Anyone who has spent time in a classroom will agree that no two teachers are alike, and teachers will argue that their style of teaching is unique to themselves. Over the years, traditional teaching methods have evolved to take into account the learning needs of students. An effective teaching style engages and entertains students whilst helping them to process and retain important information. This blog looks to explore the different teaching styles that can be adopted and the effect they have on students. There are two key concepts that teaching theories can be categorised as: teacher-centred and student-centred.

Teacher-Centred Approach



In this approach, teachers are seen as the main authority figure. The student’s role is simply to learn through teacher-led lessons or lectures. Student success is then measured using tests and assessments. Direct Instruction is the primary teaching strategy when taking a teacher-centred approach.

Direct Instruction

This term is used to define traditional teaching. The idea behind Direct Instruction is that the only person who has the knowledge and information students need to succeed is the teacher. It is effective in teaching basic and fundamental skills across all content areas, but critics have noted that this teaching style is now old-fashioned and needs to be updated for the diverse 21st Century classroom. There are three teaching models within Direct Instruction:

  • Formal Authority - These teachers are the sole person of authority. They hold a higher status over students because they have a larger knowledge base. There will be a traditional style of classroom management focussing on rules and expectations.
  • Expert - The primary role of the Expert is to guide students through the learning process. They are seen as a figure of knowledge and expertise within the classroom. Students are, in essence, ‘empty vessels’ and they passively receive information via teacher-led lessons.
  • Personal Model - The teacher here leads by example. They demonstrate to students how to access and comprehend information. Students learn by watching what the teacher does and copying exactly how the teacher does it.

Student-Centred Approach

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Contrary to the teacher-centred style, this approach sees the student playing a more active role. The teacher is still seen as an authority figure but takes more of an advisory position, guiding the students down a specific learning path. Assessments are performed in a number of ways, employing both the formal measures mentioned above and informal methods such as group projects, coursework and class participation.  There are two teaching strategies in this approach – Inquiry-Based Learning and Cooperative Learning.

Inquiry-Based Learning

This strategy encourages students to be hands-on in their learning. The teacher provides support and advice to students, guiding them through the learning process but students are expected to play more of a participatory and active role in their own education. There are three teaching models that relate to Inquiry-Based Learning:

  • Facilitator - The emphasis here is placed on the teacher-student relationship. The teacher joins the student in the learning process and loosely guides the learner through work, which helps in fostering independent and exploratory learning.
  • Delegator - This is the most hands-off approach of all teaching methods. Here, the teacher plays a passive role in student’s learning whilst students are active and engaged participants. The teacher will explain what is expected and acts as a resource for the student, but ultimately the idea is to foster a sense of autonomy in the learning process.
  • Personal Model - This model differs slightly to the one explained under Direct Instruction, but the principle is pretty much the same – teachers lead by example and let students explore and experiment with new ideas. Students learn through observing and by doing this they can discover that making mistakes is also part of the learning process.

Cooperative Learning

This approach sees much of the work carried out by students working in groups. Cooperative Learning relies heavily on the concept of community, with the idea that students work and learn more efficiently when they are interacting with classmates. There are two models within Cooperative Learning:

  • Facilitator - The difference between this model and the Facilitator model explained above is that there is an even higher focus on group projects. This further increases independence and hands-on learning, but the student is able to work closely with their peers as opposed to alone or with a teacher.
  • Delegator - Again, there is a higher focus on group learning in this model with emphasis on promoting interaction between groups and peers to achieve learning objectives. Students are effectively in charge of their own learning and development.


Although entertaining students is not the job of a teacher, it’s very important that learners feel engaged with the study material and with the learning process.  Classrooms can hold such diverse sets of students that it would be very difficult to decide on a teaching method without taking into account the personalities of the class participants and your teaching preferences.

Teachers play multiple roles in the classroom, and it is important that your instructional style works well with the dynamics of the entire class.  Teaching styles have evolved dramatically over the years and it’s now more common to see teachers adopting a hybrid style of instruction, which helps teachers to tailor their styles to the students. It may be that certain subjects lend themselves more to different types of teaching, and the teacher will have to adapt their style within each subject.

Effective teaching methods will engage gifted students as well as those who may not perform as well in a learning environment. A balanced mix of the teaching methods mentioned in this post can help you to reach all students in an engrossing way, not just the few who respond well to one particular method. Knowing how your students learn will play a key role in how you develop and hone your own style. It is important to remember that although you may prefer one style over another, you are ultimately finding the style that works best for your students. Your primary objective is their success, so it is important to maintain a balance between your own preferences and the learning preferences of your students.