This is the first of a series of guest blog posts from members of my online ‘family’, my PLN. I am thrilled and honoured to have Marjorie Rosenberg write her reflections on this topic on my blog, Marjorie is an active and prominent member of the ELT community, teacher, teacher trainer, author, IATEFL BESIG coordinator, on the Membership Committee of IATEFL and regular participant and summary writer for #ELTchat. You can find out all about her on her About.me page and do make sure you visit her blog, Learner as Teacher where she posts her reflections. She is @MarjorieRosenbe on Twitter.
Teaching styles and lesson outcomes
A recent ELT chat dealt with the topic of teaching styles and how these affect the outcome of lessons. However, none of us were actually able to come up with a definition of what a teaching style is. Having worked with both learning and teaching styles for many years, I would say in general that a large part of what we would call a ‘teaching style’ reflects the personality of the teacher as well as the way they themselves like to learn.
There are many factors to take into account however. Some teachers become ‘friends’ with their students and others maintain a certain amount of distance. Many teachers make use of technology both in and out of the classroom while others are very low tech. There are teachers who write lexis and grammar examples on the board for their students while others prefer that their students listen carefully to them and make their own notes.
In my opinion, teachers tend to manage a classroom in order to create the type of atmosphere they themselves are most comfortable in. Teachers who put stock in friendliness and feel it is a motivating factor will most likely be the ones who enjoy laughter in the classroom and perhaps a more relaxed atmosphere. Those who feel that learning is hard work may expect a somewhat more regimented situation where students always raise their hands and are called on to speak.
Does teaching style matter?
The question that remains for me is if this makes a difference in the outcome of how well students learn. In my own experience, I found that I did not learn well when there was no encouragement to personalize or experiment with the language. I was not very good at memorizing so needed to find a way to relate to what I was learning. This has influenced my own teaching style considerably. When explaining grammar to students I make it as personal as possible and give them the chance to practice in a fun and relaxed atmosphere while backing up the practice with written explanations and guided self-study practice. This type of ‘methods mix’ hopefully reaches the large proportion of learners as I firmly believe that my learners need different sorts of input in order to make sense of the new language they are confronted with.
What if teacher & learner styles don’t match?
Another aspect of this topic, however, remains the match between teacher and learner. Anyone who has ever read through student evaluation forms is often surprised at the fact that what some learners find positive, others find negative. Student perceptions are unique to the individual and how much influence we educators have on them may be less than we think. I have often seen with my learners that some comment that there was too much class discussion and others that there was too little, and this was in the same class. Others say that they love hearing and telling stories and others would prefer more grammar drills. What this tells me as a reflective teacher is that using a variety of methods is still the best way to reach as many learners as possible. I also have to accept the fact that this may not work for all of my learners. Some of them may prefer a more traditional approach and feel that they learn better when lessons are structured and follow a course book. These are the learners who may decide to choose another course next time around which is certainly their prerogative.
So what’s the best way to go?
To sum up this blog post I would like to refer to a quote which came up this morning on Facebook and stated that ‘Effective teaching means that students love what we teach’. I feel however that effective teaching also means that we love what we teach. When we respect our students, accept their feedback and act on it when possible, remain flexible and open to new ideas, be honest with our learners and ourselves and simply enjoy what we are doing, a teaching style will most likely emerge which suits our image of ourselves and one which can help us to help our students with the outcomes they are hoping and working to achieve.
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Categories: Teacher Education