Methods of Teaching

There are different types of teaching methods which can be categorized into three broad types. These are teacher-centered methods, learner-centered methods, content-focused methods and interactive/participative methods.


Here the teacher casts himself/herself in the role of being a master of the subject matter. The teacher is looked upon by the learners as an expert or an authority. Learners on the other hand are presumed to be passive and copious recipients of knowledge from the teacher. Examples of such methods are expository or lecture methods – which require little or no involvement of learners in the teaching process. It is also for this lack of involvement of the learners in what they are taught, that such methods are called “closed-ended”.


In learner-centred methods, the teacher/instructor is both a teacher and a learner at the same time. In the words of Lawrence Stenhouse, the teacher plays a dual role as a learner as well “so that in his classroom extends rather than constricts his intellectual horizons”. The teacher also learns new things everyday which he/she didn’t know in the process of teaching. The teacher, “becomes a resource rather than an authority”. Examples of learner-centred methods are discussion method, discovery or inquiry based approach and the Hill’s model of learning through discussion (LTD).


In this category of methods, both the teacher and the learners have to fit into the content that is taught. Generally, this means the information and skills to be taught are regarded as sacrosanct or very important. A lot of emphasis is laid on the clarity and careful analyses of content. Both the teacher and the learners cannot alter or become critical of anything to do with the content. An example of a method which subordinates the interests of the teacher and learners to the content is the programmed learning approach.


This fourth category borrows a bit from the three other methods without necessarily laying emphasis unduly on either the learner, content or teacher. These methods are driven by the situational analysis of what is the most appropriate thing for us to learn/do now given the situation of learners and the teacher. They require a participatory understanding of varied domains and factors.

In summary, three types of methods commonly used in instruction are: –

  • Teacher-centred methods
  • Learner centred methods
  • Content focused methods
  • Interactive/participative methods

The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Cognitive Domain

Cognitive Skill Verbs that characterize the skill
Knowledge Label, list, match, recall, select, state, underline
Comprehension Describe, explain, interpret, summarize, paraphrase
Application Complete, organize, solve, calculate, compute, use
Analysis Categorize, classify, find patterns and relationships, compare
Synthesis Compose, create, formulate, hypothesize, write
Evaluation Judge based on criteria, support, conclude

Four-Phase Learning Cycle

  1. Introduction: a question, challenge, or interesting event that captures the students’ curiosity.
  2. Exploration: the opportunity for students to manipulate materials, to explore, and to gather information.
  3. Concept Development: With a common experience to relate to, terminology is introduced and concepts developed in class discussion.
  4. Application: This could take the form of an enrichment activity, an opportunity to apply what has been learned, or a test to assess learning.

The Taxonomy of Instructional Techniques

Teacher Focused

  • Direct Instruction: Teacher explains or demonstrates
  • Drill and Practice: Repetition to hone a skill or memorize information
  • Lecture: Teacher provides information to students in a one-way verbal presentation

Dialogue Oriented

  • Question and Answer: Requires reflection as information is exchanged in response to a question
  • Discussion: An exchange of opinions and perspectives

Student Focused

  • Mental Modeling: Assists students in managing their own learning by modeling a problem-solving technique
  • Discovery Learning: Uses students’ personal experiences as the foundation for building concepts
  • Inquiry: Allows students to generate the questions that they will then investigate and answer


We can now consider a number of specific methods which can be drawn from in the course of classroom instruction. It is however, important to note that the choice of any form of methods should not be arbitrary, but needs to be governed by the criteria we have already examined. At the same time each method is not fool-proof, but has its own advantages and disadvantages. That is why I would recommend the use of complementary methods rather than one method.


A lecture is an oral presentation of information by the instructor. It is the method of relaying factual information which includes principles, concepts, ideas and all THEORETICAL KNOWLEDGE about a given topic. In a lecture the instructor tells, explains, describes or relates whatever information the trainees are required to learn through listening and understanding. It is therefore teacher-centred. The instructor is very active, doing all the talking. Trainees on the other hand are very inactive, doing all the listening. Despite the popularity of lectures, the lack of active involvement of trainees limits its usefulness as a method of instruction.

The lecture method of instruction is recommended for trainees with very little knowledge or limited background knowledge on the topic. It is also useful for presenting an organised body of new information to the learner. To be effective in promoting learning, the lecture must involve some discussions and, question and answer period to allow trainees to be involved actively.


As stated earlier, during the lecture, the trainees merely listen to the instructor. It is therefore very important to consider the attention span of trainees when preparing a lecture. The attention span is the period of time during which the trainees are able to pay full attention to what the instructor is talking about. It is estimated to be 15-25 minutes only. It is difficult to hold the trainees attention for a long period of time and careful preparation of lectures is very necessary.

The instructor should have a clear, logical plan of presentation. He/she should work out the essentials of the topic, organise them according to priorities and logical connections, and establish relationships between the various items. Careful organisation of content helps the trainees to structure and hence, to store or remember it. When developing a theme in a lecture, the instructor should use a variety of approaches. A useful principle in any instruction is to go from the KNOWN toUNKNOWN; from SIMPLE to COMPLEX, or from PARTS to a WHOLE.

Knowing the trainees and addressing their needs and interests is very important. For example, in explaining technical processes the instructor should search for illustrations that will be familiar to the trainees. Unfamiliar technical words should be introduced cautiously. New terminologies should be defined and explained and examples given.

In order to gain and focus the attention of trainees, the instructor should be adequately prepared, fluent in his/her presentation and should use various teaching aids and illustrations such as charts, transparencies, codes and even the real objects during presentation. Question and Answer periods should be included in the lecture.


1. A good lecture should not be too long as to exceed the trainees attention span (up to 25 minutes).

2. A good lecture should address a single theme.

3. In a good lecture technical terms are carefully explained.

4. Familiar examples and analogies are given.

5. A good lecture establishes fluency in technical content.

6. A good lecture uses illustrations and examples.

7. A good lecture builds on existing knowledge.

8. A good lecture employs a variety of approaches.


Discussion involves two-way communication between participants. In the classroom situation an instructor and trainees all participate in discussion. During discussion, the instructor spends some time listening while the trainees spend sometimes talking. The discussion is, therefore, a more active learning experience for the trainees than the lecture.

A discussion is the means by which people share experiences, ideas and attitudes. As it helps to foster trainees involvement in what they are learning, it may contribute to desired attitudinal changes. Discussion may be used in the classroom for the purpose of lesson development, making trainees apply what they have learnt or to monitor trainees learning by way of feedback.


In areas in which trainees already have some knowledge or experience, discussion may be used to develop the main points to be covered in a lesson. For example, in safety training many of the procedures and behaviour that should be observed can be established through discussion with trainees. Trainees can draw on their experience of working in workshops contract sites to contribute to the discussion. In discussing some issues, differences of opinion arise. The discussion can help to clarify the different points of view and may assist each trainee to define his or her own opinion. Used in this way, discussion may be more effective in motivating trainees than lectures. Trainees can see that some importance is attached to their contributions.


Discussion may also be used, following a lecture or demonstration, to help trainees apply what they have learned. The instructor can ask questions, that help trainees to relate concepts and principles to contexts that are familiar to the trainees or in which they will ultimately be needed. For example following a lecture on “types of wood joint”, the instructor may, lead a discussion directing trainees attention to the places or pieces of furniture where each type is found, and the reasons for using one type than the other. Used in this way discussion contributes to the transfer of learning.


The discussion method also provides an opportunity to monitor trainees learning. The answers provided by trainees and the questions they ask, reveal the extent and quality of learning taking place. Instructors can use this information to repeat or modify an explanation to improve learning. They can also provide feedback to trainees, thereby helping to reinforce learning that has taken place. Discussion used in this way should follow after other methods of classroom instruction such as lectures, demonstration or practice sessions.


Discussion sessions can be led by the instructor, or can take place in groups. In either case, the goal is to meet the lesson objectives by allowing the trainees to:-

a) Relate relevant personal experiences or events which have occurred in the work setting.b) Contribute ideas or personal opinions.

c) Apply what has been learned to familiar situations or solving problems.

d) Express what had been learned.

Whether the discussion is instructor led or takes place in groups it must be guided by the instructor. It must be focused on the objectives of the lesson: it is the instructors responsibility to see that the objectives are met. If it is not properly guided, a discussion can degenerate into a consideration of inappropriate or unimportant topics adding confusion rather than clarification to the lesson.


“The most effective way to teach an occupational skill is to demonstrate it… one of the two most essential teaching skills is the ability to demonstrate; the other is the ability to explain. Both are vital to the success of either an operation lesson or an information lesson”. Weaver and Cencil in APPLIED TEACHING TECHNIQUES.


Demonstration means any planned performance of an occupation skill, scientific principle or experiment.


1. Rehearse your presentation in advance of the lesson.

2. Anticipate any difficult steps, possible interruptions e.t.c.

3. Obtain all materials, tools, equipment, visual and teaching aids in advance and check their useful condition.

4. Have all materials within reach and conveniently arranged.

5. Time the demonstration NOT to exceed 15 minutes.

6. Remove all extraneous materials; check lighting, visibility, student grouping, and proximity to electric, gas and water outlets.

7. Plan to use a skill or method to advantage; work from simple to complex, one step at a time.


1. Make sure all students can see and hear the lesson.

2. Be enthusiastic, professional, effective but not dramatic.

3. Relax; use any mishaps or humour to YOUR advantage.

4. Observe all safety rules and procedures.

5. Keep eye-contact with the class; ask and encourage class questions.

6. Explain WHY and HOW: use the techniques of SHOW and TELL.

7. Use a medial summary to strengthen your explanation.


1. Avoid interruptions; keep demonstration smooth and continuous.

2. Never demonstrate on a student’s material.

3. Work towards one aim.

4. Allow time for possible student participation.


1. Give a good performance. Remember that the trainees learn by your good example.

2. Explain each step or process as you proceed. Follow your lesson plan.

3. Make sure the trainees see the demonstration from the angle they will perform it themselves.

4. Be sure everyone can see and hear. Maintain eye contact.

5. Emphasise key points, and if possible prepare before hand ask key questions as you go along and allow trainees to ask questions.

6. Observe all safety rules, precautions and procedures; and emphasise them.

7. Use proper instructions, aids such as chalkboard, charts, handouts e.t.c. to support your demonstration.

8. Provide for trainees participation where possible, during and after demonstration.

9. Demonstrate the correct way only. First impressions are important, therefore, make them correct ones.

10. Always summarise the steps and emphasise key points again.


1. Return all items used during demonstration to their storage places.

2. Make arrangements to have the trainees practice the skill as soon as possible in a practical class session.

3. Observe and analyse trainee(s) performance and correct mistakes.

4. Offer reinforcement where necessary.

5. Coach weak or slow trainees.

6. Check trainee’s completed work for accurate performance and record.

7. Allow sufficient time interval before demonstrating another operation.


Another method of instruction is the buzz group. During a longer session, the plenary group can break into sub-groups to discuss one or two specific questions or issues. The room soon fills with noise as each sub-group ‘buzzes’ in discussion. If appropriate, after the discussion one member of each group can report its findings back to the plenary. Buzz groups can be in pairs, trios, or more depending on the activity. People turn to their neighbours for a quick buzz, or form larger groups of three or more. This allows almost every one to express an opinion. While they are buzzing, participants are able to exchange ideas and draw on their wide collective experience. It may provide a good opportunity for trainees to reflect on the content of a lecture. A good buzz session will generate many ideas, comments and opinion, the most important of which will be reported back.

Buzzgroups help trainers as they allow you to:

  • – Draw your breath
  • – Gauge the mood, by listening to some of the discussions
  • – Change pace of the session
  • – Encourage participants to reflect on what they have learnt and how they might apply it in their work.


The main obstacle using buzz sessions lie in unfamiliarity with their use, the time required, the need for leaders or facilitators within each sub-group, and the need to have tables and chairs arranged for quick and easy discussion.


The purpose of a brainstorming session is to discover new ideas and responses very quickly. It is particularly a good way of getting bright ideas. It differs from the buzz groups discussion in that the focus is on generating as many ideas as possible without judging them. In this technique, all ideas are given equal credence.

Participants are encouraged to let ideas flow freely, building on and improving from previous ideas. No idea, however crazy, should be rejected. These ideas are listed exactly as they are expressed on a board or flipchart, or written on bits of paper. The combination of swiftly generated ideas usually leads to a very animated and energising session. Even the more reserved participants should feel bold enough to contribute. The purpose of listing responses is to collect existing experiences and thoughts.

It is useful to collect answers to questions when you expect much repetition in the responses.

After a brainstorm session, the ideas can be discussed further and evaluated, for example listing the best options in a systematic way. Ideas can be grouped and analysed so that they belong to the group rather then individuals. Unlike a buzz session, a brainstorm session can work well with a large group and usually takes less time. It is best to limit the time for plenary brainstorms, as you might lose the attention of some participants.


In role plays, participants use their own experiences to play a real life situation. When done well, role plays increase the participants self-confidence, give them the opportunity to understand or even feel empathy for other people’s viewpoints or roles, and usually end with practical answers, solutions or guidelines.

Role plays are useful for exploring and improving interviewing techniques and examining the complexities and potential conflicts of group meetings. They help participants to consolidate different lessons in one setting and are good energisers.

However, role plays can be time-consuming and their success depends on the willingness of participants to take active part. Some trainees may feel a role play is too exposing, threatening or embarrassing. This reluctance may be overcome at the outset by careful explanation of the objectives and the outcome. Some role plays can generate strong emotions amongst the participants. It is therefore essential that a role play is followed by a thorough debriefing. This provides the opportunity for the trainer and the participants to raise and assess new issues.






A formal or semi-formal discourse is which the instructor presents a series of events, facts, or principles, explores a problem or explains relationships
1. To orient students.
2. To introduce a subject.
3. To give directions on procedures.
4. To present basic material.
5. To introduce a demonstration, discussion, or performance.
6. To illustrate application of rules, principles, or concepts.
7. To review, clarify, emphasise or summarise.
1. Saves time.
2. Permits flexibility.
3. Requires less rigid space requirement.
4. Permits adaptability.
5. Permits versatility.
6. Permits better centre over contact and sequence.
1. Involves one way communication.
2. Poses problems in skill teaching.
3. Encourages student passiveness.
4. Poses difficulty in gauging student reaction.
5. Require highly skilled instructors.
A method in which group discussion techniques are used to reach instructional objectives.
1. To develop imaginative solutions to problems.
2. To stimulate thinking and interest and to secure student participation.
3. To emphasise main teaching points.
4. To supplement lectures, reading, or laboratory exercises.
5. To determine how well student understands concepts and principles.
6. To prepare students for application of theory of procedure.
7. To summarise, clarify points or review.
1. Increase students interest
2. Increases students acceptance and commitments.
3. Utilises student knowledge and experience.
4. Results in more permanent learning because of high degree of student participation.
1. Require highly skilled instructor.
2. Requires preparation by student.
3. Limits content.
4. Consumes time.
5. Restricts size of groups.
A method of self-instruction
1. To provide remedial instruction.
2. To provide make-up instruction for late arrivals, absentees, or translents.
3. To maintain previously learned skills which are not performed frequently enough.
4. To provide retraining on equipment and procedures which have become obsolete.
5. To upgrade production.
6. To accelerate capable students.
7. To provide enough common background among students.
8. To provide the review and practice of knowledge and skills.
1. Reduce failure rate.
2. Improves end-of-course proficiency.
3. Saves time.
4. Provides for self instruction.
1. Require local or commercial preparation.
2. Requires lengthy programmer training.
3. Increases expenses.
4. Requires considerable lead time.
A method in which the instructor assigns reading to books, periodicals, project or research papers or exercises for the practice.
1. To orient students to a topic prior to classroom or Laboratory work.
2. To set the stage for a lecture demonstration or discussion.
3. To provide for or capitalise on individual differences in ability, background, or experience through differentiated assignments.
4. To provide for the review of material covered in class or to give practice.
5. To provide enrichment material.
1. Increase coverage of material.
2. Reduce classroom time.
3. Permits individual attention.
1. Require careful planning and follow up.
2. Poses evaluation problem.
3. Produce non-standard results.
A method of instruction in which an instructor works directly with an individual student.
1. To reach highly complicated skills operations or operations involving danger or expensive equipment.
2. To provide individualised remedial assistance.
1. Permits adaptive instruction.
2. Stimulates active participation.
3. Promotes safety.
1. Requires highly competent instructor.
2. Demands time and money.
A tutorial arrangement involving the instructor and groups, rather than instructor and individual.
1. To provide general guidance for a group working on an advanced study or research project.
2. To exchange information on techniques and approaches being explored by members of a study or research group.
3. To develop new and imaginative solutions to problems under study by the group.
1. Provides motivation and report.
2. Stimulates active participation.
3. Permits adaptive instruction.
1. Requires highly competent instructor.
2. Poses evaluation problems.
3. Is more costly than most other methods.
A method of instruction where the instructor by actually performing an operation or doing a job shows the students what to do, how to do it, and through explanations brings out why, where, and when it is done.
1. To teach manipulative operations or procedures.
2. To teach troubleshooting.
3. To illustrate principles.
4. To teach operation or functioning of equipment.
5. To teach teamwork.
6. To set standards of workmanship.
7. To teach safety procedures.
1. Minimise damage and waste
2. Saves time
3. Can be presented to large groups.
1. Require careful preparation and rehearsal.
2. Requires special classroom arrangements.
A method of instruction is required to perform under controlled conditions the operations, skills or movement being taught.
1. To teach manipulative operations or procedures.
2. To teach operation or functioning of equipment.
3. To teach team skills
4. To teach safety procedures.
1. Builds confidence.
2. Enable learning evaluation.
3. Reduces damages and waste.
4. Promotes safety.
1. Requires tools and equipment.
2. Requires large block.
3. Requires more instructors.
THE BUZZ GROUP 1. To develop and express imaginative ideas, opinions.
2. Stimulate thinking.
1. Help trainers to draw breath.
2. Gauge the mood by listening to some discussion.
3. Change pace of discussion.
4. Encourage participants to reflect what was learnt.
1. Unfamiliarity in use.
2. Time required.
3. Need for group leaders.
BRAINSTORMING 1. Discover new ideas, thoughts and responses very quickly. 1. Leads to a very animated and energising session.
2. More reserved participants feel free to contribute.
1. It takes time particularly if it is a large group.
2. May consume a lot of material e.g. flipcharts or writing materials.
3. Requires high level facilitation skills.
ROLE PLAYS 1. Exploring and improving interviewing techniques and examining complexities and potential conflicts of groups.
2. To consolidate different lessons in one setting.
1. Good energizers.
2. Promotes empathy of trainees for other situation.
3. Encourrages creativity in learning.
1. Participants might be reluctant.
2. May not work with trainees who do not know each other well.

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