The Dynamic Teacher: Teacher Influences on the Classroom
Teachers are a dynamic that can make or break the classroom environment. Think back to some of your favorite teachers, not the ones who let you get away with everything, but the teachers who created a situation where you learned something. Just as we have preferences on our lives' relationships, distinct teaching styles have a lesser or more significant influence on us. With several theories surrounding teaching styles, we find that there are two broad categories they all fall under student-focused and teacher-focused styles. Choosing between these two types leads to significant differences in expectations, standards, and dynamics within a classroom. Student-focused approaches lead students to a deeper and more profound sense of learning (3). But before we dive into these approaches, let's dissect teacher-focused methods. Teacher-Focused Approaches (1) Expert Teacher This approach isn't for the elementary classroom. However, the student perception of an expert teacher is common. In high school and collegiate levels, this approach is most apt to challenge even the brightest students with detailed information. The complexity they use can help students' grow, but it can come at the cost of overlooking the simpler processes in a lesson. Expertise and the prestige the teacher has earned throughout their career is vital to pulling authority over the information and classroom. Formal Authority The formal authority often teaches students strictly by the book. I have preferred teachers who did the opposite and added a touch of nuance in their instruction, as I always saw it as a chance to see the full picture. However, that is not the focus in this approach, and with it comes clear expectations. The strict nature of this environment may hamper some students, but it proves efficient in the age of standardized testing. Of the five styles, those are the two with a teacher-based approach. Teacher-focused instruction does not forget the student, but student-based methods add layers to help nourish success against teacher inconsistency. If the instructor's relationships with the content are lacking, student-based approaches have a better potential for success. Student-Based Approaches Personal In the personal approach, the instructor looks to have the students emulate their way of thinking and processing information. This strategy requires a close relationship with everyone in the classroom that lends itself to vulnerability and imperfection. Leading by example often puts students in hands-on interaction with the material. The downfall, however, is that people don't always think the same way. Not all students will be able to follow their teacher's process, which can lead to a feeling of inadequacy. Facilitator The facilitator takes a step aside compared to the personal approach. Where the personal teachers lay the breadcrumbs on the path, facilitators give a pointing hint and let the students find their way. This concept pushes students on an autonomous exploration of the material with great flexibility. This instruction leads to a natural path of learning, but it proves to be time-consuming, and if used negatively, it will make the students uncomfortable. Delegator The last approach takes the teacher back to the role of supervision in the classroom. This research-based approach puts students into independent work or autonomous groupings that find information on their own. If the students are ready, it can help them gain a sense of independence, but this is a common pitfall of delegators and can lead the classroom to chaos. Effects of Teaching Styles Teachers are human, and being human means there is inherent imperfection. From culture to emotions, some factors can change how teachers instruct the classroom. This factor is an important fact to take in because students are just as dynamic. It should not be our focus to determine which style is the best. Instead, it should be our priority to decide what will help students on a daily and individual basis. Teaching Styles and Emotions Emotions affect the classroom on both sides of the equation. (2) A day where we are down and out will not have the same potential as when content stimulates us and makes us ready to learn. A miserable teacher has the chance to beget miserable students. Teachers fueled with motivation and pride have a higher chance of conceptual growth with a student-based environment. The same goes for negative emotions and an instruction based only on information transmission. (1) Culture and Teaching Style Our culture's effects will pierce almost every aspect of our lives and is no different for teachers in their profession. It has a gender-based differentiation. Women are more likely to use facilitator and delegator styles and less possible to use expertise and authority(4). The same study shows segmentation to be a dynamic on the level of society, with a noticeable difference between Chinese and American instructors. Final Thoughts The work that teachers put into their profession comes with exceptional duty. Connecting to students and helping them learn is what they well. Looking at society and the restrictions placed on teachers will focus on ours over the coming years. We should use unique technology and concepts to make teachers a dynamic force that reaches as many students as possible. Community Engagement Question What are some memories of your favorite teachers? What made them different? Special Thanks! Cover c nmPhoto by Science in HD on Unsplash (1) Grasha, Anthony F. “A Matter of Style: The Teacher as Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator.” College Teaching, vol. 42, no. 4, 1994, pp. 142–149., doi:10.1080/87567555.1994.9926845. (2) Trigwell, Keith & Ellis, Robert & Han, Feifei. (2012). Trigwell, K., Ellis, R., & Han, F. (2012). Relations between students’ approaches to learning, experienced emotions and outcomes of learning. Studies in Higher Education, 37, 811-824.. Studies in Higher Education. 37. 811-824. 10.1080/03075079.2010.549220. (3) Trigwell, Keith, and Michael Prosser. “Development and Use of the Approaches to Teaching Inventory.” Educational Psychology Review, vol. 16, no. 4, 2004, pp. 409–424., doi:10.1007/s10648-004-0007-9. (4) Zhan, Ginny, et al. “Exploring Cultural Effects on Teaching Styles of Chinese and American Professors.” Journal of Learning in Higher Education, vol. 11, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1–7.