Different styles of teaching

This article suggests specific ways in which college teachers can foster relationships with students that promote motivation and satisfaction. Fostering personal relationships with students. Motivating students to work. Handling interpersonal issues.

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Different styles of teaching

Kisakova Irina

This article suggests specific ways in which college teachers can foster relationships with students that promote motivation and satisfaction. The techniques presented here were organized into groups of techniques dealing with 1) fostering personal relationships with students, 2) obtaining regular feedback from them, 3) motivating students to work through effective classroom leadership, 4) showing special attention to certain types of students, and 5) handling miscellaneous interpersonal issues.

Social events early in the term do not harm the development of rapport but have limited power to produce it, are not likely to be attended by the students who most need rapport, and cannot offset distancing or rejecting remarks by the teacher in class. Some college teachers try to promote rapport and reduce their classroom image as authority figures by dressing casually, encouraging students to call them by their first names, or giving students considerable freedom to select the work they do. Others encourage informal interaction with students outside classrooms by scheduling conferences, sponsoring parties or picnics, inviting students to lunch, or holding class meetings outside on the grass or in their homes. Unfortunately, none of these strategies ensures satisfied students. Furthermore, none are necessary for interpersonal rapport to develop and for students to be highly motivated. The students most likely to call the instructor by his or her first name or to accept social invitations are the ones who already feel relatively comfortable, not those who are most in need of special attention. Many students find the novelty of calling their first name. This novelty or comfort of calling first names of instructors is superficial and is no quick substitute for a real relationship period near the beginning of a course, this comfort is developed over time. As Kenneth Eble observes in The Craft of Teaching [3, p. 73], the best strategy for developing rapport "may be no more formal than providing excuses and opportunities for easy talk." One-to-one interactions with students in the second half of a course are likely to be more meaningful than those that occur earlier. The subtleties of a college teacher's behavior toward a class throughout the term do more to produce an optimal class atmosphere than sweeping structural changes at the beginning ('"Let's move the chairs back and sit on the floor").

Fostering Personal Relationships with Students. The easiest way to begin forming personal relationships with students is to learn their names. Nothing so impresses students as a college teacher who makes a serious effort to get to know them as individuals. Any instructor can learn to match up to 50 student names with faces in the first few classes if he or she approaches the task with a positive attitude and commitment. With practice, some may be able to learn up to 100. Learning each student's name is so effective at promoting rapport because it begins personal contact immediately but does not seem forced, rushed, or intrusive. When we meet a new colleague, we learn his or her name as the first step in forming a working relationship; so it should be between college teacher and student. Learning them in class requires a large amount of eye contact, and this may contribute as much to the growth of the individual relationships as your permanent association of face and name. Note on the card other information about each student if needed, but concentrate on looking directly at the students' faces, forming a visual image of each face while silently saving the matching first name over and over. Then go on to the next card, and so forth. Another way to develop rapport with students is to come to class five to ten minutes early, especially before the initial class meetings. This conditions students to expect to start on time and also provides opportunities to chat informally with them before class or for them to approach you about their concerns. Students will take your interest in being accessible to them for questions or discussions more seriously in your home telephone number is listed on the course syllabus and you encourage them to call you in the evening and on weekends ("But never after 10.30 at night!"). Few students will call, but all will view the invitation as a serious indication of your commitment to communicate with them.

Soliciting Feedback from Students. Giving students many opportunities to communicate and listening carefully to them can be valuable for a number of reasons [1, p.67]. Interpersonal relationships require a dialogue, a two-way communication, so any teaching method that encourages students to communicate will help to form personal bonds. One effective method of encouraging student communication is to begin the third week of class by handing out index cards and asking students to ask a question about you or the content or make a personal comment - anything they want to say about you, the course, or the subject. Stress that they are free to question or comment anonymously but that you will write a personal reply if they sign their names.

Indirect Classroom Leadership Some instructors believe that being liked by students and being firmly in charge are mutually exclusive - that students do - not like teachers who control them, assign them challenging work, and evaluate it rigorously. Not only is it possible for college teachers to demand a great deal from students and still have positive interpersonal relationships with them, it is necessary for students to view teachers as being in control for the students to be 1978. The key here is the choice of methods. As we shall see, indirect methods are almost always superior to direct or autocratic ones.

Indirect methods are ideal for such individualization. The key to using indirect methods is to select words carefully when attempting to control students, suggesting and implying rather than ordering or directing openly. Indirect control is similar to the covert control exercised by hypnotist or Zen master in that a college teacher lays verbal traps mat control students' choices of behavior while giving the illusion of personal freedom [2]. This sort of control is advantageous because it leads students to take responsibility for their own behavior - become controlled from within - rather than expecting others to exercise control, responsibility for their own behavior - become controlled from within - rather than expecting others to exercise control. How is indirect control accomplished? In Chapter Two the example of the complex messages an instructor can give when announcing a term paper illustrated the importance of the way an assignment is presented. When announcing a course assignment, college teachers emphasize the formal dimension of their relationship with students when they say "I require," "I expect," or "You will probably want" emphasizes the instructor as person rather than as authority'. Using these words implies that the students will choose to do something because it is what they, or someone they like, wants rather than because they have been coerced. Word choice may seem trivial, but research in human communication has demonstrated that subtleties of language strongly influence the leaderships that develop in a group over time, chiefly how much persons with less power resent those in charge [5]. College teachers who use more egalitarian language promote independence among students and are at least as likely to have assignments completed as those who are more authoritarian. Giving students choices whenever possible also increases their feeling of freedom in the classroom. This does not mean taking the first few class meetings to formulate course objectives or agree on assignments in order to enhance the group's ownership of the course. It means giving students choices about a few decisions of much smaller consequence, such as whether to have an exam on a Monday or a Friday or whether to schedule a film during class or in the evening. Giving students choices between options that are consistent with the instructor's objectives and the available time tells them that their preferences are recognized and will be considered whenever possible; thus, interpersonal rapport is important and at the same time the fact that the instructor exempts important decisions about requirements from a class vote communicates to students that he or she is firmly in charge. Treating Students Individually There are certain students with whom instructors should make a special effort to establish positive interpersonal relationships. The following suggestions about ways to do this should not be taken as sure formulas for achieving rapport and optimal motivation. Rather, they are illustrations of techniques that a college teacher can use to individualize his or her approach to certain students. Such individualization, far from being unfair or producing negative effects by "unequal" treatment, helps all students work up to their academic potential in a course.

Mann's Student Types. The student categories described below are based on Mann's research [4] and expanded by my own informal observations. Though some of Mann's labels ("hero" or "sniper," for example) may seem disparaging, they are retained and used here because they are easily remembered and aptly capture the key emotional concerns of each group. No lack of respect toward any students is intended. The typical compliant student is notably teacher dependent, conventional, and highly task oriented. Unlike other types, these students are comfortable with being dependent and are content simply to learn what the instructor wants them to know. Complaints speak in class most often to agree with the instructor or ask for clarification. They rarely pose problems or question the teacher's control. They are in class simply to understand the material. They often prefer lecture to discussion classes. Because they always do what is asked, compliant students usually do moderately well on exams, but they are unlikely to show much independence or creativity. As might be expected, the percentage of compliants (10 per cent in Mann's sample) is greater among freshmen and steadily decreases with age. The most important characteristics of these students are that they are content to support the status quo and never question authority. These students are that they are content to support the status quo and never question authority. Anxious-dependent students are very common (26 per cent of the Mann sample) and can be spotted early by their excessive concern about grades. Like compliant types, anxious-dependents want to learn exactly what the teacher wants them to know - but these fear that they will miss something. They are likely to ask the teacher to repeat definitions so they can get them word for word. Compliant students generally trust teachers and assume that the students distrust teachers and expect trick questions or unfair grading practices. Their combination of high ambition, anxiety, and suspiciousness suggests that they feel angry about having less power in the educational setting than they would like.

Discouraged workers, Mann's third category, make comments in class that communicate a depressed and fatalistic attitude toward themselves and their education. Like compliants and anxious-dependents, discouraged workers see themselves as having little control over their learning. Some may have worked so hard to earn high grades in the past that they no longer find learning pleasurable; they have burned out. Often they are older students coming back to school after a stint in the military or work force who find it hard to regain their youthful enthusiasm. Some have jobs or families and are more likely to be physically tired and preoccupied than the typical "college kid." Any of these circumstances can dampen curiosity and lead to joyless learning. Though classes appear to offer little pleasure to this small group of students (4 per cent in Mann's sample), they can be made into active participants by an inspiring teacher. Independent students take what instructors have to offer and pursue their own goals in equal measure. They are comfortable, (perhaps even detached or aloof) in doing what is asked of them, usually prefer seminar to lecture classes, and do not balk when asked to formulate their own thinking about a topic. The majority of independent students are high participators, make friends with instructors easily, and identify with them to some extent, much as many graduate students relate to their professors. They are ideal, mature students, the ones a teacher can count on to discuss and to perform at a consistently high level. In Mann's population, 12 per cent of the students were in the independent group and, not surprisingly, they were more frequently juniors or seniors. Independent students rarely present problems for teachers, but, if the quality of instruction is poor, they are most likely to be selected as spokesmen for the group's grievances.

Independent students do not require much special attention other than the just desserts of their achievements. The instructor should acknowledge their independence and encourage them to use it to go beyond what might be expected of others. The key to dealing with such students is deciding whether they are exhibiting genuine independence or rebellion. The best test is their past performance on structured tasks. Heroes resemble independents in their identification with the teacher and their preference for independent or creative work. They lack the detachment of the independents, however, and seem anxious to make the teacher notice immediately what great students and interesting people they are. Most critically, heroes routinely fail to deliver on their initial promise. They are the erratic, optimistic underachievers who initially excite an instructor with their intensity and grand plans for independent projects, only to disappoint later with poor execution. Heroes would very much like to be the independent, creative students they see themselves as being, but some underlying hostility toward authority figures or inability to maintain their commitment to a goal prevents them from playing this role to the end. Ten per cent of Mann's students fit this classification, and almost even,' class has one or two.

These examples suffice to make the point: Heroes promise much but usually deliver little. Heroes occasionally drop out of school to work for a year or two and return as more mature and better students with high graduate or professional-aspirations. Heroes typically have high, even grandiose expectations for themselves, and many are capable of outstanding careers if they lower their expectations slightly and resolve their ambivalence about authority and achievement. Heroes are more likely to produce good work if given such special handling. To be successful in motivating heroes, a college teacher must maintain a good relationship with them over the term. Heroes are very prone to withdraw their initial investment in the course and put their energies elsewhere. If heroes believe that an instructor expects great things of them, they are more likely to live up to their own billing--but only if the instructor keeps close tabs on them and applies persistent, soft control.

A sniper is a hero who is hostile toward college teachers, unlikely to approach them, and filled with cynicism. Like heroes, snipers (9 per cent in Mann's group) have very high expectations and positive images of themselves, but they have little hope that the world will recognize their worth or give them a fair chance to demonstrate it. Their hostility seems untempered by positive feelings. They are habitual rebels who sit as far from the instructor as possible and often comment with cutting remarks. Some also show their rebellion by wearing unusual or provocative clothing to class. Because they apparently feel guilty or fearful about their hostility, they retreat quickly when questioned about their sallies. Unlike heroes, who never seem to tire of debating, snipers strike their colors after the first salvo is fired. In the classes studied by Mann, silent students (20 per cent).The easiest mistake a college teacher can make with silent students is to ignore them, for they will not attract attention or pose problems. To guard against this, a good teacher goes through the class roster every few weeks, noting how each student has been behaving in recent meetings.

Student Under Special Stress. Some students enter classrooms under considerably more pressure man others. Though few college teachers advocate assigning less work to such students or grading their work differently, these students do require special understanding if they are to perform maximally. Some instructors act impatient or irritated by a visiting student's interruption. The teacher should encourage students to talk about what is bothering them, but only on one or, at the most, two occasions. A teacher should not let an emotional response to a student's remarks dictate his or her behavior.


student leadership stress relationship

1. Barnes-McConnell, P. Leading discussions. In Milton & Associate, On College Teaching, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,1978, P. 67

2. Bandler, R. & Grinder J. The Structure of Magic, Palo Alto: Science and Behaviour Books, Inc. 1975

3. Kenneth Eugene Eble The craft of teaching San Francisco:Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1976, 179 p.

4. Mann, R.D. et al. The College Classroom: Conflict, Change and Learning. NY: Wiley, 1974

5. Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, and Paradoxes, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 1967, 304 p

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