Three Teaching Styles
- Start with the big picture. Provide the context before launching into specifics.
- Be clear and concise. Students need to know exactly what they must do to succeed and by what criteria their work will be evaluated. Clear goals, specific deadlines, and concise directions increase student motivation and eliminate confusion. Wordy, sloppily written, and poorly organized instructional materials confuse, overwhelm, and discourage students.
- Provide sufficient detail. Communication breakdowns occur when important details are omitted or instructions are ambiguous. For example, when I once neglected to specify the font size students should use, the papers they turned in had font sizes ranging from 8 to 14!
- Don’t sugar-coat the message. There are times when teachers need to be very direct and candid to get through to students.
- Prepare questions in advance. Great discussions don’t just happen. Ask one question at a time. Be open, curious, and interested in learning what each student thinks.
- Don’t allow one or two students to dominate the discussion. Solicit everyone’s ideas and opinions. Gently draw out students who seem insecure and reticent to participate. I sometimes start my classes by saying, “I want to give each of you one minute to discuss your views on this topic. Let’s go around the room and hear from everyone.” Get closure by reviewing the key points you want to make.
- Have students create questions. I like to have my students read a case study and formulate three questions to ask their classmates. We then discuss their answers in class.
- Utilize clickers. Clickers are an easy way to get students involved during class. Pose a multiple-choice question and their responses are tabulated on the screen. You can then open it up for discussion as students share why they selected a certain answer.
- Assign research projects. In my management
course I require students to interview a manager of a local business to
get answers to questions like the following:
- What are the main performance measures your company uses to evaluate each employee’s performance?
- What are the key lessons you, as a manager, have learned about conducting effective performance appraisals?
- Assign team projects. Have each team select a team leader, define roles and responsibilities, and hold each other accountable for completing the project on time. In my management class, I have teams of students analyze the management and leadership behaviors on movies like Remember the Titans and Crimson Tide.
- Assign a capstone project. Let students show you what they can do when working independently on a topic that’s important to them.
- Direct — Tell students what to do
- Discuss — Ask questions and listen
- Delegate — Empower students
Paul B. Thornton is speaker, trainer, and professor of business administration at Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield, MA. He teaches principles of management, organizational behavior, and principles of leadership. He is the author of Leadership—Off the Wall and twelve other books on management and leadership. He may be contacted at PThornton@stcc.edu