BTR-TESOL Unit 4F - Teaching Styles



objectives of this unit

the least you should know

different teaching styles

adjusting styles

cultural impact

comprehension questions

video example

reflection and responses

where to go to learn more

connections to other units in this program

online and other electronic resources

print and paper based resources

additional references



Different teachers (especially teachers from different cultural backgrounds) employ different styles of teaching. When students are used to one teaching style and their teacher uses a different one, the result can be confusion, dissatisfaction, or other problems. Unfortunately, problems of this nature occur more often than they should in ESL/EFL classes, in which teachers and students frequently come from different cultural and teaching style backgrounds. This unit will help you avoid such problems by developing your awareness of different teaching styles and how they differ from one culture to another.

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Mike, whose only teaching experience was teaching his Sunday School Lesson in the United States, taught English in Thailand. He was very excited and prepared great lessons and activities based on what he had experienced and had been taught. After teaching his class for several weeks he became very discouraged with the lack of participation and improvement of his students. Likewise the students began to complain about the class and that they were not learning anything. The students were not used to the teaching method Mike used and felt it wasn’t worth their time. One student had this comment -"I do not understand this teacher, we play games too much we don’t have instruction.” Many other students also felt like they were just playing vocabulary games. Even the administration began to notice the problems and was frustrated with Mike because the student’s parents complained about the lack of learning and direct instruction. Clearly there was a gap between how Mike taught the class and how his students were used to learning the English language.

What would you do in this situation?

What is your teaching style?

How would you go about changing your teaching style to meet the needs of your class?

How does culture play a role in our teaching styles?

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Objectives of this unit

Do you remember how your teachers in high school taught you? Did they all use the same format for teaching? Of course not all teaching done is the same way. There are several things that play a role in how a person teaches. A few of these influences on how you teach include: your personality, your own personal learning experiences, your cultural background, the objectives or rules of the program in which you teach, and many other factors. Some differences play a larger role especially that of culture in language teaching. When a student has a particular learning style that is culturally based and unfamiliar with a teacher’s particular style, problems in the classroom can take place.

In order to help you avoid or deal with this problem this unit will help you, as a teacher…

➢ Become aware of different types of teaching styles

➢ Develop an awareness of culture on teaching styles

➢ Learn techniques to help you adjust your teaching styles to your cultural environment

If you learn well, your teaching style will be adaptable to your surroundings while teaching in different cultures and situations. 

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The least you should know

1. Know the differences in teaching styles

Understanding the differences in teaching styles is very important to being able to use different styles and combinations in your classroom. Like every individual personality that different teachers have they bring with them their own unique nature of teaching to the classroom. However teaching style is much more then just the teacher’s personality, it also entails several other important elements. To help understand some of the major aspects of different important categories of teaching styles, here are some definitions and examples.  

teaching styles table

What you need to know: Recap

One teaching style is not better then another. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Many teachers use an integrated approach that highlights several characteristics of these teaching styles. These are best used in conjunction with the learning styles of the students but remember each student is different even with in a specific culture. The learning style of the student can negatively or positively affect the learning ability of the student. Also consider your own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher these will greatly influence how you teach. You will need to know your classroom and your own tendencies before you can begin to adjust. Please refer to the unit on student learning styles and cultural tendencies.  

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2. How do I adjust my teaching style?

1. Know yourself and how you teach

It is difficult to change if you don’t know what you are doing. It is important to remember that teaching style is more than just personality. It also includes classroom management, how information is presented to the students, how you interact with the students and others. By knowing your own tendencies you are better able to plan and adjust accordingly. Do some self-reflection after each lesson. Keep a teaching journal to chart some of your habits and reactions from the students.

Do you know your own style? Have you ever taught a class on any subject before? Even though you may or may not have had any training in teaching you have probably found yourself teaching someone something at one point or another in your life. Maybe it was in high school or maybe it was with a friend in a more laid-back environment. Regardless you have probably taught before. You may not have had a lot of experience in teaching a specific class the English language or if you have you found some struggles and are here to learn how to adapt. As mentioned before there are many influences on how you teach some which you may not even realize. Here are some ideas to help you identify what your tendencies are and what styles you might lean towards. Have you had a chance to take a self-analysis quiz? What did it say? Are you balanced between the different styles or more dominant with one style? Consider trying out one of the following style surveys




2. Get to know your students and how they learn

The majority of this section covers teaching style; however learning style also plays an important role. Please refer to the learning style section unit for more specific information. It is important to know where your students come from or their cultural background. This can be significant in identifying their learning style and what you as the teacher need to do to adjust so you are teaching to their strengths. However be careful of bias and overgeneralizations not all students from a specific culture behave exactly the same way. At the same time balance your awareness and practices to fit the needs of your students. It is a good idea to do a student analysis from time to time to get a feel for your classroom and how they are doing in relation to how you teach.

3. Be aware of the cultural tendencies of the country/school you are teaching in

Observe classrooms of native teachers in which you find yourself teaching. What are they doing? How do they adjust their lessons? Speak to the other teachers with more experience in the culture. What suggestions might they have? You do not need to follow everything someone else does, in fact you shouldn’t, but a good mentor can help a lot in adjusting your style and feel to the classroom. Discuss what the expectations of the administration are. What are their objectives? How do they see them being fulfilled? What do they see as good teaching? What are the restrictions? Some cultures have strict rules. Be very careful with respect to other cultures and refer to the unit on culture to learn more.

4. Use observation and self-reflection as tools for change

If you have access to video recording capabilities you should use them to video how you teach. From this you can monitor and see what you are doing in class. From there adjust your lesson plans and some of your habits. If you don’t have video capabilities consider asking a colleague to observe you. To help them with the observation have a check sheet of specifics you want them to watch for. For example: How many times did I answer my own question? How many different students were given a chance to speak? How long did I speak in class? Were the students engaged in the activities? Which students were not interactive? Etc. From this information you will have gained tools to help you understand what specific styles you are using and from there you can adjust and try other methods.  

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3. Cultural Impact on Teaching Styles.

The importance of knowing your students.

By knowing the students and their backgrounds, you have a better understanding of what the needs of the students might be. For example, when students in their own home education system are primarily taught using a more authority style they may be reluctant to participate in group or pair activities because of fear of making mistakes or because of the unfamiliarity with the procedures. Students like most people feel uncomfortable with the unknown. When learning a new language this is compounded because of the culture issues that one brings to the learning process.

Some cultural differences around the world

One researched cultural difference in learning and teaching styles is that of the East versus the West. The East is considered Asian countries where Confucius teaching has been prominent and the West is that of Europe, North and South America and their influences. A practical explanation in conjunction with teaching would be that while the West promotes interactive behavior and the teacher is more of a facilitator with a lot of group type activities the East is primarily teacher centered or authority based and the teacher is the center of knowledge. A student from an eastern country influences group-work because they feel their answers reflect on the entire group not just the individual and they are reluctant to ask questions or make mistakes that could reflect badly on others in their group. On the other hand in western teaching styles, teachers may believe they have classroom management issues because these eastern learning style students are reluctant to participate. This creates a misunderstanding between the student and their intentions versus what the teacher perceives and interprets about their actions and lack of participation.  

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Comprehension (and reflection) questions

  1. Which of these teaching styles sounds the most like you?
  2. Do you tend to talk most of the time in class?
  3. Do you focus on group work based on what was taught and allow the students to navigate their learning on their own?
  4. Are you more of a consultant to the students’ learning?

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Video examples

Coming Soon.

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Reflection and Responses

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Where to go to learn more

Now you know "the least you should know" about teaching styles and cross-cultural style differences. Here are some resources you can consult if you want to know more.

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Online and other electronic resources

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Print and paper-based resources

Language Learning Strategies: What Every Teacher Should Know by Rebecca Oxford 




Mastering the Techniques of Teaching by Joseph Lowman




Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy by Douglas Brown 




Teaching with Style by Anthony F. Grasha 




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Additional References

Coming Soon.

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