Does teaching style influence the outcome of a lesson? An #ELTchat summary (03/12/2014)

Following my failed attempt at starting the reflection and info-packed blog I’d envisaged this would be, I’m making a comeback today with the summary of this week’s #ELTchat whose topic I suggested following a staffroom discussion I had with a CELTA trainer colleague last week. We both seemed to agree that if the under-discussed subject of Teaching Styles received as much attention as that of Students’ Learning styles, teacher training courses may become more successful at better preparing trainees for today’s diverse classrooms. Inspired by the conversation, I was eager to hear what my PLN and other educators out there made of this.

ELT educators from various parts of the world took part in what turned out to be a dynamic and highly inspiring Twitter chat. And as lively and exciting as the discussion was, it was mostly apparent that despite the extensive experience the group of teachers combined made up, defining Teaching Styles wasn’t something we could readily express. When half-way through the chat, @MarjorieRosenbe asked the question, ‘Do we actually have a definition of teaching styles?’ few could come up with a definitive answer.

• We often teach in the way we learn @MarjorieRosenbe
• There have been such listings, e.g. authoritative vs. authoritarian vs. laissez-faire. These can be found in general education studies but not ELT @Marisa_C

So @SueAnnan launched the discussion with the all essential question, ‘Does teaching style influence the outcome of a lesson?’ This prompted mixed responses but the overall feeling seemed to lean towards the idea that ‘a variety of styles seem to work’ @SueAnnan, and that ‘it is wrong to assume that only high energy teachers are effective @Marisa_C, as ‘very measured, calm and relaxed teachers also produce great lessons’ @Shaunwilden.

• Really laid-back teachers make effective teachers too @SueAnnan
• Teachers should teach according to their personal styles and not prescription @naomishema
• Whatever works for you is fine. I am a bit manic if the class needs it, but can do calm too @SueAnnan
• I’ve recently watched a teacher who was so calm but had the students on tenterhooks @Languageeteach
• But you can’t change the way you are, can you? @Languageeteach
• Teaching style may be related to excessive TTT? @naomishema

Whilst we all seemed to agree that no teaching style appeared to prevail over another, I asked the question, so ‘What is it about teachers who students are never satisfied with, despite good planning and lesson outcome?’ And the answers started to point at other factors such as culture, students’ expectations, rapport and perhaps even personality.

• Could it be culture? @HadaLitim
• I know that German students in our school expect something quite different from other students @SueAnnan
• Maybe the teacher doesn’t meet the students’ expectations of what makes a good teacher and good learning @Languageeteach
• Students do have expectations and this changes in different cultures @Marisa_C
• It’s a matter of rapport @MarjorieRosenbe
• My EAP students all agreed that being interesting is what makes a good teacher @Joannacre

But I was still puzzled; rapport and interesting could both be related to teaching style so, my next question was, ‘Should the teacher’s style match the students’ learning styles?’ The responses were strong and varied. Whilst ‘there is an inevitability that it is bound to happen’ @Shaunwilden, ‘experience taps into teaching style’ @joannacre, and ‘this influences everything’ @naomishema. ‘If the teacher follows ‘Best Practice’ regarding STT, does style really matter?’ @Sue Annan. Both @MarjorieRosenbe and @Naomishema agreed that, ‘We need to understand our own style to adapt more easily’ and @MarjorieRosenbe added that, ‘teachers need to know what works when’. I tend to agree with Marisa_C that although ‘I don’t think I should adopt a different persona, teachers do need to become more aware of how they come across to their students’.

• Learning styles can be an issue. I do a lot of ‘learning by doing’ but some students really want rules and examples beforehand @naomishema
• The trouble is the teacher’s style doesn’t always appeal to the students @HadaLitim
• This comes in providing for a variety in lessons – teaching style is not included in any criteria @Marisa_C
• It depends on how the teacher understands the group. High energy can also get on one’s nerves @MarjorieRosenbe

Having covered some of the broader questions regarding what is clearly a topic that needs more research, we focused on factors that may affect the style a teacher adopts for a particular lesson. Is teaching style related to the age of the students?

• YLs love a warm affectionate and playful teacher @Marisa_C
• There’s a huge difference in YLs too – between some boys and girls @naomishema
• Adults like to be challenged, but don’t need the teacher to bounce around all the time @SueAnnan
• Different learners require different styles. For example, think of adult learners and young learners and learner autonomy @joannacre

And ‘what about the context, perhaps?

• Classroom and seating arrangement also play a role. How would you teach in an amphitheatre for example? @Joannacre
• The teacher needs to know what works when @MarjorieRosenbe
• We teach segregated classes so the style definitely differs @HadaLitim
• My learners (asylum seekers) like teachers who really listen to them @languageeteach
• Online/Face to face affects style. My Business English students don’t really like role play @joannacre
• The level of the group also influences the style. @Naomishema
• Some of my Chinese students never ask questions because they do not do that at home @joannacre
• My Ukrainian students are some of the most open to new ideas @MarjorieRosenbe
• My Saudi students seem to have different expectations at home and abroad @HadaLitim

As time ticked on, we needed to turn our attention to solutions. So the question was, ‘What should a teacher do?’

• Early on in the course, perhaps included in needs analysis, students could describe their ideal teacher @Marisa_C
• Being rigid in your teaching style wouldn’t be of benefit @SueAnnan
• Flexibility in everything (style, approach, activities, etc) seems to be key @HadaLitim
• Getting off your ‘high’ teacher horse can be helpful – listen to the learners! @joannacre
• Teachers need to know their students and their likes from class to class @SuaAnnan
• It might be good to get out of one’s own comfort zone @SueAnnan which can make for great learning experiences for the teacher @HadaLitim
• If you hear yourself saying, ‘you should…’ or my pet hate, ‘it’s good practice…’, think again! @languageeteach
• Encouraging stretching is key for me @MarjorieRosenbe

How do you know it works? @SueAnnan

• The students! Their faces and body language @HadaLitim
• You can feel the vibes @naomishema
• I ask and check them to reflect in journal , check HW, class performance, check for smiles and yawns @joannacre
• Worried whispering @Marisa_C
• Lots of L1 too @SueAnnan
• No one is listening!! You must be doing something wrong @joannacre
• Increased lateness or absenteeism @HadaLitim
• Feedback forms @joannacre
• Feedback forms help build trust and openness. We can learn so much from them @eltconnect
• I also learn a lot from students’ evaluations @MarjorieRosenbe
• When you are an older teacher, it’s good to have a student teacher who asks why? It makes you think about what you do @Naomishema

With just a few minutes before we closed this week’s #ELTchat, it was important to revisit our initial question, ‘Can teaching style alone affect the outcome of a lesson?’ with the emphasis on the word alone, and as some of the answers show, we’re still far from the conclusive answer we were seeking.

• It depends for whom. Same lesson, different reactions and degrees of internalizing the material @naomishema
• I think it can – in the worse case scenario, think of a dour impatient, sarcastic teacher with the best plan. @Marisa_C
• I don’t think so. It’s a variety of factors which come into play @SueAnnan
• Yes and no. @Eltwriter
• I also don’t think so. Way too many factors to consider @MarjorieRosenbe

Some questions which still need to be discussed

• Should a module on teaching styles be introduced in TT courses @HadaLitim
• Can a teacher adopt different teaching styles? @HadaLitim
• Should the whole idea of teacher as a researcher be included in TT courses @Marisa_C
• Couldn’t teaching styles be more a question of confidence in what we are teaching?’ @Joaanacre @SueAnnan

Related links

• The Effect of Learning Styles on Education and the Teaching Process @Face_English
• A paper based self-evaluation instrument @Marisa_C
• Another one including stuff about technology @Marisa_C
• Lots of articles on teaching style inventories here @Marisa_C
• Weingartner in Teaching as a Subversive Activity have a great listing @Marisa_C
• Something amusing taken from @muranava
• Worth checking too What is the significance of learning styles? face_english
• The Effect of Affect @face_english


About Hada Litim

@HadaLitim EFL teaching | Teacher Training | CELTA Tutor | Affective language learning | Mentoring | Tefl Equity Advocate | European nomad in the Middle East | Gourmet
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14 Responses to Does teaching style influence the outcome of a lesson? An #ELTchat summary (03/12/2014)

  1. careymicaela says:

    Excellent summary! This is a really fascinating topic and brings up a lot of unanswered questions. I think that one of the keys to implementing the right teaching style is empathy. The teacher needs to be aware of what the students need and expect in class. Being able to put themselves in the shoes of their learners and seeing things from their perspective helps the teacher decide which activities to use, how to present them, what goals to aspire to, etc. Generally speaking, I’d say that effective teachers have a high capacity for empathy. What do you think?

    I’m so sorry I missed this chat and I wish I could join the #eltchats more. I just don’t have time this year with my courseload. 😦


    • Anthony Ash says:

      My second point in the comment below might interest you – it seems to be a similar idea. I hadn’t ever thought about it in terms of empathy but I think that’s exactly what it is: putting yourself in the learners’ shoes 🙂


      • careymicaela says:

        Hi there! I like your idea of a continuum of flexibility vs rigidness. I think a lot of flexibility comes with experience. You get to know and try out different teaching styles through the years. You also begin to notice what students’ needs are and how to help them reach their goals. As a new teacher you’re more rigid in the techniques and methods that you try because they’re still new to you but with more practice you gain perspective and flexibility. This is just my take on it though. I may be way off base.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hada Litim says:

      Hiya thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you brought up empathy and wonder how we managed to miss it. I totally agree that it can make a huge difference in rapport which incidentally was mentioned my Marjorie I think.
      Have you started your MA? I’m thinking of starting next semester. I hope it goes well.
      Regarding the topic, I’m going to suggest a part 2 and hope it gets voted in. Maybe you can join us for a bit,


  2. Anthony Ash says:

    A great summary! I wish I could have been apart of the chat, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. So, I’ll try to contribute through a comment.

    I think there’s two main things I’d like to throw into the fire:

    (1) I recently bore witness to my two DELTA tutors discussing which gender makes a better teacher. They couldn’t come to any agreement, except on one thing: there are significant differences between male and female teachers. Could this have any influence/impact?

    (2) I think the ‘perception’ of the teacher having a specific way of teaching comes directly from the fact whether the teacher delivers lessons according to some unchanging mantra. I used to have a “style” of teaching, where I did the things in lessons which I thought were good or correct; now, what I deliver and the style in which it is delivered depends completely on the learners. For example, at the moment I am teacher two Saudis quite intensively. They seem to think I’m a good teacher, but this is only because they told me about the issues they had with previous teachers (they didn’t enjoy the communicative approach) so I’m delivering lessons more in line with what they expect from a lesson (which I’m afraid is mainly grammar with some skills work coming in through the back door).

    So, perhaps Teaching Styles can be ‘measured’ on a continuum between ultimate flexibility and ultimate rigidness.

    I might turn this into a blog post 🙂


    • Hada Litim says:

      Hi and thanks for your points.

      1) That’s a really interesting point. We touched on the gender issue but with regards to learners, not teachers. That could be researched in different ‘combinations’ – males teacher with mixed classes, or with women students only, or with male students only and vice-versa.
      2) Again, a very interesting observation and while I relate to the experience with the Saudi students, does it actually work? Are they able to translate all that grammar in productive activities, or real life? Could they perhaps be met half way with a bit of what they expect and a bit of what you know would work? Is this particular experience taking place in UK or Saudi?

      Looking forward to reading the blog post!


      • ashowski says:

        Sorry it has taken so long to respond! I’ve been teaching the Saudis in the UK. They came to me for private lessons because they were dissatisfied with group courses – they felt like they weren’t getting anywhere. I

        f I’m honest, I think what they really wanted was just more individualised attention. The reason why I say that is because I’ve been slowly bringing in more of the stuff they claimed to dislike in the group course. For example, we’ve now moved away from traditional grammar exercises (which did nothing other than show they can manipulate form, but it’s what they wanted), to lessons where I use my MacBook to display a powerpoint and the lesson essentially follows a Task – Teach – Task format – no different to what they had in the group course, probably.

        After a week and half a traditional grammar, with Murphy-style exercises, I gave them a test and it showed they hadn’t really progressed at all. Since then I’ve been going further and further into a communicative style of teaching and it’s showing real signs of success. For example, today they used the past simple to actually talk about the past! While before they would do the exercise, which involved only manipulating the form by adding -ed, and then when it came to using the past, just used the present.

        Sorry – I know this has gone a little off topic.


      • ashowski says:


        So, here’s the blog post:

        Didn’t quite get the continuum idea in there, but it’s my two pence nonetheless.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. CanerAkova says:

    Some really good points here. I was also thinking about if there was a way to alleviate unsatisfied classes when there is terrific lesson prep and lesson plan. I think it mostly comes down to a point that we also experience in real life. Even as a teacher, I get bored very easily in workshops when there is a speaker with a very monotonous voice and no lively body language at all. Same goes for real life. If a person has no engaging body language, you don’t want to listen to her even if what she is telling you is interesting. But then comes an idea; if a teacher has no body language, a sense of humour or any means that helps him/her get his/her message accross, should s/he change his/her personality? Not minding the fact that it sounds provocative or snarky, I think being a language teacher requires a high level of people skills and a very wide spectrum of how to appeal to an audience of learners (stuff like appealing to different intelligences/personalities). That’s job requirement #1 if you ask me.

    PS: I see you have summarized everything and kind of closed the discussion. I got here late and I couldn’t resist. Sorry about that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hada Litim says:

      Do you mean a bit like presentation skills? I once read that the most effective presenters were those who came across as the most natural. Those who speak the same on and off the stage. So, does that take us back to personality? Can it be learned? Should we be expected to adopt another persona to suit the purpose? I don’t think the discussion is quite at its closing stage just yet, so any further comments are most welcome. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • CanerAkova says:

        Well, I am not talking about adopting another persona that’s completely different but don’t we all do that partly? We can’t take a day off even if we’re having a bad day and I just mean teaching is just like taking the stage and delivering our part as teachers whatever the circumstances are. If we don’t have the right skills for ‘taking the stage’ then it’s like watching a bad actor and somebody’s thinking why that person became an actor.
        I, myself, am very active in the classroom and teaching involves a lot of dramatizing, miming and even using the right vocal register at the right time for the sake of engaging the learners. You can’t afford your learners to lose track of what you are doing and this requires some skills that come naturally. Actually, that is what I look for in a teacher.


  4. Pingback: Teaching Styles: East meets West | English Language Teaching

  5. ven_vve says:

    Hi Hada,

    I missed this chat, and although I think I read your excellent summary back in December I found it really interesting to reread today, especially with the comments. Now I see these are from December too; maybe I missed the summary after all?

    Anyway, I thought this post I did on teaching perspectives last year ties in with the topic and might be of interest.

    See you around on #eltchat!


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