Teaching Styles

As I was preparing to write about teaching styles, I was thinking about how homeschoolers teach and wondering what kind of information would be useful. After a bit of research, I found that regardless of which curriculum we use, we each have a method of teaching, a philosophy of education, a view of how and what our children should learn and a style that is unique to us. Thus, despite the fact that we teach in a different environment than most teachers, the classical definitions and information about teaching styles are still relevant.

Reading about the various styles, made me think about my teaching style and I realized it varies from subject to subject, child to child, as well as environment and audience. As you look at some of the definitions and styles below, remember, your style will and should vary and it may not always be the best one for your child. You may have to adapt to another style. Hopefully by learning the different methods that can be employed in teaching, we can become more competent and flexible teachers.

One of the sites I found on learning discusses five different styles of teaching.

  • Direct Instruction
  • Indirect Instruction
  • Discussion
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Self-Directed Learning

These styles deal with the way we interact with our students. Do we lecture (direct instruction), do we give some information then expect the student to continue the process (indirect method), do we discuss or allow discussion to occur, do we let our children work together to research and explore a subject, or do we allow self-directed learning where the student researches and learns on his own? Hopefully, to allow the most benefit to our child/children, we use a combination of styles, evaluate their effectiveness, and make changes as needed. It’s also important to remember that what works for one subject or one child may not work as well for other subjects or children.

Teaching Style/Learning Hierarchy

One school of thought in learning is Blooms Hierarchy of Learning. Bloom breaks learning into three domains: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Each of these domains addresses a different aspect of the child’s learning. While I believe we need to be teaching the ‘whole’ child, I will focus only on the intellectual/cognitive domain for now.

The Cognitive Domain deals with the way we take in and process information, our intellectual ability. Understanding these are critical to teaching style, because we want to make sure we are teaching so the child will develop in all of the following areas:

  • Knowledge – recall of data
  • Comprehension – understanding information
  • Application – applying knowledge to a new situation
  • Analysis – separates information into parts for better understanding
  • Synthesis – builds a pattern from diverse elements
  • Evaluation – judges the value of information

Your child can develop all these abilities from your teaching with any of the styles listed above, but some are more conducive than others towards the various intellectual abilities. As you use the direct method of teaching, lecturing and informing the student, he/she will learn to recall and understand. With the indirect method, you will be helping them apply knowledge they have to new situations. By discussing and working in cooperative groups, they learn to analyze information, and come up with questions, independent thoughts and ideas (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). Through self-directed learning they learn to put all of their learning abilities to use in a constructive manner.

Off subject a bit, but relevant…

When I was taking classes on education at FSU and UNC Charlotte, one thing that was discussed was the value of teaching children to think. One professor lectured that when we teach children to answer questions, fill in the blanks, and succeed in tests, we are teaching them to answer questions, fill in blanks, and be good test takers, but we are not teaching them to think. After the class, it was interesting listening to the students comments on the lecture, most were ‘what in the world was he talking about.’ As homeschool parents, we have the unique opportunity and responsibility to make sure we are raising thinkers, not just children who know how to give the right answer.

The other thing I heard discussed was the lack of writing assignments given to a child. There is a quote I like, though I’m not sure who it is by, that says ‘When I write, I learn.’ I think this is true, but there is more to it. Writing makes a student formulate ideas, think through and logically order information, it helps them remember what they have learned, and can do much more if the student is challenged to write a variety of types of writing. Writing can take us from the lowest form of learning, the basic knowledge about a subject, to understanding, applying, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. It can do this because it requires thinking about the subject and coming up with ways to express oneself. But, what if your child hates to write?

Homeschooling offers many answers for this too. Since we have so few to teach, we can take time to listen and discuss issues, topics, subjects and so on, with each of our children individually or in a group. Computers offer the ability to write without having to use a pen to do so, and tape recorders can be used to tape thoughts and ideas when we don’t have time to sit and listen at the moment. The idea here is to get the child to think about what he is learning, to be able to express him/herself in a logical, concise manner, to be able to rationalize their thought process, and to push them into deeper thinking skills and abilities.

Take some time to reflect on how you teach – your teaching style.  Is it working for you and your student?  Being aware of how our teaching styles effect our students, setting goals for different types of learning to take place, along with learning and trying new teaching styles can help us become more competent teachers.  As we learn what works and doesn’t work with our children, we will be better enabled to help them in their quest for knowledge.

By Tami Munden

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