What’s your (teaching) style?

Today, one of my year 12 students asked if I taught all my classes using different methods.

Serendipity right there as I was thinking of blogging about the different teaching styles (the term pedagogy gags a bit) I’ve been using with 3 of my classes. In fact, I’ve blogged about all of them already:

Project-based Learning (PBL) – Year 12 Information Processes and Technology

Inquiry-based Learning – Year 11 Information Processes and Technology

Games-based Learning – Year 9 Information and Software Technology

Apart from PBL, I’m a newbie to the other two styles and totally loving the whole experience. It feels good to try different ways of teaching and expanding my pedagogical (gag) repertoire. I do believe a diversity in approach keeps me interested and ditto for the students. A win-win in my books.

I have no preference as such, as each approach has its strengths. I think what makes them work in my meagre experience is that each one is all about the learning, fostered through a regular dose of feedback (teacher-student, student-teacher, student-student). It is a community built on relationships built through constant connection. All approaches focus on the instructional core: student, teacher, content – and the interactions thereof.

I do not see myself as an innovative educator – that really is  not my aim. I daresay I am a learning (vs learned) teacher, with an eclectic approach to teaching and learning. Yep, that’s my style. What about you?

I like this “doodle” by Giulia Forsythe. Though I don’t claim to to pursue innovative pedagogy, there are some interesting points here methinks.

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19 thoughts on “What’s your (teaching) style?

  1. Ed says:

    I think being a’ learning (vs learned) teacher, with an eclectic approach to teaching and learning’ IS being an innovative educator. It means you are always learning and open new to ideas and approaches… that’s innovative, in my book. FYI, inquiry is a pretty broad term. It includes PBL and probably games based learning too. The PYP defines inquiry as
    Inquiry, interpreted in the broadest sense, is the process initiated by the students or the teacher that moves
    the students from their current level of understanding to a new and deeper level of understanding. This can
    mean:
    • exploring, wondering and questioning
    • experimenting and playing with possibilities
    • making connections between previous learning and current learning
    • making predictions and acting purposefully to see what happens
    • collecting data and reporting findings
    • clarifying existing ideas and reappraising perceptions of events
    • deepening understanding through the application of a concept
    • making and testing theories
    • researching and seeking information
    • taking and defending a position
    • solving problems in a variety of ways.

    There’s more, but you get the idea. You ARE an inquiry teachers 🙂

    • malyn says:

      Oh wow. that is awesome Edna – I mean all the information regarding Inquiry and the positive support. Thank you.

  2. Cameron says:

    Thanks for this post Malyn. Can I ask you to think carefully about your choice of the word ‘styles’. A teaching ‘style’ implies that anything goes. This is one of the major problems confronting education. There is now a sound body of knowledge which supports effective teaching ‘practices’. A profession has accepted practices. We would not accept a pilot landing a plane a certain way because it was their style (or architect, doctor, etc). Neither should we accept teachers excusing something as just my ‘style’. Is teaching a profession still in search of a practice?

    • Andrew says:

      Cameron, I’m curious about your analogy. You seem to be referring to procedures in other profession for scenarios with relatively defined parameters (ie. landing a plane). In fact some of the commentary from those at Boeing alludes to the fact the the whole process could be automated – 757 & 767’s for example require very little hands on flying. I don’t think you are inferring the same of teaching. Does not the highly variable nature of who your students are (not to mention who you are as a teacher) demand a flexibility in approach (strategies employed), or do you see that as no more complex than weather in your landing a plan comparison? I think in reading the post that Malyn is talking about strategies more so that style anyway, so it may be a question of semantics – as you said, choice of words. I’m personally not adverse to the word style as I think it acknowledges the humanity in the equation.`

      • Cameron says:

        Hi Andrew, no I don’t think teaching can be automated, but I have a problem with the use of the expression teaching ‘style’ as it implies that anything can be justified without regard to a professional body if knowledge. I prefer ‘practice’, or yes ‘straegies’ as you suggest. Teaching is not an art or a science, it is both.

        • Andrew says:

          Perhaps we are a little loose with the terms we throw around at times. I agree there is definitely a degree of science and art to teaching. A professional body of knowledge is obviously a starting point, but ultimately how that knowledge is applied, and the skills surrounding such are as important. I reflect on tertiary level academics who are masters of their domain but rather poor teachers (or simply communicators). As you said it is the meeting of both that matters.

          I personally find all this alphabet soup of ‘practises’ interesting. I see value in frames but I think there needs to be a degree of care in assessing fit for purpose. I get a sense that this is partially what you were trying to illuminate when being (hopeful) ironic about your style. I know in talking to Malyn that she is fluid and reflective in her practise which has been a positive example for my own learning, and as I said the sharing and surrounding discussion is always valuable.

      • malyn says:

        Thanks Andrew for all the kind words and also for chipping into the discussion.

        I eventually looked up the definitions of the terms:
        style – a manner of doing something
        practice – application of an idea
        strategy – a plan of action designed to achieve a vision

        With these definitions, I think “practice” would have been a better word choice. But then again, if I did use it, none of these discussions may have come up and so I’m glad I used “style” in the first place.

        There are certainly plenty of ideas out there regarding peda(gag)y – humour me! Ideas or strategies applied, hopefully with discernment, comprise teaching practice. Again humour me, my “style” is to have a go, evaluate/ reflect, have another go, evaluate, etc.

        Cameron, I am glad you concur that reflective practice is good and as Andrew mentioned, my blog serves as a platform for reflection. That people like you two comment makes it a collaborative piece which accelerates my learning versus if I were to do it alone – on a private journal, say, or when people don’t comment.

  3. Ed says:

    Landing a plane is about precision. I don’t think style in teaching implies that anything goes. I know some excellent teachers who take the profession very seriously, are constantly learning and sharing excellent practice… But whose teaching is different because they have different styles. We plan units collaboratively, according to the PYP guidelines, but every teacher interprets it in their own style.. Or whatever word is appropriate 🙂

  4. Cameron says:

    My style is a little different then. My style is to drill kids in multiple-choice tests so that they do well in Naplan. I also use lots of worksheets and I lecture from a podium at the front of the room. I can see some kids putting their heads on their desks when I speak, but that’s just because they don’t fit my style.

    • malyn says:

      Thanks Cameron and Edna for taking this further.

      I’ve got to say I used ‘style’ almost in a flippant way….and wrapped it up with “eclectic” which really is usually aligned with design styles rather than pedagogy.

      I entered the teaching practice seemingly at a time where there’s a boom of different practices. Gone is the one I grew up with – “chalk and talk” – which, believe it or not, my year 12s now want me to do because they want me to do a brain dump leading up to the HSC. I know Cameron that what you say is your style is not it at all – otherwise, why would your focus this year be “feedback”. I very nearly pinged you because I wanted to affirm your vision regarding the importance of feedback. Call it practice, pedagogy or even style – what matters is the instructional core and how the components are woven….or am I wrong there?

  5. Cameron says:

    I’m enjoying the debate with two of my fav educators. Yes Malyn I agree with the focus on the instructional core, but there is a bigger question that has been raised here. Can anyone teach? Or do you/we need particular skills? Is teaching a profession?

    • malyn says:

      I should say that: I am enjoying the debate with two of my favourite inspiring educators. Yes I added “inspiring”.

      I do think teaching is a profession and a vocation. We need particular skills, for sure. I am constantly reminded of where I am lacking when I’m at the coalface. My saving grace is that my focus is always on learning and people – the instructional core.

      I did not ever think I was a born teacher but I’ve always believed that we can learn anything – varying degrees of quality due to many many variables. So, can anyone teach? I guess so.

      Perhaps the question then is – what particular skills are needed and how can we best develop those?

    • Andrew says:

      As someone new to the profession it is interesting to reflect on the qualities of an effective teacher. Enjoying the banter here. I think the fact that Malyn is writing this very post (and commentary) embodies many of the qualities of a reflective practitioner. Especially opening herself up to others thoughts and views. I know the sharing process only strengthens my own understanding.

  6. Ed says:

    Ok, Cameron, you win on the choice of word ‘style’ if what you described can then be classified as a style. You made me laugh!
    Anyone can teach, it’s just that lots of people do it badly. It doesn’t seem to be related to qualifications. I know terrible teachers with lots of degrees and I know people with no training who just seem to get it instinctively. I know who I’d rather have working at my school or teaching my kids.

  7. Simon Harper says:

    I feel that my teaching style actually changes depending on the class and the day. At the start of the class it is teacher centred and like gears in a car it changes to student centred and back again. Like you I have used different styles for different classes. Year 10 food tech is more game based with a dash of inquiry learning. Hospitality is more teacher driven with electronic workbooks and a restaurant proposal the students complete over three terms. I teach Hospitality this way due to the vocational nature of the course. My approaches are changing due to wonderful ideas and approaches comi g from edmodo and twitter.

    • malyn says:

      Welcome to the conversation Simon!

      I’m with you in a diversified approach – rethinking the word ‘style’ now as it seems to irk some, not just Cameron as above. 🙂

      I think the more “styles” our students are exposed to, the more opportunities they have to learn to learn as they would have to adapt accordingly. The onus is not on one teacher though; we should all be doing things differently as suits the instructional core.

  8. Denise says:

    Hi Malyn… and other commentators! What a great read. To me, it is semantics (eg style, practice, preference, strategy), because to follow the richness of the educational discourse on this page is to be invigorated and excited about what teaching means for me. I love ‘listening’ to teachers speak passionately about their craft/profession/vocation.
    I count myself really lucky that in my first year as a teacher, I had 5 Year 9 English classes – three were “remedial” and two “regular”. Without any prior experience ( and no one to prejudice my thinking), I believed all my students could learn the same sorts of things, I just had to adjust my strategies/style/practice/approach depending on the nature of the kids in the room… so early on, it was about the kids and their learning and their potential. In hindsight, I guess what I did was tailor my “approach” to the “conditions” in front of me (to belabour the plane analogy). And teaching the same course period after period, 5 days a week actually gave me the opportunity to reflect from lesson to lesson, day to day how to tweak and make it better.
    So Malyn, I love your post and the comments that follow. Over time, I’ve been to heaps of courses, studied, read, watched. My bag of tricks, my knowledge of what constitutes ‘best practice’ and skill have grown – thankfully! with time – but I think my “style” like yours is to always put the kids and their learning at the centre, and reflect/evaluate constantly. Being a reflective practitioner for me means I never think I have it all sorted, or that my way is best. One of the reasons I am loving the connections through Twitter/blogs out there as it just keeps exposing me to the great work of others that in turn continues to inspire and refine my practice.(And in terms of what is currently ‘out there’ am loving pbl, instructional rounds and the notion of flipped Blooms). Thanks!

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