern teaching is what is needed in these modern times. The technological revolution helps teaching become innovative and, more than this, get to more students than before. Offering innovative teaching styles helps students stay connected and improve their technical knowledge from the beginning. 

The main advantages of modern teaching styles are:

 – Move from memorising to experimenting

 – Helps students innovate 

 – Develops the interactive side of students 

 – It allows the student to develop different patterns of learning and focusing

 – Develops the cognitive thinking skills 

 – It treats students differently according to their level of understanding.

 – Focus on the understanding of the concepts

Essential skills for a modern teacher 

There are some skills that a teacher needs to be able to transmit the correct information to the students. More than just the right information, there is the way the teacher shares that information that matters. 

Thus a teacher needs to be:

 – Flexible

 – To stay updated with everything new in the education domain

 – Time to get to know the students

 – One-to-one student sessions availability

 – Resourceful 

Characteristics of Modern Teaching Methods 

Learner-centred .

Just as the name describes, the main characteristics of modern teaching can easily be said to be learner-centred. The teacher is the guide that sets the focus, and the learners are those that dominate the class. 

Task-Based or Activity-based 

This characteristic of modern teaching techniques is a great way to engage students and develop their social interactions. The teacher usually gives an activity-based task, and students participate in it and solve it. 


Both teachers and students can bring study materials. This characteristic describes very well what modern teaching helps students with. It gives students the independence to think, search, select, and draw conclusions. It means having all the necessary study material for the learners to understand the topic thoroughly. 

Modern Teaching Methods 

Collaborative learning .

Collaborative learning helps students develop their social skills even though they are in an online environment. Teachers choose a topic and form a group where they discuss, debate and solve problems.  

The success of the group is the success of each student that is a part of that group. This modern teaching method helps students develop their communication and negotiation skills; they learn to listen and understand others’ points and work in a group. 

Spaced Learning 

Spaced learning is a teaching method used to help students understand the lesson. It consists of repeating the task as often as necessary until everyone fully understands it. This repetition is done within a 10 minutes break between the classes so that students can grasp what they know. 

It is an excellent method for students to learn the basics before moving on to another chapter. It is also an easy way to make them understand the lesson.  

Flipped Classroom 

A flipped classroom is a beautiful way of teaching. It consists of students studying the lesson at home, understanding it, and then being ready to discuss it. The students can watch videos, search for the topic online or read the classroom material. Whatever fits their needs.  

The innovative students come to school with an entire set of questions and can have discussions on the topics with their classmates and teacher. They have everything covered. It is also suitable for when students are sick, as they do not miss any class with this type of learning. 


This is about using games to excite students about the class and the new materials. It is a great strategy, especially for courses based on a lot of information. 

Children of all ages and adults love games – on the field, or online games are entertaining and provide a great way to keep them engaged. It is used a lot in elementary and preschool but can be used at any age. 

Teachers are responsible for preparing in advance the projects to use in gamification and use methods that will engage students for a longer time. They can consist of online quizzes, puzzles, games, or anything that will be a challenge for students to stay connected. 


The modern teaching method is now developing and is adopted by more and more schools. However, the majority stick to the old way of teaching as if it did have results till now; they believe there is no way of changing it. The decision regarding the teaching method remains with the child and the parents. Each of the two is good and has the same goal. 

Modern Teaching Methods FAQ 

What is modern teaching .

Modern teaching is the teaching method that puts the learner in the centre. It helps students set the tone of their learning pace; more than this, it does not treat students alike. Modern teaching knows that students differ, and their capacity to understand information is different. 

Why is modern teaching the need of the hour? 

It is the need of the hour as technology evolves, and students access to technology allows them to understand and see more. If teaching were to remain traditional, students would no longer be interested or engaged. Adopting the modern teaching style where students can share and feel listened to will raise engagement and allow teachers to control students’ focus. 

What is the difference between old and new teaching methods?

While in the old teaching methods, teachers used to expect students to listen and learn what they heard without having any extra personal input, in the new teaching method, learners are given the possibility to innovate, create, think, express and argument. 

How do innovative teaching strategies improve students’ performance? 

Innovative teaching strategies are significant for developing students ready for the future. The independence it gives students develops their thinking and lowers their stress levels. 

What are some examples of innovation in teaching and learning? 

Innovation teaching in learning can be:

 – Collaborative learning

 – Self-learning

 – Vak – teaching

 – Crossover thinking 

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101 Teaching Guide: Methods, Strategies, Sources, and More!

teaching methods meaning essay

Teaching students is no easy task. Educators face numerous problems every day, including the difficult decision of which techniques, strategies, and teaching methods to use with their students!

How can a teacher manage these and other issues?

We have the answers! IvyPanda developed a teaching guide that contains all the information you need, from basic teaching principles and strategies to useful tools that will come in handy for most educators.

👩‍🏫 What is education and teaching?

🎓 7 principles of teaching, 💢 common problems teachers face and how to deal with them, 📖 learning styles, 📝 classroom teaching strategies, 👩‍🎓 student-focused teaching strategies, 🔗 20 best online tools and resources for teachers.

Before we dive into the details of teaching, let’s clarify the difference between education and teaching!

Teaching and education are similar ideas but each has a specific, independent meaning.

Education has had a significant impact on society. It involves the transmission of values and knowledge from adults to children. The quality of education depends on the society. In underdeveloped cultures, children receive little or no formal training. However, in most developed countries, schooling is mandatory for all children.

When we talk about teaching, we mean the process of educating. Actually, teaching can be described as an instrument for learning. These two terms—teaching and education—are difficult to separate since they’re interwoven into the same process.

If you’re going to pursue a teaching degree, then you should read Chickering and Gamson’s article “ Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education .” In this article, the authors describe teaching guidelines that work for all students regardless of their nationality, age, or economic background.

Even though the principles were written more than 30 years ago, they’re still applicable to any type of learning. Here they are:

Inspire contacts between teaching faculty and students.

A strong connection between teacher and student is crucial for a student’s success. Students need feedback and support from their pedagogues. Let’s see how this principle can be implemented in the classroom as an effective teaching method:

  • Names . To establish good relationships with students, a teacher should learn their names. We think you will agree that calling students by their names creates an environment of trust. When you know your students’ names, you show them that you care about them.
  • Extracurricular activities and student events . Out-of-classroom activities, like sports, excursions, or even formal events play a significant role in student success and team building. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, students who actively participate in extracurricular activities perform better than those who don’t.

Percentage of public school seniors table.

As a teacher, developing a strong sense of connection allows you to learn more about your students’ personalities and goals. You’ll also be able to share your values, teaching skills, and experience more comfortably with your students.

  • Regular analysis and feedback on students’ outcomes. By providing personalized feedback on assignments, you help your students gain self-awareness, confidence, and eagerness to continue learning.But only giving feedback on assignments is not enough. You should also ask for inverse feedback at the end of each class. You will get an understanding of how well students are learning the material you provide and will be able to adjust your teaching program or work with students who have problems in your course.
  • Work with students on a personal level . As a teacher, you can encourage students through individual conversations, which offer the opportunity to learn about their educational and career aims and even connect them with your colleagues.
  • Active student involvement in class discussions . When you involve your students in verbal activities, like debates, discussions, etc., you teach them to express their thoughts through verbalization.

All of these examples can be adjusted for distance learning. For example, in-class discussions can be replaced by group chats on Facebook or emails.

Enhance students’ cooperation

Group work positively affects the development of critical thinking, communication, and persuasive skills. Working in groups, students learn to collaborate with others as they will have to do in their future.

Check out these ideas on how to implement this principle in the teaching process:

  • Peer tutoring. Numerous research studies of peer tutoring show that students who participate in the role of tutor have higher achievement than those who don’t. Also, researchers found that same-age tutors are as useful as older ones.
  • Exam preparation and group assignments. Research shows that students who prepare for exams and assignments in groups experience less exam anxiety . Group work increases their comprehension of the information.
  • Campus clubs and organizations . As a teacher, you should encourage your students to join clubs and organizations at their schools or universities. By joining a club, students are presented with networking and social opportunities. Many campus organizations host various career events with the participation of industry leaders. Attending such events allows students to establish professional connections that could be helpful in their future careers.

Engage Students in Active Learning

Students answering on lection.

If you take a look at the Eastern education system , you will see that their students participate passively in the learning process. Often, they sit and listen to their professor without asking questions or debating the lesson topic.

The western education system , in contrast, is more active, and includes discussions, writing assignments describing what students have learned, and the application of academic lessons to students’ daily lives.

Below, we will discuss various teaching strategies in detail.

Keep reading!

Give a Feedback

From the very beginning of their studies, students need feedback on their performance. As a teacher, you should evaluate their knowledge and offer methods for improvement. Through the teacher’s feedback, students learn how to assess themselves and determine how to advance in their studies:

  • Discuss the general outcomes and common mistakes of assignments and exams. Avoid discussing an individual’s error in front of the class. You can dedicate time for a personal consultation to explain the error and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • Use various assessment formats. For example, you can use software solutions for testing, quizzes, papers, etc. (Students who regularly receive quizzes show better results on standardized tests.)
  • Implement Q&A sessions. While answering questions regarding course material, you can ask students to model a similar issue to the one just examined, to compare two contrasting issues, etc. Engaging in critical thinking will help students better understand the learning material.

Point out the Importance of Time Management

Time management is important for both teachers and students. Setting realistic deadlines for assignments helps students control their procrastination . Avoid assigning ten papers in nine weeks, for example.

Here is some advice on how you can help your students meet deadlines:

  • Set clear and realistic deadlines for assignments . Explain to your students how much time they should dedicate to complete the tasks.
  • Meet with students who fall behind . As a teacher, you should discuss the student’s schedule, study habits, and, if applicable, explain why they shouldn’t skip classes.
  • Use technology in class . There are lots of useful tools for teachers that help encourage students to finish their assignments on time. Don’t rely only on old-fashioned methods.

Here’s the thing:

It may seem like the more time a student spends on studying, the more successful they’ll be. However, there’s a huge difference between the amount of time spent and its quality. Some students require very little time to complete an assignment and prepare a wonderful persuasive speech. Others may spend a lot of time procrastinating. Your task is to manage the student’s desire to learn and help them to deal with procrastination .

Multitasking statistics.

Point out High Students Performance Expectations

Here’s the deal:

The more you expect—the more you get. When a teacher has high expectations for their students, regardless of their motivation or knowledge level, they positively impact the students’ performance. Check out these ideas on how to encourage your students:

  • Individual work. Dedicate more time for individual work with students who are at risk of failing your subject, providing additional guidance and motivation. By the way, you may find Claude Goldenberg’s article“ The Limits of Expectations: A Case for Case Knowledge About Teacher Expectancy Effects ” interesting and helpful in this regard.
  • Strict deadlines and guidelines. We already mentioned that setting clear and realistic timeframes for students is necessary. You also need to give them a meticulous syllabus where you point out the upcoming assignments, methods of grading, and due dates.
  • Acknowledge high student performance. Every student works at their own pace and level. Some may acquire information quickly and easily complete all assignments, while others may work more slowly. Your task is to explain that everyone should strive for their best individual performance possible, focusing on the acquisition of knowledge instead of grades. And don’t forget to regularly update the course content, so students remain challenged.

Respect diverse learning styles

Teacher posing with her students.

There are no two people whose learning styles are completely identical. Some students perform better in speeches and debates, while others excel in the lab, for example. A teacher should allow students to express themselves and learn in ways that work best for each individual. Here are some examples:

  • Online technologies use . There are plenty of web tools and apps that allow students to choose the studying experiences that perfectly fit their learning styles: quizzes, tests, tests prepare apps, and more! Just imagine: in 2017, the global smart education and learning market was valued at $135.5 billion !
  • Extra materials and readings . Your students may come from very diverse backgrounds and may have different levels of knowledge. As a teacher, you should provide additional materials for those who lack fundamental knowledge. One such resource could be an essays database containing examples of works students are going to have to be dealing with.
  • Diverse teaching activities . Field trips can be important opportunities to show students the day-to-day activities of their potential future careers. Open-ended questions, which ask your students to solve problems that have multiple solutions, can be great themes for discussions and debates. Also, we recommend taking a look at Howard Garder’s research studies on the theory of multiple intelligences.

Implementing these teaching principles in your daily work as a teacher will benefit your students and help them achieve success.

Teaching is a profession that inspires students to become a better version of them. However, the teacher’s life is not only about grateful students who succeed in their careers.

Like other professions, teachers may face lots of challenges. Below, we will describe the most common issues that bother teachers and share some ideas on how to address them.

Lack of Time for Planning and Paperwork Overload

Teachers are great managers. Nowadays, they have a lot of tasks that require planning and time-management.

So, here’s a small part of what an average teacher should plan and control:

  • Syllabus. Educators do not just finish it once and forever. They update course content and study materials to new market demands.
  • Field trips. Even a short trip to the nearest museum or company requires lots of time to plan it in detail and foresee all possible circumstances.
  • Extracurricular activities. Many teachers actively participate in school and university clubs, career fairs, etc.

As you can see, teachers have to handle multiple activities and roles.

The biggest problem of these roles is the lack of time . Planning, preparation, and performance of tasks add a lot of pressure and even can cause teacher burnout .

Teacher stress statistics.

Another significant contributor to the burnout is never-ending paperwork. Teachers not only have to prepare high-quality teaching content, but also act as social workers, counselors, and more!

They have regularly update student statistics and growth indicators in addition to lesson plans and other teaching notes. By the way, have we already mentioned how much time takes the feedback on students’ assignments? Such extensive paperwork can negatively impact the quality of teacher performance and work-life balance.

How to deal?

Digitalize! There are a lot of useful tools that teachers can use in their work. Software solutions allow them to plan, reduce paperwork, share materials with colleagues and students, track the deadlines, etc.

Most modern planners and organizers allow to collaborate with others; add notes, links, and files; comment; set reminders, and stay flexible.

But digitalization only itself can’t save you from routine and multiple tasks. A teacher has to have excellent time management skills to keep the work-life balance. In IvyPanda article “ 51 Best Free Study Apps for College Students: Ultimate List ,” you can find tools that come in handy even in teacher’s daily work.

Balancing Diverse Learning Needs

All students in a class are different and have diverse learning styles. As a teacher, you should find a personal approach to your scholars to succeed in your subject. However, satisfying ALL learning needs of EVERY student can be a challenging task. Especially when there are 30+ students in a class.

There are a lot of various teaching strategies that can be successfully implemented in every class. Even though all of them require additional time for preparation, once you learn them, your students will benefit.

First, provide an in-depth analysis of the most common learning styles in your class to determine the different types of learners among your students. Study and analyze different teaching approaches that work best for them. Adapt your lesson plans according to these strategies.

In our article, IvyPanda experts will give you the essential information you may use for further research. Later, we will discuss the seven most common learning styles and diverse teaching strategies.

Lack of Students’ Motivation

Lazy students on a lection.

Unfortunately, not all students in the classroom are motivated and respectful. Even if you are the best teacher in the world and prepared exciting lesson materials, it would be useless if your students don’t have intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Moreover, as a teacher, you should always be aware of what and how you’re saying or doing something as it can be used against you. And you still have to teach even amidst an unfriendly atmosphere or silent classroom.

Sounds hopeless, huh?

Educators have various instruments that could help motivate students and create a friendly and respectful atmosphere in the class. Among them is the involvement of the school administration and parents in the study process. Three-side cooperation “teacher-parents-student” can be a great contribution to the students’ performance and success.

Lack of Parental Support

What if parents just step away from their responsibilities? The little or no parental support can result in student’s lower grades, worse school attendance, and higher dropout rates compared to their classmates whose parents are actively participating in their school life.

Student absences statistics.

Numerous studies show how parental involvement can impact students’ performance, and teachers should take initiatives to increase the role of parents in the education of their child.

If you think that there’s nothing you can do if parents don’t pay attention to their child, you’re wrong.

Here are the ways you can increase parental involvement:

  • Communicate with parents. You should meet them in class or plan a home visit. Talk about their expectations, explain how they can track a child’s progress, and communicate with a teacher through apps. Provide recommendations for homework help.
  • Invite parents to become volunteers. Active participation in school activities gives parents a clear understanding of the challenges their child may face on a daily basis.
  • Use online tools. Advice videos, blogs, calendars can come in handy for parental involvement. Because of the heavy workload, parents can miss a lot of school events and have no idea what’s happening in the school. Such tools can keep them in the loop.

Changing Educational Trends

Scholar learning science using laptop.

Evolving technologies are actively implemented in the curriculum and are an essential part of most of the subjects. Education institutions have to adopt new tools to keep updated to current trends.

You may say: What’s the problem with using all those technologies?

Here’s the answer:

Quite often, schools do not provide adequate training to teachers on how to work with these tools. Teachers have to figure out how they can use these tools and utilize them effectively.

Spending additional time on self-paced learning of trending tools and apps may lead to frustration and burnout.

Day by day, we see the technology growth. A few decades ago, people could only dream about autopilot cars, smart homes, and other solutions that aimed to improve the quality of life.

Teachers should stay on top of current trends; however, it doesn’t mean that they have to spend nights to find the perfect solutions for their classroom. Here are a couple of ideas of how to deal with the latest technology trends and implement them in the class:

  • Find the sources. As technology grows, it may have a sense for educators to find the sources that provide advice on how to implement new tools in the teaching process. For example, EdSurge provides guides and weekly podcasts on current trends, tech innovations, etc. Here, at IvyPanda, you can also find useful information about the tools you can use in the classroom and recommend to your students.
  • Seek school support. You can’t use technology if your school or classroom policies don’t support or even prohibit it. That’s why we recommend checking what tools your students can use.

School management question.

There are still teachers with low computer literacy. New teachers, at the same time, might not be aware or have only basic knowledge of the available technologies. That’s why school support and advice from a person who is more experienced in the practical use of technology in the class.

Pressure from School Administrators

Educators of all levels experience serious pressure from administrators, colleagues, and competitors. The mission of every school and college is to secure the possible high quality of education. And, as in the business, each school strives to become the best.

This phenomenon has a simple explanation: the higher quality of teaching leads to a higher enrollment rate. And, in its turn, a school gets more funding for further development. This statement is true for both public and private institutions.

In this formula, “student-funding-school development,” a teacher plays a significant role since they are responsible for students’ outcomes. And, as a result, they have to perform well while giving no reasons to blame.

How to deal:

Don’t hesitate to seek help. You can always reach out to your school administrators when you have problems with students and/or their parents. Sometimes, third-party involvement can become a solution. Standing as one front, you can develop a proper solution that will fit student’s needs.

Ask if there is a way to automate some of your routines or even dismiss some of the unnecessary reports. Don’t be afraid to argue your points and suggest ideas on how to effectively improve the system.

Teacher’s Burnout

Asian teacher kindergarten hands closed both ears her upset.

Burnout becomes an epidemic among teachers. According to the 2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey , conducted by the American Federation of Teachers, 61% of teachers describe their profession as stressful. 58% of the surveyed state that their mental health was not good.

Sounds alarming, huh?

But there’s another problem among research studies. Almost none of them study the nature of burnout. You can easily find articles about causes , signs of burnout , and prevention strategies. Want to know what is truly mean of being burned-out?

Irvin Sam Schonfeld and Renzo Bianchi in their research “ Burnout and Depression: Two Entities or One ?” state that there’s a strong connection between depression and burnout. Researchers point out that burnout is a work-caused depression. Teachers’ burnout often described as mood swings, loss of interest, and/or fatigue.

Another research, “ Is burnout a depressive disorder? A reexamination with special focus on atypical depression ” shows that 90% of participants who showed burnout signs met the criteria for depression. In other words, we can state that burnout is a form of depression.

The actual problem is that most recommendations in popular magazines advice burnout sufferers to engage in various social activities and take a short break at work. However, these self-help strategies do not work.

Burnout, as well as depression, is characterized by an inability to experience joy in activities that brought pleasure before, and summer vacation is an only temporary fix—symptoms return quickly.

Teacher burnout is a serious problem, and we shouldn’t underestimate it. Teachers need regular psychological and medical assistance to control and reduce signs of burnout symptoms.

If depressive signs are ignored, the consequences might be unintended: from ineffective teaching to suicide.

Here are the strategies that school managers and teachers may use to prevent burnout:

  • Create a supportive work atmosphere. Employees must know that no one will blame them for depression or other mental health issues. As a teacher, you should not ignore your colleague, who continually complains about feeling tired and unhappy. At the same time, you must carefully listen to yourself and, if warning signs arise, contact your psychologist.

Mental health issues statistics.

  • Minimize organizational factors . Many believe that burnout is an integral part of the teaching profession. However, this statement is not true, and reducing work overload and proper time management can significantly decrease burnout cases.
  • Proactively participate in school training dedicated to mental health issues. Once you learn how to recognize mental health concern, you will be able to assist someone who suffers from it and even help yourself. For example, Mental Health First Aid provides training for both youth and adults.

Now, when you are aware of the principles and pitfalls of the teaching profession, let’s return to class and find out more about the most common learning styles and training strategies to use.

The seventh principle of teaching says that as a teacher, you should respect your students and the ways they learn.

Below, we will describe the seven most common learning styles. However, you should remember that no human would pick up the only one style. Thus, a person can be a visual learner, but at the same time, they are logical learners too.

Visual Learning Style

Some sources also call this learning style “spatial.” Visual learners perceive information through images and graphics. This type of learning may also require writing or mapping the information learners get to process and memorize it.

So, what are the common characteristics of the visual learning style?

Visual learners enjoy drawing, coloring, and easily visualize plans, objects. They have an outstanding spatial sense and are good at using maps. In class, they better process the information by writing then just listening to the lecture.

Aural Learning Style

Aural or auditory-musical learning style usually used to determine students who better react on sounds. Aural learners have a good sense of rhythm and can’t work or study without background music.

They often use rhymes and rhythms to memorize study material. Auditory learners are skilled in presentations and verbal assignments. As a rule, they are effective storytellers and can deal with complex issues through talking.

Verbal Learning Style

Verbal or linguistic learners perform best in both writing and speaking . This type of information perception can be seen in public speaking, journalism, writing, and debating.

To process new information, verbal learners read it aloud or write it down several times.

Among typical characteristics of linguistic learners are enhanced vocabulary and passion for learning new words, tongue twisters, and rhymes.

Physical Learning Style

You might have heard about kinesthetic learners. They always need to move and to do something physically: carving, knitting, walking, dancing, etc. It may seem that they have a never-ending battery inside.

The thing is…

They learn through moves and motions. These students are excellent at sports, art, and drama, and have good motor memory.

Logical Learning Style

Mom daughter are engaged mathematic accounts.

The logical learning style uses reasoning and analytical sequences to process information. It is often called a mathematical learning style. There are a lot of logical learners among engineers, scientists, and mathematicians.

Such students easily execute complex calculations, see patterns, and come with a solution to an issue. They are great at planning, classifying, and categorizing.

Social Learning Style

The interpersonal or social learning style best describes students who enjoy interacting with others, teamwork, and peer learning. These people can be easily found at school and college clubs, committees. The students thrive in group activities, debates, mentor-apprentice relationships.

Social learners are good at communications and may feel uncomfortable when they have to work on self-paced assignments and courses.

Solitary Learning Style

In scientific literature, you may also find the definition “Intrapersonal learning style.” Intrapersonal or solitary learners who, unlike social learners, prefer to study alone and spend their spare time away from crowds.

Most of the solitary learners are typically introverts; however, not all of them. Extroverts may choose to be alone when they study too to retain new information.

All the styles mentioned above, require a personal approach and a proper teaching strategy. It’s simply impossible to use one technique and hope that it would fit all 30 students in your classroom.

In this section, we will discuss various strategies you can use in the class. You can combine them to help you achieve high results.

Classroom Management Strategies

Poor class management can cause numerous troubles. Just imagine: students racing across the class, yelling, throw papers… Sounds awful, huh?

Needless to say that such a situation will negatively impact your mental health, increase chances of burnout, and student lesson perception will be too low to complete the course. If you think that you can do nothing with this issue, try our solutions:

  • Promote ideal behavior

Remember the golden rule of relationships? Treat others as you’d like to be treated. When you demonstrate the class the perfect behavior you want to see, it works more effectively than if you try to yell at students.

Simple rules like using polite language, keeping eye contact, avoiding interruption other’s speech, etc., can work effectively in teaching students.

  • Involve students in creating class rules

The best way to create a friendly environment in the class is to ask students what they find acceptable and not acceptable. For example, you can discuss whether using phones during the lecture is okay or not. Such discussion supports mutual understanding and respectful student-teacher relationships.

  • Document class agreements

As you print out the syllabus, document, and print out the result of the class discussion, we talked in the previous paragraph. Go through the list with pupils again—you will show that you respect their points of view. At the same time, it will be easier to refer to this doc in case of violation of the rules.

Moreover, you can create an exciting student handbook or guide where you put the class rules, important events, curriculum information, etc.

  • Don’t punish the class

During your teaching career, you’ll meet very different students. They won’t listen to you and will check your limits: how far they can go in disrupting lessons and fooling around.

Don’t punish the class because of such students. Instead, you should call out specific students and address their behavior. Doing so, you will stay friendly while acknowledging bad behavior.

  • Promote students’ initiative

Allow your students to get ahead in studies from time to time. There always will be a few eager students in your class. Don’t hesitate them if they want to read the next chapters in a textbook you’re reading or prepare an extended presentation on the upcoming lesson subject. This strategy will be beneficial for both types of students: those who will do their small research and those who don’t. “Lazy” students will also want to work more when they see that study can be exciting.

  • Praise students who perform well

Praising students inspires them and motivates other pupils to do the same. Research studies prove that praise students improve their academic performance and positively impact their behavior.

Here’s an example: your student demonstrates outstanding problem-solving skills when tackling a tough math task. When you praise this student, you motivate them to use this tactic in the future. Moreover, you encourage others to work hard too.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication

Visualization can be a great add-on to the lecture. Visual aids like infographics, videos, running learning stations allow you to deliver various content and students to process the information easier.

Classroom parties are fun. But have you ever thought that it could be a motivator for your students? Use parties as an acknowledgment tool to praise the class’s hard work.

Explain that a party is a reward, and students can earn it in the future if they score high on an assessment, demonstrate perfect behavior, etc.

There are many more classroom management strategies you can use in the class to ensure good students’ performance and behavior. You can combine those we mentioned, search for best practices, or develop your own.

Flexible Seating

Young teacher and students in class together.

Despite the numerous research studies that prove the positive effect of flexible seating , there is still a lot of skepticism around it.

Here’s the deal: when students are required to sit still and quiet in their chairs, they concentrate more on holding themselves instead of the perception of the information.

If you still doubt whether your students need flexible seating, check the arguments of how beneficial it can be:

  • Positive impact on physical health.

Children (and adults) need to move. Constant seating at the table in the inconvenient pose adverse affects their posture and backbone. At the same time, flexible seating allows students to move, bounce, rock, or stand. This increases the oxygen levels in the brain and keeps students’ minds more focused.

Studies show that physical in-class activities boost students’ performance and engagement.

  • Students are able to make their own choice.

Flexible seating allows students to control their environment and comfort. This is extremely important when you work with younger pupils or students with special needs. Giving students a choice, you teach them “higher-order thinking skills,” says Kayla Delzer, the author of “ Why the 21st-Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks .”

As for the students with ADD/ADHD and ASD, flexible seating options are helpful as they stimulate a sense of touch.

  • Students collaborate and communicate easier.

Flexible seating gives students the opportunity to choose their space and share it with others. Also, it will be more beneficial when pupils have to work in small groups because they don’t need to move heavy desks for eye contact.

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge

You might be aware of Norman Webb’s Depth of Knowledge theory. In short, this theory divides contexts (challenges, scenarios, and prompts) into four levels.

The key idea of the theory is that students go through levels and face contests that require deeper learning and thinking:

Level 1: Recollection and Reproduction

This level requires students to remember and recall formulas, terms, and facts. Students don’t have to solve any problem. So, you should base the assessment on asking specific questions to find out whether a student knows the answer or not.

Level 1 question examples.

The key idea of this level is that questions and activities should be basic and do not require extended thinking levels.

At the application layer, you can use quizzes, ask your students to outline the key points of a previous lesson, recite a chapter of a book, etc.

Level 2: Knowledge Application

The level 2 demands students to define the best way to solve a problem properly. They should apply the information they learned to solve a task.

As on the first level, you may ask questions and create exercises to help students develop the concept of understanding and skills:

Level 2 question examples.

This level requires deeper thinking than the previous one. Using the questions above, you can ask your pupils to write a blog, analyze and review texts, create mind maps showing the relations between concepts, complete multi-step calculations, and so on.

Level 3: Strategic Thinking

Level 3 of Depth of Knowledge suggests student face scenarios and problems more complicated and abstract than in level 2.

For example, you may assign students to write an essay on a particular topic. They can suggest unique directions and reach contradictory conclusions.

Level 3 question examples.

The questions in the picture above are aimed to provoke independent thinking and students’ ability to link concepts.

To apply this strategy to practice, you may suggest your students write an essay, develop a persuasive speech, participate in in-class debates.

Level 4: Extended Critical Thinking

You may be wondering what “extended critical thinking” means. Level 4 involves lots of challenges for students that linked to real-world issues. Students have to develop their ideas and solutions and be able to address the counterpoints.

You should ask them open-ended questions:

Level 4 question examples.

At level 4, you can ask students to prepare a cross-subject research project, debate a controversial issue, etc.

Formative and Summative Assessments

These two types of tests are aimed to assess student understanding of the subject. Assessments motivate students to study and allow teachers to identify gaps in the class’s knowledge. Want to know what’s the difference? Check the table below:

As you can see, a formative assessment gives you a clear vision of the learning process, while summative assessment shows its outcomes. If you want to find out more about these assessments, read “The difference between formative and summative assessment” article.

Active Learning

An active learning strategy is a technique that involves students’ active participation in daily classes. According to James Ballencia, an active learning advocate, both teachers and students benefit from using this strategy in the class.

You can use the active learning techniques from our list below to help your students become more creative and engaged in the learning process:

  • Reciprocal questioning (ReQuest)

Reciprocal questioning is a strategy that allows you to involve students in the open dialogue. Implementing this strategy, you help them to increase the topic comprehension and develop critical thinking skills.

For example, after reading a chapter of the book, you may divide the class into small groups and ask your students to prepare questions for others.

Such discussions can be beneficial for the test preparation, introducing a new topic or a detailed discussion of the lesson material.

  • The pause strategy

This strategy is easy-to-use but yet effective. To apply it, break a lesson into brief 2-3 minutes pauses to allow students discussing the key issues they’ve just learned. Encourage them to ask questions and solving problems related to the lecture subject.

According to R. Bachhel and R. G.Thaman’s study “ Effective Use of Pause Procedure to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning ,” using pauses during the lecture increases students’ attention and learning outcomes.

  • The muddiest point strategy

The key feature of this strategy is to note the most unclear points of a lecture or homework assignment. Students need to range their knowledge of a topic. In fact, they identify concepts for further studies.

A teacher, receiving such feedback, is able to correct the schedule to discuss the complicated issues again.

  • The devil’s advocate technique

The idea of being “the devil’s advocate” is in that you ask your students to defend the opposite sides of the issue you discuss during the lesson.

The advantage of this technique is that it’s applicable for all study levels and almost all subjects. It also stimulates critical thinking skills and helps to engage students.

  • The peer teaching strategy

Peer instruction is another active learning strategy that allows you to encompass various scenarios for your students. For example, you can assign students to read texts in pairs, play roles, instruct other students as a tutor.

Such a strategy boosts soft skills like accountability, communications, group processing, etc. Below we will discuss it in detail.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated instruction (DI) strategy involves active teacher’s reactions to the various learning styles and adjusting the curriculum content.

Unfortunately, educators do not always have enough time to properly plan a lesson that uses these strategies to suit all students. However, the solutions described below are easy to use:

  • Learning stations

Learning stations mean separated sections in the class through which students rotate. You can easily combine this technique with a flexible seating option. Each learning section must use a particular method related to a certain learning style.

For example, you can use video, artwork, reading, and listening stations.

Common types of learning stations.

This is another simple DI technique that will be useful for group activities. You can assign students to complete tasks on the cards solo, in small or large groups.

To create cards, identify topics and tasks you want students to tackle. Then print and laminate them. You can do it yourself, buy pre-made cards, or use the Teachers Pay Teachers website. The final step is to set up a learning station and ask your students to complete the tasks on cards.

  • Interview your students

The best way to identify the most common learning styles in the class is to ask your students. Interviewing students will help you to adjust the types of content that fits your class’s needs. You can ask them to fill a Google Form or ask students directly about their preferred types of lessons, in-class activities, projects, etc.

Don’t forget to track the results and identify students whose preferences are different.

  • Think-Pair-Share Strategy

This simple strategy allows students to learn the lesson content in small or large groups and individually.

Here’s how it works:

  • Ask a student to prepare an answer to a specific question on a given topic.
  • Students in pairs discuss their findings.
  • Each pair shares their results and discusses findings with the rest of the class.

Such a differentiation strategy helps you meet various student learning styles.

You can use journaling or blogging as a study tool. Students reflect on the topics that were given on the lecture, and doing this helps them to process the information.

You can use journaling to summarize lesson outcomes, answer questions, develop new concepts, etc. You can go a bit creative and suggest students run a blog dedicated to your subject and ask them to comment on each other’s entries. Blogging will help them to put their thoughts in a logical order while effectively processing the content.

Personalized Learning

Personalized learning (PL) is an important part of the study process. It aims to build a unique experience that suits the abilities of each student.

Personalized learning teaches students the essential skills that will be useful in the future: goal-setting, self-assessment, and self-advocacy.

According to the research, conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, personalized learning helps students to improve their test scores and overall performance.

Another benefit of a PL is that students with special needs are able to study without stigma. PL allows students to get all the information they need and fill in the knowledge gaps.

There are many other classroom teaching strategies you can use in your daily practice. As a teacher, you can pick up one of those mentioned above, seek for something new, or create your own strategy.

Teachers give students the chance.

Student-focused teaching strategies address various student learning styles, interests, cultural backgrounds, and the special needs of an individual or a group. These strategies involve different educational methods we’re going to discuss in this article. Want to know how to adjust your subject curriculum to help your students achieve their educational goals?

Gamification strategy

Every child (and even adult) loves to play games. The gamification strategy involves a combination of the game and learning. Among its advantages is that gamification can be used in almost all subjects: from languages to math.

You might have seen apps like Duolingo that helps people from all over the world learn over 30 languages just using their smartphone. Another great example is Microsoft’s game Minecraft that can be used in teaching students coding, math literacy, etc.

But gamification is not only about online games or tools. You can add a little game to your lessons. Here’s how:

  • Structure the information you’re going to gamify. Gamification will be beneficial only when you set up clear rules and explain your expectations.
  • Make students’ progress visible. Students need to see where do they go, how far they’ve come, and what they’re going to achieve. In another case, they might get frustrated.
  • Don’t forget about the manual. Create an instruction where you will explain the game, its rules, and the scoring system.

If you need any inspiration on how to use games in your classroom, check the article at TeacherThought “ 12 Examples Of Gamification In The Classroom ”

Convergent and divergent thinking

Children learning with books wall.

Convergent and divergent thinking were originated in the works of an American psychologist JP Guilford . He named these terms from problem-solving processes they illustrate:

  • Convergent thinking describes a thinking process that starts with pieces converging around a result. This type of thinking corresponds to levels 1 and 2 of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. It doesn’t require creativity from students. Example: asking students to complete the test where you set a question with multiple answer options.
  • Divergent thinking stimulates students to use their critical thinking skills to solve a problem. For example, writing an essay with a given prompt requires divergent thinking.

If you’re wondering how to use convergent and divergent thinking strategy, check out tips below:

  • Focus on the first words of the question. Here’s the thing: the way you start your question determines the response you’ll get. Convergent questions begin with words “When,” “Who,” “What,” or “Where.” On the opposite side, a divergent question starts with phrases “What might,” “How could,” “Suppose.”
  • Ask convergent questions first. When you write a few convergent questions, you will be able to combine them into a divergent question. For example, a student can answer “How could” divergent questions after they show understanding the issue solving “Who” and “What” convergent questions.
  • Encourage students’ search for answers. Answers to convergent questions can be found through flipping a textbook, online sources, etc. At the same time, divergent questions require critical thinking skills . A combination of these methods will give the best result.

Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL) strategy can be a great contribution to your subject teaching. First, your students can immense to a real-life problem and develop solutions that would be useful in the future. Second, this strategy can be used for group work. Third, its implementation will vary from class to class—depending on students’ abilities, learning styles, class size, etc. PBL strategy leaves a lot of space for various tasks and projects, as well as for differentiated learning.

Let’s analyze the strengths and weaknesses of PBL.

Advantages of project-based learning strategy:

  • Higher student engagement. This strategy requires students to actively participate in their learning. PBL tasks are based on real-world issues, and students’ findings are relevant to their future life and career.
  • Increased knowledge retention. A study shows that students who work on PBL assessments show better knowledge retention in various subjects: from arts to science.
  • Critical thinking development. PBL assignments require students to use their problem-solving skills while tackling the task. As a result, they improve these skills and can use them in off-school life in comparison to traditional learning.
  • An opportunity to use EdTech. PBL gives students the opportunity to use various online sources and educational technologies.

Disadvantages of project-based learning strategy:

  • Subjective grading. Standardized grading measurements are not applicable to PBL tasks. As a teacher, you will subjectively assess these tasks. That’s why this teaching strategy shouldn’t play a significant role in students’ grades.
  • Questionable implementation in some subjects. Some subjects, for example, math, will work better with other teaching strategies than PBL. For example, students will better understand mathematical operation by running through exercises than the PBL context.

Check the article by BookWidgets to find out what project-based learning ideas might fit for your students.

Inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) sets as a priority student’s ideas, questions, and analyses. This strategy can be implemented through various learning activities, such as:

  • Group projects
  • Case studies
  • Research projects, etc.

An Association for Psychological Science published a study proving that students, who use IBL, are able to absorb information from both the curriculum content and activities.

You can use one or all of IBL types:

  • Open inquiry that allows students to proceed with original questions. Scholars answer them using their own methods.
  • Guided inquiry requires students to work on an open question to develop investigation methods.
  • Confirmation inquiry means a strategy when a teacher gives a question and provides students with ways to solve it.
  • Structured inquiry : a teacher asks students to find out a solution for an open question and gives them an investigation method.

If you need more ideas on how to effectively use inquiry-based learning in your class, check the article from Edutopia , or join to the EdX free course dedicated to this strategy.

Problem-based learning

Serious student in classroom.

This is another student-oriented teaching strategy that requires students to solve open-ended issues. Like other strategies, it has both advantages and disadvantages.

Keep reading to find out more about them!

Pros of problem-based learning

  • Long-term knowledge retention. Here’s the deal: once you find a solution to a problem, you will be able to recall the information you got easily. The problem-based learning strategy strengthens students’ understanding of the topic. The strategy is useful for both individual and group work.
  • Various instruction types. Another great benefit of problem-based learning is that you can use it to address various learning styles and needs of your students. For example, you can ask to solve real-life problems, assign students to work in small or large groups, ask students to tackle an issue using a wide range of content and tools.
  • Increased engagement. The problem-based assignments can be a great break from routine lectures and common tasks. According to the Association for the Study of Medical Education , courses that offer a problem-based approach attract more students while increasing their attendance and engagement. However, you need to understand that overloading the curriculum can have the opposite effect.
  • Transferable skills development. We’re talking about skills that students can bring to their off-school life and real-world scenarios. For example, when students are engaged in a group dispute, they also can use negotiation and communication skills in their lives and career.

Cons of problem-based learning

  • Lack of knowledge on tests. While dedicating too much time to problem-based assignments, students may miss vital knowledge they need to achieve high scores on standardized tests. The reason is that tests are using a fact-based approach.
  • Students may not be ready for such activities. Some students might feel disengages as they are not mature enough for problem-based learning, lack of prerequisite information, or don’t have enough skills and information.
  • Lack of time. Problem-based learning requires a lot of time for both teacher and student. On the one side, students may be overloaded with assignments on other subjects. On the other hand, a teacher has to assess the quality of completed tasks, group and individual performance, team communication. All this can be time-consuming to grade each student.

Learn more about problem-based learning strategies from the InformED’s article “ 10 Tips For Effective Problem-Based Learning: The Ultimate Instructional Solution. ”

Experiential learning

Asian student with laptop.

Here’s another student-centered approach to teaching that allows teachers to address a wide range of learning styles in the class. This strategy describes the learning process as acquiring knowledge through experience.

This approach allows students to stay focused on the topic, learn faster, and keep them engaged emotionally.

Find out more about how to get started with experiential learning from Edutopia’s article .

Peer teaching

Peer teaching is an effective strategy that helps students to develop critical thinking, self-esteem, and interpersonal skills . Let’s take a closer look at its benefits and limitations:

Benefits of peer teaching

  • Higher literacy scores. According to the studies , students who read and discuss class reading content with their peers score higher on tests and exams than those who don’t.
  • Critical thinking skills development. Students who are assigned to work in pairs or small groups become active learners since they discuss and rationalize the topic contents in their words. As a result, these students perform better on tests.
  • Interpersonal skills development. Peer teaching gives a wonderful opportunity to both tutors and tutees . The first ones improve self-esteem skills by providing feedback and explaining the subject. The second learn to ask questions and build communication skills.
  • Adaptability. Peer teaching can be used for a range of subjects: from languages to math. You can even involve older peers in this process.

Limitations of peer tutoring

  • Lack of student expertise. Even if you share tutoring tips and guides, your students won’t become experts or gain teaching skills. You have to understand that there still a lot of room left for ineffective feedback, lack of peer support, or redundant criticism.
  • Student skepticism. Pairing students together can be a daunting task. Tutees can reject putting any effort into the assigned tasks. Or peers may have tense relationships. Such situations negatively reflect on content coverage.
  • Low applicability in the schools. Peer tutoring works effectively in post-secondary institutions because adults are able to collaborate without a professor’s supervision effectively. However, in elementary and high schools, this strategy can be ineffective.

Find out more about how on to prepare students in your classroom for peer teaching from Catherine Birch’s article .

Cooperative learning

Students using tablet library.

Perhaps, cooperative learning is one of the most common teaching strategies. It encourages students to work together and allows the teacher to apply small-group teaching.

To successfully implement a cooperative learning strategy in your classroom, you should know its five essential principles:

  • Positive interrelations. Students should understand that each member of their study group is essential, and their contribution to individual and group success is valuable.
  • Empowering interaction. Students should support each other by offering help, providing feedback, and sharing resources.
  • Responsibility. Students are responsible for their roles in reaching the team’s learning goals.
  • Soft skills teaching. A teacher should provide lessons and assign various tasks related to teamwork to help students develop interpersonal communication skills.
  • Group strategies. Students in groups should use strategies to achieve their learning goals

Depending on the cooperative learning strategy type you will use in the classroom, these principles will work differently. Here are the three most common types of cooperative learning:

  • Formal cooperative learning. Formal cooperative learning strategy focuses on grouping students to tackle an ongoing exercise that lasts a determined time—from couple days to a few weeks. A teacher’s role is to design the goals for each group. You should carefully select students who work well while keeping in mind their strengths to achieve learning objectives.
  • Informal cooperative learning. This strategy requires student groups to work to meet a straightforward shared learning goal within a few minutes. A teacher should clearly instruct students and assign a task that requires the written or spoken answer.
  • Cooperative base group strategy. This type of cooperative learning strategy involves group work that lasts longer than the previous two. Students groups should achieve learning goals over the study year.

A teacher should create small groups of 3-4 students, schedule meetings, and provide a detailed agenda for them.

Interdisciplinary teaching

An interdisciplinary teaching strategy empowers students to develop creative, communication, and critical thinking skills. Students learn to pick up information from various academic subjects and use them to solve problems.

The key benefits of interdisciplinary teaching include:

  • Better critical thinking skills. Students improve their analytical skills when using different approaches from various disciplines.
  • Improved bias recognition. The interdisciplinary teaching approach demand to tackle an issue that requires using information from various sources. To solve the task, students challenge their thoughts and ideas to recognize bias.
  • Preparation for real-life problems. Almost all issues in adult life demand knowledge and skills from different disciplines. The interdisciplinary approach teaches students to apply the knowledge they get to tackle both inside and outside problems.

Still wondering how to implement an interdisciplinary approach in your classroom? Check a couple of sample activities below (and don’t forget that you’ll need to collaborate with other teachers!):

  • Analysis of the news. You can use the reports on various topics and ask students to tackle the related issues using the skills and knowledge they’ve gained in other subjects.
  • Climate change. The weather and climate are not about meteorology or ecology. You can ask students to solve related problems using the information they learned in Physics, Biology, Social sciences.

Check this TEDx video to find out more about the importance of an interdisciplinary teaching approach:

Service learning

A service-learning strategy is a combination of academic goals and community service projects. Students learn course curriculum content while completing service projects aimed at solving various community issues.

Service-learning strategy can be beneficially combined with an interdisciplinary approach as they have to solve community problems using the knowledge they received from different academic subjects. A strategy empowers students to contribute to their community and get hands-on study experience. Among other advantages of service learning are improved empathy and communication skills, boosted awareness of local and international issues, and reduced risk of bad behavior in the class.

Check the article “ 7 Creative Ideas for Bringing Service Learning to Your Classroom ” to get inspiration for your own service-learning projects.

Media literacy

Media literacy is essential for modern students because they face different media influencers daily: from TV to YouTube bloggers. Students should understand and interpret the information they consume.

Media literacy strategy can be implemented in the teaching process of almost any subject. Here are some benefits that you should keep in mind when you are planning such activities:

  • Understanding the point of view. Teaching students media literacy, you help them recognize the point of view in a given media piece. Students learn to examine and contextualize the information they get from a movie, news, or Instagram post.
  • Connection to other subjects. Media literacy teaching can be a great addition to the interdisciplinary teaching strategy. For example, in language classes, you can ask students to analyze movie characters.
  • Improved critical thinking skills. Evaluation of media empowers students to analyze how accurate, clear, and truthful the message is.
  • Learning to create various products. Students can “learn by doing” when they work on creating different products: logos, printed ads, TV scripts, newspapers, etc.
  • Connecting study content with student interests. You can increase the subject content by linking it with popular media. For example, you can assign them to examine plot devices of a trendy movie.

The guide from Canva can be very beneficial when you are looking for ideas to use in your teaching.

Blended learning

This is the last but not the least teaching strategy in our list. Blended learning is a mix of online and traditional classroom education.

This student-oriented teaching strategy allows your students to study at their own pace. Here’s an example: students who struggle with the lesson material can get more teacher’s attention while those who show good results and understanding of the content, and are eager to learn more, get new challenges.

There are numerous ways to implement a blended learning strategy in your classroom. Some of them require using a tablet and creating learning stations while others suggest teachers to put a part of curriculum content online.

For example, you might record online mini-lessons to free some time for in-class group work, use online labs, etc.

You can use and combine all the teaching strategies we mentioned above or think about the development of your own approach. However, you should always keep in mind that people differ from each other and your job as a teacher to meet your students learning styles and goals.

Now, let’s talk about tools, resources, and technologies you can use in your classroom for various purposes: from paperwork automation to teaching. Just check our list below!

1. ReadWriteThink

Read write think website.

This online resource will be useful for both kindergarten and school teachers. Here you will find lessons, various activities, apps for students, and more. The website contains plenty of unit and lesson plans divided by grade level, subject, and learning goal.

2. Flocabulary

Flocabulary website screenshot.

The tool is designed to boost students’ engagement. Lessons are delivered through a media that your pupils will love. Flocabulary aimed to help students build a vocabulary for various lessons: Math, Science, Language Arts, Social Science, etc.

Cost: Free trial, from $10/month

Pixton website screenshot.

Almost all kids love comics. Why don’t you try this tool to add some fun to your subject? This online tool can become a great instrument in explaining to students various topics in different subjects: from Literature to Science and Tech. Suggested lesson plans are also available.

Cost: Starts at $1/student

Epic website screenshot.

Epic is an online library with a rich book selection that will be useful for your class. It allows you to assign a certain topic for reading and track students’ progress. The apps work great on both iOS and Android devices.

Cost: Free for teachers & librarians

5. BrainPOP Jr.

Brainpop jr website screenshot.

Another colorful interactive tool for elementary students. There are thousands of videos, games, printables, and quizzes to help your pupils study. Here you will find materials for Language Arts, Math, Science, Health, Social Studies, and even coding.

Cost: Starts from $175

6. News-O-Matic

News o matic website.

Let your students feel like reporters. News-O-Matic is an exciting tool that gives your students an opportunity to go beyond the borders and gain knowledge along with developing critical thinking and writing skills. The app provides a daily dose of five articles on different topics to discuss in the classroom. Also, you can assign your students to write their own content on a particular topic.

Cost: Starts from $3.99/month

This is a free online tool that gives teachers literally endless opportunities in teaching math for 1-8 grades. You can engage students through games, use it as a part of your blended learning strategy, monitor students’ performance, create plans and assignments, and use many other options. Parents also can track and support their child’s performance.

8. PhET Interactive simulations

Phet website screenshot.

Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman founded this online project is founded by at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2002. The tool provides various simulations for Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Science, and Biology to demonstrate students how a concept works. All the simulations are interactive and can be used both in-class and for homework projects.

Even though it might seem a little bit outdated, it is still worth your attention. For example, your students will easily understand the static electricity concept with the John Travoltage simulation.

Desmos website.

If you’re still wondering how to explain to your students the graph functions, equations, or other math operations, try Desmos. This is a free online tool that gives your students a visual perception of the concepts they learn. Students can go more creative and even create fun arts using math formulas and graphs.

The tool is available on desktop and mobile devices.

10. Virtual Nerd

Virtual Nerd website screenshot.

Virtual Nerd can become your assistant in blended math teaching. The website contains 1,500 video lessons that cover high school math topics and will be helpful for the ACT and SAT preparation. All videos are free and cover a wide range of topics.

11. CanFigureIt Geometry

Can figure it website homepage.

The tool is aimed to teach your students geometry proofs. The online app is an interactive instrument that allows students to exercise proof. Teachers have access to student performance reports and are able to assign personal tasks.

Cost: Starts from $150 per year/class subscription

12. Minecraft

Minecraft education.

Yes. This popular game from Microsoft can be used in your classroom! Minecraft is an outstanding tool to teach your students Computer Science and Math. Your students will love it! The website provides student video tutorials and videos for teachers.

Cost: $5 for a one year license

13. Google Docs and Forms

Google docs and forms.

Yes, you may say that this is obvious. However, Google apps are still useful for you and your students. First, you’re able to assess written tasks online, leaving comments to student’s work and track their performance. It saves lots of time. Second, Google forms work well for small tests, quizzes, and in-class surveys.

14. Google Arts and Culture

Google arts and culture about page.

Another great app by Google that will be useful for Arts, History, and Geography teachers. Your students can visit museums and walk the streets of famous cities, learn about historical figures and events, discover art masterpieces. This can be a great alternative for a field trip, especially when your school is far from museums.

15. Class Monster Pro

Class monster pro website.

How many times you asked or even yelled: “Class, quiet!”? The high noise levels in class significantly worse the perception of information. This app will measure it and notify you if the background noise level gets too high. Your students will like the app’s monster and won’t upset it.

Cost: $3.99

16. ChartBlocks

Chart block website screenshot.

You and your students can draw charts using this online tool. Input the data, add labels, set design, and visualize lesson content. The personal pricing plan is free and supports up to 50 charts. The app allows you to export charts in PDF, EPS, SVG, and PNG format.

Cost: Starts from $0

17. National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website.

The free online interactive tools that help you visualize and explain different concepts: from Math to Economics. It may seem a little outdated and requires Java installed. However, you can always purchase an offline version of simulators at Matti Math.

18. MindMup

The app will be useful for both in-class and off-class brainstorming sessions. It allows collaborating students with each other. MindMup is also compatible with Google Docs.

19. KQED Learn

KQED Learn screenshot of website.

Implement inquiry-based learning in your teaching strategy with this website. Here’s how you can use it: engage your students to participate in discussions around various controversial topics. They are able to discuss it with their peers across the country and share their visions through a variety of formats: texts, infographics, videos, and audios.

20. Socrative

Socrative website screenshot.

Let your tests become digital. Socrative is an easy-to-use tool that provides various options for student assessment. Quizzes and quick questions will save you time and reduce papers on your desk. You can track students’ results and responses (they are graded automatically!).

Now, you know the essentials of the teaching profession. Bookmark our blog for more useful tips and strategies for teachers and students!

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This is a very Valuable resource. I will post it on website.

Thank you for sharing! Cindy OMealy, Teachers Brigade Executive Director

Thank you for your kind words and for sharing, Cindy!


education, community-building and change

What is teaching? A definition and discussion

teaching methods meaning essay

In this piece Mark K Smith explores the nature of teaching – those moments or sessions where we make specific interventions to help people learn particular things. He sets this within a discussion of pedagogy and didactics and demonstrates that we need to unhook consideration of the process of teaching from the role of ‘teacher’ in schools.

Contents : introduction • what is teaching • a definition of teaching • teaching, pedagogy and didactics • approaching teaching as a process • structuring interventions and making use of different methods • what does good teaching look like • conclusion •  further reading and references • acknowledgements • how to cite this piece, linked piece: the key activities of teaching, a definition for starters : teaching is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and intervening so that they learn particular things, and go beyond the given., introduction.

In teacher education programmes – and in continuing professional development – a lot of time is devoted to the ‘what’ of teaching – what areas we should we cover, what resources do we need and so on. The ‘how’ of teaching also gets a great deal of space – how to structure a lesson, manage classes, assess for learning for learning and so on. Sometimes, as Parker J. Palmer (1998: 4) comments, we may even ask the “why” question – ‘for what purposes and to what ends do we teach? ‘But seldom, if ever’, he continues: ‘do we ask the “who” question – who is the self that teaches?’

The thing about this is that the who, what, why and how of teaching cannot be answered seriously without exploring the nature of teaching itself.

What is teaching?

In much modern usage, the words ‘teaching’ and ‘teacher’ are wrapped up with schooling and schools. One way of approaching the question ‘What is teaching?’ is to look at what those called ‘teachers’ do – and then to draw out key qualities or activities that set them apart from others. The problem is that all sorts of things are bundled together in job descriptions or roles that may have little to do with what we can sensibly call teaching.

Another way is to head for dictionaries and search for both the historical meanings of the term, and how it is used in everyday language.  This brings us to definitions like:

Impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something; or Cause (someone) to learn or understand something by example or experience.

As can be seen from these definitions we can say that we are all teachers in some way at some time.

Further insight is offered by looking at the ancestries of the words. For example, the origin of the word ‘teach’ lies in the Old English tæcan meaning ‘show, present, point out’, which is of Germanic origin; and related to ‘token’, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek deiknunai ‘show’, deigma ‘sample ( ).

Fostering learning

To make sense of all this it is worth turning to what philosophers of education say. Interestingly, the question, ‘What is teaching?’ hasn’t been a hotbed of activity in recent years in the UK and USA. However, as Paul Hirst (1975) concluded, ‘being clear about what teaching is matters vitally because how teachers understand teaching very much affects what they actually do in the classroom’.

Hirst (1975) makes two very important points. For him teaching should involve:

  • Setting out with the intention of someone learning something.
  • Considering people’s feelings, experiences and needs. Teaching is only teaching if people can take on what is taught.

To this we can add Jerome Bruner’s insights around the nature of education, and the process of learning and problem solving.

To instruct someone… is not a matter of getting him to commit results to mind. Rather, it is to teach him to participate in the process that makes possible the establishment of knowledge. We teach a subject not to produce little living libraries on that subject, but rather to get a student to think mathematically for himself, to consider matters as an historian does, to take part in the process of knowledge-getting. Knowing is a process not a product. (1966: 72)

We can begin to weave these into a definition – and highlight some forms it takes.

A definition : Teaching is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and intervening so that they learn particular things, and go beyond the given.

Interventions commonly take the form of questioning, listening, giving information, explaining some phenomenon, demonstrating a skill or process, testing understanding and capacity, and facilitating learning activities (such as note taking, discussion, assignment writing, simulations and practice).

Let us look at the key elements.

Attending to people’s feelings, experiences and needs

Considering what those we are supposed to be teaching need, and what might be going on for them, is one of the main things that makes ‘education’ different to indoctrination. Indoctrination involves knowingly encouraging people to believe something regardless of the evidence (see Snook 1972; Peterson 2007). It also entails a lack of respect for their human rights. Education can be described as the ‘wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life’ (Smith 2015). The process of education flows from a basic orientation of respect – respect for truth, others and themselves, and the world ( op. cit. ). For teachers to be educators they must, therefore:

  • Consider people’s needs and wishes now and in the future.
  • Reflect on what might be good for all (and the world in which we live).
  • Plan their interventions accordingly.

There are a couple of issues that immediately arise from this.

First, how do we balance individual needs and wishes against what might be good for others? For most of us this is probably something that we should answer on a case-by-case basis – and it is also something that is likely to be a focus for conversation and reflection in our work with people.

Second, what do we do when people do not see the point of learning things – for example, around grammar or safety requirements? The obvious response to this question is that we must ask and listen – they may have point. However, we also must weigh this against what we know about the significance of these things in life, and any curriculum or health and safety or other requirements we have a duty to meet. In this case we have a responsibility to try to introduce them to people when the time is right, to explore their relevance and to encourage participation.

Failing to attend to people’s feelings and experiences is problematic – and not just because it reveals a basic lack of respect for them. It is also pointless and counter-productive to try to explore things when people are not ready to look at them. We need to consider their feelings and look to their experiences – both of our classroom or learning environment, and around the issues or areas we want to explore. Recent developments in brain science has underlined the significance of learning from experience from the time in the womb on (see, for example Lieberman 2013). Bringing people’s experiences around the subjects or areas we are looking to teach about into the classroom or learning situation is, thus, fundamental to the learning process.

Learning particular things

Teaching involves creating an environment and engaging with others, so that they learn particular things. This can be anything from tying a shoe lace to appreciating the structure of a three act play. I want highlight three key elements here – focus, knowledge and the ability to engage people in learning.

This may be a bit obvious – but it is probably worth saying – teaching has to have a focus. We should be clear about we are trying to do. One of the findings that shines through research on teaching is that clear learning intentions help learners to see the point of a session or intervention, keep the process on track, and, when challenging, make a difference in what people learn (Hattie 2009: location 4478).

As teachers and pedagogues there are a lot of times when we are seeking to foster learning but there may not be great clarity about the specific goals of that learning (see Jeffs and Smith 2018 Chapter 1). This is especially the case for informal educators and pedagogues. We journey with people, trying to build environments for learning and change, and, from time-to-time, creating teaching moments. It is in the teaching moments that we usually need an explicit focus.

Subject knowledge

Equally obvious, we need expertise, we need to have content. As coaches we should know about our sport; as religious educators about belief, practice and teachings; and, as pedagogues, ethics, human growth and development and social life. Good teachers ‘have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning’ (Coe et. al. 2014: 2).

That said, there are times when we develop our understandings and capacities as we go. In the process of preparing for a session or lesson or group, we may read, listen to and watch YouTube items, look at other resources and learn. We build content and expertise as we teach. Luckily, we can draw on a range of things to support us in our efforts – video clips, web resources, textbooks, activities. Yes, it might be nice to be experts in all the areas we have to teach – but we can’t be. It is inevitable that we will be called to teach in areas where we have limited knowledge. One of the fascinating and comforting things research shows is that what appears to count most for learning is our ability as educators and pedagogues. A good understanding of, and passion for, a subject area; good resources to draw upon; and the capacity to engage people in learning yields good results. It is difficult to find evidence that great expertise in the subject matter makes a significant difference within a lot of schooling (Hattie 2009: location 2963).

Sometimes subject expertise can get in the way – it can serve to emphasize the gap between people’s knowledge and capacities and that of the teacher. On the other hand, it can be used to generate enthusiasm and interest; to make links; and inform decisions about what to teach and when. Having a concern for learning – and, in particular, seeking to create environments where people develop as and, can be, self-directed learners – is one of the key features here.

Engaging people in learning

At the centre of teaching lies enthusiasm and a commitment to, and expertise in, the process of engaging people in learning. This is how John Hattie (2009: location 2939) put it:

… it is teachers using particular teaching methods, teachers with high expectations for all students, and teachers who have created positive student-teacher relationships that are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement.

Going beyond the given

The idea of “going beyond the information given” was central to Jerome Bruner’s explorations of cognition and education. He was part of the shift in psychology in the 1950s and early 1960s towards the study of people as active processors of knowledge, as discoverers of new understandings and possibilities. Bruner wanted people to develop their ability to ‘go beyond the data to new and possibly fruitful predictions’ (Bruner 1973: 234); to experience and know possibility. He hoped people would become as ‘autonomous and self-propelled’ thinkers as possible’ (Bruner 1961: 23). To do this, teachers and pedagogues had to, as Hirst (1975) put it, appreciate learner’s feelings, experiences and needs; to engage with their processes and view of the world.

Two key ideas became central to this process for Jerome Bruner – the ‘spiral’ and scaffolding.

The spiral . People, as they develop, must take on and build representations of their experiences and the world around them. (Representations being the way in which information and knowledge are held and encoded in our memories). An idea, or concept is generally encountered several times. At first it is likely to be in a concrete and simple way. As understanding develops, it is likely to encountered and in greater depth and complexity. To succeed, teaching, educating, and working with others must look to where in the spiral people are, and how ‘ready’ they are to explore something. Crudely, it means simplifying complex information where necessary, and then revisiting it to build understanding (David Kolb talked in a similar way about experiential learning).

Scaffolding . The idea of scaffolding (which we will come back to later) is  close to what Vygotsky talked about as the zone of proximal development. Basically, it entails creating a framework, and offering structured support, that encourages and allows learners to develop particular understandings, skills and attitudes.


The final element – making specific interventions – concerns the process of taking defined and targeted action in a situation. In other words, as well as having a clear focus, we try to work in ways that facilitate that focus.

Thinking about teaching as a process of making specific interventions is helpful, I think, because it:

Focuses on the different actions we take .   As we saw in the definition, interventions commonly take the form of questioning, listening, giving information, explaining some phenomenon, demonstrating a skill or process, testing understanding and capacity, and facilitating learning activities (such as note taking, discussion, assignment writing, simulations and practice).

Makes us look at how we move from one way of working or communicating to another . Interventions often involve shifting a conversation or discussion onto a different track or changing the process or activity. It may well be accompanied by a change in mood and pace (e.g. moving from something that is quite relaxed into a period of more intense activity). The process of moving from one way of working – or way of communicating – to another is far from straightforward. It calls upon us to develop and deepen our practice.

Highlights the more formal character of teaching . Interventions are planned, focused and tied to objectives or intentions. Teaching also often entails using quizzes and tests to see whether planned outcomes have been met. The feel and character of teaching moments are different to many other processes that informal educators, pedagogues and specialist educators use. Those processes, like conversation, playing a game and walking with people are usually more free-flowing and unpredictable.

Teaching, however, is not a simple step-by-step process e.g. of attending, getting information and intervening. We may well start with an intervention which then provides us with data. In addition, things rarely go as planned – at least not if we attend to people’s feelings, experiences and needs. In addition, learners might not always get the points straightaway or see what we are trying to help them learn. They may be able to take on what is being taught – but it might take time. As a result, how well we have done is often unlikely to show up in the results of any tests or in assessments made in the session or lesson.

Teaching, pedagogy and didactics

Earlier, we saw that relatively little attention had been given to defining the essential nature of teaching in recent years in the UK and North America. This has contributed to confusion around the term and a major undervaluing of other forms of facilitating learning. The same cannot be said in a number of continental European countries where there is a much stronger appreciation of the different forms education takes. Reflecting on these traditions helps us to better understand teaching as a particular process – and to recognize that it is fundamentally concerned with didactics rather than pedagogy.

Perhaps the most helpful starting point for this discussion is the strong distinction made in ancient Greek society between the activities of pedagogues (paidagögus) and subject teachers (didáskalos or diadacts). The first pedagogues were slaves – often foreigners and the ‘spoils of war’ (Young 1987). They were trusted and sometimes learned members of rich households who accompanied the sons of their ‘masters’ in the street, oversaw their meals etc., and sat beside them when being schooled. These pedagogues were generally seen as representatives of their wards’ fathers and literally ‘tenders’ of children (pais plus agögos, a ‘child-tender’). Children were often put in their charge at around 7 years and remained with them until late adolescence. As such pedagogues played a major part in their lives – helping them to recognize what was wrong and right, learn how to behave in different situations, and to appreciate how they and those around them might flourish.

Moral supervision by the pedagogue (paidagogos) was also significant in terms of status.

He was more important than the schoolmaster, because the latter only taught a boy his letters, but the paidagogos taught him how to behave, a much more important matter in the eyes of his parents. He was, moreover, even if a slave, a member of the household, in touch with its ways and with the father’s authority and views. The schoolmaster had no such close contact with his pupils. (Castle 1961: 63-4)

The distinction between teachers and pedagogues, instruction and guidance, and education for school or life was a feature of discussions around education for many centuries. It was still around when Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) explored education. In On Pedagogy (Über Pädagogik) first published in 1803, he talked as follows:

Education includes the nurture of the child and, as it grows, its culture. The latter is firstly negative, consisting of discipline; that is, merely the correcting of faults. Secondly, culture is positive, consisting of instruction and guidance (and thus forming part of education). Guidance means directing the pupil in putting into practice what he has been taught. Hence the difference between a private teacher who merely instructs, and a tutor or governor who guides and directs his pupil. The one trains for school only, the other for life. (Kant 1900: 23-4)

It was later – and particularly associated with the work of Herbart (see, for example, Allgemeine pädagogik – General Pedagogics, 1806 and Umriss Pädagogischer Vorlesungen , 1835 – Plan of Lectures on Pedagogy and included in Herbart 1908) – that teaching came to be seen, wrongly, as the central activity of education (see Hamilton 1999).

Didactics – certainly within German traditions – can be approached as Allgemeine Didaktik (general didactics) or as Fachdidaktik (subject didactics). Probably, the most helpful ways of translating didaktik is as the study of the teaching-learning process. It involves researching and theorizing the process and developing practice (see Kansanen 1999). The overwhelming focus within the didaktik tradition is upon the teaching-learning process in schools, colleges and university.

To approach education and learning in other settings it is necessary to turn to the pädagogik tradition . Within this tradition fields like informal education, youth work, community development, art therapy, playwork and child care are approached as forms of pedagogy. Indeed, in countries like Germany and Denmark, a relatively large number of people are employed as pedagogues or social pedagogues. While these pedagogues teach, much of their activity is conversationally, rather than curriculum, -based. Within this what comes to the fore is a focus on flourishing and of the significance of the person of the pedagogue (Smith and Smith 2008). In addition, three elements stand out about the processes of the current generation of specialist pedagogues. First, they are heirs to the ancient Greek process of accompanying and fostering learning. Second, their pedagogy involves a significant amount of helping and caring for. Indeed, for many of those concerned with social pedagogy it is a place where care and education meet – one is not somehow less than the other (Cameron and Moss 2011). Third, they are engaged in what we can call ‘bringing situations to life’ or ‘sparking’ change (animation). In other words, they animate, care and educate (ACE). Woven into those processes are theories and beliefs that we also need to attend to (see Alexander 2000: 541).

ACE - animate, care, educate. Taken from Mark K Smith (2016) Working with young people in difficult times. Chapter 1.

We can see from this discussion that when English language commentators talk of pedagogy as the art and science of teaching they are mistaken. As Hamilton (1999) has pointed out teaching in schools is properly approached in the main as didactics – the study of teaching-learning processes. Pedagogy is something very different. It may include didactic elements but for the most part it is concerned with animation, caring and education (see what is education? ). It’s focus is upon flourishing and well-being. Within schools there may be specialist educators and practitioners that do this but they are usually not qualified school teachers. Instead they hold other professional qualifications, for example in pedagogy, social work, youth work and community education. To really understand teaching as a process we need to unhook it from school teaching and recognize that it is an activity that is both part of daily life and is an element of other practitioner’s repertoires. Pedagogues teach, for example, but from within a worldview or haltung that is often radically different to school teachers.

Approaching teaching as a process

Some of the teaching we do can be planned in advance because the people involved know that they will be attending a session, event or lesson where learning particular skills, topics or feelings is the focus. Some teaching arises as a response to a question, issue or situation. However, both are dependent on us:

Recognizing and cultivating teachable moments. Cultivating relationships for learning. Scaffolding learning – providing people with temporary support so that they deepen and develop their understanding and skills and grow as independent learners. Differentiating learning – adjusting the way we teach and approach subjects so that we can meet the needs of diverse learners. Accessing resources for learning. Adopting a growth mindset.

We are going to look briefly at each of these in turn.

Recognizing and cultivating teachable moments

Teachers – certainly those in most formal settings like schools – have to follow a curriculum. They have to teach specified areas in a particular sequence. As a result, there are always going to be individuals who are not ready for that learning. As teachers in these situations we need to look out for moments when students may be open to learning about different things; where we can, in the language of Quakers, ‘speak to their condition’. Having a sense of their needs and capacities we can respond with the right things at the right time.

Informal educators, animators and pedagogues work differently for a lot of the time. The direction they take is often not set by a syllabus or curriculum. Instead, they listen for, and observe what might be going on for the people they are working with. They have an idea of what might make for well-being and development and can apply it to the experiences and situations that are being revealed. They look out for moments when they can intervene to highlight an issue, give information, and encourage reflection and learning.

In other words, all teaching involves recognizing and cultivating ‘learning moments’ or ‘teaching moments’.

It was Robert J Havinghurst who coined the term ‘teachable moment’. One of his interests as an educationalist was the way in which certain things have to be learned in order for people to develop.

When the timing is right, the ability to learn a particular task will be possible. This is referred to as a ‘teachable moment’. It is important to keep in mind that unless the time is right, learning will not occur. Hence, it is important to repeat important points whenever possible so that when a student’s teachable moment occurs, s/he can benefit from the knowledge. (Havinghurst 1953)

There are times of special sensitivity when learning is possible. We have to look out for them, to help create environments that can create or stimulate such moments, be ready to respond, and draw on the right resources.

Cultivating collaborative relationships for learning

The main thing here is that teaching, like other parts of our work, is about relationship. We have to think about our relationships with those we are supposed to be teaching and about the relationships they have with each other. Creating an environment where people can work with each other, cooperate and learning is essential. One of the things that has been confirmed by recent research in neuroscience is that ‘our brains are wired to connect’, we are wired to be social (Lieberman 2013). It is not surprising then, that on the whole cooperative learning is more effective that either competitive learning (where students compete to meet a goal) or individualistic learning (Hattie 2011: 4733).

As teachers, we need to be appreciated as someone who can draw out learning; cares about what people are feeling, experiencing and need; and breathe life to situations. This entails what Carl Rogers (in Kirschenbaum and Henderson 1990: 304-311) talked about as the core conditions or personal qualities that allow us to facilitate learning in others:

Realness or genuineness . Rogers argued that when we are experienced as real people -entering into relationships with learners ‘without presenting a front or a façade’, we more likely to be effective. Prizing, acceptance, trust . This involves caring for learners, but in a non-possessive way and recognizing they have worth in their own right. It entails trusting in capacity of others to learn, make judgements and change. Empathic understanding . ‘When the teacher has the ability to understand the student’s reactions from the inside, has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again the likelihood of significant learning is increased’.

In practical terms this means we talk to people, not at them. We listen. We seek to connect and understand. We trust in their capacity to learn and change. We know that how we say things is often more important than what we say.


Scaffolding entails providing people with temporary support so that they deepen and develop their understanding and skills – and develop as independent learners.

Like physical scaffolding, the supportive strategies are incrementally removed when they are no longer needed, and the teacher gradually shifts more responsibility over the learning process to the student. (Great Schools Partnership 2015)

To do this well, educators and workers need to be doing what we have explored above – cultivating collaborative relationships for learning, and building on what people know and do and then working just beyond it. The term used for latter of these is taken from the work of Lev Vygotsky – is working in the learner’s zone of proximal development .

A third key aspect of scaffolding is that the support around the particular subject or skill is gradually removed as people develop their expertise and commitment to learning.

Scaffolding can take different forms. It might simply involve ‘showing learners what to do while talking them through the activity and linking new learning to old through questions, resources, activities and language’ (Zwozdiak-Myers and Capel, S. 2013 location 4568). (For a quick overview of some different scaffolding strategies see Alber 2014 ).

The educational use of the term ‘scaffolding’ is linked to the work of Jerome Bruner –who believed that children (and adults) were active learners. They constructed their own knowledge. Scaffolding was originally used to describe how pedagogues interacted with pre-school children in a nursery (Woods et. al . 1976). Bruner defined scaffolding as ‘the steps taken to reduce the degrees of freedom in carrying out some task so that the child can concentrate on the difficult skill she is in the process of acquiring’ (Bruner 1978: 19).


Differentiation involves adjusting the way we teach and approach subjects so that we can meet the needs of diverse learners. It entails changing content, processes and products so that people can better understand what is being taught and develop appropriate skills and the capacity to act.

The basic idea is that the primary educational objectives—making sure all students master essential knowledge, concepts, and skills—remain the same for every student, but teachers may use different instructional methods to help students meet those expectations. (Great Schools Partnership 2013)

It is often used when working with groups that have within them people with different needs and starting knowledge and skills. (For a quick guide to differentiation see BBC Active ).

Accessing resources for learning

One of the key elements we require is the ability to access and make available resources for learning. The two obvious and central resources we have are our own knowledge, feelings and skills; and those of the people we are working with. Harnessing the experience, knowledge and feelings of learners is usually a good starting point. It focuses attention on the issue or subject; shares material; and can encourage joint working. When it is an area that we need to respond to immediately, it can also give us a little space gather our thoughts and access the material we need.

The third key resource is the internet – which we can either make a whole group activity by using search via a whiteboard or screen, or an individual or small group activity via phones and other devices. One of the good things about this is that it also gives us an opportunity not just to reflect on the subject of the search but also on the process. We can examine, for example, the validity of the source or the terms we are using to search for something.

The fourth great resource is activities. Teachers need to build up a repertoire of different activities that can be used to explore issues and areas (see the section below).

Last, and certainly not least, there are the standard classroom resources – textbooks, handouts and study materials.

As teachers we need to have a range of resources at our fingertips. This can be as simple as carrying around a file of activities, leaflets and handouts or having materials, relevant sites and ebooks on our phones and devices.

Adopting a growth mindset

Last, we need to encourage people to adopt what Carol Dweck (2012) calls a growth mindset. Through researching the characteristics of children who succeed in education (and more generally flourish in life), Dweck found that some people have a fixed mindset and some a growth mindset.

Believing that your qualities are carved in stone— the fixed mindset —creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character—well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics…. There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience. (Dweck 2012: 6-7)

The fixed mindset is concerned with outcomes and performance; the growth mindset with getting better at the task.

In her research she found, for example, that students with a fixed mindset when making the transition from elementary school to junior high in the United States, declined – their grades immediately dropped and over the next two years continued to decline. Students with a growth mindset showed an increase in their grades ( op. cit. : 57). The significance of this for teaching is profound. Praising and valuing achievement tends to strengthen the fixed mindset; praising and valuing effort helps to strengthen a growth mindset.

While it is possible to question elements of Dweck’s research and the either/or way in which prescriptions are presented (see Didau 2015), there is particular merit when teaching of adopting a growth mindset (and encouraging it in others). It looks to change and development rather than proving outselves.

Structuring interventions and making use of different methods

One of the key things that research into the processes of teaching and educating tells us is that learners tend to like structure; they want to know the shape of a session or intervention and what it is about. They also seem to like variety, and changes in the pace of the work (e.g. moving from something quite intense to something free flowing).

It is also worth going back to the dictionary definitions – and the origins of the word ‘teach’. What we find here are some hints of what Geoff Petty (2009) has talked about as ‘teacher-centred’ methods (as against active methods and student-centred methods).

If we ask learners about their experiences and judgements, one of things that comes strongly through the research in this area is that students overwhelming prefer group discussion, games and simulations and activities like drama, artwork and experiments. At the bottom of this list come analysis, theories, essays and lectures (see Petty 2009: 139-141). However, there is not necessarily a connection between what people enjoy doing and what produces learning.

Schoolteachers may use all of these methods – but so might sports workers and instructors, youth ministers, community development workers and social pedagogues. Unlike schoolteachers, informal educators like these are not having to follow a curriculum for much of their time, nor teach content to pass exams. As such they are able to think more holistically and to think of themselves as facilitators of learning. This means:

Focusing on the active methods in the central column; Caring about people’s needs, experiences and feeling; Looking for teachable moments when then can make inputs often along the lines of the first column (teacher-centred methods); and Encouraging people to learn for themselves i.e. take on projects, to read and study, and to learn independently and be self-directed (student-centred methods).

In an appendix to this piece we look at some key activities of teaching and provide practical guidance. [See key teaching activities ]

What does good teaching look like?

What one person sees as good teaching can easily be seen as bad by another. Here we are going to look at what the Ofsted (2015) framework for inspection says. However, before we go there it is worth going back to what Paul Hirst argued back in 1975 and how we are defining teaching here. Our definition was:

Teaching is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and making specific interventions to help them learn particular things.

We are looking at teaching as a specific process – part of what we do as educators, animators and pedagogues. Ofsted is looking at something rather different.  They are grouping together teaching, learning and assessment – and adding in some other things around the sort of outcomes they want to see. That said, it is well worth looking at this list as the thinking behind it does impact on a lot of the work we do.

Inspectors will make a judgement on the effectiveness of teaching, learning and assessment by evaluating the extent to which: teachers, practitioners and other staff have consistently high expectations of what each child or learner can achieve, including the most able and the most disadvantaged teachers, practitioners and other staff have a secure understanding of the age group they are working with and have relevant subject knowledge that is detailed and communicated well to children and learners assessment information is gathered from looking at what children and learners already know, understand and can do and is informed by their parents/previous providers as appropriate assessment information is used to plan appropriate teaching and learning strategies, including to identify children and learners who are falling behind in their learning or who need additional support, enabling children and learners to make good progress and achieve well except in the case of the very young, children and learners understand how to improve as a result of useful feedback from staff and, where relevant, parents, carers and employers understand how learners should improve and how they can contribute to this engagement with parents, carers and employers helps them to understand how children and learners are doing in relation to the standards expected and what they need to do to improve equality of opportunity and recognition of diversity are promoted through teaching and learning where relevant, English, mathematics and other skills necessary to function as an economically active member of British society and globally are promoted through teaching and learning.

We see some things that many will not disagree with like having high expectations of learners, knowing what the needs of the group may be, having expertise in the area being taught; recogniting diversity and having a concern for equality of opportunity; and so on. We may also see the role that assessment plays in reinforcing learning and helping to shape future learning. However, there are things we may disagree with. Perhaps more importantly there are all sorts of things missing here. For example, why is there an emphasis on economic activity as against social, religious and political participation? Another issue, for many of you reading this, is possibly the way in which little account is made of the extent to which learners take responsibility for their own learning. They are encouraged to contribute to learning but not own it.

Good teaching is rather more than technique according to Parker J. Palmer . Good teaching, he says, ‘comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher’ (Palmer 1998: 11). It is the way we are experienced, our enthusiasm, our care, our knowledge, our interest in, and concern for, people that is the key to whether we are felt to be good teachers. As Jackie Beere (2012) and others have argued we need to be present as people in the classroom or learning environment.

This is not to say that technique isn’t important. It is. We need to be skilled at scaffolding learning; creating relationships and environments for learning; and catching teaching moments. It is just that these skills need to be employed by someone who can be respected, is experienced as real and is wise.

In this piece we have made a plea to explore teaching as a process rather than something that is usually approached as the thinking and activity associated with a particular role – the school teacher. As has been argued elsewhere a significant amount of what those called school teachers do is difficult to classify as education (see What is education? ). Even the most informal of educators will find themselves teaching. They may well work hard at building and facilitating environments where people can explore, relate and learn. However, extending or deepening that exploration often leads to short, or not so short bursts of teaching or instructing. For example, as sports coaches or outdoor educators we may be both trying to develop teamwork and build particular skills or capacities. As a specialist or religious educators we might be seeking to give information, or introduce ideas that need some explanation. These involve moments of teaching or instructing. Once we accept this then we can hopefully begin to recognize that school teachers have a lot to learn from other teachers – and vice versa.

We also need to unhook ‘pedagogy’ from school teaching within English language discussions – and to connect it with the tradition of didactics. One of the problems with the false link of school teaching to pedagogy is that it is impairing a proper discussion of pedagogy. However, that may change a little in the UK at least with the development of professional standards for social pedagogy and the emergence of graduate and post-graduate study in the area.

Further reading and references

Check out the Teaching and Learning Toolkit . The Educational Endowment Foundation has produced a very accessible review of the evidence concerning different things that schools do. Many of the things that schools do have little or no evidence to support them e.g. streaming and setting, insisting on school uniform, using performance related pay. Some things are very productive like giving feedback; teaching specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate academic development; peer tutoring; and early years’ intervention.

Key teaching activities . This infed page outlines 9 key activities and why they are central to the process of teaching.

Alber, R. (2014). 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students, Eductopia . [ . Retrieved February 9, 2016].

BBC Active (2010). Methods of Differentiation in the Classroom .   London: Pearson Education .  [ . Retrieved: January 31, 2016]

Beere, J. (2012). The Perfect Ofsted Lesson Bancyfelin: Independent Thinking Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1960). The Process of Education . Cambridge MA.: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. S. (1961). The act of discovery. Harvard Educational Review , 31, 21-32.

Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction , Cambridge, MA.: Belkapp Press.

Bruner, J. (1973) Going Beyond the Information Given , New York: Norton.

Bruner, J. S. (1978). The role of dialogue in language acquisition. In A. Sinclair, R., J. Jarvelle, and W. J.M. Levelt (eds.) The Child’s Concept of Language. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Bruner, J. S. (1996). The Culture of Education . Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.

Capel, S., Leask, M. and Turner T. (eds.) (2013). Learning to teach in the secondary school. A companion to school experience . 6e. Abingdon: Routledge.

Castle, E. B. (1961). Ancient Education and Today . Harmondsworth: Pelican.

Coe, R. et. al. (2014). What makes great teaching. Review of the underpinning research. London: The Sutton Trust. [ . Retrieved December 20, 2014].

Covington, M. V. (2000). ‘Goal theory, motivation and school achievement: An integrative review’, Annual Review of Psychology , 51:171-200.

Cowley, S. (2011). Teaching for Dummies . Chichester: John Wiley.

Davey, A. G. (1972) ‘Education or indoctrination’, Journal of Moral Education 2 (1):5-15.

Department for Education and Skills. (2004a). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 6 Modelling . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016]

Department for Education and Skills. (2004b). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 7 Questioning . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016]

Department for Education and Skills. (2004c). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 8 Explaining . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016].

Department for Education and Skills. (2004d). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 10 Group work . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016]

Department for Education and Skills. (2004e). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 11 Active engagement techniques . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016].

Department for Education and Skills. (2004f). Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in the Secondary School, Unit 12 Assessment for learning . London: Department for Education and Skills. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016].

Didau, D. (2015). What if everything you knew about education was wrong? Bancyfelin: Crown House Publishing.

Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset . London: Robinson.

Gervis and Capel (2013). ‘Motivating pupils’ in S. Capel e t. al. (eds.) Learning to teach in the secondary school. A companion to school experience . 6e. Abingdon: Routledge.

Great Schools Partnership (2013). ‘Differentiation’, S. Abbott (ed.) The Glossary of Education Reform . [ . Retrieved February 10, 2016].

Great Schools Partnership (2015). ‘Scaffolding’, S. Abbott (ed.) The Glossary of Education Reform . [ . Retrieved February 10, 2016].

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement . Abingdon: Routledge.

Hamilton, D. (1999). ‘The pedagogic paradox (or why no didactics in England?)’, Pedagogy, Culture & Society , 7:1, 135-152. [ . Retrieved: February 10, 2012].

Havinghurst, R. J. (1953). Human Development and Education . London: Longman, Green.

Herbart, J. F (1892). The Science of Education: its general principles deduced from its aim and the aesthetic revelation of the world , translated by H. M. & E. Felkin. London: Swann Sonnenschein.

Herbart, J. F., Felkin, H. M., & Felkin, E. (1908). Letter and lectures on education: By Johann Friedrich Herbart ; Translated from the German, and edited with an introduction by Henry M. and Emmie Felkin and a preface by Oscar Browning. London: Sonnenschein.

Hirst, P. (1975). What is teaching? In R. S. Peters (ed.) The Philosophy of Education . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Jeffs, T. and Smith, M. K. (2018) Informal Education .London: Educational Heretics.

Kant, I. (1900). Kant on education (Ueber pa?dagogik) . Translated by A. Churton. Boston: D.C. Heath. [ . Accessed October 10, 2012].

Kansanen, P. (1999). ‘The “Deutsche Didadtik” and the American research on teaching’ in B. Hudson et. al. (eds.) Didadtik-Fachdidadtik as science(s) of the teaching profession ? Umeå Sweden: TNTEE Publications. [ . Retrieved: February 26, 2016].

Kirschenbaum, H. and Henderson, V. L. (eds.) (1990). The Carl Rogers Reader . London: Constable.

Lieberman, M. D. (2013). Social. Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect . Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nuthall, G. A. (2007). The hidden lives of learners . Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Ofsted (2015). The common inspection framework: education, skills and early years. London: Ofsted. [ . Retrieved May 28, 2018]

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Courage to Teach. Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Petty, G. (2009). Teaching Today. A practical guide . Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

Smith, M. K. (2012). ‘What is pedagogy?’, The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education. [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2012].

Smith, M. K. (2015). What is education? A definition and discussion. The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . [ . Retrieved: February 25, 2016].

Snook, I.  (1972). Concepts of Indoctrination: Philosophical Essays . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Wilson, L. (2009) Practical Teaching. A guide to PTLLS and DTLLS . Andover: Cengage.

Wood, D. J., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology , 17(2), 89-100.

Wragg, E. C. and Brown, G. (2001). Questioning in the Secondary School . London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Young, N. H. (1987). ‘Paidagogos: The Social Setting of a Pauline Metaphor’, Novum Testamentum 29: 150.

Zwozdiak-Myers, P. and Capel, S. (2013). Communicating with Pupils in Capel, S., Leask, M. and Turner T. (eds.) Learning to teach in the secondary school. A companion to school experience . 6e. Abingdon: Routledge.


The section ‘teaching, pedagogy and didactics’ draws heavily on another piece written by Mark K Smith for ( see Smith 2012 ).

The ACE diagram is taken from Smith, M. K. (forthcoming). Working with young people in difficult times (Chapter 1).

Picture:   Group project by Brande Jackson . Flickr | ccbyncnd2 licence

How to cite this piece : Smith, M. K. (2018). ‘What is teaching?’ in The encyclopedia of pedagogy and informal education . [ . Retrieved: insert date].

© Mark K Smith 2016, 2018.

Last Updated on August 24, 2020 by

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How to approach essay writing


What approaches to teaching essay writing are there and what is useful to know when planning a writing lesson?

Process  and  product  approaches are two of the most well-known, but more recently the  genre  approach has also gained credence. The  product  approach focuses on linguistic knowledge such as vocabulary, syntax and cohesive devices (Badger & White 2000). In other words, ‘ what ’ goes into an essay. The  process  approach is more concerned with facilitating the stages a writer must go through (Badger & White 2000). This could be referred to as the ‘ how’  of essay writing. The third approach –  genre –  is similar to the  product  approach but also incorporates social aspects such as the purpose of writing or the ‘ why ’.

As these approaches have their own distinct features there is an argument for the synthesis of all three (Badger & White 2000). Raising awareness of the ‘ what ’,   ‘ how ’ and ‘ why ’   of essay writing are all useful in developing ability and confidence in tackling what is a challenging yet vital skill for second language learners.

Product: What goes into an essay?

Let’s imagine how these three approaches might look in terms of an essay title, for example,  ‘Which has greater influence on a person’s personality: nature or nurture?’.  A typical product approach has four stages: familiarization, controlled writing, guided writing and free writing. Familiarization might involve categorizing words or phrases or noticing linguistic features of a model text. At the controlled stage, learners can attempt to produce their own sentences using some of the language highlighted. A guided task could involve ordering ideas or producing one of the arguments in groups. The idea is that the learners are then sufficiently equipped with enough knowledge of the language features to attempt the free writing stage.

Process: How do you write an essay?

Exposure to the typical linguistic features of an essay could be helpful, particularly to learners who lack a range of vocabulary or awareness of the features of a particular essay type (in this case a compare and contrast essay). But what about the process of writing the essay? A typical process approach consists of four stages: pre-writing, drafting, revising and editing (Badger & White 2000). Learners can begin by brainstorming ideas for and against nature or nurture. They can then create a plan using their ideas, which would be used as the basis for producing a first draft. Learners can work in pairs or groups to improve the draft which they then edit. It is a non-linear approach so that learners can return to any stage if necessary (Hyland 2003).

Genre: What is the purpose of writing an essay?

It is the purpose of the essay that is central to the genre approach. When arguing nature over nurture for example, the writer may wish to persuade their audience that nature has far more influence on personality. Learners are exposed to model compare and contrast essays and analyse them for their linguistic features, such as language that is used to persuade. Learners might perform a task using the phrases in order to become familiar with this particular genre. They can be encouraged to evaluate who the writer is trying to persuade and why. It imitates the product approach by using a model text but also raises awareness of the social purpose of writing (Badger & White 2000). Therefore, when approaching an essay type such as discursive, opinion, advantages v disadvantages or cause and effect, learners should know the purpose of what they are writing and reflect on who their audience is.

Classroom ideas

Is it possible to combine these three approaches in the classroom? Do they complement each other? Which input is needed is perhaps better judged by the teacher. Each group of learners has different needs, so the different approaches are available to be drawn upon if and when required. Do your learners need more knowledge about the language, the context or do they need more practice of the skills required to become successful essay writers? If your learners are not used to planning before they write, then they might find elements of brainstorming and planning activities useful, or if they seem unaware of how texts actually work as communication, then a discussion about the purpose of writing could be incorporated. If further exposure to language or grammar is required, then noticing the features of a model text may prove more worthwhile.

1.  An argumentative essay: A process approach

Novice writers often have difficulty selecting and generating ideas for arguments to use in their essay writing (Couzjin, M. & Rilaarsdam, G. 2005). An argumentative statement such as ‘ Do   cats or dogs make better pets? Why?’  can be presented to learners to hone this skill. Choose a topic that doesn’t require any complex conceptual understanding so that they can focus solely on the experience of the process of preparing to write the essay.

Begin by asking for a show of hands so you can arrange learners into groups of those who agree and those who disagree with the statement. Facilitate a brainstorming activity whereby learners write reasons for their chosen argument on sticky notes. The groups can present their arguments to the class. Display the sticky notes and encourage learners to select the argument they believe is the most convincing. In smaller groups learners can practise discussing the sub-arguments of this main argument. Elicit an example of a main argument, e.g. ‘C ats are cleaner than dogs. ’ and a sub argument, ‘ They spend about 50% of their time grooming themselves. ’, then elicit a counter argument ‘ However, dogs can be easily hosed down after a walk. ’

Each group can prepare and present their sub arguments and counter arguments and the class can take notes in a table. Learners can select the most convincing arguments and evaluate why they chose them. This activity provides an opportunity to practise ‘ how ’ to write an essay and the learners can use their notes to prepare a first draft. They can then use the same process to attempt more challenging essay titles depending on their level and needs.

2. An opinion essay: A genre approach

Learners sometimes lack enthusiasm for writing because they are unclear what the purpose of writing is. Everything we write has a communicative purpose and raising awareness of this can lead to increasing confidence and enjoyment of writing. There are various ways of highlighting genre: matching essay titles or extracts of model texts and discussing the different features in style, language and syntax as well as reflecting on the different purposes of each genre. For example, the title ‘ There are more challenges than risks than benefits to new technology .’ is an opinion essay written to persuade and warn an audience of the dangers posed by modern technology rather than provide an unbiased or balanced view.

Another way to instill the concept of writing with a clear purpose, which also aids low level learners with greater fluency and reduces anxiety associated with writing, is by using learning logs. Learning logs are diaries where students write their reflections on what they are learning, how they are studying and any challenges they face. Linda Blanton recommends these are written at home on a weekly basis, the teacher is the sole audience and the topic is their writing class. This activity creates a purpose and highlights a specific audience to the writers (Blanton 1987). The teacher can limit the task to a paragraph or a page depending on the level of the learners. Blanton does not recommend correction of the writing but rather adding a comment either congratulating them on their progress or encouraging them with challenges they are facing. She also writes a weekly log to the whole class with observations regarding their writing and congratulating them on their achievements (Blanton 1987). This activity can also be very revealing for the teacher and any discoveries can be used to inform their teaching practice.

3. A compare and contrast essay: A product approach

If your learners need more help improving their linguistic writing ability, you can take a  product  approach focusing on topic related vocabulary, phrases relating to the specific genre as well as academic vocabulary. Using the example of a compare and contrast essay such as  ‘Which is more important, emotional intelligence or intellectual intelligence?’  you can use extracts from model texts and analyse them for their specific features. Encourage learners to notice generic phrases that are characteristic of that genre, for example,  on the contrary, similarly  and discuss changes in meaning. They can practise topic and academic vocabulary using matching exercises that test they have understood the meaning and gap fills that check they can use the language in context.

Even after a comprehensive analysis, discussion and practice of the language features, when it comes to the freer writing task learners may abandon this new found linguistic knowledge in favour of more familiar vocabulary. So how can we ensure they have the ability and confidence to use what they have learnt effectively?

Keeping a record of the new language is key and there are various methods you can employ.  Quizlet  is an online learning tool that can be used in class by the learners themselves if they have internet access and laptops, or if you want to encourage more autonomy you could set it as a homework task. You can also prepare a set of flashcards and share this with your class. They can practise matching definitions and testing themselves online and print sets of flashcards. You can also set your learners the challenge of selecting some of the new language to incorporate into their free writing essay task. Recording and further practice of the new language will enable your learners to assimilate it and make it more accessible when producing the final essay.

The three approaches discussed offer distinct features and an assortment of all three is at the teacher’s disposal depending on the learners’ needs and wants. The use of learning logs as well as a needs analysis can inform the teacher at which point during the course each approach could be best employed to unleash their learners’ full writing potential.


Badger, R. & White, G. 2000  A process genre approach to teaching writing . ELT Journal 54/2, p.153-160. Oxford University Press.

Blanton, L. 1987  Reshaping ESL students’ perceptions of writing . ELT Journal Volume 41/2, p. 112-118. Oxford University Press

Couzjin, M. & Rilaarsdam, G. 2005  Learning to Read and Write Argumentative Text by Observation of Peer Learners . Effective Learning and Teaching of Writing: A Handbook of Writing in Education. Second Edition. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Hyland, K. 2003  Second Language Writing . Chapter 1. Cambridge University Press.

About the author

teaching methods meaning essay

Kerry Boakes is a CELTA and DELTA qualified English Language teacher currently working for the British Council in Oman. Before becoming a teacher she worked for NGOs in a range of educational and campaign roles. She has experience of teaching in Kenya, South Korea and Japan and has taught academic English at Sheffield International College and Sheffield University. She has also worked as a teacher trainer in refugee camps on the Thai Burmese border and managed a literacy project in partnership with Save the Children.

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The Complete List of Teaching Methods

teaching methods meaning essay

Teaching Methods: Not as Simple as ABC

Teaching methods [teacher-centered], teaching methods [student-centered], what about blended learning and udl, teaching methods: a to z, for the love of teaching.

Whether you’re a longtime educator, preparing to start your first teaching job or mapping out your dream of a career in the classroom, the topic of teaching methods is one that means many different things to different people.

Your individual approaches and strategies to imparting knowledge to your students and inspiring them to learn are probably built on your academic education as well as your instincts and intuition.

Whether you come by your preferred teaching methods organically or by actively studying educational theory and pedagogy, it can be helpful to have a comprehensive working knowledge of the various teaching methods at your disposal.

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The teacher-centered approach vs. the student-centered approach. High-tech vs. low-tech approaches to learning. Flipped classrooms, differentiated instruction, inquiry-based learning, personalized learning and more.

Not only are there dozens of teaching methods to explore, it is also important to have a sense for how they often overlap or interrelate. One extremely helpful look at this question is offered by the teacher-focused education website

“Teaching theories can be organized into four categories based on two major parameters: a teacher-centered approach versus a student-centered approach, and high-tech material use versus low-tech material use,” according to the informative article , which breaks down a variety of influential teaching methods as follows:

Teacher-Centered Approach to Learning Teachers serve as instructor/authority figures who deliver knowledge to their students through lectures and direct instruction, and aim to measure the results through testing and assessment. This method is sometimes referred to as “sage on the stage.”

Student-Centered Approach to Learning Teachers still serve as an authority figure, but may function more as a facilitator or “guide on the side,” as students assume a much more active role in the learning process. In this method, students learn from and are continually assessed on such activities as group projects, student portfolios and class participation.

High-Tech Approach to Learning From devices like laptops and tablets to using the internet to connect students with information and people from around the world, technology plays an ever-greater role in many of today’s classrooms. In the high-tech approach to learning, teachers utilize many different types of technology to aid students in their classroom learning.

Low-Tech Approach to Learning Technology obviously comes with pros and cons, and many teachers believe that a low-tech approach better enables them to tailor the educational experience to different types of learners. Additionally, while computer skills are undeniably necessary today, this must be balanced against potential downsides; for example, some would argue that over-reliance on spell check and autocorrect features can inhibit rather than strengthen student spelling and writing skills.

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Diving further into the overlap between different types of teaching methods, here is a closer look at three teacher-centered methods of instruction and five popular student-centered approaches.

Direct Instruction (Low Tech) Under the direct instruction model — sometimes described as the “traditional” approach to teaching — teachers convey knowledge to their students primarily through lectures and scripted lesson plans, without factoring in student preferences or opportunities for hands-on or other types of learning. This method is also customarily low-tech since it relies on texts and workbooks rather than computers or mobile devices.

Flipped Classrooms (High Tech) What if students did the “classroom” portion of their learning at home and their “homework” in the classroom? That’s an oversimplified description of the flipped classroom approach, in which students watch or read their lessons on computers at home and then complete assignments and do problem-solving exercises in class.

Kinesthetic Learning (Low Tech) In the kinesthetic learning model, students perform hands-on physical activities rather than listening to lectures or watching demonstrations. Kinesthetic learning, which values movement and creativity over technological skills, is most commonly used to augment traditional types of instruction — the theory being that requiring students to do, make or create something exercises different learning muscles.

Differentiated Instruction (Low Tech) Inspired by the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), enacted to ensure equal access to public education for all children, differentiated instruction is the practice of developing an understanding of how each student learns best, and then tailoring instruction to meet students’ individual needs.

In some instances, this means Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with special needs, but today teachers use differentiated instruction to connect with all types of learners by offering options on how students access content, the types of activities they do to master a concept, how student learning is assessed and even how the classroom is set up.

Inquiry-Based Learning (High Tech) Rather than function as a sole authority figure, in inquiry-based learning teachers offer support and guidance as students work on projects that depend on them taking on a more active and participatory role in their own learning. Different students might participate in different projects, developing their own questions and then conducting research — often using online resources — and then demonstrate the results of their work through self-made videos, web pages or formal presentations.

Expeditionary Learning (Low Tech) Expeditionary learning is based on the idea that there is considerable educational value in getting students out of the classroom and into the real world. Examples include trips to City Hall or Washington, D.C., to learn about the workings of government, or out into nature to engage in specific study related to the environment. Technology can be used to augment such expeditions, but the primary focus is on getting out into the community for real-world learning experiences.

Personalized Learning (High Tech) In personalized learning, teachers encourage students to follow personalized, self-directed learning plans that are inspired by their specific interests and skills. Since assessment is also tailored to the individual, students can advance at their own pace, moving forward or spending extra time as needed. Teachers offer some traditional instruction as well as online material, while also continually reviewing student progress and meeting with students to make any needed changes to their learning plans.

Game-Based Learning (High Tech) Students love games, and considerable progress has been made in the field of game-based learning, which requires students to be problem solvers as they work on quests to accomplish a specific goal. For students, this approach blends targeted learning objectives with the fun of earning points or badges, much like they would in a video game. For teachers, planning this type of activity requires additional time and effort, so many rely on software like Classcraft or 3DGameLab to help students maximize the educational value they receive from within the gamified learning environment.

Blended Learning Blended learning  is another strategy for teachers looking to introduce flexibility into their classroom. This method relies heavily on technology, with part of the instruction taking place online and part in the classroom via a more traditional approach, often leveraging elements of the flipped classroom approach detailed above. At the heart of blended learning is a philosophy of taking the time to understand each student’s learning style and develop strategies to teach to every learner, by building flexibility and choice into your curriculum.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) UDL incorporates both student-centered learning and the “multiple intelligences theory,” which holds that different learners are wired to learn most effectively in different ways (examples of these “intelligences” include visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, musical, etc.). In practice, this could mean that some students might be working on a writing project while others would be more engaged if they created a play or a movie. UDL emphasizes the idea of teaching to every student, special needs students included, in the general education classroom, creating community and building knowledge through multiple means.

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In addition to the many philosophical and pedagogical approaches to teaching, classroom educators today employ diverse and sometimes highly creative methods involving specific strategies, prompts and tools that require little explanation. These include:

  • Appointments with students
  • Art-based projects
  • Audio tutorials
  • Author’s chair
  • Book reports
  • Bulletin boards
  • Brainstorming
  • Case studies
  • Chalkboard instruction
  • Class projects
  • Classroom discussion
  • Classroom video diary
  • Collaborative learning spaces
  • Creating murals and montages
  • Current events quizzes
  • Designated quiet space
  • Discussion groups
  • DIY activities
  • Dramatization (plays, skits, etc.)
  • Educational games
  • Educational podcasts
  • Essays (Descriptive)
  • Essays (Expository)
  • Essays (Narrative)
  • Essays (Persuasive)
  • Exhibits and displays
  • Explore different cultures
  • Field trips
  • Flash cards
  • Flexible seating
  • Gamified learning plans
  • Genius hour
  • Group discussion
  • Guest speakers
  • Hands-on activities
  • Individual projects
  • Interviewing
  • Laboratory experiments
  • Learning contracts
  • Learning stations
  • Literature circles
  • Making posters
  • Mock conventions
  • Motivational posters
  • Music from other countries/cultures
  • Oral reports
  • Panel discussions
  • Peer partner learning
  • Photography
  • Problem solving activities
  • Reading aloud
  • Readers’ theater
  • Reflective discussion
  • Research projects
  • Rewards & recognition
  • Role playing
  • School newspapers
  • Science fairs
  • Sister city programs
  • Spelling bees
  • Storytelling
  • Student podcasts
  • Student portfolios
  • Student presentations
  • Student-conceived projects
  • Supplemental reading assignments
  • Team-building exercises
  • Term papers
  • Textbook assignments
  • Think-tac-toe
  • Time capsules
  • Use of community or local resources
  • Video creation
  • Video lessons
  • Vocabulary lists

So, is the teacher the center of the educational universe or the student? Does strong reliance on the wonders of technology offer a more productive educational experience or is a more traditional, lower-tech approach the best way to help students thrive?

Questions such as these are food for thought for educators everywhere, in part because they inspire ongoing reflection on how to make a meaningful difference in the lives of one’s students.

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What is Your Teaching Style? 5 Effective Teaching Methods for Your Classroom

Every teacher has her or his own style of teaching. And as traditional teaching styles evolve with the advent of differentiated instruction, more and more teachers are adjusting their approach depending on their students’ learning needs.

But there are a few fundamental teaching styles most educators tend to use. Which one is yours?

You’ve Got Style

These teaching styles highlight the five main strategies teachers use in the classroom, as well as the benefits and potential pitfalls of each.

Infographic: Common teaching styles - classroom teaching styles. Authority or lecture style (teacher-centered), demonstrator or coach style (shows knowledge, includes activities and demonstrations), facilitator or activity style (promote self-learning, self-actualization, critical thinking skills), delegator or group style (best for lab activities and peer feedback activities), and hybrid or blended style (blends the teacher's personality and interests with students' needs).

The Authority, or lecture style

The authority model is teacher-centered and frequently entails lengthy lecture sessions or one-way presentations. Students are expected to take notes or absorb information.

  • Pros : This style is acceptable for certain higher-education disciplines and auditorium settings with large groups of students. The pure lecture style is most suitable for subjects like history, which necessitate memorization of key facts, dates, names, etc.
  • Cons : It’s a questionable model for teaching children because there is little or no interaction with the teacher. Plus it can get a little snooze-y. That’s why it’s a better approach for older, more mature students.

The Demonstrator, or coach style

The demonstrator retains the formal authority role by showing students what they need to know. The demonstrator is a lot like the lecturer, but their lessons include multimedia presentations, activities, and demonstrations. (Think: Math. Science. Music.)

  • Pros : This style gives teachers opportunities to incorporate a variety of formats including lectures and multimedia presentations.
  • Cons : Although it’s well-suited for teaching mathematics, music, physical education, or arts and crafts, it is difficult to accommodate students’ individual needs in larger classrooms.

The Facilitator, or activity style

Facilitators promote self-learning and help students develop critical thinking skills and retain knowledge that leads to self-actualization.

  • Pros : This style trains students to ask questions and helps develop skills to find answers and solutions through exploration; it is ideal for teaching science and similar subjects.
  • Cons : Challenges teacher to interact with students and prompt them toward discovery rather than lecturing facts and testing knowledge through memorization. So it’s a bit harder to measure success in tangible terms.

The Delegator, or group style

The delegator style is best suited for curricula that require lab activities, such as chemistry and biology, or subjects that warrant peer feedback, like debate and creative writing.

  • Pros : Guided discovery and inquiry-based learning place the teacher in an observer role that inspires students by working in tandem toward common goals.
  • Cons : Considered a modern style of teaching, it is sometimes criticized as eroding teacher authority. As a delegator, the teacher acts more as a consultant rather than the traditional authority figure.

The Hybrid, or blended style

Hybrid, or blended style, follows an integrated approach to teaching that blends the teacher’s personality and interests with students’ needs and curriculum-appropriate methods.

  • Pros : Inclusive! And it enables teachers to tailor their styles to student needs and appropriate subject matter.
  • Cons : Hybrid style runs the risk of trying to be too many things to all students, prompting teachers to spread themselves too thin and dilute learning.

Because teachers have styles that reflect their distinct personalities and curriculum—from math and science to English and history—it’s crucial that they remain focused on their teaching objectives and avoid trying to be all things to all students.

What you need to know about your teaching style

Although it is not the teacher’s job to entertain students, it is vital to engage them in the learning process. Selecting a style that addresses the needs of diverse students at different learning levels begins with a personal inventory—a self-evaluation—of the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. As they develop their teaching styles and integrate them with effective classroom management skills, teachers will learn what works best for their personalities and curriculum.

Our guide encapsulates today’s different teaching styles and helps teachers identify the style that’s right for them and their students. Browse through the article or use these links to jump to your desired destination.

  • What is a teaching style inventory, and how have teaching styles evolved?
  • What teaching method is best for today’s students?

How does classroom diversity influence teachers?

Emergence of the teaching style inventory.

How have teaching styles evolved? This is a question teachers are asked, and frequently ask themselves, as they embark on their careers, and occasionally pause along the way to reflect on job performance. To understand the differences in teaching styles, it’s helpful to know where the modern concept of classifying teaching methods originated.

The late Anthony F. Grasha, a noted professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, is credited with developing the classic five teaching styles. A follower of psychiatrist Carl Jung, Grasha began studying the dynamics of the relationship between teachers and learning in college classrooms. His groundbreaking book, Teaching with Style , was written both as a guide for teachers and as a tool to help colleagues, administrators and students systematically evaluate an instructor’s effectiveness in the classroom.

Grasha understood that schools must use a consistent, formal approach in evaluating a teacher’s classroom performance. He recognized that any system designed to help teachers improve their instructional skills requires a simple classification system. He developed a teaching style inventory that has since been adopted and modified by followers.

  • Expert : Similar to a coach, experts share knowledge, demonstrate their expertise, advise students, and provide feedback to improve understanding and promote learning.
  • Formal authority : Authoritative teachers incorporate the traditional lecture format and share many of the same characteristics as experts, but with less student interaction.
  • Personal model : Incorporates blended teaching styles that match the best techniques with the appropriate learning scenarios and students in an adaptive format.
  • Facilitator : Designs participatory learning activities and manages classroom projects while providing information and offering feedback to facilitate critical thinking.
  • Delegator : Organizes group learning, observes students, provides consultation, and promotes interaction between groups and among individuals to achieve learning objectives.

Although he developed specific teaching styles, Grasha warned against boxing teachers into a single category. Instead, he advocated that teachers play multiple roles in the classroom. He believed most teachers possess some combination of all or most of the classic teaching styles.

How does differentiated instruction affect teaching styles?

Carol Ann Tomlinson, a professor at the University of Virginia, is an early advocate of differentiated instruction and a pioneer in the development of learning-based teaching styles. If Grasha laid the groundwork for 20th-century teachers to adopt styles tailored to match their personalities and strengths, Tomlinson has advanced this theme into the 21st century by focusing on differentiated instruction.

In the simplest terms, differentiated instruction means keeping all students in mind when developing lesson plans and workbook exercises, lectures, and interactive learning. These student-focused differences necessitate instructional styles that embrace diverse classrooms for students at all learning levels and from various backgrounds without compromising the teacher’s strengths.

What teaching style is best for today’s students?

Whether you’re a first-year teacher eager to put into practice all of the pedagogical techniques you learned in college, or a classroom veteran examining differentiated instruction and new learning methodologies, consider that not all students respond well to one particular style. Although teaching styles have been categorized into five groups, today’s ideal teaching style is not an either/or proposition but more of a hybrid approach that blends the best of everything a teacher has to offer.

The traditional advice that teachers not overreach with a cluster of all-encompassing teaching styles might seem to conflict with today’s emphasis on student-centered classrooms. Theoretically, the more teachers emphasize student-centric learning, the harder it is to develop a well-focused style based on their personal attributes, strengths, and goals.

In short, modern methods of teaching require different types of teachers—from the analyst/organizer to the negotiator/consultant. Here are some other 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, video conferencing, 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 that 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.

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

All instructors, when developing their teaching styles, should keep in mind these three goals, as well as the primary objective of education: student learning.

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 Dr. Harry Wong refers to as “that a-ha moment” when a child “gets it,” is one of the most rewarding and seemingly elusive benefits of becoming a teacher. This transfer 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 you. And remember, even though you may prefer one teaching style over another, you must find the style that works best for your students! Try different styles to meet different objectives, and always challenge yourself to find ways to reach each student.

You may also like to read

  • Effective Teaching Strategies for Adolescent Literacy Teachers
  • Effective Teaching Strategies for Special Education
  • Activities for Teaching Tolerance in the Classroom
  • Interactive Teaching Styles Used in the Classroom

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Your teaching philosophy is a self-reflective statement of your beliefs about teaching and learning. It's a one to two page narrative that conveys your core ideas about being an effective teacher in the context of your discipline. It develops these ideas with specific, concrete examples of what the teacher and learners will do to achieve those goals. Importantly, your teaching philosophy statement also explains why you choose these options.

+ Getting Started

Your reasons for writing a teaching philosophy may vary. You might be writing it as an exercise in concisely documenting your beliefs so that you can easily articulate them to your students, peers, or a search committee. It might serve as the introduction to your teaching portfolio. Or, it can serve as a means of professional growth as it requires you to give examples of how you enact your philosophy, thus requiring you to consider the degree to which your teaching is congruent with your beliefs.

Generating ideas

Teaching philosophies express your values and beliefs about teaching. They are personal statements that introduce you, as a teacher, to your reader. As such, they are written in the first person and convey a confident, professional tone. When writing a teaching philosophy, use specific examples to illustrate your points. You should also discuss how your values and beliefs about teaching fit into the context of your discipline.

Below are categories you might address with prompts to help you begin generating ideas. Work through each category, spending time thinking about the prompts and writing your ideas down. These notes will comprise the material you’ll use to write the first draft of your teaching philosophy statement. It will help if you include both general ideas (‘I endeavor to create lifelong learners’) as well as specifics about how you will enact those goals. A teaching philosophy template is also available to help you get started.

Questions to prompt your thinking

Your concept of learning.

What do you mean by learning? What happens in a successful learning situation? Note what constitutes "learning" or "mastery" in your discipline.

Your concept of teaching

What are your values, beliefs, and aspirations as a teacher? Do you wish to encourage mastery, competency, transformational learning, lifelong learning, general transference of skills, critical thinking? What does a perfect teaching situation look like to you and why? How are the values and beliefs realized in classroom activities? You may discuss course materials, lesson plans, activities, assignments, and assessment instruments.

Your goals for students

What skills should students obtain as a result of your teaching? Think about your ideal student and what the outcomes of your teaching would be in terms of this student's knowledge or behavior. Address the goals you have for specific classes or curricula and that rational behind them (i.e., critical thinking, writing, or problem solving).

Your teaching methods

What methods will you consider to reach these goals and objectives? What are your beliefs regarding learning theory and specific strategies you would use, such as case studies, group work, simulations, interactive lectures? You might also want to include any new ideas or strategies you want to try.

Your interaction with students

What are you attitudes towards advising and mentoring students? How would an observer see you interact with students? Why do you want to work with students?

Assessing learning

How will you assess student growth and learning? What are your beliefs about grading? Do you grade students on a percentage scale (criterion referenced) or on a curve (norm referenced)? What different types of assessment will you use (i.e. traditional tests, projects, portfolios,  presentations) and why?

Professional growth

How will you continue growing as a teacher? What goals do you have for yourself and how will you reach them? How have your attitudes towards teaching and learning changed over time? How will you use student evaluations to improve your teaching? How might you learn new skills? How do you know when you've taught effectively?

+ Creating a Draft

Two ways of organizing your draft.

Now that you've written down your values, attitudes, and beliefs about teaching and learning, it's time to organize those thoughts into a coherent form. Perhaps the easiest way of organizing this material would be to write a paragraph covering each of the seven prompts you answered in the Getting Started section. These would then become the seven major sections of your teaching philosophy.

Another way of knitting your reflections together—and one that is more personal—is to read through your notes and underscore ideas or observations that come up more than once. Think of these as "themes" that might point you toward an organizational structure for the essay. For example, you read through your notes and realize that you spend a good deal of time writing about your interest in mentoring students. This might become one of the three or four major foci of your teaching philosophy. You should then discuss what it says about your attitudes toward teaching, learning, and what's important in your discipline.

No matter which style you choose, make sure to keep your writing succinct. Aim for two double-spaced pages. And don't forget to start with a "hook." Your job is to make your readers want to read more; their level of engagement is highest when they read your opening line. Hook your readers by beginning with a question, a statement, or even an event from your past.

Using specific examples

Remember to provide concrete examples from your teaching practice to illustrate the general claims you make in your teaching philosophy. The following general statements about teaching are intended as prompts to help you come up with examples to illustrate your claims about teaching. For each statement, how would you describe what happens in your classroom? Is your description specific enough to bring the scene to life in a teaching philosophy?

"I value helping my students understand difficult information. I am an expert, and my role is to model for them complex ways of thinking so that they can develop the same habits of mind as professionals in the medical field."
"I enjoy lecturing, and I'm good at it. I always make an effort to engage and motivate my students when I lecture."
"It is crucial for students of geology to learn the techniques of field research. An important part of my job as a professor of geology is to provide these opportunities."
"I believe that beginning physics students should be introduced to the principles of hypothesis generation, experimentation, data collection, and analysis. By learning the scientific method, they develop critical thinking skills they can apply to other areas of their lives. Small group work is a crucial tool for teaching the scientific method."
"As a teacher of writing, I am committed to using peer review in my classes. By reading and commenting on other students' work in small cooperative groups, my students learn to find their voice, to understand the important connection between writer and audience, and to hone their editing skills. Small group work is indispensible in the writing classroom."

Go back to the notes you made when getting started and underline the general statements you’ve made about teaching and learning. As you start drafting, make sure to note the specific approaches, methods, or products you use to realize those goals.

+ Assessing Your Draft

Assessing your draft teaching philosophy.

According to a survey of search committee chairs by the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, there are five elements that are shared by strong teaching philosophy statements:

  • They offer evidence of practice (specific examples)
  • They are student-centered
  • They demonstrate reflectiveness
  • They demonstrate that the writer values teaching
  • They are well written, clear, and readable

Now that you’ve completed an initial draft, ask whether your statement captures these elements and how well you articulate them.

You might find it useful to compare your draft to other teaching philosophies in your discipline. It can also be useful to have a colleague review your draft and offer recommendations for revision. Consider printing out a teaching philosophy rubric from our “Rubrics and Samples” tab to provide your reviewer with guidelines to assess your draft. These exercises will give you the critical distance necessary to see your teaching philosophy objectively and revise it accordingly.

+ Rubrics and Samples

Rubrics and sample teaching philosophies.

Here are links to three teaching philosophy rubrics to help you assess your statement. We have included four different rubrics for you to choose from. These rubrics cover similar elements, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Your choice of which to use should be guided by how comfortable you feel with the particular instrument and how usable you find it. 

  • Teaching Philosophy Rubric 1   This rubric allows a reader to rate several elements of persuasiveness and format on a scale of 1 to 5.
  • Teaching Philosophy Rubric 2   This rubric contains prompts for assessing purpose and audience, voice, beliefs and support, and conventions.
  • Teaching Philosophy Rubric 3   This rubric contains prompts for assessing content, format, and writing quality.
  • Rubric for Statements of Teaching Philosophy  This rubric was developed by Kaplan et. al. from the University of Michigan.
  • Marisol Brito – philosophy 
  • Benjamin Harrison – biology  
  • Jamie Peterson – psychology
  • The University of Michigan has a wide variety of  samples  organized by field of study.
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Teaching Methods

Choosing optimal methods to support learning outcomes.

On this page:

The importance of teaching methods.

Teaching methods are the broader techniques used to help students achieve learning outcomes, while activities are the different ways of implementing these methods. Teaching methods help students:

  • master the content of the course
  • learn how to apply the content in particular contexts

Instructors should identify which teaching methods will properly support a particular learning outcome. Its effectiveness depends on this alignment. To make the most appropriate choice, an instructor should consider learning outcomes, student needs and the learning environment.

Consider the following example:

  • Learning outcome: Solve a complex math equation.
  • Learning environment: An in person, upper-level math course with 20 students.
  • Teaching method: Guided instruction. First, the instructor facilitates learning by modeling and scaffolding. Students take time to  ask questions and receive clarifications. Next, students practice applying these skills together and then independently. The instructor uses formative assessment to check for understanding.

This example demonstrates alignment of what the instructor wants students to do, and how they are supported in these tasks. If the instructor choses a different teaching method, such as a traditional lecture, students would need to process the lecture’s content and apply principles simultaneously. This is very difficult to do and would lead to less successful outcomes.

Choosing the appropriate teaching method brings instruction to life while encouraging students to actively engage with content and develop their knowledge and skills.

The chart below provides a number of teaching methods to choose from. Teaching methods vary in their approach, some are more student-centered while others are more instructor centered, and you will see this reflected in the chart. Choose methods that will best guide your students to achieve the learning outcomes you’ve set and remember that your teaching approach, teaching methods and activities all work together.

Table adapted from: Nilson (2016)

Choose Your Methods

Using the Course Design Template   explore the aspects that will likely affect your course.

  • Step 1: Review your learning outcomes.
  • Step 2: Identify the teaching methods that best align to these learning outcomes and fill in the appropriate column.
  • Step 3: Consider possible activities which will next be examined in further detail.

Now that you’ve reviewed a variety of teaching methods and considered which ones align with your learning outcomes, the next step is to consider activities.

  • Nilson, L. B. (2016). Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors (Fourth). John Wiley & Sons.

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English Language Teaching: Approaches, Methods, and Techniques

Written by: Mike Turner

June 15, 2021

Time to read 5 min

When we are looking at the effectiveness of our teaching, we often get tied up in the minutiae of classroom practice. However, sometimes it’s useful to take a bit of a step back and examine what we are doing more broadly.  

In order to look at our different options as teachers, it is handy to use a consistent framework. I am indebted to several writers on TEFL methodology, but I have chosen specifically to apply the useful distinctions between  approach ,  method , and  technique made by Richards and Rogers in their 1986 work  Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching (London: CUP). Although the book is now 25 years old, it still provides one of the neatest and most accessible descriptions of some of the most influential approaches. The terminological distinctions they draw are particularly useful and are summarised below. I have then applied them, as succinctly as I can, to a variety of current and historical approaches. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but I hope it will allow teachers to contextualise their own practice.

Approach, Method & Technique

An approach describes the theory or philosophy underlying how a language should be taught; a method or methodology describes, in general terms, a way of implementing the approach (syllabus, progression, kinds of materials); techniques describe specific practical classroom tasks and activities. For example:

Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is an approach with a theoretical underpinning that a language is for communication.

A CLT methodology may be based on a notional-functional syllabus, or a structural one, but the learner will be placed at the centre, with the main aim being developing their Communicative Competence. Classroom activities will be chosen that will engage learners in communicating with each other.

CLT techniques might include role-plays, discussions, text ordering, speaking games, and problem-solving activities.

Some Different Approaches, Methods & Techniques

The audiolingual approach.

The Audiolingual Approach is based on a structuralist view of language and draws on the psychology of behaviourism as the basis of its learning theory, employing stimulus and response.

Audio-lingual teaching uses a fairly mechanistic method that exposes learners to increasingly complex language grammatical structures by getting them to listen to the language and respond. It often involves memorising dialogues and there is no explicit teaching of grammar.

Techniques include listening and repeating, and oral drilling to achieve a high level of accuracy of language forms and patterns. At a later stage, teachers may use communicative activities.

CLIL - Content and Language Integrated Learning

CLIL is an approach that combines the learning of a specific subject matter with learning the target language. It becomes necessary for learners to engage with the language in order to fulfil the learning objectives. On a philosophical level, its proponents argue that it fosters intercultural understanding, meaningful language use, and the development of transferrable skills for use in the real world.

The method employs immersion in the target language, with the content and activities dictated by the subject being taught. Activities tend to integrate all four skills, with a mixture of task types that appeal to different learning styles.

Techniques involve reading subject-specific texts, listening to subject-based audio or audio-visual resources, discussions, and subject-related tasks.

CLT - Communicative Language Teaching   (The Communicative Approach)

CLT emphasises that the main purpose of language is communication, and that meaning is paramount. The goal of the Communicative Approach is to develop learners’ communicative competence across all four skills. It has been the dominant approach in mainstream language education for many decades.

Most methodologies use an amalgamation of a structural and a functional syllabus, with a relatively common consensus emerging concerning the order in which language elements should be taught. Language is generally contextualised, and communication is encouraged from the start. Native speaker input is seen as highly desirable, though not essential. Much teaching is learner-centred.

Techniques are an eclectic mix - with techniques often borrowed from a range of other approaches. Because of this, it is often criticised for a lack of robust theoretical underpinning. Specific activities and games are chosen for their perceived effectiveness in relation to the knowledge or skills being taught. Typical activities include physical games such as board races and running dictations, information exchange activities, role-plays – and any tasks and games that involve communication between learners.

DOGME is a humanistic communicative approach that focuses on conversational interactions where learners and the teacher work together on the development of knowledge and skills.

In terms of method, it generally eschews the use of textbooks and published materials in favour of real communication and the development of discourse-level skills. Language may be scaffolded by the teacher, with attention paid to emergent forms. Topics are chosen based on their relevance to the learners.

Techniques include conversational activities and exposure to the language through real-life texts, audio, and video materials.

Grammar Translation 

An approach to language study is generally used to prepare students for reading classical texts, notably Latin, in their original. It is thought that students benefit from learning about the ideas of classical thinkers, and from the rigour of rote learning and the application of grammatical rules.

The method commonly involves students learning grammar rules plus vocabulary lists based on the content of chosen texts. These are then applied to the written translation of texts from and into the target language. The teaching is usually done in the student’s native language. There is little emphasis on speaking, other than to recite sections of text.

Techniques include rote learning and drilling, translation activities, and recitation.

This approach is not really used in teaching Modern Foreign Languages but is still sometimes the basis for the teaching of classical languages such as Latin or Greek.

The Lexical Approach

An approach based on the notion that language comprises lexical units (chunks, collocations, and fixed phrases). Grammar is secondary and is acquired through learning these chunks.

The method focuses on learning sets of phrase-level, multi-word vocabulary and linguistic frames that can be manipulated by the learner using substitutions and adaptations. This can be done through adapting many standard EFL activities.

Techniques could include searching texts for lexical units, collocation matching games, lexical drills and chants, story-telling, role plays using fixed and semi-fixed expressions, activities with de-lexical verbs and examining concordances.

The Natural Approach

An approach to language learning that seeks to mirror how we learn our first language.

Methods focus on the possibility of ‘acquiring’ a second language rather than having to learn it artificially. Teaching is by a native-speaker teacher; the syllabus mirrors the order in which we acquire our first language; there is an initial ‘silent phase’ when the learner assimilates aspects of the language, before moving on to producing it. Errors are seen as important attempts to form and use appropriate rules.

Techniques focus on meaningful interactions and may include listening and following instructions; ordering activities; memory games; miming activities; and describing and guessing games.

The Silent Way

The Silent way sees the process of learning a second language as a cognitive task, with learners as intelligent autonomous individuals, who can infer language use from well-structured input.

The methodology employs a graded structural syllabus, with the elements of language presented in a deliberately artificial way, using teaching aids such as charts and Cuisenaire rods.

Techniques involve, for example, mapping individual sounds and sequences onto the colours or physical characteristics of the teaching aids, and then having students infer rules based on recognising the systematic similarities and differences in the input material.

Situational Language Teaching (SLT)

This approach views language as a purposeful means of achieving goals in real-life situations.

The method employs oral practice of sentence patterns and structures related to these specific situations. It often uses props and realia in practice activities.

Techniques include drills, repetition and substitution activities, spoken dialogues, and situational role-plays. Oral practice aims towards accuracy and mastery of the situational language, moving at a later stage to the other three skills.

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Effective Teaching Methods in Higher Education: Requirements and Barriers

Nahid shirani bidabadi.

1 Psychology and Educational Sciences School, University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran;


Amir rouhollahi.

2 Department of English, Management and Information School, Isfahan University of Medical Science, Isfahan, Iran;


3 Quality Improvement in Clinical Education Research Center, Education Development Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran


Teaching is one of the main components in educational planning which is a key factor in conducting educational plans. Despite the importance of good teaching, the outcomes are far from ideal. The present qualitative study aimed to investigate effective teaching in higher education in Iran based on the experiences of best professors in the country and the best local professors of Isfahan University of Technology.

This qualitative content analysis study was conducted through purposeful sampling. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten faculty members (3 of them from the best professors in the country and 7 from the best local professors). Content analysis was performed by MAXQDA software. The codes, categories and themes were explored through an inductive process that began from semantic units or direct quotations to general themes.

According to the results of this study, the best teaching approach is the mixed method (student-centered together with teacher-centered) plus educational planning and previous readiness. But whenever the teachers can teach using this method confront with some barriers and requirements; some of these requirements are prerequisite in professors' behavior and some of these are prerequisite in professors’ outlook. Also, there are some major barriers, some of which are associated with the professors’ operation and others are related to laws and regulations. Implications of these findings for teachers’ preparation in education are discussed.


In the present study, it was illustrated that a good teaching method helps the students to question their preconceptions, and motivates them to learn, by putting them in a situation in which they come to see themselves as the authors of answers, as the agents of responsibility for change. But training through this method has some barriers and requirements. To have an effective teaching; the faculty members of the universities should be awarded of these barriers and requirements as a way to improve teaching quality. The nationally and locally recognized professors are good leaders in providing ideas, insight, and the best strategies to educators who are passionate for effective teaching in the higher education. Finally, it is supposed that there is an important role for nationally and locally recognized professors in higher education to become more involved in the regulation of teaching rules.


Rapid changes of modern world have caused the Higher Education System to face a great variety of challenges. Therefore, training more eager, thoughtful individuals in interdisciplinary fields is required ( 1 ). Thus, research and exploration to figure out useful and effective teaching and learning methods are one of the most important necessities of educational systems ( 2 ); Professors have a determining role in training such people in the mentioned field ( 3 ). A university is a place where new ideas germinate; roots strike and grow tall and sturdy. It is a unique space, which covers the entire universe of knowledge. It is a place where creative minds converge, interact with each other and construct visions of new realities. Established notions of truth are challenged in the pursuit of knowledge. To be able to do all this, getting help from experienced teachers can be very useful and effective.

Given the education quality, attention to students’ education as a main product that is expected from education quality system is of much greater demand in comparison to the past. There has always been emphasis on equal attention to research and teaching quality and establishing a bond between these two before making any decision; however, studies show that the already given attention to research in universities does not meet the educational quality requirements.

Attention to this task in higher education is considered as a major one, so in their instruction, educators must pay attention to learners and learning approach; along with these two factors, the educators should move forward to attain new teaching approaches. In the traditional system, instruction was teacher-centered and the students’ needs and interests were not considered. This is when students’ instruction must change into a method in which their needs are considered and as a result of the mentioned method active behavior change occurs in them ( 4 ). Moreover, a large number of graduated students especially bachelor holders do not feel ready enough to work in their related fields ( 5 ). Being dissatisfied with the status quo at any academic institution and then making decision to improve it require much research and assistance from the experts and pioneers of that institute. Giving the aforementioned are necessary, especially in present community of Iran; it seems that no qualitative study has ever been carried out in this area drawing on in-depth reports of recognized university faculties; therefore, in the present study the new global student-centered methods are firstly studied and to explore the ideas of experienced university faculties, some class observations and interviews were done. Then, efficient teaching method and its barriers and requirements were investigated because the faculty ideas about teaching method could be itemized just through a qualitative study.

The study was conducted with a qualitative method using content analysis approach. The design is appropriate for this study because it allows the participants to describe their experiences focusing on factors that may improve the quality of teaching in their own words. Key participants in purposeful sampling consist of three nationally recognized professors introduced based on the criteria of Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (based on education, research, executive and cultural qualifications) and seven other locally recognized professors according to Isfahan University of Technology standards and students votes. The purposive sampling continued until the saturation was reached, i.e. no further information was obtained for the given concept. All the participants had a teaching experience of above 10 years ( Table 1 ). They were first identified and after making appointments, they were briefed about the purpose of the study and they expressed their consent for the interview to be performed. The lack of female nationally recognized professors among respondents (due to lack of them) are restrictions of this research.

The participants’ characteristics

The data were collected using semi-structured in-depth interviews. Interviews began with general topics, such as “Talk about your experiences in effective teaching” and then the participants were asked to describe their perceptions of their expertise. Probing questions were also used to deeply explore conditions, processes, and other factors that the participants recognized as significant. The interview process was largely dependent on the questions that arose in the interaction between the interviewer and interviewees.

In the process of the study, informed consent was obtained from all the participants and they were ensured of the anonymity of their responses and that the audio files will be removed after use; then, after obtaining permission from the participants, the interview was recorded and transcribed verbatim immediately. The interviews were conducted in a private and quiet place and in convenient time. Then, verification of documents and coordination for subsequent interviews were done. The interviews lasted for one hour on average and each interview was conducted in one session with the interviewer’s notes or memos and field notes. Another method of data collection in this study was an unstructured observation in the educational setting. The investigator observed the method of interactions among faculty members and students. The interviews were conducted from November 2014 to April 2015. Each participant was interviewed for one or two sessions. The mean duration of the interviews was 60 minutes. To analyze the data, we used MAXQDA software (version 10, package series) for indexing and charting. Also, we used qualitative content analysis with a conventional approach to analyze the data. The data of the study were directly collected from the experiences of the study participants. The codes, categories and themes were explored through an inductive process, in which the researchers moved from specific to general. The consequently formulated concepts or categories were representative of the participants’ experiences. In content analysis at first, semantic units should be specified, and then the related codes should be extracted and categorized based on their similarities. Finally, in the case of having a high degree of abstraction, the themes can be determined. In the conventional approach, the use of predetermined classes is avoided and classes and their names are allowed to directly come out of the data. To do so, we read the manuscripts and listened to the recorded data for several times until an overall sense was attained. Then, the manuscript was read word by word and the codes were extracted. At the same time, the interviews were continued with other participants and coding of the texts was continued and sub-codes were categorized within the general topics. Then, the codes were classified in categories based on their similarities ( 6 ). Finally, by providing a comprehensive description about the topics, participants, data collection and analysis procedures and limitations of the study, we intend to create transferability so that other researchers clearly follow the research process taken by the researchers.

To improve the accuracy and the rigor of the findings, Lincoln and Cuba’s criteria, including credibility, dependability, conformability, and transferability, were used ( 7 ). To ensure the accuracy of the data, peer review, the researchers’ acceptability, and the long and continuing evaluation through in-depth, prolonged, and repeated interviews and the colleague’s comments must be used ( 8 ). In addition, the findings were repeatedly assessed and checked by supervisors (expert checking) ( 9 ). In this research, the researcher tried to increase the credibility of the data by keeping prolonged engagement in the process of data collection. Then, the accuracy of data analysis was confirmed by one specialist in the field of qualitative research and original codes were checked by some participants to compare the findings with the participants’ experiences. To increase the dependability and conformability of data, maximum variation was observed in the sampling. In addition, to increase the power of data transferability, adequate description of the data was provided in the study for critical review of the findings by other researchers.

Ethical considerations

The aim of the research and interview method was explained to the participants and in the process of the study, informed consent was obtained from all the participants and they were ensured of the anonymity of their responses and that audio files were removed after use. Informed consent for interview and its recording was obtained.

The mean age of faculty members in this study was 54.8 years and all of them were married. According to the results of the study, the best teaching approach was the mixed method one (student-centered with teacher-centered) plus educational planning and previous readiness. Meaning units expressed by professors were divided into 19 codes, 4 categories and 2 themes. In the present study, regarding the Effective Teaching Method in Higher Education, Requirements and Barriers, the experiences and perceptions of general practitioners were explored. As presented in Table 2 , according to data analysis, two themes containing several major categories and codes were extracted. Each code and category is described in more details below.

Examples of extracting codes, categories and themes from raw data

New teaching methods and barriers to the use of these methods

Teachers participating in this study believed that teaching and learning in higher education is a shared process, with responsibilities on both student and teacher to contribute to their success. Within this shared process, higher education must engage the students in questioning their preconceived ideas and their models of how the world works, so that they can reach a higher level of understanding. But students are not always equipped with this challenge, nor are all of them driven by a desire to understand and apply knowledge, but all too often aspire merely to survive the course, or to learn only procedurally in order to get the highest possible marks before rapidly moving on to the next subject. The best teaching helps the students to question their preconceptions, and motivates them to learn, by putting them in a situation in which their existing model does not work and in which they come to see themselves as authors of answers, as agents of responsibility for change. That means, the students need to be faced with problems which they think are important. Also, they believed that most of the developed countries are attempting to use new teaching methods, such as student-centered active methods, problem-based and project-based approaches in education. For example, the faculty number 3 said:

“In a project called EPS (European Project Semester), students come together and work on interdisciplinary issues in international teams. It is a very interesting technique to arouse interest, motivate students, and enhance their skills (Faculty member No. 3).”

The faculty number 8 noted another project-based teaching method that is used nowadays especially to promote education in software engineering and informatics is FLOSS (Free/Liber Open Source Software). In recent years, this project was used to empower the students. They will be allowed to accept the roles in a project and, therefore, deeply engage in the process of software development.

In Iran, many studies have been conducted about new teaching methods. For example, studies by Momeni Danaie ( 10 ), Noroozi ( 11 ), and Zarshenas ( 12 ), have shown various required methods of teaching. They have also concluded that pure lecture, regardless of any feedback ensuring the students learning, have lost their effectiveness. The problem-oriented approach in addition to improving communication skills among students not only increased development of critical thinking but also promoted study skills and an interest in their learning ( 12 ).

In this study, the professors noted that there are some barriers to effective teaching that are mentioned below:

As to the use of new methods of training such as problem-based methods or project-based approach, faculty members No. 4 and 9 remarked that "The need for student-centered teaching is obvious but for some reasons, such as the requirement in the teaching curriculum and the large volume of materials and resources, using these methods is not feasible completely" (Faculty member No. 9).

"If at least in the form of teacher evaluation, some questions were allocated to the use of project-based and problem-based approaches, teachers would try to use them further" (Faculty member No. 2).

The faculty members No. 6 and 7 believed that the lack of motivation in students and the lack of access to educational assistants are considered the reasons for neglecting these methods.

"I think one of the ways that can make student-centered education possible is employing educational assistants (Faculty member No. 6).”

"If each professor could attend crowded classes with two or three assistants, they could divide the class into some groups and assign more practical teamwork while they were carefully supervised (Faculty member No. 7).”

Requirements related to faculty outlook in an effective teaching

Having a successful and effective teaching that creates long-term learning on the part of the students will require certain feelings and attitudes of the teachers. These attitudes and emotions strongly influence their behavior and teaching. In this section, the attitudes of successful teachers are discussed.

Coordination with the overall organizational strategies will allow the educational system to move toward special opportunities for innovation based on the guidelines ( 13 ). The participants, 4, 3, 5 and 8 know that teaching effectively makes sense if the efforts of the professors are aligned with the goals of university.

"If faculty members know themselves as an inseparable part of the university, and proud of their employment in the university and try to promote the aim of training educated people with a high level of scientific expertise of university, it will become their goal, too. Thus, they will try as much as possible to attain this goal" (Faculty member No.9).

When a person begins to learn, according to the value of hope theory, he must feel this is an important learning and believe that he will succeed. Since the feeling of being successful will encourage individuals to learn, you should know that teachers have an important role in this sense ( 14 ). The interviewees’ number 1, 2, 3 and 10 considered factors like interest in youth, trust in ability and respect, as motivating factors for students.

Masters 7 and 8 signified that a master had a holistic and systematic view, determined the position of the teaching subject in a field or in the entire course, know general application of issues and determines them for students, and try to teach interdisciplinary topics. Interviewee No. 5 believed that: "Masters should be aware of the fact that these students are the future of the country and in addition to knowledge, they should provide them with the right attitude and vision" (Faculty member No.5).

Participants No. 2, 4 and 8 considered the faculty members’ passion to teach a lesson as responsible and believed that: "If the a teacher is interested in his field, he/she devotes more time to study the scriptures of his field and regularly updates his information; this awareness in his teaching and its influence on students is also very effective" (Faculty member No. 8).

Requirements related to the behavior and performance of faculty members in effective teaching

Teachers have to focus on mental differences, interest, and sense of belonging, emotional stability, practical experience and scientific level of students in training. Class curriculum planning includes preparation, effective transition of content, and the use of learning and evaluating teaching ( 15 ).

Given the current study subjects’ ideas, the following functional requirements for successful teaching in higher education can be proposed.

According to Choi and Pucker, the most important role of teachers is planning and controlling the educational process for students to be able to achieve a comprehensive learning ( 16 ).

"The fact that many teachers don’t have a predetermined plan on how to teach, and just collect what they should teach in a meeting is one reason for the lack of creativity in teaching" Faculty member No.4).

Klug and colleagues in an article entitled “teaching and learning in education” raise some questions and want the faculty members to ask themselves these questions regularly.

1- How to increase the students' motivation.

2- How to help students feel confident in solving problems.

3- How to teach students to plan their learning activities.

4- How to help them to carry out self-assessment at the end of each lesson.

5- How to encourage the students to motivate them for future work.

6- How I can give feedback to the students and inform them about their individual learning ( 14 ).

Every five faculty members who were interviewed cited the need to explain the lessons in plain language, give feedback to students, and explain the causes and reasons of issues.

"I always pay attention to my role as a model with regular self-assessment; I'm trying to teach this main issue to my students" (Faculty member No. 9).

Improving the quality of learning through the promotion of education, using pre-organizers and conceptual map, emphasizing the student-centered learning and developing the skills needed for employment are the strategies outlined in lifelong learning, particularly in higher education ( 17 ).

"I always give a five to ten-minute summary of the last topic to students at first; if possible, I build up the new lesson upon the previous one" (Faculty member No. 4).

The belief that creative talent is universal and it will be strengthened with appropriate programs is a piece of evidence to prove that innovative features of the programs should be attended to continually ( 18 ). Certainly, in addition to the enumerated powers, appropriate fields should be provided to design new ideas with confidence and purposeful orientation. Otherwise, in the absence of favorable conditions and lack of proper motivations, it will be difficult to apply new ideas ( 19 ). Teacher’s No. 3, 5 and 7 emphasized encouraging the students for creativity: "I always encourage the students to be creative when I teach a topic; for example, after teaching, I express some vague hints and undiscovered issues and ask them what the second move is to improve that process" (Faculty member No.3).

Senior instructors try to engage in self-management and consultation, tracking their usage of classroom management skills and developing action plans to modify their practices based on data. Through consultation, instructors work with their colleagues to collect and implement data to gauge the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and then use protocols to turn the weaknesses into strengths. The most effective teachers monitor progress and assess how their changed practices have impacted the students’ outcomes ( 20 ).

"It is important that what is taught be relevant to the students' career; however, in the future with the same information they have learned in university, they want to work in the industry of their country" (Faculty member No.1).

Skills in documenting the results of the process of teaching-learning cannot only facilitate management in terms of studying the records, but also provides easier access to up to date information ( 21 ). Faculty members No. 7 and 3 stressed the need for documenting learning experiences by faculty.

"I have a notebook in my office that I usually refer to after each class. Then, I write down every successful strategy that was highly regarded by students that day" (Faculty member No.3).

Developing a satisfactory interaction with students

To connect with students and impact their lives personally and professionally, teachers must be student-centered and demonstrate respect for their background, ideologies, beliefs, and learning styles. The best instructors use differentiated instruction, display cultural sensitivity, accentuate open communication, offer positive feedback on the students’ academic performance ( 20 ), and foster student growth by allowing them to resubmit assignments prior to assigning a grade ( 22 ).

"I pay attention to every single student in my class and every time when I see a student in class is not focused on a few consecutive sessions, I ask about his lack of focus and I help him solve his problem" (Faculty member No. 5).

The limitation in this research was little access to other nationally recognized university faculty members; also their tight schedule was among other limitations in this study that kept us several times from interviewing such faculties. To overcome such a problem, they were briefed about the importance of this study and then some appointments were set with them.

This study revealed the effective teaching methods, requirements and barriers in Iranian Higher Education. Teachers participating in this study believed that teaching and learning in higher education is a shared process, with responsibilities on both student and teacher to contribute to their success. Within this shared process, higher education must engage the students in questioning their preconceived ideas and their models of how the world works, so that they can reach a higher level of understanding. They believed that to grow successful people to deal with the challenges in evolving the society, most developed countries are attempting to use new teaching methods in higher education. All these methods are student-centered and are the result of pivotal projects. Research conducted by Momeni Danaei and colleagues also showed that using a combination of various teaching methods together will lead to more effective learning while implementing just one teaching model cannot effectively promote learning ( 10 ). However, based on the faculty member’s experiences, effective teaching methods in higher education have some requirements and barriers.

In this study, barriers according to codes were divided two major categories: professor-related barriers and regulation-related ones; for these reasons, the complete use of these methods is not possible. However, teachers who are aware of the necessity of engaging the student for a better understanding of their content try to use this method as a combination that is class speech presentation and involving students in teaching and learning. This result is consistent with the research findings of Momeni Danaei and colleagues ( 10 ), Zarshenas et al. ( 12 ) and Noroozi ( 11 ).

Using student-centered methods in higher education needs some requirements that according to faculty members who were interviewed, and according to the codes, such requirements for effective teaching can be divided into two categories: First, things to exist in the outlook of faculties about the students and faculties' responsibility towards them, to guide them towards effective teaching methods, the most important of which are adaptation to the organizational strategies, interest in the students and trust in their abilities, systemic approach in higher education, and interest in their discipline.

Second, the necessary requirements should exist in the faculties’ behavior to make their teaching methods more effective. This category emerged from some codes, including having lesson plan; using appropriate educational strategies and metacognition training and self-assessment of students during teaching; using concept and pre-organizer maps in training, knowledge; and explaining how to resolve problems in professional career through teaching discussion, documenting of experience and having satisfactory interaction with the students. This result is consistent with the findings of Klug et al., Byun et al., and Khanyfr et al. ( 14 , 17 , 18 ).

In addition and according to the results, we can conclude that a major challenge for universities, especially at a time of resource constraints, is to organize teaching so as to maximize learning effectiveness. As mentioned earlier, a major barrier to change is the fact that most faculty members are not trained for their teaching role and are largely ignorant of the research literature on effective pedagogy. These findings are in agreement with the research of Knapper, indicating that the best ideas for effective teaching include: Teaching methods that focus on the students’ activity and task performance rather than just acquisition of facts; Opportunities for meaningful personal interaction between the students and teachers; Opportunities for collaborative team learning; More authentic methods of assessment that stress task performance in naturalistic situations, preferably including elements of peer and self-assessment; Making learning processes more explicit, and encouraging the students to reflect on the way they learn; Learning tasks that encourage integration of information and skills from different fields ( 23 ).

In the present study, it was illustrated that a good teaching method helps the students to question their preconceptions, and motivates them to learn, by putting them in a situation in which they come to see themselves as the authors of answers and the agents of responsibility for change. But whenever the teachers can teach by this method, they are faced with some barriers and requirements. Some of these requirements are prerequisite of the professors' behavior and some of these are prerequisite of the professors’ outlook. Also, there are some major barriers some of which are associated with the professors’ behavior and others are related to laws and regulations. Therefore, to have an effective teaching, the faculty members of universities should be aware of these barriers and requirements as a way to improve the teaching quality.

Effective teaching also requires structural changes that can only be brought about by academic leaders. These changes include hiring practices reward structures that recognize the importance of teaching expertise, quality assurance approaches that measure learning processes, outcomes in a much more sophisticated way than routine methods, and changing the way of attaining university accreditation.

The nationally and locally recognized professors are good leaders in providing ideas, insight, and the best strategies to educators who are passionate for effective teaching in the higher education. Finally, it is supposed that there is an important role for nationally and locally recognized professors in higher education to become more involved in the regulation of teaching rules. This will help other university teachers to be familiar with effective teaching and learning procedures. Therefore, curriculum planners and faculty members can improve their teaching methods.


The authors would like to thank all research participants of Isfahan University of Technology (faculties) who contributed to this study and spent their time to share their experiences through interviews.

Conflict of Interest: None declared.


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