Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spectrum of Teaching Styles (Dr Cummiskey WEst Chester University)

Spectrum of Teaching Styles

Dr. Cummiskey
West Chester University

            Teaching styles are ways of organizing and presenting learning experiences to children. The styles range from a direct, teacher-centered approach to an indirect, more student-centered approach. The styles are also classified according to two general headings: productive and reproductive.  In reproductive teaching styles, students duplicate or mimic the teacher’s understandings.  In the productive teaching styles, students construct their own understandings.  In the past direct, teacher-centered methods predominated, however recently the trend is shifting towards more indirect, student-centered approaches.  Student centered teaching styles are slightly more time consuming to prepare, however student gain more in terms of learning, creativity, and self-perception.  

Summary Table – Progresses from teacher-centered to student centered styles
Teaching Style
PE Example

Reproductive Styles
1. Command
Teacher makes all decisions, like “follow the leader”
“Sideways to target” – students turn sideways preparing to throw
Style 5 can be used concurrently with styles 2, 3, and 4
2. Practice (includes task, stations)
Students carry out teacher-prescribed tasks as modeled while receiving teacher feedback
Groups of four practice the "dig" in volleyball. Stations with different VB skills at each
5. Self-Selection (includes inclusion)
Description: Students are provided with legitimate options for skill practice that have a range of difficulty (low to high)
PE Example: Choose batting practice off a tee, tossed from the side, or an underhand toss.
3. Reciprocal
Students work in pairs: one performs, the other provides feedback (may utilize criteria sheet)
In twos, practice the set shot in basketball while providing feedback to partner
4. Self-Check
Students assess their own performance against criteria sheet prepared by teacher
Checking off skill cues for each exercise in a weight training circuit
Productive Styles
6. Guided Discovery (includes convergent)
Students answer questions in a series that lead to the discovery of a concept  (typically movement related)
Students try different start positions for the forward roll in gymnastics leading to an eventual best solution.  Students try different areas of their foot for passing leading to the most accurate solution.
7. Problem Solving (divergent, exploration)
Students solve problems with assistance from the teacher, multiple solutions are present (divergent)
Devising a new cooperative game within parameters.  Solving the “spider’s web” project adventure activity.  Elementary students exploring how to manipulate a scarf with vary body parts and forces. 
8. Individual Program
Students develop a program based on physical and cognitive abilities. 
Creating a person fitness program based on fitnessgram results.  A sport education captain creates a series of practice plans specific to his or her team. 

The command style is the most teacher-directed style of the seven styles (Mosston & Ashworth, 1994). In this type of style the teacher is the exclusive decision maker. Decisions on what to do, how to do it, and the level of achievement expected are all determined by the teacher (Nichols, 1994).
With this style the teacher will give a demonstration of the expected performance, as well as emphasize and explain specific important points of the movement. The demonstration gives the students an opportunity to see the skill performed accurately and observe the skill cues of the task. The teacher may guide the class through the various steps in carrying out the task. The students repeat the performance many times as they put the movements together in the proper sequence and timing. The teacher also makes additional helpful comments to a student or a group of students when necessary.
            Some examples of when it would be advantages to use the command style is when showing a child how to overhand throw, instructing a specific dance step, or teaching someone to shoot a free throw in basketball. These are all tasks that have to be done in a specific fashion making the command style a very efficient method of accomplishing the task.

2. PRACTICE (includes task, stations)
The practice style is one of the most common teaching strategies used in physical education (Mosston & Ashworth, 1994). It is very similar to the command style in that the teacher is the primary decision maker, and the task will also start with a demonstration and description of what is to be achieved. The demonstration does not necessarily have to come from the teacher; it may come from another student or even from audiovisual aids.  The students then practice the skill, either on their own or with a group, as the teacher observes their performance and offers feedback. Stations are considered part of this style because students practice pre-described tasks before rotating to the next station.  The difference between the command and practice style is that the practice style does permit some decision making be the students.
For example, a physical educator is teaching the forearm pass in volleyball, he/she would first explain the forearm pass, telling when and why it is used and describing the skill cues of the forearm pass (knees bent, flat platform, contact on forearm, punching motion). This would be followed with one or more demonstrations of the skill being executed, once again emphasizing the skill cues.  Students are then given time to practice the skill, either by themselves or with a partner. The teacher walks around making corrections and providing encouragement. At the end of the session the teacher may review what they did, emphasizing the essential points to have learned.

Advantages and Disadvantages (command and practice styles)
The command and practice styles have very similar advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages of the styles are they provide a very direct path to the objective; as a result this gives the students a clear picture of how the expected performance is to be attained. Since the teacher chooses what will be taught and how the class will be arranged there is not much time wasted in organizing the class, thus making these methods a remarkably efficient and effective way to teach skills (Nichols, 1994). Due to the speedy organization associated with the command and practice styles each is very beneficial when dealing with large crowds or limited time.
            The command and practice styles of teaching have many significant disadvantages as well. Most importantly they are both insensitive to individual differences and needs. The styles demonstrate one way of performing the skill or task and only accept one response in return. On account of this the content is generally aimed toward the students with average ability. Thus, for those students who lack the skills needed to perform at this level, as well as those who have greater skills than the activity requires, their individual needs are not met with these styles without adequate differentiated instruction. Another notable drawback of the teacher telling the students how to respond is it does not encourage original or innovative thinking by the students.

The reciprocal style allows more decision making by the students as compared to the command and practice styles, which are much more teacher dominated. With this style the teacher develops a reciprocal task sheet which describes the task to be performed and points out what the observer should be looking for to see if the performer is executing the task properly (see batting example below). The students are the observers and are responsible for viewing the performance of their classmates and providing feedback on each attempt (Nichols, 1994). The reciprocal task sheet may include pictures and a description of the task to assist the observer. It should also give the amount of time or number of trials to be given in each practice session.  Accountability is improved if students record their partner’s performance on the task sheet which is then handed in to the teacher. 
The session is usually initiated with a demonstration, a description of the skill, and an interpretation of the reciprocal sheet. Once this is accomplished, one student performs the task as their partner observes the performance and records when the proper criteria has been met. The observer also provides positive feedback to help improve their partner’s performance of the skill. After the performer has properly executed the task a specific number of times the partners switch roles. With this style the duty of the teacher is to walk around observing the students and clarifying the tasks for both the performer and observer.

Performance Criteria – Tennis Forehand
Turn perpendicular to the net
Step towards the net
Swing from low to high
Follow through

Advantages and Disadvantages
The reciprocal style’s advantages include such things as the clarity of the task for everyone and the opportunity for feedback with each trial, which would practically be impossible if the teacher were the only person providing feedback. The students have to observe one another and provide feedback on their partners performance, consequently this contributes to their understanding and comprehension of the task at hand. This style makes the students assume responsibility for the learning of others; it should improve their communication skills, promote patience and tolerance, and develop analytical skills (Nichols, 1994).
The disadvantages of the reciprocal style can be found within the complexity of the task and the developmental level of the student. The reading level of the reciprocal sheet may be too advanced for particular students. Many may not be able to properly analyze another’s performance, thus the feedback may be inaccurate. Due to the fact that a number of students may not be socially or emotionally developed, certain students may have difficulty working with others and accepting the feedback in a positive and helpful manner.

            In the self-check style, the learner performs the task and checks his/her work against the task sheet (Mosston & Ashworth, 1994).  The teacher, who provides the learner with the tasks to be performed and the criteria sheet, observes the learner’s performance and use of the criteria sheet and communicates with the learner about his/her actions. 
            For example, a third grader is instructed to bat the ball from the tee five times while exhibiting the following skill cues: step, swing bat in horizontal plane, and rotate hips and upper body.  The teacher, observing the student completely miss the ball on the first three trials, asks “Do you think you are performing the cues correctly?”  The student examines the cues and comes to the conclusion the bat is not being swung on an even plane.  After the appropriate modification, contact is made. 

Advantages and Disadvantages
            There are several advantages of the self-check style, most notably that students are allowed to progress at their own pace.  It incorporates additional domains of learning instead of visual.  Students are asked to read and check off the skill cues.  It allows a large amount of introspection regarding the task critical self-analysis.  Finally, it reduces the fishbowl effect by having students active simultaneously and working at their own individual level.
            The disadvantages of the self-check style include decreased activity time since students must reflect upon and record their performance.  Students may also not be able to accurately appraise their performance.  This may cause them to reinforce incorrect performance patterns; teacher feedback is therefore critical. 

 5. SELF-SELECTION (includes inclusion)
The self-selection style still has the teacher deciding the content of what will be taught, however it allows the students some decision making and provides them with the chance to work at their own pace (Mosston & Ashworth, 1994).
During the first of three stages (lowest level), the teacher assigns students to specific practice tasks based upon perceived or measured level of performance, typically in a station approach.  Teachers may select different skills such as the forward roll, balance positions, and handstands in gymnastics or practice opportunities related to the same skill.  For example, if all students are practicing the forward roll, the teacher may create the following stations and assign every student to a location: 1) cheese (incline) mat, 2) teacher assisted, and 3) regular (flat mat surface). 
At the second level, the teacher again provides practice options for several skills or variations of the same skill but this time, the student selects his or her level of challenge.  In this format, students are allowed to begin at a stage they feel comfortable with and work towards the highest level of performance. 
The third level (highest level) requires the greatest amount of decision making and responsibility by the students. Each student is given a task booklet describing all the tasks to be completed in the unit. The student chooses the tasks they wish to practice and are responsible for working on each task within the unit time (Nichols, 1994). The teacher checks off each skill once the student has demonstrated proficiency. 

Advantages and Disadvantages
The self-selection style allows students to recognize particular needs while allowing for personal differences.  It grants students the freedom to choose not only the task they will work on but also the level at which they will start from (Nichols, 1994). Since the students work on their own, the level of success they attain is not known by anyone else. The style is designed so that the students will begin working at a level in which they feel comfortable with, thus leading to a successful experience. This style gives the teacher a chance to roam about offering assistance to anyone needing it. Whenever a situation occurs whereby a specific piece of equipment is in limited supply, the task style can be very appealing by reason that it does not require all the students to use the same piece of equipment at the same time.
            Permitting the students to decide for themselves what activities they will work on and letting them work on their own may be the greatest attribute of the self-selection style. On the other hand it may also be the greatest disadvantage of the style. Giving the students this much freedom can only work if they are willing to be responsible enough to carry out the task. The teacher must be aware of those who are not accomplishing the task and give them help in selecting the appropriate level from which to start.

6. GUIDED DISCOVERY (includes convergent)
The guided discovery method crosses over into the student-centered section of the continuum. This approach continues to use teacher-designed movement tasks; however, it is done in a way that allows the children to make individual decisions about how to move (Mosston & Ashworth, 1994). In other words, the teacher defines the intended outcome of the movement response, but does not determine how it will be attained. This method is useful if the teacher is trying to get the students to discover the most desirable movement for a certain task or to develop a new skill (Nichols, 1994). This allows the students to experiment with different movements in order to achieve the desired goal. It will also increase their understanding of why certain movements are more advantageous and effective than others.
The idea behind this method is that the students will make up their own minds about how they will move, however limitations are enforced that narrow the students’ choices, thus limiting the range of movement responses. This eventually leads to the single desired outcome the teacher was looking for. This method permits the students to experiment with the movement, to make comparisons with other movement responses, and to analyze the possible motor responses (Nichols, 1994).  For example, the teacher may allow students to experiment with soccer passing accuracy using various body parts.  The teacher will sequence the learning experiences and question in such a way that most students eventually discover that the instep is the most accurate body part for passing in soccer.  The teacher may also incorporate movement concepts such as body surface (flat v. round). 

Advantages and Disadvantages
            The advantage of the guided discovery method is it truly entices the students to think for themselves.  Therefore, it emphasizes the both the cognitive and psychomotor domains.  It also supports the development of a positive self-concept on the account that each student will successfully find an answer to the movement challenges (Nichols, 1994). Most students, regardless of ability, can be successful.  Furthermore, this method is useful in equipping students with the proper utensils to implement what has been learned to other movement situations.  Finally, activity time is relatively high since most students are active, thus reducing the “fishbowl” effect. 
The only disadvantage to the guided discovery style is that it can be time consuming depending on how it is taught. 

7. PROBLEM SOLVING (includes divergent and exploration)
            The strategy of problem solving is very similar to the strategy of guided discovery except for one important difference. With the guided discovery approach there was only one proper way of performing the final movement or task, therefore the final outcome would always be the same. With the problem solving approach several solutions can be the end result (Nichols, 1994). In problem solving, as with guided discovery, the teacher will present a movement challenge that has certain guidelines. The guidelines may be a limitation on the use of space, directions, or movements permitted. The goal is not to find a single correct answer as with guided discovery, instead the objective is for the students to find as many different solutions to the challenge as possible (Nichols, 1994). Any movement response that fits within the guidelines is totally acceptable. 
            Examples of the problem solving approach include students devising a new cooperative game within parameters or brainstorming and implementing solutions to the “spider’s web” activity in project adventure or asking students to explore how to manipulate a scarf with vary body parts and forces.  In many cases, the problem solving approach creates solutions that are later refined into one solution via guided discovery. For example, you may ask students to create forces on a soccer ball with their lower body and then refine the question so that students aim for a target such as a cone.  Next, ask students which lower body parts are more accurate.  Students will provide several solutions that can be refined via guided discovery into the commonly recognized practice of passing with the instep.
            In a typical lesson for example, you may lead students to the cues for overhand throwing (step with opposite foot, etc) or how to dribble a basketball successfully.  Often, guided discovery and problem solving go hand in hand with one leading to another in the same lesson. 
            The problem solving style also includes the method of exploration.  In exploration, students are exploring the movements in a less restrictive and more natural environment with much less teacher direction (Nichols, 1994). This style can be very beneficial when introducing concepts, ideas, and new equipment. It is also a good way to obtain fresh unique responses and ideas from the students. Because this style provides the students with a great amount of freedom to work at their own pace and do what they want it is important to understand that the teacher does not simply set up the equipment and let the students play totally on their own. The teacher does have some say in what the students do. For example, the teacher may present the problem, "How many different things can you do with that ball” or “Explore what surfaces of your foot you can apply force on a ball.”  The teacher must keep in mind the individual needs of students and set new challenges when they are ready to progress.

Advantages and Disadvantages
Problem solving, like guided discovery, involves a great deal of cognitive activity and allows the students to display even more of their individualism through the movement responses. The method allows the students to work at a pace in which they can comprehend what’s happening. It also helps students develop problem solving skills, as well as enhance creativity.  The exploration method is best used with young children involved in initial physical education experiences (Nichols, 1994).  It allows students to discover their capabilities while working on their own, consequently enhancing the creativity within the movements. The method is designed to have everyone experience instant success, thus providing the students with increased confidence in their ability to move.
The main disadvantage is once again the time consumption involved in developing the lesson and reaching the lesson objective. The teacher has to carefully plan the lesson and be able to anticipate possible solutions in order for it to be successful. Furthermore, the teacher must possess the ability to react on the spot in order to help particular students expand their movement possibilities (Nichols, 1994).

The individual program style is the most student-centered of the teaching styles.  In this style, the students develop a program based on their own physical and cognitive abilities.  Students must be reasonably proficient in the performing some aspects of the program and therefore prior knowledge is essential.  Typically, students will develop their program over a series of lessons or as an out-of-class assignment.  The teacher provides the framework guiding the learning experience and function more as a facilitator answering questions and providing guidance.  This is not a “do as you want” style and is not appropriate for all learners. 
Some practical applications of the individual program include developing a person fitness program based on fitnessgram results.  A sport education captain might create a series of practice plans specific to his or her team.  An elementary gymnastics student might create a routine from a list of several options provided by the teacher.  In all cases the program is unique to the individual or individuals and is guided by a framework established by the teacher. 

As mentioned before, the teacher-centered strategies are effective if you want an organized class, are limited in time, have a large crowd, or want the students to have a clear picture of the objective. However, the student-centered approach meets the individual needs and differences of all the students. It allows the students to be more involved in the decision making and makes them think for themselves, usually resulting in more enjoyment and a better understanding of the movements. The benefits of using student-centered styles easily outweigh the time that it demands, but there are certain concerns about using this type of strategy.
            Since these methods require the students to assume more responsibility for their learning, with less direction and seemingly less structure offered by the teacher it is crucial that the teacher establish a good working relationship with the class before attempting student-centered methods (Gallahue, 1987). In order for a teacher to be effective they need to be a positive role model, an efficient planner, effective communicator, a thorough assessor of behavior, and be consistent in their expectations of children. The students must have an idea of what is acceptable and appropriate behavior before developing more independent learning.
            Some students may have difficulty adjusting to the student-centered approach if their previous experiences were teacher-centered.  The teacher may have to gradually introduce the approach and only use it for short periods, until the class feels more comfortable in exploring movement and solving problems on their own (Nichols, 1994).

            Teachers should be able to proficiently and effectively use all eight teaching styles depending on what the situation calls for. There are benefits and drawbacks in each of the styles, therefore it is important for the teacher to know when to use a specific style.
            If the goal of the lesson is to be extremely organized, have a unified response, save time, or have a quick direct route to the task then the command or practice styles are recommended. If the purpose is for the students to develop responsibility, social skills and/or analytical skills then the reciprocal or task style is recommended. It is recommended that the guided discovery method be utilized if the objective is to have the students think for themselves and develop a greater understanding of the proper movements. When the intent of the lesson is not to teach a particular outcome, but instead to improve development in conceptual, cognitive, and problem solving areas, as well as enhance creativity in the movements then the style of problem solving is surely recommended. In the event that you are working with young children who are involved with their first physical education experience it is more appropriate to allow them the freedom to work and explore movements on their own, thus it is recommended that the guided discovery and exploration methods be used for this situation. Regardless, the important thing is for the teacher to be able to determine what style is most appropriate in a given situation and apply it with determination and confidence.

Mosston, M., & Ashworth, S. (1994). Teaching physical education (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan.
Garn, A., & Byra, M. (2002). Cognitive, psychomotor, and cognitive development spectrum style. Teaching
            Elementary Physical Education, 13(2), 8-13.
Nichols, B. (1994). Moving and learning: The elementary school physical education experience (3rd ed.).
            Dubuque: William C. Brown
Gallahue, D. L. (1987). Developmental physical education for today's elementary school children. Champaign,
IL: Human Kinetics

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