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Teaching Methods

The term Teaching method refers to the general principles, pedagogy and management strategies used for classroom instruction. Your choice of teaching method depends on what fits you — your educational philosophy, classroom demographic, subject area(s) and school mission statement. Teaching theories primarily fall into two categories or “approaches” — teacher-centered and student-centered:


Teacher-Centered Approach to Learning

Teachers are the main authority figure in this model. Students are viewed as “empty vessels” whose primary role is to passively receive information (via lectures and direct instruction) with an end goal of testing and assessment. It is the primary role of teachers to pass knowledge and information onto their students. In this model, teaching and assessment are viewed as two separate entities. Student learning is measured through objectively scored tests and assessments.

Student-Centered Approach to Learning

While teachers are an authority figure in this model, teachers and students play an equally active role in the learning process. The teacher’s primary role is to coach and facilitate student learning and overall comprehension of material. Student learning is measured through both formal and informal forms of assessment, including group projects, student portfolios, and class participation. Teaching and assessment are connected; student learning is continuously measured during teacher instruction.


To better understand these approaches, it is important to discuss what is generally understood as the three main teaching styles in educational pedagogy: direct instruction, inquiry-based learning and cooperative learning. Through these three teaching methods, teachers can gain a better understanding of how to govern their classroom, implement instruction and connect with their students. Within each of these three main teaching styles are teaching roles or “models.” Theorist A.F. Grasha explains the five main teaching models in her publication Teaching with Style (1996): Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator and Delegator. To gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of each teaching style, it’s best to view them through the lens of direct instruction, inquiry-based learning, and cooperative teaching.

Direct Instruction

Direct instruction is the general term that refers to the traditional teaching strategy that relies on explicit teaching through lectures and teacher-led demonstrations. Direct instruction is the primary teaching strategy under the teacher-centered approach, in that teachers and professors are the sole supplier of knowledge and information. Direct instruction is effective in teaching basic and fundamental skills across all content areas.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning is a teaching method that focuses on student investigation and hands-on learning. In this method, the teacher’s primary role is that of a facilitator, providing guidance and support for students through the learning process. Inquiry-based learning falls under the student-centered approach, in that students play an active and participatory role in their own learning process.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning refers to a method of teaching and classroom management that emphasizes group work and a strong sense of community. This model fosters students’ academic and social growth and includes teaching techniques such as “Think-Pair-Share” and reciprocal teaching. Cooperative learning falls under the student-centered approach because learners are placed in responsibility of their learning and development. This method focuses on the belief that students learn best when working with and learning from their peers.


In order to identify your personal teaching style, it is important to acknowledge your personal values toward education and how your students learn. Understanding your teaching style early on will prove effective for both you and your students, creating and maintaining a balance between your teaching preferences and your students’ learning preferences.