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Teaching Style

At the most essential, teaching style can be structurally defined in terms of the binary of teacher-centered and student-centered. Because these two terms have in recent times taken on particular value judgments, the terms instructionist and constructionist (Dexter, Anderson, & Becker, 1999) will be used to differentiate between the two binaries. On one side of the binary, instructionist teaching beliefs direct that the teacher is the center of the learning process, that the teacher chooses, based on expertise and training, the methods, activities, and techniques that will assist the students in receiving and assimilating knowledge. These methods, activities, and techniques usually involve the transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the student. Instructionist classrooms allow for a large volume of information shared in a short amount of time while the teacher has more control of the organization of the class, the pace of the class, and the content of the class. The instructor is the expert and there usually is a system of one-way communication.   On the other side of the binary, constructionist teachers believe that the student is the center of the learning process and is the most critical element. Constructionist classrooms focus on innovative, interactive, student-driven methods that respond to a variety of learning styles. These student-centered approaches require active participation from teachers and students (Teaching Philosophies: Teacher and Student Centered Approaches, 2004).

This binary definition of teaching style is, for some, incomplete. Hoyt and Lee consider teaching style to be a combination of teaching approaches, where a teaching approach is a combination of teaching methods (2002) . In contrast to being a summation of methodology, Darkenwald (1989) sees teaching style as based on characteristic behaviors that are engaged in for promoting student learning. Conti (1989) defines teaching style as a range of behaviors that allow the teacher to operate comfortably and adds that these behaviors or qualities are persistent from context to context and are not linked to the content. Kaplan and Kies (1995) define teaching style more narrowly, and include the specific method in the definition. For them, teaching style is personal behaviors, but also the media that is used to transmit and receive data for information from the learners. For Zinn, it is a more specific behavior in that teaching style is the operational behavior of the teacher's educational philosophy (1990) . According to Zinn, teaching style is more than just behavior or method; teaching style (behaviors) must be based on the particular value system a teacher holds. This value system is the teaching philosophy. Dunn and Dunn (1979) try to find the root of teaching style and posit that teaching style is developed based on a model system. Many believe that teachers teach the way they were taught, meaning that one's philosophy of teaching would be a direct result of the philosophy of teaching employed by the teacher's teachers; instead, Dunn and Dunn believe that a teacher's teaching style is a direct result of the way a teacher learned. Essentially, I do not teach the way I was taught; I teach the way I learned. This model begins to explain how one's teaching philosophy is developed—my ideas about teaching may be partly a result of how I myself learned.

Grasha assumed that teaching styles represented not only a belief system, but also behaviors and needs that a teacher exhibited in a class (1994). To this end, he outlined five teaching styles that represent faculty orientations or beliefs about teaching (1996), and further combined these styles in various groupings to form four teaching styles or what Grasha calls "clusters." Grasha's five styles include the Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator.

The Expert teacher possesses knowledge and expertise that the students need. This teacher is concerned that students receive the correct information and are well prepared in the discipline. An Expert gains respect from the students by being very knowledgeable in the field at hand. The disadvantage of the Expert model is that the display of knowledge the faculty member exhibits can be intimidating to many students. Additionally, this model is based on outcomes and may not always include the thought processes involved in reaching conclusions. The second style, The Formal Authority, although also concerned with expertise, gains his/her status and respect because of his/her position as a faculty member. The Formal Authority is concerned with the correct way of doing things according to relevant standards. The disadvantage to this style, according to Grasha, is that it can lead to rigid, standardized, somewhat inflexible teaching. A faculty member who exhibits The Personal Model, the third style, is concerned that he/she establishes a prototype on how to behave and think. This faculty member will show students how to do things rather than simply tell them. A disadvantage to this style would be that students may feel inadequate if they cannot emulate and live up to the standards set by the faculty member.

The last two styles, The Facilitator and the Delegator, focus more on the instructor as guide rather than sage. The Facilitator guides and directs students by using various methodologies. The goal here is to develop in the student the ability for independent thought and action. The disadvantage is that this model is time consuming. The Delegator concerns him/herself in the students' ability to function in an autonomous manner. The instructor gives students various tasks to complete and functions as a resource person rather than a knowledge source. The disadvantage with this style is that many students, particularly at the lower undergraduate level, are uncomfortable with this autonomy and may feel lost and without direction.

Since one instructor rarely falls neatly into one category, and since most instructors employ parts of a variety of styles, Grasha has clustered the styles together in the most common groups. Cluster 1 consists of the Expert/Formal Authority styles, Cluster 2 is the Personal Model/Exert/Formal Authority; Cluster 3 contains the Facilitator/Personal Model/Expert, while the final Cluster consists of the Delegator/Facilitator/Expert group (see Table 1).

table 1

Grasha believed that all faculty in higher education possess some expert quality, and he also recognized that each type was present to some degree in each instructor (1994). Clusters 1 and 2 are considered to contain instructors who are oriented toward a more teacher-centered, or instructionist approach (Dexter et al., 1999), while clusters 3 and 4 contain those who tend to me more student-centered or constructivist (Dexter et al., 1999).

 
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